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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 1355~




Among the honored old pioneers of Fayette county, Iowa, the subject of this sketch occupies a conspicuous position. A life of good purpose and unimpeached integrity has won for him the unbounded confidence of all who know him and he is eminently entitled to representation in a work of this nature. Mr. Gilbert is a native of western Canada, where he was born on the 28th day of February, 1841, and is the son of William and Rebecca (Pratt) Gilbert. He is of stanch Irish stock, his grandfather Gilbert having come to America from the north of Ireland. On the maternal side his ancestors were English, his maternal great-grandfather having been born in that country, as was his son, who was a soldier in the war of the Revolution, later locating in Canada, where his daughter, the subjectís mother, was born. The old Revolutionary veteran referred to was the father of twenty-three children and lived to the remarkable age of ninety-three years. He was three times married and the subjectís mother was born to the first wife. The grandparents were all tillers of the soil and were energetic and enterprising people, standing high in their respective communities. 

William Gilbert was born in New York city February 18, 1810, and his wife Rebecca first saw the light of day in Canada on February 11, 1821. The former died in 1889, at the age of seventy-nine years, and the later 1862, at the age of forty-one years. William Gilbert lived in his native city until he had reached his majority, when he went to Canada, where he married. About 1845 the family moved to Rockford, Illinois, where they resided until about 1864, when they came to Fayette county, Iowa, and located at Eldorado. In the winter of the following year they moved to Charles City, this state, where they lived eight years. At the end of that time they went to northern Minnesota and took up a claim adjoining the Chippewa Indian reservation. When about seventy-five years old, William Gilbert went to live with his daughter, Mrs. Lois Davis, at Saginaw, Michigan, where his death occurred, his remains being taken to Rockford, Illinois, for interment. After the death of his first wife, he was again married while residing at Rockford, and by the second union he had two sons, three children having been born to the first union, namely: George W., the subject of this sketch; Rebecca, who lives at Lansing, Michigan, and Lois, now deceased. The children of the second union were Theodore, a resident of Minnesota, and Henry, who lives at Detroit City, Minnesota. Their mother is now living in California. William Gilbert was an industrious and energetic man. He was by trade a carpenter and joiner and millwright. In political sentiment he was an abolitionist and took an active part in politics after the war. He was widely known and in whatever company he happened to be he was perfectly at home, being himself somewhat of an entertainer. Through his energetic habits and wise management he was always in fair pecuniary circumstances. In church work he was active, being prominent in the Baptist society, and he was ever found in support of movements for the benefit of the community.


George W. Gilbert was reared in the paternal home and in his youth attended the public schools in Rockford, Illinois. His studies were interrupted, however, by the sounds of the impending conflict which was then about to burst over the nation, and when the Presidentís call for volunteers was issued, he responded promptly, enlisting at Rockford, at the age of nineteen years, in Company D, Eleventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The command first went into camp at Birdís Point, Missouri, where they remained during the winter of 1861-62. Subsequently the regiment took part in the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, followed by Shiloh, these being the most important battles in the history of the regiment. During the battle of Shiloh, the subject was detailed to the boat ďCity of Memphis,Ē to help care for the wounded, and during the thickest of the fight he helped to carry many dead and wounded soldiers from the field. General Grant designated him as a nurse on the boat mentioned, which position he retained for four or five weeks, then becoming the steward of the boat. He had charge of about fifty nurses and the boat was kept busily engaged transferring sick soldiers from the South, usually carrying six hundred and seven hundred sick and wounded men at each trip. After this he was detailed as a cook in the Cairo hospital, but soon afterwards was himself then sick and confined in the same hospital. On his recovery he was made chief cook. Which he retained for some time. He then rejoined his regiment and was discharged from the service because of physical disability. When he entered the service, Mr. Gilbert was a strong and robust man, but when he left the army he weighed but eighty-five pounds.


After the completion of his military service Mr. Gilbert returned to his former home at Rockford, where he remained about a year and then came to Fayette county, Iowa, locating in Auburn township. During the following ten years he was successfully engaged there in the tilling of the soil, but in 1876 he came to West Union, where he has since lived. Being an expert mechanic, he was for a number of years kept busily employed, but of recent years he has been living practically retired from active labor. He is a man of splendid personal qualities and is well liked in the circles in which he moves.


On February 25, 1866, Mr. Gilbert was married to Elizabeth Dewey, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Dewey, her birth having occurred November 2, 1855, near New Richmond, Montgomery county, this state. The Dewey family was originally from Maryland, going from that state first to Ohio, and thence coming to Iowa. They were farming people and occupied a prominent position in their community. Of their eight children, Mrs. Gilbert was the fourth in order of birth, she being a twin to a brother who is now deceased. The Dewey family arrived in Fayette county in 1856, locating near Eldorado. To Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert have been born two children, namely: Maud, born August 28, 1871, became the wife of Earl Ostrander, of this county, and they have a boy, Jesse, now two years old; Olive, born May 19, 1877, is the wife of Carl Ostrander, and they have one child, Edith Elizabeth, three years old. Carl and Earl Ostrander are twins.


Mr. Gilbert is a stanch Republican in his political faith and has held several township offices, being at present the justice of the peace, in which he is giving eminently satisfactory service. He has long taken an active interest in agricultural matters, being a member of the Fayette County Fair Association. On the fair grounds is a typical log cabin, in which are kept many valuable and interesting relics of the early pioneer days and which is always the center of interest for visitors. This cabin Mr. Gilbert himself built and presented to the Old Settlersí Association for the specific purpose to which it is devoted, and he was appointed the superintendent of the building, a position he still retains. Mr. Gilbert is the possessor of a number of interesting old relics, one of them being an old map and railroad guide that was published in 1845, before the state of Iowa was admitted to the Union. It is an interesting relic and by contrast emphasizes the wonderful development which has taken place in this state. Mr. Gilbert is also the owner of the celebrated cabin which was used during the first Presidential campaign of Benjamin Harrison, having been made for the Harrison Club of West Union. Several attempts have been made to destroy or steal the cabin, but it is still intact and has been made use of a number of times by the Modern Woodmen and others at different times.


Fraternally Mr. Gilbert is a member of Post No. 48, Grand Army of the Republic, at West Union, and was at one time commander of the Veteransí Association of Fayette county. Religiously he is a Baptist, holding membership with the church of that denomination at West Union. He and his wife are living quietly and unostentatiously in their comfortable home at West Union and they enjoy the friendship of a large circle of acquaintances. They give a cordial welcome to all who enter their home, the spirit of true-hearted hospitality being ever in evidence.


~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Kathy Moore


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