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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 754~


Fayette I. Luce


"The well known subject of this review is a native of Fayette county, Iowa, born near the village of Eden, Eden township, on the 11th day of October, 1856. His father, Charles McKenzie Luce, was a Vermonter by birth, and his mother, whose family name was Jerusha Elizabeth Walton, was born in the state of New York. These parents, when young, accompanied their respective families to Illinois and were married at Des Plaines,  that state, shortly afterwards coming to Iowa, and in 1851 Mr. Luce purchased a tract of government land in Eden township, which in due time he developed into a farm, subsequently purchasing other land near Eden village, which he also improved. By occupation he was a carpenter and on settling in Fayette County found ample opportunities for the exercise of his mechanical ability in the constructing of dwellings and other buildings, for his neighbors. He also kept a shop and when not otherwise busy, engaged in repairing their wagons, sleds and farming implements and doing all kinds of mending, having been very proficient with tools and capable of throwing his hand to almost any kind of skillful work.. Ere locating in Fayette county, Charles McK.  Luce traveled on foot over the greater part of northeastern Iowa and into Minnesota, spending about three months in observing the country and comparing the advantages of its various localities. Being especially pleased with the appearance of that part of Fayette county now included within the limits of Eden township, he finally selected a quarter section adjoining the present site of Waucoma, which he afterwards sold to Sid Southerland and, as already indicated, afterwards made a second purchase near the village of Eden, to which he removed his family in the fall of 1852 or 1853. Mr. and Mrs. Luce moved to their new home in a wagon drawn by oxen and their first dwelling was a rude habitation hastily constructed of slabs so as to be in readiness for the winter which was rapidly approaching. It was completed in good time, however, and, if not very elegant, proved a fairly comfortable protection against the cold and wind. Mr. Luce lived on the farm a number of years and still owns a part of it, the land being at this time among the best improved and most valuable in the county.

Among those who came to Fayette county the same time as Mr. Luce and lived in the same community were Edgar Peet, his brother-in-law, Samuel Waters and Samuel Hale, with their respective families, also the Leslie and Southerland families, all of whom are dead or have moved to other parts, the widow, Mrs. Southerland, living at this time in Waucoma. In the clearing and developing of the country he took an active and influential part, was a leading spirit in establishing the first school in his township and for years thereafter his interest in the educational social and moral improvement of the community did not abate. His good wife died on March 3, 1897, after the two had trodden life's pathway together for over forty-six years, during which time they reared a family of eight sons, besides a son and daughter that died young, the former at the age of six years, the latter in infancy. All their sons grew to manhood, and became respected citizens in their various places of residence. Their names in order of birth are as follows: Julius Caesar, of Groton, South Dakota; Thomas Walton, a blacksmith living in Illinois; George Costello, of San Francisco, California; Charles Willard, who died at the age of thirty years; Fremont Thaddeus, of Groton, South Dakota; Fayette I., of this review; Ernest Rivington, of Browns Valley, California, and Elmer Elsworth, of San Francisco, that state; Fremont T. and the subject being twins. The one that died in childhood bore the name of Jerome.

Julius Caesar Luce, of Groton, South Dakota, the oldest of the family, enlisted when a lad of fifteen in Company C, Sixth Iowa Cavalry, and before his sixteenth year saw a great deal of active service in the war with the Sioux Indians, in the Dakotas. He was with General Sully's command during the year 1863 and was one of the three hundred picked scouts selected to locate the hostiles, a duty fraught with danger, as the sequel will show. In topping a high ridge they found themselves right in the Indian camp, too close to withdraw, so they held a parley during which there was considerable visiting back and forth until the close of the pow-wow at sundown. It was death to attempt to retreat and massacre in its most horrible form to remain, certainly a perilous dilemma in which to be placed. A half breed scout succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the Indian sentries and, making his escape, informed General Sully of the terrible predicament of the little band of scouts, whereupon General Sully, by a forced march, swung his command on both sides of the encampment, just as the latter were preparing to fire on the whites and begin their harvest of death. At the unexpected appearance of reinforcements, the hostiles lost no time in opening the action, but fired at once, the scouts being only a few feet distant. At the first volley the horse on which young Luce was mounted fell in his tracks, the rider escaping only by catching hold of the stirrup of a comrade and being dragged from the scene of danger. Succeeding, however, in catching a free animal, he hastily mounted and was soon in the midst of the fight and bravely did his part in defeating the enemy in one of the most sanguinary engagements of the war. In 1889 the government chose J. C. Luce one of the members selected to locate the spot and mark the graves of twenty-three soldiers killed during the fight, among whom was Lieutenant Leavitt, commander of the scouts. The monument to those heroic dead was unveiled with appropriate ceremonies on October 12, 1909, Mr. Luce being a conspicuous figure on the occasion. Leavitt Post, Grand Army of the Republic, at Groton, South Dakota, to which Mr. Luce belongs, was named in honor of the gallant commander referred to, who was killed while bravely leading his men against their wily foe.

George C. Luce was superintendent of a large sugar plantation in the Hawaiian Islands, besides being employed in different capacities throughout the west, including stock raising and mining, having been superintendent of a silver mine for some time in one of the territories.

Fayette I. Luce grew up on a farm and as early as his tenth year was thrown upon his own resources, from which time on he depended upon nobody but himself for his livelihood. His education was obtained in the public schools which he attended until the age of eighteen years. At the age of twenty-six Mr. Luce began dealing in horses and devoted about twenty-eight years to that line of business, during which time he has bought and shipped hundreds of carloads of animals to the Dakotas, also to the various eastern cities. For the greater part of twenty-eight years he has made a market for horses throughout all of northeastern Iowa, also other parts of the state, his dealings taking a very wide range and bringing him in contact with the leading horsemen in the west, paying out during the period indicated hundreds of thousands of dollars in the prosecution of the business which from the beginning has grown steadily in magnitude and yielded him a very liberal income. Financially he is now among the wealthy men of his township and county and his rating everywhere is strictly first class and his reputation as an enterprising though careful and judicious business man is above reproach. In addition to the line of business to which he gives his special attention, Mr. Luce is also interested in merchandising and agriculture, during the past twenty years having been proprietor of a well stocked general store at Eden village, besides owning valuable farming lands in the county, both of which add very materially to his earnings. For twenty years he has lived in Waucoma, where he owns a beautiful and desirable home and where by honorable business methods, unswerving integrity and upright, manly conduct he has gained the confidence and respect of his fellow citizens, few, if any, standing higher than he in general esteem or filling a larger place in the public eye. He belongs to an old and honored family and, to his knowledge, has never marred the luster of its escutcheon nor brought discredit to any of the long line of sterling ancestors from whom he is descended.

Mr. Luce was married, November 11, 1890, to Rosamond M. Rogers, daughter of R. F. and Clara C. (Utter) Rogers, of Eden township, the union being blessed with two sons, Othmar Carleton and Gordon Raymond Luce, aged seventeen and thirteen years respectively, the former a student of Iowa College at Grinnell, Iowa, the latter pursuing his studies in the high school of Waucoma. Both sons are exceedingly bright and intelligent and Mr. Luce has spared neither money nor pains in their education, providing them with the best possible intellectual improvement, in which laudable aim he is heartily seconded by the young gentlemen themselves. They are prosecuting their studies very earnestly with the object in view of fitting themselves for useful and honorable positions in life and it is not too much to bespeak for each a bright and promising future.

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