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CHAPTER XII

THE MAYORS OR FORT DODGE



WILLIAM WILLIAMS, 1869-7O; GEORGE B. SHERMAN; 1871, HEZEKIAH ISEECHER,
1872; GEORGE R. PEARSONS, 1873, 1889-189O; J. O. SLAUSON, 1874-5-6; 
SAMUEL REES, 1877; HENRY A. PLATT, 1878-9; THOMAS SARGENT, 1880; S. T. 
MESERVEY, l88l-2, 1884; RICHARD P. FURLONG, 1883; C. L. GRANGER, 1885-6, 
1893-4-5-6; CHARLES G. BLANDEN, 1887-8; GEORGE W. HYATT, 1891-2; E. D. 
CLAGG, 1897-8; S. J. BENNETT, 1899-I9OO-O1-02, 19O5-06, I9O9-IO; A. H. 
NORTHRUP, 1903-04; CHARLES F. DUNCOMHE, I907-08; JOHN F. FORD, 1911-12. 


In the forty-three years since Fort Dodge has been incorporated, eighteen of 
her citizens have held the office of mayor. Politically the democrats have had 
the advantage in the numerous mayoralty contests. While these contests have 
often been spirited ones, yet the results have invariably brought honor to the 
town. From the first the office has been filled by men of marked business ability, 
and the roll of names shows those of our most prominent citizens. 

WILLIAM WILLIAIMS 1869-7O 

Major William Williams, the first mayor of Fort Dodge, was a native of 
Pennsylvania, being born in Westmoreland county, December 6, 1796. He came 
to this city in 1850, taking the place of sutler for the United States troops sta- 
tioned here. On the removal of the troops in 1854. Major Williams bought the 
government buildings and platted the town. When in 1857 news came of the 
Indian depredations at Spirit Lake, he organized and commanded the expedition 
which went to the relief of the settlers. On August 22, 1869, by order of the 
circuit court of \\'ebster county, Major Williams and four others were appointed 
commissioners to call an election and to do all things necessary for the incor- 
poration of the city of Fort Dodge. The result of this first city election, held 
October i, 1869, was to give the mayoralty honors to iNIajor Williams and this 
office he held until 1871. His age and feeble health compelled Ala j or Williams 
to refuse to continue in the office, which the people would gladly have given 
him. Full of years and honors, this pioneer tradesman and founder of the city 
died at his home in Fort Dodge, February 26, 1874. 

GEORGE B. SHERMAN 187I 

The second mayor of Fort Dodge, George B. Sherman, who served during the year 1871, 
was born in Pennington county, Vermont, June 7. 1833. In 1855 


155 



156 HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 

he came to Iowa and settled in this city during April of that year. To him is 
given credit for building the first store building in the city. The hard times of 
1857, however, caused a temporary suspension of the business until i860, when 
he again entered the business. Three years later, in 1863, he went to Washing- 
ton, District of Columbia, to occupy a position in the office of the first comptroller 
of the currency. While in Washington he attended Columbia Law College, 
graduating from that school in 1866. Returning to Fort Dodge he opened a law: 
office, and for a number of years practiced his profession. He died December 
I, 1909. 

HEZEKIAH BEECHER — l872 

Hezekiah Beecher was mayor of Fort Dodge during the year 1872. He was 
born in New Haven county, Connecticut, in the year 1828. By profession he 
was a lawyer, graduating from the law department of Yale in 1852. After leav- 
ing school he entered the law office of G. H. HoUister, at Litchfield, Connecticut. 
In 1855 '^^ removed to Fort Dodge, where he practiced his profession, being for 
a time associated with Hon. John F. Duncombe. ^Ir. Beecher and his family in 
1866 removed to Redfield, South Dakota, where he died in March of the follow- 
ing year. 

GEORGE R. PEARSONS — 1873, 1889-9O 

George R. Pearsons, the pioneer capitalist and landowner, who was mayor 
of Fort Dodge during the years 1873. 1889 and 1890. was born in Bradford, 
Vermont, August 7, 1830, and died in this city July 14, 1906. On his mother's 
side he was descended from the Putnam family of Revolutionary fame. 

The early life of Mr. Pearsons can be no better told than in his own words, 
spoken at an "old home week" celebration at Bradford, August 15, 1901. 
"Forty-nine years ago March 20, next," he said, I left Bradford, a boy of twelve 
years of age. I had up to that time received certain rudiments in school life, and 
various whippings from my teacher, Maria Baker. Afterwards attended school 
until I was seventeen years of age, when my father sent me to an academy, which 
I made use of to the best of my ability. The ninth week the teacher told me I 
must make a speech at the close of the term. I told him that being shot was a 
much easier road for me. I graduated at the close of the eleventh week. As 
the Dutchman says, T runned away.' That closed my school life. Since then I 
have spent half my life on the western frontier, three years of this among the 
Indians. Should you ask me to talk about Indians, my tongue would run like a 
buzz-saw. Were I talking to an audience in the west, words would come to me 
in the western dialect you bet." 

At the age of twenty-five, Mr. Pearsons was in the employ of the \'ermont 
Central at Chatsworth. Illinois, selling their lands. In 1868 he came to Fort 
Dodge, where he resided until his death. In 1885 he was appointed Indian in- 
spector, serving three years. His work in this department was most efficient, win- 
ning him praise from both the department of the interior and also from the 
Indians. Abuses which had existed for years were reformed, and the system of 
Indian schools was entirely reorganized. Besides his service to Fort Dodge as 
mayor, he was for many years a member of the school board. 

Mayors of Fort Dodge
HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 157 

The railroad experience gained in the east proved valuable to Mr. Pearsons 
in the west. He was superintendent and had entire charge of the construction 
work on the Fort Dodge & Fort Ridgley Railroad. Although his unflagging 
energy brought him to a sick-bed, yet laying the last rails on the snow he com- 
pleted the road a few hours ahead of time. Two remarks made in connection 
W'ith the building of this road are characteristic of the man. In referring to Air. 
S. H. Taft, who had opposed the granting of aid by Humboldt county to the road, 
Mr. Pearsons said: "I don't want to go to heaven if Mr. Taft is going to be there, 
for I have fought him all I want to in this world, and I» don't want to carry i^ 
into the next." The fight over, Air. Pearsons then replied to the warm words of 
welcome of Mr. Taft, "I shake hands across the bloody chasm." 

Besides his work on the Fort Ridgley road, he was interested in the work of 
grading the Iowa Pacific, a line to be built from Fort Dodge to Belmond. 

Probably the work which brought Mr. Pearsons the most in the public eye 
was the draining of Owl Lake in Humboldt county. By this work 2,500 acres 
of swamp land were made valuable farming lands. To do this it was necessary 
to construct a ditch nine miles long, at a cost of $6,000. 

In politics Mr. Pearsons was independent. He was a strong supporter of 
Mr. Cleveland, and an equally strong enthusiast for President McKinley. 

No man ever wrote or spoke his autobiography in a more truthful way than 
did Mr. Pearsons in his everyday speeches. In response to the question whether 
he knew a person, his invariable reply was, "Know him, why yes; I know every- 
body, and everybody knows me." A remark practically true, 

J. O. SLAUSON — -1874-5-6 

James Oscar Slauson was born in Lysander, Onondaga county. New York, 
on July I, 1828. In 1851 he was married to Elvira A. Miner, and in 1854 they 
came to Dubuque county in this state and settled on a farm. From 1861 to 1864 
Mr. Slauson was engaged in the milling business in Dyersville, Iowa. In the 
spring of 1868 he moved to Fort Dodge, purchased a home, and operated one of 
the first lumber yards in this city. In those days, all lumber was hauled on 
wagons either from Iowa Falls or from Boone, the nearest railway points, to 
Fort Dodge. 

His first service as a public official in Fort Dodge was as a member of the 
school board about 1869 or 1870. In 1874 he was elected mayor on the republi- 
can greenback ticket, and served for three years. He also served as city mar- 
shal during the year 1883. 

In the spring of 1877 he went to the Black Hills and engaged in mining. He 
continued this business for four successive years, spending the winters in Fort 
Dodge. In 1881, he engaged in business in partnership with Andrew Hower, 
and later continued in business alone. In 1889 he was called to the old New 
York home to administer the estate of his eldest brother. Before the completion 
of this charge he died very suddenly, on May 22, 1892. of rheumatism of the 
heart. 

He was a man who took pride in the fact that his word was as good as a 
bond. No man ever truthfully said that J. O. Slauson ever failed to fulfill an 
agreement. Tall and perfectly proportioned physically, he was a man of great 



158 HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 

strength, commanding respect and admiration This with his high character, 
and quiet unassuming ways, won him the love of all who knew him. 

SAMUEL REES 1877

One of the representative business men of Fort Dodge was Samuel Rees, 
who came to this city at the opening of the United States land office, to represent 
the real estate firm of Hoyt, Sherman & Company of Des Moines. The first 
lot sold in Fort Dodge was lot 3, block 9, the deed being conveyed to Hoyt 
Sherman. Early in 1858, Mr. Rees was doing business under the firm name of 
Samuel Rees & Company. Three years later he engaged in the mercantile busi- 
ness, and then in 1862 formed a partnership with Angus INIcBane and \V. M. 
Marlett, engaging in general merchandise, banking and real estate. After three 
or four years the general merchandise line was dropped, and later IMarlett with- 
drew. About three or four years after the withdrawal of Marlett, a new part- 
ner was taken in, and the firm name then became Rees, jMcBane & Grant. 
After 1870, Mr. Rees was alone in the real estate and insurance business. 

Mr. Rees was born in Hamilton county, Ohio, November 7, 1817. When a 
lad of fourteen he entered the wholesale store of Avery, Sharpless & Company 
in Cincinnati. After several years poor health caused him to start for Cali- 
fornia. But when he reached Des Moines the stories of Indian troubles on the 
plains decided him to locate in Iowa. In politics he was a democrat. During 
the Civil war he was a strong Union supporter. Always identified with the 
politics of the state, he was a zealous worker for his party. In 1857 he was 
elected judge of Webster county, serving with marked ability. For personal 
reasons he refused reelection. He served during the Iowa legislative session of 
i860, the special session of 1861 and in 1867 and 1876. He was elected mayor in 
1877. In 1 891 he removed to Omaha, wdiere he died April 23, 1897. 

HENRY A. PLATT 1 878-9 

Twelve years of city office, ten as councilman and two as mayor, is the record 
of Henry A. Piatt, who was mayor of Fort Dodge during 1878-9. Mr. Piatt was 
born in Albany, ^New York, June 9, 1841, and came to this city in 1858. He was 
one of the pioneer brickmakers of this city, running a kiln in an early day on the 
west side of the Des Moines river, below the old Bradshaw plant. On the break- 
ing out of the Civil war, he with many others from this county enlisted in the 
Eleventh Pennsylvania Cavalry and served three years. On his return, he was 
for a short time clerk in the postoffice, and then was express messenger on a 
stage running from Fort Dodge to Sioux City. With the coming of Andrew 
Johnson to the presidency, Mr. Piatt was appointed postmaster, receiving his 
commission October i, 1866, the next day after his marriage. After serving his 
term as postmaster, ]\Ir. Piatt engaged in the grocery business. 

THOMAS SARGENT — 1880 

Thomas Sargent, who filled the office of mayor during the year 1880. came 
to hort Dodge in 1855 from Pennsylvania, wiiere he was born July H^. 1819, 



HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 159 

and took a pre-emption on the South Lizard. This farm he owned until his death, 
which occurred in this city January 9, 1891. 

Mr. Sargent first held the position of receiver of public money in the United 
States land office. At the discontinuance of the otifice he engaged in the real 
estate business. At a time when grafters filled the ofiices, and a steal from the 
government was no crime, Thomas Sargent remained absolutely straight in all 
his transactions. Pie was an intensely democratic partisan, yet his interest in 
politics was always live, sane and modern. He gained the appellation of '"Black 
Tom,"' on account of his swarthy complexion and tall commanding figure, al- 
ways seen in the lead at democratic gatherings. 

Many old settlers well remember the time when A. N. Botsford and Thomas 
Sargent headed the escort that went out one day to meet a democratic delegation 
from the North Eizard country. It was a day long to be remembered in demo-- 
cratic annals. The delegation from the "up country'' was led by Isaac Williams, 
who brought the band in his rig. The band wagon itself consisted of an old 
farm wagon, and the team which drew the same was a team of mules, one yellow 
and one white. "The band" consisted of three charming young ladies dressed 
one in red, one in white and the third in blue. To the strains of the "Red, White 
and Blue," sung by the young ladies, the North Lizard people met their Fort 
Dodge escort. 

S. T. MESERVEY— 1881-2, 18S4 

Stillman T. Meservey, a boy of six years, came with his parents to Wel)ster 
county, from Illinois, where he was born December 17, 1848. Since that time 
practically all his life has been spent here. No man is more familiar with the 
industrial growth of this county than S. T. Meservey. Nor has his entire time 
been devoted to commercial pursuits. An ardent advocate of republican prin- 
ciples, he has served his county in the state legislature in the sessions of 1885 
and 1901, and his city as a member of the coiuicil and as mayor. The latter office 
he held in 1881-2 and again in 1884. His genial ways added to his executive and 
business ability, has given him a wide acquaintance of friends, to all of whom he 
is familiarly known as "Still." The development of the gypsum industry is 
largely due to him, and at the present time he still holds a responsible position 
with the United States Gypsum Company. A builder of gas and electric light 
plants for this cit}', he also promoted street railways, interurbans and steam 
roads. In his promotion of transportation lines his one aim has always l:>ccn to 
center them in Fort Dodge. 

RICHARD P. FURLONG - 1883 

Richard Powers Furlong, was born in Jefferson, Lincoln county, Maine. Jan- 
uary 4, 1828, and died in Fort Dodge, December i6, 1891. His youth and early 
manhood were spent in his native state. In 1854 he went to Chicago, and after a 
short stay came to W'ebster county and engaged in the mercantile business in 
which he continued up to the time of his death. His former business is now 
carried on under the firm name of Furlong & Brennan, and known as the "square" 
dealers in general merchandis.e. Fie was mayor of the city during the year 1883. 



160 HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 

C. L. GRANGER — 1 885-6, 1 893-4-5-6 

For the six years of 1885-6, 1893-4-5-6 the office of mayor was filled by C. 
L. Granger, one of the leading- implement dealers of the city and state. The 
organizer of the Granger Implement Company, he was later one of the partners 
of the firm of Granger & Mitchell, now the Granger Implement Company. He 
was also one of the organizers and stockholders of the Cardifif Gypsum Com- 
pany. Air. Granger was born at Mt. Clemens, Michigan. February 11, 1850. 
While still a young man he became associated with the ]\IcCormick company and 
continued in their employ as general agent in several different states until he 
came to Fort Dodge in December, 1879. He was a typical self-made man, and 
his success was due to energy and ability. Compelled because of ill health to go 
to Chicago for medical treatment, he there underwent an operation, and died at 
Passavant Hospital April 6, 1900. 

CHARLES G. BLANDEX 1887-8 

The "Baby Mayor"' of Fort Dodge was a name given to Charles G. Blanden, 
who held the office during 1887-8. He was born in ]\Iarengo, Illinois, in 1857 
and came to Fort Dodge in 1874. For fifteen years he was connected with the 
First National Bank as teller, assistant cashier and cashier. He left this city in 
1890, going to Chicago, where he has since resided. At present he is secretary 
and manager of the Rialto Company. Politically Mr. Blanden was of the repub- 
lican faith. He acted as chairman of the republican county central committee, 
managing their campaign during the year 1888. 

Since his residence in Chicago he has gained considerable reputation as a 
literary man. Many of his verses and sketches have appeared in Chicago papers 
and magazines, being a regular contributor to the^hicago Post. 

GEORGE W. HYATT 189I-2 

George W. Hyatt was born September 28, 1835, in Muskingum county, Ohio, 
the state of great men. His early life was spent in Ohio and Wisconsin, v/here 
he worked at his trade of stonecutter. He came to Fort Dodge in 1867, and 
worked at his trade for two years, and then engaged in quarrying and con- 
tract work until 1879. Mr. Hyatt was a democrat, and for a number of years 
did loyal work for his party as a member of the state central committee. In 
1879 he was elected sheriff of Webster county by the democrats and greenbacks. 
At the next election he was renominated but failed of election by a small margin, 
although he ran ahead of his ticket. In 1883 he was elected to the office of jus- 
tice of the peace for Wahkonsa township, which office he held for a number of 
years. His election as mayor occurred in 1891, and he filled the office for two 
years. He also held the office of deputy United States marshal, and later that 
of oil inspector. His death occurred at his home in this city October 7, 1906. 

E. D. CLAGG 1897-8 

Earl D. Clagg was mayor of Fort Dodge during the years 1897 and 1898. He 
also served in the council two years prior to assuming the office of mayor. Be- 

mayors of Ft. Dodge
HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 161 

sides this he was a member of the school board for one term. In politics he 
has always been of the republican faith. He was born in Tama City, Iowa, 
January 31, 1867, and when two years of age came with his parents to this city. 
In 1882 the Claggs removed to Sioux City, but returned again in the year 1890. 
On their return E. D. and his brother, William, conducted the branch hide house 
of H. j\I. Hosick &,Company, of Chicago, located in this city. Four years later 
E. D. Clagg bought out the local branch, and since that time has built up a splen- 
did business. 

S. J. BENNETT 1899-I9OO-OI-O2, I905-06, I909-IO 

Captain S. J. Bennett came to this city from Boone in January, 1870, and 
ever since his arrival has been closely identified with all the activities of the city. 

Born in Orleans county. New York, he came west when a young man, spend- 
ing some time in Ohio and Illinois, and finally locating in St Louis, where he 
remained until the breaking out of the Civil war. His war service covered a 
period of four years and nine months. He first enlisted in the Twenty-third 
Missouri Infantry, and later in Company A, Twelfth Missouri Cavalry, of which 
he was captain. At the close of the war, the brigades of which Captain Bennett's 
troops formed a part, were sent against the Indians, who were committing dep- 
redations in Wyoming. The winter of 1865-6 was spent at Fort Laramie, and 
in April, 1866, Captain Bennett was mustered out ^t Fort Leavenworth. Soon 
after this the surveyor general of Kansas appointed him to conduct a survey of 
the Solomon river region. This occupied the summer of 1866. Failing by two 
days to secure a contract for the survey of No Man's Land, Captain Bennett 
gave up surveying. Having married at Lawrence, Kansas, he soon went to 
Boone, Iowa, and later removed to this city. 

For a number of years, Captain Bennett engaged in the tobacco business in 
Fort Dodge. Then in 1884, he w^ent west to assist his brother. Nelson Bennett, 
who was doing construction work on the Northern Pacific, then being built 
through the mountains of Montana. No sooner did he arrive on the scene of 
operations, than Nelson Bennett was compelled to leave for New York City, and 
the entire responsibility of the work was thrown upon his brother. Although 
new to the work, yet he completed it satisfactorily and then assumed the super- 
intendency of the construction of the Stampede tunnel through the Cascade 
range, a contract which his brother had secured in the east. The work was 
more difficult, with its approaches, two and one-half miles in length, yet Captain 
Bennett completed it five days ahead of time, thus saving a heavy penalty Lat-'r 
he superintended the construction of still another tunnel west of the Cascades. 

His railway construction work completed, he became interested in real estate 
in Tacoma and Portland, and was for a time first vice-president of the Tacoma 
street railway. 

In politics Air Bennett was a republican. He served four years in the city 
council in 1885-6 and 1895-6, and was four times elected mayor in 1889. 1901, 
1905, 1909. He was a member of the Webster county board of supervisors in 
1878, serving until April, 1884, when he resigned to go west. Again in 1898 he 
was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Julius and served un- 
til 1901. During this period he was chairman of the board and most instrumental 



1&2 HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 

in the building of the present court house. The great executive ability of the 
ofificer and the geniahty of the man are well marked by two acts closing his term 
as mayor, that of the consummation of the plans for the Farley street viaduct, 
and the passage of the joke marriage ordinance. 

In 1909 Air. Bennett was again elected mayor, serving for a term of tvvO 
years; at the close of the term he was talked of for reelection, but on account 
of ill health it was not deemed advisable for him to again enter the race. iNIr. 
Bennett died at his home in Fort Dodge, Alay 24, 191 1. 

A. H. NORTHRUP 1903-4 

A. H. Xorthrup was born in Ogdensburg, N. Y., January 22, 1857. Follow- 
ing Greeley's advice, he came in 1877 to Alinneapolis, where he worked for the 
M. & St. L Railroad as hreman and engineer. With the building of the road 
into Fort Dodge, he became a resident of this city and has ever since been rec- 
ognized as one of its safe, conservative citizens. He served in the city council 
for eight years, 1888-91 and 1898-1901, being elected twice from the Third ward, 
and twice from the Second ward. While on the coimcil he served on the claims, 
and streets and alleys committees. In politics he has been a democrat. 

CHARLES F. DUXCOMBE 1907-08 

Charles F. Dtmcombe served the city as mayor during the years 1907-08. 
He is the grandson of the first mayor. Like his grandfather, who was the first 
postmaster, he also held the office of postmaster, serving during the years 1894- 
98. Although in politics Air. Duncombe has always been a democrat, yet his 
election as mayor was due to a non-partisan movement. At present he is also 
a member of the school board. 

Charles F. Duncombe was born in Fort Dodge, Febrttary 20, 1864. He 
attended school at Racine College, Racine, Wisconsin, and later at the L'niver- 
sity of Iowa. He intended to become a lawyer, but before he could finish his 
course, he was compelled by ill health to give up his school work He then 
began work as reporter on the Fort Dodge Chronicle, then a weekly. On May 6. 
1884, he changed the paper to a daily. Having acquired the ownership of the 
paper he retained it until 1887, when he sold one-half interest to his brother, 
W. E. Duncombe. He then went to St. Paul, and with two others started the 
St. Paul News. This he sold in 1890 and returned to Fort Dodge to take charge 
of the Duncombe Stucco Company plaster mills. The mills being sold to the 
United States Gypsum Company on February i, 1901, Mr Duncombe became 
district manager for the latter, which position he held until November, 1903. 
In all he was connected with the gypsum Business fourteen years. 

Mr. Duncombe on leaving the gypsum business purchased complete control 
of the Chronicle, and has since devoted his entire time to newspaper work. 
Wliile circumstances compelled him to take up the work against his wish, vet 
it has been the one work which he has liked best. 



HISTORY OF WEBSTER COUNTY 163 

JOHN F. FORD 1911-12 

John F. Ford Nvas born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, November 25, 1864. When 
six years of age, he with his parents moved onto a farm in Jackson township. 
Part of this farm was in Webster county, and part in Lizard township, Poca- 
hontas county. Here he Hved for twenty-one years, when he returned to Fort 
Dodge, which has been his home ever since. During the time that he lived on 
the farm, Mr. Ford taught district school during the winter months for ten 
years. In 1893, he was appointed deputy auditor under T. A. Cunningham, serv- 
ing six years. At the end of that time he was himself elected auditor and served 
six years. He then became interested in the business of the Berryhill Com- 
panv, books and stationery and news stand. In March, 191 1, when the city 
of Fort Dodge adopted the commission form of government Mr. Ford became 
a candidate for the ofifice of mayor, and at the election received a majority of 
the votes, thus becoming the first mayor under the new form of government. 


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