Photo included in Source Book
One of the early settlers in Fayette county was Joseph Hobson,
late of West Union, now deceased. He came to Iowa in May, 1855, and after
a few months spent in Westfield township and vicinity, located upon a farm
in Smithfield township. Here he built a residence, improved his land, and
resided for about two years. He had for some years studied law as
opportunity and leisure from other pursuits permitted, and in 1856, was
admitted to the bar in this county. In 1857 he removed to Westfield (now
Fayette), where he taught school, and later opened an office and engaged
in the practice of law. In the fall of 1858 he was elected clerk of the
district court, and in December of that year removed to West Union where
he ever after resided until his death, December 15, 1893.
Mr. Hobson was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, October 17, 1823. He was
the eldest son and second child of John Wainwright Hobson and Abigail
Bishop (Scott) Hobson. His father was born at Peniston, Yorkshire,
England, August 22, 1794, and was the son of Joseph Hobson, of that place.
The subject of this sketch traced his ancestry back to his grandfather,
Joseph Hobson, of Yorkshire, England, who was born at nor near Peniston.
In early life he was a woolen manufacturer, but later discontinued this
business, and subsequently carried on business at Bullhouse Hall, at
farming and colliery work. He was prominent locally, quite successful in
business, full of enterprise, and something of a musician. Joseph Hobson
was thrice married; his first wife was a Wainwright (the grandmother of
the subject of this sketch), with whom he had one son and two daughters.
He resided in that vicinity all his life, and died at seventy;-four years
of age and was buried at Peniston church.
John Wainwright Hobson, son of Joseph Hobson, just referred to, came to
America with his uncle, Joseph Wainwright, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in
1816. He settled in Pittsburg and married Abigail Bishop Scott, in 1819.
She was a daughter of Joseph Scott, a paper manufacturer, and a native of
Massachusetts, who subsequently removed to, and was one of the early
settlers of, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and later located at Pittsburg,
where he passed the later years of his life.
The mother of the subject was of Scotch-English ancestry. She was born in
New Jersey, April 10, 1799, and crossed the mountains with her parents in
childhood, when they removed to Pennsylvania. She resided in Fayette
county, in that state, nearly all her life, and died at Connellsville in
John Wainwright Hobson was stricken with Asiatic cholera during the
prevalence of that epidemic, and died August 14, 1834, at Pittsburg, after
a sickness of a few hours.
The son, bereft of his father at the early age of eleven years, obtained
such education as the times afforded and limited means could command.
Public schools as we now know them being few in number, if any, at that
time, he was compelled to depend upon such opportunities for securing an
education as were afforded by private tutors and his own endeavors. He was
always fond of reading, a good student, with a strong memory, and by the
time he arrived at mature life had a wide range of knowledge, covering
history, literature, politics, and general information. In early boyhood
he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, but, not liking that avocation,
learned the carpenter's trade. In the autumn of 1848 he removed to
Connellsville, Pennsylvania, where he was employed at his trade, and was
for a short time a partner in a foundry business. In the spring of 1853 he
removed to Cleveland, Ohio, where he had charge of extensive building
operations in connection with his brother-in-law, the late John B. Ingham,
of Allegheny City. Between the time he located at Cleveland, and his
arrival in Iowa, he resided for a short time in Sanilac county, Michigan.
A competent observer, who had known Mr. Hobson intimately for many years,
said of him "that he never knew a man who excelled him in his ability to
get along with men in his employ, or one for whom men would willingly do
more for him." His varied experience well fitted him for his work in the
future. He entered upon the duties of the clerk's office when the county
was new, and many of our modern mthods and aids to officials were unknown,
or even unthought of. During his incumbency of the office, extending from
January, 1859, to January, 1869, he applied to the office that system
which early gave to it the orderly and business-like methods which have
ever since been employed, and which distinguish the clerk's office to the
present time, as one of the best kept and managed offices of its kind in
During the years of the Rebellion - 1861 to 1865 - there was no bank or
railway in the county, and the express business was done by stage coaches,
or by private messengers, between West Union and the terminal of the
railroad. Mr. Hobson was during all this period designated by the soldiers
in the field as the consignee of funds sent by them to their families at
home and many thousands of dollars were sent to him for distribution, and
by him delivered to the designated beneficiaries, without expense for
services rendered by him. During this trying period he was ever active and
vigilant in rendering such services as he could in befriending the
families of the soldiers at home, in sustaining the soldiers at the front,
and in upholding the government in its efforts to suppress the Rebellion.
Next to the soldier in the field is the need of the loyal friend and
supporter at home. Each in his own way equally important, although one is
at the seat of carnage, and in daily peril, while the other, remote from
the danger of disease and battle, by his cooperation helps to make the
success of the soldiers possible. Few who have not given the matter
thought, can conceive how necessary to the welfare and success of the
soldier at the front is the earnest support of the great army of loyal men
and women who by their voluntary efforts sustained and encouraged the
forces in the field. Many were the acts of kindness performed, and
numerous the sacrifices made, by the subject of this sketch, in that
trying ordeal of which it would not be proper to speak; sufficient it is
to say that at all times, by speech, act, and purse, he loyally upheld the
efforts of the government to suppress the Rebellion.
Upon retiring from the clerk's office, Mr. Hobson was elected to the
thirteenth General Assembly of Iowa, and served as a member of that body
in 1870. In that year he was, without solicitation on his part, appointed
assessor of United States internal revenue for the third congressional
district of Iowa, and served efficiently and to the entire satisfaction of
the officials in charge of the department until May, 1873, at which time
the office expired by limitation and the duties connected with it merged
with those of collector of internal revenue. Upon the conclusion of his
services as assessor he received from the commissioner of internal
revenue, at Washington, D.C., strong commendation of the manner in which
the office had been conducted during his incumbency.
Joseph Hobson was one of the founders of the Fayette County National Bank
in 1872, and was its first and only president until his resignation as
such in December, 1887. He also served as vice-president of the Fayette
County Savings Bank, from its organization, in 1875, until December 1887.
Much of the early success of each of these financial institutions was due
to the business ability and integrity of Mr. Hobson, to his extensive
acquaintance and to the personal confidence the people reposed in him
after an acquaintance extending over so many years. He served as mayor of
West Union for two years, and as a member of the school board in that town
for twelve years. He was active in encouraging all public enterprises and
liberal in aiding them. He had been a resident of the county many years
before the advent of a railroad, and when a prospect of obtaining one
presented itself, he was earnest in his advocacy of the measure and
contributed liberally of his time and means to secure it.
The present generation knows nothing of the disadvantages of living in a
county destitute of these necessities, but take them as a matter of
course. The pioneers of fifty years ago obtained them by voting taxes and
donating money to build them, and the community was satisfied if it could
secure railroad accommodations by contributing liberally to their
Politically, Mr. Hobson was originally a Whig, and later a Republican. He
often alluded with pride to the fact that he cast his first vote for
President for Henry Clay, and made a long journey by stage-coach to reach
his voting precinct for this purpose. Upon his arrival in Iowa, he took an
active part in politics. He had speaking talent of a high order and for
many years was prominent in convention work and as a political speaker.
Perhaps he made more political speeches in the county than any other man
who has lived in it. His fund of facts, and acquaintance with history,
literature, and politics, combined with the happy faculty of always being
able to illustrate his point with an appropriate story, well told, enabled
him to entertain and instruct an audience.
Mr. Hobson was married at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, April 15, 1847, to
Elizabeth Baker, daughter of James and Rachel (Wigfield, sometimes
erroneously written Wakefield) Baker. She was born at Bakerstown,
Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, June 16, 1825, that village having been
founded by her family, one of the earliest to settle in western
Pennsylvania. Mrs. Hobson was a woman of strong common sense, unusual
force of character, untiring energy and industry, an active worker in the
Methodist Episcopal church, of which she was a life-long member, and an
efficient laborer in societies connected therewith, and was highly
esteemed where she so long resided. She was from among that best of
human-kind, the intelligent home builder, the affectionate wife and
mother, and in her life she proved an exemplar in all that pertains to the
best and highest welfare of the family and the home. She died in her
eighty-fourth year, on April 15, 1909, the anniversary of her marriage.
Mr. and Mrs. Hobson were the parents of eight children, six of whom grew
to mature age. Leta, a daughter, died in infancy, and Loyd, a son, died in
his eighth year. Joseph B. Hobson graduated at the United States Naval
Academy with honor, and remained in the service until after he attained
the rank of lieutenant, when he resigned. While he was in the navy he
visited Japan, Australia, France, South America, England, Italy and other
countries and many of the islands of the sea. Frank Hobson and Leroy T.
Hobson founded the Argo at West Union, recently merged with the Gazette,
and at this time conducted under the name of the Argo-Gazette, and
published the paper successfully for many years. Frank Hobson had talent
of a high order as a newspaper man, and was a public spirited citizen. The
columns of the Argo will show that he zealously advocated every measure
calculated for the upbuilding of the community and the city. The
mechanical department was efficiently managed by L. T. Hobson, who was
accomplished in everything necessary to the printer's art. Sickness in the
family of Frank Hobson, in the person of his only child, and his
subsequent death, necessitated the disposing of the property, and the
removal of the father to Oklahoma, where he now resides.
The surviving daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Hobson are each married. Ella
married H. I. McGuire, and resides at Cincinnati, Ohio. Fannie Elizabeth
married C. W. Knickerbocker, M.D. and resides at Cedar Falls, Iowa. L. T.
Hobson and A. N. Hobson reside at West Union, Iowa.