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Fayette County, Iowa  

 Biography Directory


Portrait & Biographical Album of Fayette County Iowa

Containing Full Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of

Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County

Lake City Publishing Co., Chicago

March 1891


~Page 360~



Robert Alexander



Robert Alexander, deceased. Of the worthy citizens whose lives have blessed Fayette County none deserves a higher encomium than Robert Alexander and his wife Elizabeth. He was a man of splendid business capacity, and of vast possessions accumulated by legitimate means which he used in a signal way to advance the cause of education and Christian culture. He was born near Knoxville, Tenn., May 2, 1794, and in his youth removed to within a few miles of Nashville, where he served an apprenticeship to the hatter's trade. In 1814 he went with his brother Thomas to Brooksville, Franklin County, Ind., where he divided his time between his trade and the schoolroom. It was there he married Miss Elizabeth Crist, the wedding being celebrated April 25, 1816. The lady was born December 5, 1796, at Lawrenceburg, Ind. The same year of their marriage they removed to Connersvile, Ind., where he pursued his trade four years very successfully after which he went to Falls Creek, near the present city of Indianapolis. The extreme fertility of the soil suggested a change of occupation and we find him, about that time, engaging in agricultural pursuits but the climate proved to him unhealthy and caused his removal in 1825 to LaFayette, Ind. The journey was made with ox-teams and on the way he purchased apple trees at Crawfordsville, that he might soon have a growing orchard. On arriving at LaFayette, Ind. he had $150 in cash and his household which he unloaded at the foot of a tree. He soon felled the tree, split rails and made a pen which he covered with clapboards. His prudent wife hung up bed quilts about the pen, making it like a cozy playhouse. Soon a hewed log cabin was erected and the work of developing the farm begun. At the end of ten years he sold out for $10,000 and in 1836 moved to Parish Grove on the great thoroughfare to Chicago. There he kept a tavern and extensively engaged in farming. When the Black Hawk War came on he bore his part in the struggle, as he ever did when duty called him.


In June, 1849, Mr. Alexander arrived in this county and purchased a large tract of land to which he added from time to time until he owned nine thousand acres. When it was proposed to establish a seminary in Fayette, he was one of the very first to  to the enterprise. His maiden donation was $5,000, to which he soon added an equal amount. The building was partly completed when it was found necessary to borrow $12,000. Mr. Alexander, being the only man able to secure so large amount, offered a mortgage on one thousand five hundred acres of land as security, which was accepted. Hard times came on, the debt piled 'mountain high,' $48,000 being its total. By law only the fifteen hundred acres could be taken, but rather than have the school encumbered and he seem in any way evading his obligations, he turned over four thousand acres of his land. His dealings were ever marked by honesty and integrity. He was accommodating and benevolent, and as the early settlers came into the county he entertained them and helped them get locations without compensation. Until some sixty years of age he made no profession of religion; at that time however, he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church and lived consistently in that faith, as his wife had done from the age of fourteen years. Politically, he was an old-line Whig until the rise of the Republican party, to the principles of which he ever afterwards adhered. He died November 23, 1862, and his wife survived him fifteen years, dying April 1, 1877. She was a woman of rare mold, intensely religious, intelligent, prudent and withal possessed of great good sense. Of their ten children only six lived - Mrs. Sabra Robertson, Mrs. Elizabeth Robertson, Noah, Mrs. Hannah Chamberlain, Mrs. Emeline Hulbert and Mrs. Catherine Scobey.




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