IAGenWeb Join Our Team

This page was last

updated on 11/23/2011


Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 1140~


Martin G. Fels

(Photo of Martin G. Fels & photo of Mrs. Addie Fels included in source book)

The life of Martin G. Fels, of Auburn township, Fayette county, has been one of unceasing industry and perseverance and the notably systematic methods he has followed have not only won him financial success but also the confidence and respect of all with whom he has come into contact. He was born in Dubuque, Iowa, February 1, 1859, and was educated in the public schools of Auburn, Fayette county. He is the son of Gustave and Henrietta (Swantes) Fels, the father born near Cologne, on the Lower Rhine, Germany, February 8, 1817, and the mother was born in Pomeria, Germany, June 21, 1827, the daughter of Johann and Charlotte Swantes. Mr. Swantes left Germany with his family about 1857 and came to America, locating at Dubuque, Iowa. Gustave Fels came to America with his brother, Frederick, about 1848, and bought land within three miles of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they lived two years, when, losing their land, they moved to Dubuque, Iowa. They were cabinetmakers by trade, and Gustave Fels owned the first turning lathe in Dubuque, and he made all the wagon hubs used there at that time, also turned windlasses for the lead mines around Dubuque, owning an interest in the lead mines there at one time himself, selling out his interest before they failed. He made the first baby carriage ever made in Dubuque and sold it to a banker for twenty-five dollars. He manufactured buggy bodies for a number of years, also made coffins and conducted an undertaking establishment. He owned a one-horse hearse, supposed to be the first in Dubuque. His brother, Frederick Fels, was a partner in the business for a short time, then bought a farm near Dubuque, where he lived until his death, in 1870. Gustave Fels soul out his business in Dubuque in 1865 and moved to Auburn, Fayette county, where he continued working as a cabinetmaker until about 1870 or 1875, when he took up farming having bought land upon moving to the county, owning about forty acres. He and his family were members of the Lutheran church. About 1858 he and Henrietta Swantes were married in Dubuque, and they became the parents of five children, Martin G., of this review, being the eldest; three sons died young; one daughter, the youngest of the family, is Mrs. Anna Sutorins, wife of Carl Sutorins, and lives in San Antonio, Texas. The death of Gustave Fels occurred on July 6, 1892, and his widow makes her home with the subject.

Martin G. Fels remained with his parents until the death of his father, when he bought the farm of fifty-two acres, twenty acres in section 25 and thirty-two in section 35. To this he has added about three hundred and twenty-five acres, in sections 15, 34 and 35, Auburn township. After his father's death he built a modern, two-story dwelling on his land in section 35, and everything about his place is up to date, showing thrift and prosperity. He has established here one of the best water systems in the county, taking the water from a spring located about four hundred feet from the house on a hill-side, about sixty feet higher than the house; he has piped the water below the frost line in the ground, into the cellar, which is there brought into contact with an automatic water-lift or pump, the pressure from the "lift" by the spring water forcing the soft water from two cisterns throughout the entire house, supplying kitchen, bath room, etc., with hot and cold water, also soft and cold spring water. The barns, milk-house, hog yards, etc., are also furnished with running spring water, also a tank is supplied and running water is at the road side for the benefit of the public. The entire system of this splendid water plant works automatically, and is without an equal on any farm in this or adjoining counties. The house is lighted with gasoline gas throughout. Mr. Fels also owns "Falling Spring Fork," a popular picnic resort. He keeps more horses on his place than any farmer in the township, and, being a good judge of horses, knows well how to properly care for them, usually having twenty-eight or head of fine ones, which, when he desires to sell, always find a ready market. He carries on general farming and stock raising in a very successful and satisfactory manner.

Politically, Mr. Fels is a Republican, and is influential in his party, having held the office of chairman of the township committee for twenty or thirty years, and has been township clerk for two years. He has been treasurer of the independent school district for the past fifteen years, and he was a director of the Fayette Agricultural Society for eight years. In all these positions of trust he has performed his duties in a manner to elicit the approval of all concerned and with much credit to himself. He is a member of the German Lutheran Church. He has been very successful in all his business affairs and his home is one of the most attractive and beautifully located in the county, lacking nothing in the way of modern conveniences, being on a part with city homes, with the exception of electricity. But he is a man of progressive ideas, energetic, keeping abreast of the times in every respect. The falling spring mentioned above is one of nature's greatest wonders in this state, a spring of pure cold water gushing over a solid rock, falling about fifteen or twenty feet into a pool or natural basin, a miniature Niagara. The McCreary cave is another natural wonder of the park, being a natural cavern in a solid rock, eight to ten feet high and twenty feet wide and over one hundred feet in depth, where it becomes narrower as it descends, continuing under the hill for another fifty feet. The cave is perfectly dry and at the side of the mouth of the cave there gushes a stream of cold sparkling water, called the Spring of the Cave. Another natural wonder is the "Rocky run," a sort of canyon in an immense rock about four hundred feet long, while the walls rise perpendicularly on both sides to a height of about thirty to forty feet, and the space between the walls is about seventy-five to one hundred feet wide. These attractions of nature are all in a park, covering less than forty acres. Besides, there are numerous stately trees, everything as nature formed it.

On November 26, 1884, Mr. Fels married Addie Soward, who was born in Bethel township, Fayette county, February 18, 1861, the daughter of Stewart and Mary (Umbarger) Soward, natives of Ohio, the former born in 1834, and died in December, 1909. He was a veteran of the Civil war, and was a pioneer settler of Bethel township, having established his home there in the early fifties. After serving throughout the war in an Iowa cavalry regiment, he returned home and soon afterwards moved to Kansas, later settled in Missouri, where his death occurred. Mrs. Soward died about 1863 or 1864, when about thirty-two years old. She was the mother of three children, of whom Mrs. Fels was the second in order of birth.

To Mr. and Mrs. Fels six children have been born, three of whom are living, Carl H., born February 4, 1891; Ray S., born April 19, 1894; Vergie E., born April 12, 1901.


back to Fayette Home