Transcribed by Pamela Wagler from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


In Des Moines county are many inhabitants of foreign birth, who, attracted by the more progressive institutions, broader educational facilities, and superior advantages offered for making a living, have come here with their families for the purpose of founding homes in the new county. These valuable additions to the native population have by their industry, economy, and honorable methods become essential factors in the growth of the county. One member of such a family, who has been an important figure in the development of agricultural interests in the county for the past twenty years, is William Peterson, who now lives on his large farm in Huron township.

Mr. Peterson is a native son of Sweden, being born in Linkopings, Sweden, Feb. 8, 1838, the son of Andrew Peter and Gusta (Sweline) Peterson. He was reared a farmer, and has always followed that occupation, except during the years that he spent in military service. He served for two years in the standing army of Sweden, and was under draft for two additional years. After his years of service in the army were completed, he decided that he would have better advantages for his family, as well as better opportunities to make a financial success, in the New World. Therefore in 1868 he embarked for America, coming directly to Burlington, Iowa.

Here he was willing to begin at the very foot of the ladder, and took up his life among the strangers of the new country and new language by working as a day laborer for the Cedar Rapids Railroad Company. He found it necessary to remain in this position not more than two weeks, then securing a better one under Harrison Cartwright. By practicing the lessons of frugality and careful living that he had learned as a child and young man in the old country, he found that he was able to save a fair proportion of his earnings, and he remained in the employ of Mr. Cartwright until he had accumulated enough to be able to buy a farm for himself. Then he came to Benton township, where he bought thirty acres of timber land in Section 2.

This land he cleared, stumped, brought under cultivation, and improved in many other ways, making it his home until 1883, when he sold it and purchased in its stead a farm of eighty acres in Section 27, Huron township. A few years later he added to this purchase of sixty-three acres in Section 34. This is now his home farm, and he has brought it to a high degree of cultivation, adding improvements from time to time as they are needed to bring the farm up to the standard of the best farms in the county. In addition to the general farming business that he carries on, he also raises some cattle, making a specialty of the Shorthorn breed. He raises about twenty-five head of cattle and thirty hogs annually. Besides his farm, he also has some town property in the village of Mediapolis.

Mr. Peterson was married before leaving Sweden, his wife being Miss Hannah Larson, daughter of Lars and Carra (Nelson) Johnson. They were united in marriage Oct. 17, 1864. To them have been born four children: Ernest William, born Feb. 21, 1866, died Aug. 16, 1868; Oscar William, born May 11, 1872, married Hulda Crane, May 28, 1902, and lives in Mediapolis; Minnie, born April 14, 1874, is now the wife of Albert Nordstrom, of Mediapolis; Nels' Gustafus Paul, born Aug. 29, 1879, still resides at home.

Mr. Peterson and the members of his family are affiliated with the Swedish Lutheran church, faithful to its teachings in word and deed, ever ready to respond to its calls for the needy, and doing all that lies in their power to extend its sphere of influence in the community. Mr. Peterson helped to build the present church edifice, and has also assisted in the erection of three parsonages. He has served the church in the capacity of deacon for the last three years. He has shown himself to be a true lover of his adopted country, always ready to fulfill the duties of citizenship. He has won a high place in the esteem of his friends and neighbors, who honor him for his sterling worth and integrity of spirit. They have shown their faith in his business ability, as well as their admiration for his, as a manly character, by electing him to serve the township as supervisor of highways for the past four years, and that their faith has not been misplaced is evidenced by the fact that during this time the roads of the township have been maintained in a uniformly excellent state of repair under his direction.

Mr. Peterson began life at the bottom of the ladder, without aid and without capital, and all he has acquired has come to him by virtue of his own frugality, industry, care, and natural talents. He is, in a word, a self-made man, and his success under such conditions is a more fitting commentary on his character than any tribute that might be framed in words.

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