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 Iowa History

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Our Iowa, Its Beginning and Growth

Herbert L. Moeller and Hugh C. Mueller

New York, Newsom and Company


Transcribed by Debbie Gerischer & Kaylee Bopp






Prominent among the writers of early Iowa history are Theodore S. Parvin, William Salter, and S. H. M. Byers.  All three were well-educated men who spent most of their lives in Iowa.


Mr. Parvin was a native of New Jersey.  In 1837 he graduated from the Cincinnati law school where, a year later, he met Rober Lucas who had just been appointed governor of the new Territory of Iowa.  Governor Lucas liked Mr. Parvin and appointed him as his private secretary.  The two arrived at Burlington on August 13, 1838.  During the next twenty years he held several important governmental positions.

Mr. Parvin was one of the first trustees of the state university and served there for ten years as a professor.  He was one of the men who started the Iowa State Historical Society and was secretary of that organization for a few years.  He was also one of the founders of the Masonic order of Iowa.  As its secretary, he collected, at Cedar Rapids, the largest and most valuable Masonic library in the world.

B. F. Gue, another well known Iowa historian, says, "Mr. Parvin was long regarded the highest authority on Iowa history and biography.......No citizen of Iowa had done so much to collect and preserve its early records and history as Theodore S. Parvin."


William Salter, a friend of Mr. Parvin, was a native of the State of New York.  He attended Union Theological Seminary of New York, New York University, and the Theological Institution of Andover, Massachusetts.  At Andover he became a member of the famous "Iowa Band," consisting of a small group of young men who came to Iowa to do missionary work.  The group arrived in Burlington October 24, 1843.

Young Mr. Salter preached his first sermon on Iowa soil in a blacksmith shop at Keosaqua on October 29.  Seven of the band were ordained as Congregational ministers at Denmark, Iowa, on Sunday, November 5.  For the next two years he worked among the "squatters" - a name applied to certain early settlers - in Jackson County.

In 1846 the Rev. Mr. Salter was called to Burlington where he preached his first sermon in a rented hall over a store.  He served as pastor of the First Congregational Church at Burlington for sixty-four years.

Mr. Salter became interested in writing history and wrote some of the best biographies that we now have of prominent Iowa men.  He had known personally nearly all men of importance in Iowa.


Samuel Hawkins Marshall Byers was a native of Pennsylvania.  His mother died when he was less than a month old.  As a boy of thirteen he came to Iowa with his father and settled at Oskaloosa.  He studied law in the office of William Loughridge and was admitted to the bar.

Early in the Civil War he enlisted in the Fifth Iowa infantry.  At Missionary Ridge he, with eighty others, was captured by Confederates.  For fifteen months he suffered in Libby and other Southern prison camps.  Twice he escaped from prison only to be recaptured.

In prison Major Byers began writing.  While at Columbia, South Carolina, he wrote the words to "Sherman's March to the Sea."  This song made him famous.  Here he again escaped prison and watched General Sherman and his army enter the city.  General Sherman assigned him to a place on his staff and sent him to General Grant and President Lincoln to report his great victory.

Major Byers filled several important diplomatic positions.  In 1893 he built a fine home in Des Moines.  He is the author of Iowa in War Times;  Twenty Years in Europe, and numerous poems among which are "Iowa" and "Song of Iowa."


Iowa has had, and has today, a number of prominent men and women in the field of literature.  In addition, there are those who once lived here but are now elsewhere, who have become well-known writers.  The story of one of the many has been chosen and is here given because he especially typifies Iowa and his life should be an inspiration to boys and girls today.


John Herbert Quick was born on a farm in Grundy County, Iowa, on October 23, 1861.  Hence he knew pioneer life in Iowa.  When but twenty months old he was stricken with infantile paralysis which left his feet and ankles permanently deformed.  In spite of his physical handicap he worked on his father's farm and attended the country school.  Friends and admirers of Mr. Quick, a few years ago, purchased the little old one-room country school building which he attended, and moved it to the park at Grundy Center where it is being preserved as a memorial to him.

Mr. Quick taught in rural and city schools from 1877 until 1890.  He studied law in a law office and was admitted to the bar in 1889.  From 1890 until 1908 he practiced law in Sioux City and was mayor of that city from 1898 to 1900.  He held other important positions but we are interested in him here as a writer.

Herbert Quick, as he was familiarly known, wrote many volumes.  Three of them were Iowa novels, Vandemark's Folly (1921).  The Hawkeye (1923), and The Invisible Woman (1824).  He wrote his autobiography, One Man's Life, in 1825.  Two volumes, The Brown Mouse, a novel, and The Fairview Idea, dealt with educational problems and were no doubt the result of his teaching experiences in Iowa.

Mr. Quick was greatly interested in the improvement of farm life and wrote many articles along that line.  He died May 10, 1925.


The three men in the educational field who are here presented have been chosen because of their influence upon Iowa not only during their lifetime but also in the traditions of service they left us and in the institutions.


Henry was born in Pomfret, Connecticut, October 23, 1829.  He graduated from Amherst College in 1852 and taught in Connecticut and New Jersey until 1870 when he became superintendent of schools at Clinton, Iowa.  He was Superintendent of schools at Clinton, Iowa.  He was Superintendent of Public Instruction in Iowa from 1888 to 1892 and again from 1894 to 1898.

Mr. Sabin wrote an educational book entitled Common Sense Didactics.  He became best known for a report which he wrote on rural school problems.  This report was made as chairman of a "Committee of Twelve" for the National Education Association.  It is said to be one of the best, if not the best, discussions of the rural school and its problems that was ever written.

The Making of Iowa, a textbook, for boys and girls, was written by Mr. Sabin and his youngest son, Edwin.

Mr. Sabin died on March 23, 1918.


William Miller Beardshear was a native of Ohio.  When he was fourteen years old he enlisted in the Union army.  After the war he attended and graduated from Otterbein university.  He became a United Brethren minister and preached in Ohio.  For two years he attended Yale Theological Seminary.

In 1881, Mr. Beardshear was elected president of Western College at Toledo, Iowa.  Although a young man for such a position, his enthusiasm and ability soon won him recognition.  In 1889 he accepted a position as head of the Des Moines public schools.  Two years later he became the president of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts at Ames.  It was here that Mr. Beardshear did his greatest work and gained his real fame.

Iowa State College, as it is now known, had been subject to much criticism and ridicule when Mr. Beardshear became its president.  He reorganized some of the divisions of the college and brought new men to the staff.  By so doing he laid the foundation for what has since become one of the greatest institutions of its kind in America.


Homer Horatio Seerley was born on a farm near Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 13, 1848.  At the age of six he came with his parents to a farm near South English, in Keokuk County, Iowa.  He attended a rural school and taught in one after taking a preparatory course at the State University of Iowa.  He graduated from the University in 1873 and the following fall began his work in the Oskaloosa public schools.  During his first three years there he served as assistant principal, principal, and superintendent.  He remained as superintendent eleven years.

In 1886 Mr. Seeley was invited, by the Board of Trustees, to become Principal of the Iowa State Normal School at Cedar Falls, which later became the present Iowa State Teachers College.  It was as president of Iowa's outstanding teachers' college that Mr. Seeley rendered his greatest service to the cause of education.  He was a firm believer in the saying, "As is the teacher, so is the school," and that the boys and girls of Iowa are entitled to well-trained teachers.

Mr. Seerly presided over the teacher-training institution at Cedar Falls for forty-two years, from 1886 to 1928.  When he began his work there the school was a small struggling affair, but ten years old.  When he closed his work, the institution ranked among the foremost teachers' colleges of America.


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