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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 1349~




From the past the legacy of the present, art, science, industry, statesmanship and government, are accumulations. They constitute an inheritance upon which the present generation have entered and the advantages secured from so vast a bequeathment depend entirely upon the fidelity with which is conducted the study of the lives of the principal actors who have transmitted and are still transmitting the legacy. This is especially true of those whose influence has passed beyond the confines of locality and permeated the public life of the state. To such a careful study are the life, character and services of William B. Lakin entitled, not only on the part of the student of biography, but also of every citizen who, guided by example, would in the present wisely build for the future.


Although for some years a resident of another state, Mr. Lakin spent the greater part of his life in Fayette county and while here was perhaps more prominent in the public mind and exerted a greater influence in behalf of enterprises and measures for the general good than any other citizen. His was indeed a strenuous career, replete with usefulness to his fellow men and as age grew on apace, in the ripeness of years and experience, he calmly passed the evening of his life in the love of family and friends and in the confidence of the community which he honored by his presence.

William B. Lakin was born at Point Pleasant, Clermont county, Ohio, May 29, 1831, being a son of William P. And Sarah (Bretney) Lakin, natives of Kentucky and Ohio respectively. In his youth he received a preliminary educational training in such schools as his native place afforded and later attended Clermont Academy, though somewhat irregularly, several terms. This institution was located fully three miles from his home, which distance he daily and perseveringly walked through all kinds of weather, so bent was he upon acquiring the mental discipline necessary to success in the sphere of life he then had in view. Actuated by a laudable desire for additional scholastic training, he subsequently became a student of Farmerís College near Cincinnati, where he had for classmates Hon. Benjamin Harrison, later President of the United States, and Murat Halstead, for many years one of the most distinguished journalists of the country; also a power in political circles. After about one year of persevering work in that institution, Mr. Lakin devoted the two ensuing years to the study of law in a private office, at the expiration of which time he was formally admitted to the bar, the event of happy coincidence occurring on May 29, 1852, the twenty-first anniversary of his birth.


After practicing his profession in his native state until 1859, Mr. Lakin settled in the village of Fayette, Iowa, where the following year he was appointed, by the board of supervisors, probate judge to fill a vacancy, but saw fit to decline the honor. Subsequently, early in 1861, he took charge of the North Iowa Observer, of which Dr. William BRUSH was publisher, and in this capacity advocated at the beginning of the Civil war compensative emancipation, a scheme deemed by many not only impractical, but in the highest degree chimerical and visionary. Again, in 1867, he had editorial charge of the Observer and was also one of the publishers of the paper that year, which was memorable as seeing the last decisive contest between Fayette and West Union in the county-seat issue, a contest in which it is needless to state that he took an active and prominent part and through the medium of this paper wielded strong influence for the success of the place.


In politics, Mr. Lakin was always a stalwart Republican and as such exercised a strong influence for his party, both in local and state affairs, while a resident of Fayette county. In 1862 he was elected to represent the county in the lower house of the General Assembly and his ability in that body was such that four years later he was further honored by being elected to the Senate, where by efficient and untiring effort in behalf of his constituency he met the high expectations of his friends and earned an honorable reputation as legislator. Meantime he served as clerk of the district court and in 1863 was appointed by Abraham Lincoln allotment commissioner, discharging the duties of both positions in a manner highly creditable to himself and to the satisfaction of the public. Under President Cleveland he served as postmaster at Fayette, in this, as in the various other positions to which called, proving capable and painstaking and in the full sense of the term a courteous and obliging public servant.


For many years Mr. Lakin was one of the most active and useful men in Fayette county and he made his influence felt in all that concerned the welfare of his fellowmen. An orator of pronounced ability, his services were always in great demand during the political contests, for as a campaign speaker he had no superiors in his part of the state. Some, it is true, might have excelled him in flowery language and oratorical verbiage, but in discussing the issues of the day his clear, explicit statements and cogent, logical reasoning, fortified by sound deductions and when necessary by ridicule and sarcasm, left him without a peer on the hustings. He was always the chief speaker in political debates and defended the principles of Republicanism invariably to the discomfiture of all who were pitted against him. In the midst of the thronging cares and demands of a busy life he was always approachable, gracious in his association with his fellows and enjoyed the personal popularity which was the natural result of his characteristics. He gained a reputation as a man well equipped equally with the solid and brilliant qualities essential to material success, but above this he ordered his life on the high plane which included a deep sense of his stewardship and an appreciation of the responsibilities which rested upon him as a citizen and influential factor of the body politic.


A matter worthy of record is the fact that Mr. Lakinís native town was also the birthplace of Gen. U. S. Grant and it is interesting to note that that distinguished military chieftain and President was born in the same house in which Caroline M. Thompson, wife of the subject, first saw the light of day. The marriage of Mr. Lakin and Miss Thompson, daughter of Wilson L. And Nancy H. (Sherwin) Thompson, which was solemnized on the 29th day of October, 1861, has been blessed with six children, namely: Mrs. Mabel Lakin Patterson, Corwin Thompson, Anna Eliza, Frederick James, Caroline Louise and William Parker Lakin. Mr. Lakin died January 7, 1910, at Miles City, Montana. His patient resignation during a long affliction from rheumatism endeared him to his friends, while his cheerful and intelligent personality impressed them with the earnest interest he ever had in the responsibilities of life. The many beautiful tributes of love and affection that surrounded him in his last hours bore testimony to the esteem in which he was held by the community. He died as he had lived, a true believer in the just dispensation of a wise and loving Father in whom he believed and trusted.


Mrs. Lakin, who is a woman of gentle refinement and gracious presence, has ever taken an active part in the social life of the places where she has made her home and commands the appreciative regard of all who come in contact with her kindly influence. She is an artist of recognized ability and for many years was at the head of the art department of the Upper Iowa University at Fayette as teacher of painting and drawing. The sons are prosperous and respected men of Miles City, Montana, to which place the parents removed in the year 1905. Thus in a rather cursory way have been set forth the leading facts and characteristics in the life of one of Fayette countyís most notable and influential men of affairs. Always devoted to the public service and to the improvement of his town and county, he was beloved by his friends, admired and esteemed by the community and his career was crowned with honor and sustained by popular approval.



~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Kathy Moore


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