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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 563~



(A photograph is included in the source book.)

True biography has a more noble purpose than mere fulsome eulogy. The historic spirit, faithful to the record; the discerning judgment, unmoved by prejudice and uncolored by enthusiasm, are essential in giving the life of  the individual, as in writing the history of people. Indeed, The ingenuousness of the former picture is even vital, because the individual is the national unit, and if the unit be justly estimated the complex organism will become correspondingly intelligible. The word today is what the leading men of the last generation have made it, and this rule must ever hold good. From the past comes the legacy of the present. Law, art, science, statesmanship and government are accumulations. They constitute and 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 state life. To such a careful study are the life, character and services of the late Judge William Allen Hoyt pre-eminently 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. In studying a clean-cut and distinct character like that of the subject, there is small use for indirection or puzzling. His character was the positive expression of a strong nature, and a partial revelation of his sterling qualities, prolific application and eminently successful life will be secured through a perusal of this brief tribute.

William Allen Hoyt was born in the little town of Cleveland, Oswego county, New York, on the 16th day of April, 1844, and was the son of Charles and Mary (Allen) Hoyt. He received his preliminary education in the public schools of Oswego county and early decided to make the profession of law his life work. To this end he read law for some time in Oswego, and then entered the law department of the Columbia University, New York City, where he was graduated in 1866 with special honors. Much of his youth, and especially during the period of his preparation for his life work, was spent in the home and office of his uncle, Judge William Allen, a distinguished lawyer and eminent jurist of New York and the author of "Allens New York Reports." After graduating from law school, Mr. Hoyt became connected with the law firm of Scudder & Carter, of New York City, with whom he remained until 1871, when failing health compelled him to seek a more congenial and favorable climate. He located in Fayette, Iowa, and at once entered upon the active practice of his profession, which was continued without interruption, other than his official services on the bench, until his death. Mr. Hoyt at once attracted the attention of the bar throughout northeastern Iowa, for his knowledge of law was as thorough and extensive as that of any man in the state. In 1878 Mr. Hoyt formed a professional partnership with H. P. Hancock, of West Union, the firm maintaining offices at West Union and Fayette. His abilities were quickly recognized and he was twice chosen attorney for Fayette county.  He had already given valuable service to this city as councilman and mayor and particularly in the capacity of city counsellor.   In 1889 he was nominated on the Democratic ticket for the position of judge of the thirteenth judicial circuit and, although the district was normally Republican, he was elected .  Prior to this he had been appointed  and served an unexpired term of two years, his record on the bench giving him marked prestige and an enviable reputation throughout the district, and beyond. On the completion of his regular term of four years, Judge Hoyt consented to again make the race but in the ensuing election he was defeated by a very small majority.  In 1887 Judge Hoyt became connected with the Bank of Fayette, of which he was chosen president, and also became a stockholder in the bank at West Union.  He was an able financier and business man and became possessed of considerable farm land. For many years he was associated with A. J. Duncan in the law and the real estate business, in which they met with  the most pronounced success. Judge Hoyt's comprehensive knowledge of the law and his sound judgment made him a valuable citizen and to him were referred practically all difficulties in municipal affairs. In 1875 Judge Hoyt became a member of the board of trustees of Upper Iowa University, with which he was identified for many years, and during most of the time he served as secretary of the board. On him the college authorities largely leaned when confronted by doubtful circumstances of knotty questions. The reliance placed on him by his associates in financial circumstances is shown by the fact that when the Bank of Fayette was changed from a private bank to a state bank he was made its first president retaining the position continuously until his death. He was also counsellor for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company, and was considered a safe and sound adviser in any affair.

Judge Hoyt had many stanch friends in all the northern counties of Iowa, regardless of creed or party, because at all times he was a courteous gentleman to rich and poor alike. His eminent fitness for the bench is shown in the fact that fewer of his decisions as judge were reversed by the supreme court than those of any other judge in Iowa. He was a good citizen, a faithful husband, a loving father and a true friend. He was eminently just and fair in all his dealings. He was reserved and retiring in his disposition, yet fearless and steadfast in his defense of what he believed to be right. He was generous in his treatment of others, yet he tried to help men help themselves. He cared nothing for personal display, seeming absolutely devoid of personal vanity. He knit men to him with cords of the strongest friendship, which stood the test of time. He loved the social hour with friends, but most of all he loved the quiet of his own fireside, where he showed himself an ideal husband and father. His death occurred on May 28, 1903, following an operation for cancer of the stomach. When in the valley of the shadow of death, he turned instinctively to the Bible, which had been his constant solace during health, and when recovering consciousness after the operation the first words he murmured were the Lord's Prayer.

On October 23, 1872, during the second year of his residence at Fayette, Judge Hoyt married Elma L. Marvin, a native of McHenry county, Illinois, and the daughter of Asahel E. and Phoebe (Knowles) Marvin. These parents were originally from Livingston county, New York, near Rochester, and in 1865 they moved to Fayette County, Iowa, where the father became a well-known and successful carpenter and contractor. He died in 1892. His widow now makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. Hoyt, and is in her eighty-ninth year. To Judge and Mrs. Hoyt were born four children, namely: Allen Fitch died at the age of one year; Blanche died at the age of six years; Katherine, who became the wife of John Budd, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, is the mother of two daughters, Elizabeth and Willa Hoyt; Elizabeth M. is the wife of L. J. Ayer, of Chicago, and they have one daughter, Katherine.

Politically, Judge Hoyt was closely identified with the Democratic party, and he never swerved in his allegiance, though he was not at any time offensively partisan. Religiously he was a member of the Congregational church at Fayette since 1871. He was an earnest and liberal supporter of this society, as he was also of the Upper Iowa University, taking at all times a deep and abiding interest in religious, moral and educational objects. Fraternally he was a member of the time-honored order of Freemasonry, in which he was identified with Pleiades Lodge, Ansel Humphries Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, and the commandery of Knights Templar at West Union. In 1899 Judge Hoyt received from the Upper Iowa University the degree of Doctor of Laws, in recognition of his sterling character  and eminent abilities. Mrs. Hoyt, who still resides in the old home in Fayette is a woman of refinement and culture, whose graces and pleasing personality have endeared her to a host of warm and loyal personal friends.


Judge Hoyt stood admittedly in the front rank of Iowa's distinguished professional men, possessing a thoroughly disciplined mind and keeping in close touch with the trend of modern thought relating to his profession. He ever maintained his high standing, never descending beneath the dignity of his profession nor compromising his usefulness by countenancing any but honorable and legitimate practice. The apparent ease with which he mounted to his commanding position in the legal profession marked him as the possessor of talents beyond the majority of his professional brethren, and being a close and critical student, he experienced no difficulty in sustaining the high reputation which his professional abilities and marked success earned for him.



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