Cyrus Clay Carpenter

Honorable Cyrus Clay Carpenter, present Governor of Iowa, was born in Hartford Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on the 24th of November, 1829. This portion of Pennsylvania been the home of his New England ancestors for three generations, whose hardy endurance, energy and perseverance, had redeemed it from a savage wilderness and converted its rugged and forest-covered hills into a fruitful field. The story of the settlement of this region by the Carpenters and other pioneers is briefly as follows:

In the Fall and Winter of 1789 several young men of Attleborough, Massachusetts, had frequent meetings to deliberate on the subject of leaving the place of their nativity for the unexplored forests of the West. These men were mostly unmarried and without family hindrances to endure the hardships and dangers incident to pioneer life. A few of the number were married and owned small farms. A company of nine concluded to enter upon the undertaking in the Spring, their names were Caleb Richardson, Hosea Tiffany, Ezekiel Titus, Robert Follett, Moses Thatcher, Samuel Thatcher, John Carpenter, Daniel Carpenter and Josiah Carpenter. Messrs. Tiffany,Titus and Follett, were married. They left Attleborough in two companies, by two different routes, and proceeded by way of Kinderhook to Albany, New York, where they made inquiries of the Surveyor General as to a favorable location. He suggested Canajoharie, Herkimer and German Flats as inviting fields, or, if not suited there, then Cherry Valley, or some town soon to be surveyed west of the Unadilla. The reported sickness of the Mohawk Valley induced them to turn aside from the river and proceed to Cherry Valley, where they were inclined to settle, but on visiting one William Cooper they were invited to pass down the Susquehanna River with him in a boat, free of expense, to view the lands of which he had the agency, lying about one hundred miles south. Passing down the river they arrived at Great Bend, May 16. Here they found a few families with whom they tarried over the Sabbath, and on the following Monday proceeded with Mr. Cooper, the surveyor, and others, into the wilderness in a southern direction. On Tuesday they reached Beaver Meadow, and having found a good running spring, erected near it a bark cabin, the first "house" for a white man ever erected in that section.

After several days spent in viewing the country, a purchase was made of a tract of land four miles long and one mile wide, for L 1,198. The writings were drawn and signed on a hemlock stump, May 22, 1790. Thus these hardy pioneers passed the fertile Valley of the Mohawk to find a home of their choice amid the heavy forests and rugged hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Northern Pennsylvania and the adjacent parts of New York were then but a wilderness. Between Lanesborough and the mouth of Snake Creek, about a dozen families had located. Another small settlement styled the "Irish settlement," had been made at Hopbottom, now Brooklyn, and another about fifteen or twenty miles below Thornbottom. From neither of these places could supply of provisions be obtained. Wilkesbarre and a French settlement below Towanda, on the Susquehanna, were the nearest points of supply, and to reach these a wilderness of forty or fifty miles had to be traversed, without beasts of burden or without the sign of a path or trail to lead them in the right direction. These were the hardships to be overcome, only one generation ago, in a country now teeming with all the luxuries of modern civilization. In the Spring of 1791 the most of them had made a home on their land, and very soon the settlement became known as the "Nine partners," which name it bore till 1807.

Here the father of Cyrus C. Carpenter was born, and became the head of a family by his marriage with Miss Amanda M. Thayer. He was a farmer in moderate circumstances.

The father and mother of Cyrus died when he was quite young, being but ten at the death of his mother, and two years later he was left an orphan by the death of his father. The protracted sickness of his parents entirely exhausted the little property they had acquired by a life of industry. Being left destitute, young Carpenter went first to learn the trade of clothier, at which he worked for some months, but not liking the trade, he quit, and soon after engaged with a farmer, and was employed in farm pursuits for some years, devoting a season each Winter to study in the district schools of the place. When eighteen he commenced teaching school, and for the next four years divided his time between teaching and attending the academy in Hartford. At the conclusion of this term of years he left his native state for Ohio, where he engaged in teaching school for one and a half years" and working in Summer on the farm. This was in Johnstown, Licking County, now one of the best counties in the state, with good soil, well improved farms and a prosperous people, fully up to the requirements of the age.

In 1854 he turned his face westward, stopping at various points in Illinois and Iowa, but not being satisfied, he still kept moving, until his arrival in Des Moines, then a town of some twelve hundred inhabitants, far from market, and not affording any very favorable prospect of coming greatness as a central commercial city of wealth and influence. On account of the low state of his finances he was compelled to prosecute his search for a location on foot, which he did, traveling the whole distance to Fort Dodge, where he arrived June 28, 1854, and which was his home until his removal to Des Moines. On this lonesome journey his entire worldly possessions were contained in a carpet sack which he carried in his hand. At Fort Dodge he soon found employment as assistant to a government surveyor, in dividing townships immediately west of the Fort. The contract was soon completed, and the employees returned to headquarters, where Mr. Carpenter assisted his landlord in cutting hay, but after working a few days he was employed to run the compass for Leech & Bell of Davis, who had a contract of government surveying in what is now Palo Alto and Kossuth Counties. In the early part of January he returned to Fort Dodge, and not having employment for a few weeks, he engaged in teaching school. Early the next Spring he was employed to take charge of a set of hands and survey a contract taken by Haggard, of Dubuque. This contract comprised the Counties of Emmet and the northern part of Kossuth.

On his return to Fort Dodge he found that the land office which had been established at that place by act of Congress, was about to open for the sale of lands then coming into market. Being familiar with the country, and the location of the most choice land, he opened a private land office, and in platting and survey in lands for those seeking homes, or land to enter on speculation, he found instant and profitable employment for the next three years. During this time he became extensively known, and being an active Republican from the organization of the party, he was naturally chosen as the standard bearer for that section of the state, as candidate for the State Legislature. He was elected in the Fall of 1857, and took his seat in the session of 1858. His district then comprised nineteen counties, which he represented during the following Legislative term, being the first session held in Des Moines after the removal of the capital from Iowa City.

In 1861on the breaking out of the rebellion, he volunteered his services and was soon appointed to a responsible position, and assigned to duty as a commissary of commissary of subsistence. Serving in this department as a captain, much of the time being chief commissary of the left wing of the sixteenth army corps, until 1864, when he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to duty on the staff of General Logan, as chief commissary of the fifteenth A. C. He continued in the performance of this duty on the march through Georgia, and from Savannah to Raleigh, when, the war being closed, he went with his corps to Louisville, and was mustered out in August, 1865, having the rank of Brevet Colonel.

Returning to Fort Dodge, he found that the wonderful development of the country and the increase in population had called new operators into the field, and that his business, once so prosperous, had passed into other hands. Not being of a disposition to remain idle, he at once set himself about the improvement of a piece of land of which he was owner, where he remained until the Fall of 1866,when he was elected Register of the State Land Office, which required his removal to Des Moines. He was re-elected to the same office in 1868, and refused a nomination in 1870, returning to Fort Dodge hopeful of remaining in private life. But in this he was doomed to disappointment, for the party to which he belonged could not spare his services. Therefore in the Summer of 1871 he was nominated for Governor, and in the Fall was elected to fill the office of chief executive of Iowa, for two years. He was inaugurated on the 11th of January, 1872, and his address delivered on this occasion was replete with facts in relation to the best interests of the state. It is a document but rarely, if ever surpassed by those entering upon duties in an untried field. After alluding to the different material interests to be fostered, he closed this his first message to the Legislature, and to the people of Iowa, in these words:

"We may differ upon some measures of public policy. We may, as partisans, be Republicans and Democrats. But there is one particular in which we will not differ, in our abiding love for Iowa and her people, we are one. And my desire is, we may so meet our joint responsibilities that, in the great realm of the future, Iowa, in her character of patriotism, virtue and intelligence, will stand as an exemplar in a sisterhood of states, the number of which no prophet may today predict; all constituting one nation, one sovereign nationality, with one governing civilization, one inspiring history, one alluring hope, one foredated future destiny, and one eternal weight of earthly glory."

In 1873 Governor Carpenter became the nominee of the Republican party of Iowa for a second term. He was re-elected October 14, 1873, and inaugurated on the 27th of January, 1874.

During his entire life, Mr. Carpenter has been devoted to the principles of reform and the best interests of all classes of citizens who, by adoption or by birth-right, are entitled to a home upon our soil and the protection of our laws, under the great charter of " Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." In an address in 1852, he took advanced views upon the leading subjects of public interest. He had already laid the foundation for that love of freedom which afterwards found an ample field of labor with the Republican party. There was nothing chimerical in his views. He looked at every strata of human society, and from the wants of the masses, wisely devined duty and prophesied destiny. He would have the people of a free republic educated in the spirit of the civilization of the age. Instead of cultivating a taste for a species of literature tending directly to degrade the mind and deprave the heart, thereby leading back to a state of superstition and consequent barbarism; he would cultivate principles of temperance, industry and economy in every youthful mind, as the indispensable ingredients of good citizens or subjects upon whose banner will be inscribed Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Thus early Mr. Carpenter saw the destined tendency of our American institutions, and the advancing civilization of the age. He saw it in the peace congress whose deliberations have made the Rhine thrice immortal. He saw it in the prospective railway which he believed would one day unite the shores of the Atlantic with that of the Pacific, a fact realized by the construction of the great continental railway, completed and carrying the commerce of the world at a date only eighteen years removed from the day of prophetic vision.

It was thus early that he began to study of the wants of the world, and with what clearness and directness may be seen by the correctness of his vision, and the accomplishment of what he considered an inevitable necessity.

Thus growing tip into manhood, and passing onward in the rugged pathway of time, disciplined in political economy and civil ethics in the stern school of experience, he is prepared to meet every emergency with a steady and a ready hand; to bring order out of discord and insure harmony and prosperity to the land.

Governor Carpenter's services as public speaker and orator, on various occasions, have been widely sought after and highly appreciated. Among his earlier efforts in this direction, his oration at Fort Dodge, on the 4th of July, 1865, is an example. He also delivered an able 4th of July oration at Dexter, Iowa, in 1871. His agricultural addresses, and those before colleges and literary institutions, have been numerous, and rank among the best productions of the kind in Iowa.

On the 4th of July, 1872, he delivered an oration at Spencer, Iowa, in which he elucidated one of the most vital questions relating to education, showing in a concise and forcible manner that men are not the product of legislation, but of voluntary achievement, labor and self-culture. What we are, what we may be, and what will be our future, depend more upon ourselves than upon statutory enactment or fundamental law. After reviewing the tendency to depend upon legislation rather than upon personal exertion, to exalt the state at the expense of the individual, and to think that whatever is wrong in the social compact may find its remedy in the pages of the statute book, he says: "The idea obtains credence almost everywhere, that man, with his endowments for good or evil, is the result of the structure of certain national institutions, in disregard of the truer theory that national institutions assume their character from the man." With this as the key note of his grand discourse, he argue: for an education that shall bring out the highest qualities of manhood, and shows that these qualities being the groundwork in man, will naturally shape themselves into wise and beneficent legislation, and be the foundation of the greatness and prosperity of the state. The discourse is an able and thoughtful production, and we regret that our space will not allow us to give fuller extracts from it.

He delivered an eloquent oration at Muscatine on Decoration Day, May, 1873. We can not forbear quoting the closing paragraph of this noble discourse:

"These noble men have now been relieved from duty, having passed over the river into the great "camp" of the "All Hail Hereafter," and a new detail has been ordered. Today we are on duty. Are our arms as brightly burnished as were those of our predecessors? Are we as sleepless to the approach of danger as the relief whose posts we have come to occupy? The countersign today is "Fidelity!" If any prowler about the lines past the post we profess to hold, or steps across the beat our feet are supposed to tread, who has not this countersign, we are responsible for the detrimens which thereby may come to the republic. It is for us to halt the suspected, and require them to "Mark Time," until better men are signaled to the front. Doing this, and bearing in our hearts the example of those whose memory we today embalm, it is not too much to hope that the day will come again when the public service will exemplify an honor and an integrity which will rise into the atmosphere of chivalry." The Kansas Commonwealth speaks of this oration and its author in the following language, making copious extracts from the address:

"In all the country there is no more ardent and consistent republican, no man of better impulses and stricter integrity, than Cyrus C. Carpenter, present Governor of our sister state of Iowa. He has an admirable way, too, of treating political topics in a candid, logical and pointed style. Hence his public utterances are entitled to and always command general attention.

"On Decoration Day Governor Carpenter delivered an eloquent, well timed oration at Muscatine, an oration which gives expression, with painful plainness, to the dominant feeling concerning our political affairs. It may indeed, be fairly taken as a presentation, in a fair, and truthful, and forcible manner, of the new issues which are coming up for adjustment, and which can not safely be ignored or put aside."

After quoting the Governor's oration quite extensively, the editor adds: "The exalted sentiments are not the hypocritical mouthings of a soured politician, or an uncaught corruptionist who seeks to conceal his own shortcomings under an energetic outburst of indignation "on general principles." Governor Carpenter is a man whose character is above reproach, whose services to his state and to the country have been conspicuously straightforward and unselfish, and who illustrates in his daily walk and conduct the truths which he urges upon the country in his public utterances. When such a man sounds the alarm, it is time to stop and listen; and the recommendations which he feels it incumbent upon him to offer, merit the close and thoughtful attention of all good citizens."

On the subject of cheap transportation Governor Carpenter gave his views very elaborately in an able address before the State Agricultural Society at Des Moines, in 1873. He said of the exorbitant rates of transporting grain to market; "This is the skeleton in every Western farmer's corn crib."

The Inter-Ocean published in full Governor Carpenter's speech delivered at Cedar Rapids at the opening of the campaign of 1873, with the following editorial comments:

"It will impress the people of all parties who may read it, with confidence both in his judgment and integrity. He has been a citizen of Iowa for nearly twenty years; during the war was intrusted with responsibilities of the gravest character; discharged the duties of important civil trusts before his accession to the Governorship; but the man, woman or child does not live who can truthfully charge him with dishonesty, or collusion with dishonesty. He is a plain, practical, non-assumptive man of the people, who has won his way to the proud position he occupies by sheer merit, and he will not only be re-elected by a larger majority than he received two years ago, but his administration will stand out all the brighter by reason of the calumny which petty demagogues have attempted to force upon him."

The following is from the Dubuque Daily Times of July 1, 1873, immediately after the convention re-nominating Governor Carpenter:

Governor Carpenter was re-nominated by acclamation, a fitting indorsement of an enlightened and faithful executive. No man comes in contact with C. C. Carpenter without appreciating the fact that he is one of the ablest men, and one of the most honest and pure minded and unselfish officers, we have ever had in the State. Plain, unassuming, modest to a fault, he has won his public position more through the enthusiasm of his friends, than by any personal efforts or desires of his own. But he everywhere, and at all times, and upon all occasions, has shown how fully the confidence of his friends is justified, how equal he is in resources to every position, how great a reserve force there is in him, acutely to observe, broadly and accurately to measure, honestly to do, and eloquently to enforce and defend. Among the first to appreciate the importance of the issues now upon us, he has also been one of the earliest and most able of the advocates of the rights of the people as against monopolies, involved in these issues. He had enough of the prescience of statesmanship to appreciate the full significance of the struggle, and enough of sympathy with the people to attach himself early to their cause. No Executive of any other State has exceeded him in efforts and earnestness in the discussion and advancement of measures looking to the relief of the country from transportation evils; none have sought more sincerely to turn the public thought to the practical means of securing such end. And it is evident that whatever enlightened executive judgment can do to secure for the farmers of Iowa cheap freights to and from the seaboard, will be done by Governor Carpenter in the future as in the past. As to his past official course, there is no taint of dishonesty or neglect.

In 1870, Governor Carpenter prepared a convenient little volume, entitled "Instructions to County Surveyors," in compliance with Chapter 183 of the acts of the Thirteenth General Assembly. This work was published by the authority of the State, and has been found a valuable compendium of the laws and decisions relating to County Surveyors and their duties. It is full of minute details, showing careful research and pains in its preparation, and is as full and complete a summary of instruction as could be desired on the subjects of which it treats.

[Andreas Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875; cddd]

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CYRUS CLAY CARPENTER, Governor of Iowa from 1872 to 1875, inclusive, was born in Susquehanna County, Pa., Nov. 24, 1829. He was left an orphan at an early age, his mother dying when he was at the age of ten years, and his father two years later. He was left in destitute circumstances, and went first to learn the trade of a clothier, which, however, he abandoned after a few months, and engaged with a farmer, giving a term in the winter, however, to attendance upon the district school. When eighteen he began teaching school, and the following four years divided his time between teaching and attending the academy at Hartford. At the conclusion of this period he went to Ohio, where he engaged as a teacher for a year and a half, spending the summer at farm work.

In the year 1854 Mr. Carpenter came further westward, visiting many points in Illinois and Iowa, arriving at Des Moines, then a village of some 1,200 inhabitants. This place, however, not offering a favorable location, he proceeded on his journey arriving in Fort Dodge June 28, 1854. Owing to his being without funds he was compelled to travel on foot, in which way the journey to Fort Dodge was made, with his entire worldly possessions in a carpet-sack which he carried in his hand. He soon found employment at Fort Dodge, as assistant to a Government surveyor. This work being completed, young Carpenter assisted his landlord in cutting hay, but soon secured another position as a surveyor's assistant. In the early part of the following January he engaged in teaching school at Fort Dodge, but in the spring was employed to take charge of a set of surveyors in surveying the counties of Emmet and Kossuth.

On his return to Fort Dodge he found the land office, which had been established at that place, was about to open for the sale of land. Being familiar with the country and the location of the best land, he opened a private land office, and found constant and profitable employment for the following three years, in platting and surveying lands for those seeking homes. During this period he became extensively known, and, being an active Republican, he was chosen as a standard bearer for his section of the State. He was elected to the Legislature in the autumn of 1857. In 1861, on the breaking out of the Rebellion, he volunteered and was assigned to duty as Commissary of Subsistence, much of the time being Chief Commissary of the left wing of the 16th Army Corps. In 1864 he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to duty on the staff of Gen. Logan, as Chief Commissary of the 15th Army Corps. He continued in the service until the close of the war, and in August, 1865, was mustered out.

Upon the close of his service to his country he returned to his home at Fort Dodge, but, owing to so many changes which had taken place, and such an influx of enterprising men into the city, he found his once prosperous business in the hands of others. He turned his attention to the improvement of a piece of land, where he remained until his election, in the autumn of 1860, as Register of the State Land Office. He was re-elected in 1868, and refused the nomination in 1870. This position took him to Des Moines, but in 1870 he returned to Fort Dodge. During the summer of the following year he was nominated by the Republican party for Governor. He was elected, and inaugurated as Chief Executive of Iowa Jan. 11, 1872. In 1873 he was renominated by his party, and October 14 of that year was re-elected, his inauguration taking place Jan. 27, 1874. Gov. Carpenter was an able, popular and faithful Executive, and was regarded as one of the most honest, prominent and unselfish officials the State ever had. Plain, unassuming, modest, he won his public position more through the enthusiasm of his friends than by any personal effort or desire of his own. Everywhere, at all times and upon all occasions, he demonstrated that the confidence of his friends was justified. He took an active part in the great question of monopolies and transportation evils, which during his administration were so prominent, doing much to secure wise legislation in these respects.

Gov. Carpenter has been regarded as a public speaker of more than ordinary ability, and has upon many occasions been the orator, and always appreciated by the people.

At the expiration of his second term as Governor Mr. Carpenter was appointed Second Comptroller of the United States Treasury, which position he resigned after a service of fifteen months. This step was an evidence of his unselfishness, as it was taken because another Bureau officer was to be dismissed, as it was held that Iowa had more heads of Bureaus than she was entitled to, and his resigning an office of the higher grade saved the position to another. In 1881 he was elected to Congress, and served with ability, and in the Twentieth General Assembly of Iowa he represented Webster County.

Gov. Carpenter was married, in March, 1864, to Miss Susan Burkholder, of Fort Dodge. No children have been born to them, but they have reared a niece of Mrs. Carpenter's.

During his entire life Mr. Carpenter has been devoted to the principles of Reform and the best interests of all classes of citizens who, by adoption or by birth right, are entitled to a home upon our soil and the protection of our laws, under the great charter of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." In an address in 1852 he took advanced views upon the leading subjects of public interest. He had already laid the foundation for that love of freedom which afterwards found an ample field of labor with the Republican party. There was nothing chimerical in his views. He looked at every strata of human society, and, from the wants of the masses, wisely devined duty and prophesied destiny. He would have the people of a free Republic educated in the Spirit of the civilization of the age. Instead of cultivating a taste for a species of literature tending directly to degrade the mind and deprave the heart, thereby leading back to a state of superstition and consequent barbarism, he would cultivate principles of temperance, industry and economy in every youthful mind, as the indispensable ingredients of good citizens, or subjects upon whose banner will be inscribed Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

Thus early in life Mr. Carpenter saw the destined tendency of our American institutions, and the advancing civilization of the age. He saw it in the peace congress, whose deliberations have made the Rhine thrice immortal. He saw it in the prospective railway, which he believed would one day unite the shores of the Atlantic with those of the Pacific, a fact realized by the construction of the great continental railway.

It was thus early that he began to study the wants of the world, and with what clearness and directness may be seen by the correctness of his vision and the accomplishment of what he considered an inevitable necessity.

Thus, growing up into manhood, and passing onward in the rugged pathway of time, disciplined in political economy and civil ethics in the stern school of experience, he was prepared to meet every emergency with a steady hand; to bring order out of discord, and insure harmony and prosperity.

Gov. Carpenter is now engaged in the quiet pursuits of farm life, residing at Fort Dodge, where he is highly esteemed as one of her purest minded and most upright citizens.

(Source: Portrait And Biographical Album of Lee County, Iowa, 1887)
Submitted By: Cathy Danielson