Ralph P. Lowe

RALPH P. LOWE, the fourth Governor of the State of Iowa, was born in Ohio in the year 1808, and like many others of the distinguished men of Iowa, came within her borders in early pioneer times. He was a young man but a little over thirty years of age when he crossed the great Father of Waters, settling upon its western bank at the then small village of Muscatine. He at once identified himself with the interests of the growing city, and ere long became quite prominent in local affairs and of recognized ability in questions of public policy. He was shortly afterward chosen as a representative from Muscatine County to the Constitutional Convention of 1844, which framed the Constitution which was rejected by the people.

After this constitutional convention, Mr. Lowe took no further part in public matters for a number of years. He removed to Lee County about 1849 or ‘50 where he became District Judge as a successor to George H. Williams, who was afterward famous as President Grant’s Attorney General. He was District Judge five years, from 1852 to 1857, being succeeded by Judge Claggett. In the summer of 1857 he was nominated by the Republicans for Governor of Iowa, with Oran Faville for Lieutenant-Governor. The Democracy put in the field Benjamin M. Samuels for Governor and George Gillaspy for Lieutenant-Governor. There was a third ticket in the field, supported by the American or “Know-Nothing” party, and bearing the names of T. F. Henry and Easton Morris. The election was held in October, 1857, and gave Mr. Lowe 38,498 votes, against 36,088 for Mr. Samuels, and 1,006 for Mr. Henry.

Hitherto the term of office had been four years, but by an amendment to the Constitution this was now reduced to two. Gov. Lowe was inaugurated Jan. 14, 1858, and at once sent his first message to the Legislature. Among the measures passed by this Legislature were bills to incorporate the State Bank of Iowa; to provide for an agricultural college; to authorize the business of banking; disposing of the land grant made by Congress to the Des Moines Valley Railroad; to provide for the erection of an institution for the education of the blind, and to provide for taking a State census.

No events of importance occurred during the administration of Gov. Lowe, but it was not a period of uninterrupted prosperity. The Governor said in his biennial message of Jan. 10, 1860, reviewing the preceding two years: “The period that has elapsed since the last biennial session has been one of great disturbing causes, and of anxious solicitude to all classes of our fellow-citizens. The first year of this period was visited with heavy and continuous rains, which reduced the measure of our field crops below one-half of the usual product, whilst the financial revulsion which commenced upon the Atlantic coast in the autumn of 1857, did not reach its climax for evil in our borders until the year just past."

He referred at length to the claim of the State against the Federal Government, and said that he had appealed in vain to the Secretary of the Interior for the payment of the 5 per cent upon the military land warrants that the State is justly entitled to, which then approximated to a million of dollars. The payment of this fund, he said, "is not a mere favor which is asked of the General Government, but a subsisting right which could be enforced in a court of justice, were there a tribunal of this kind clothed with the requisite jurisdiction."

The subject of the Des Moines River grant received from the Governor special attention, and he gave a history of the operations of the State authorities in reference to obtaining the residue of the lands to which the State was entitled, and other information as to the progress of the work. He also remarked "that under the act authorizing the Governor to raise a company of mounted men for defense and protection of our frontier, approved Feb. 9, 1858, a company of thirty such men, known as the Frontier Guards, armed and equipped as required, were organized and mustered into service under the command of Capt. Henry B. Martin, of Webster City, about the 1st of March then following, and were divided into two companies, one stationed on the Little Sioux River, the other at Spirit Lake. Their presence afforded security and gave quiet to the settlements in that region, and after a service of four months they were disbanded.

"Late in the fall of the year, however, great alarm and consternation was again felt in the region of Spirit Lake and Sioux River settlements, produced by the appearance of large numbers of Indians on the border, whose bearing was insolent and menacing, and who were charged with clandestinely running off the stock of the settlers. The most urgent appeals came from these settlers, invoking again the protection of the State. From representations made of the imminence of their danger and the losses already sustained, the Governor summoned into the field once more the frontier guards. After a service of four or five months they were again discharged, and paid in the manner prescribed in the act under which they were called out."

Gov. Lowe was beaten for the re-nomination by Hon. S. J. Kirkwood, who was considered much the stronger man. To compensate him for his defeat for the second term, Gov. Lowe was appointed one of the three Judges under the new Constitution. He drew the short term, which expired in 1861, but was returned and served, all told, eight years. He then returned to the practice of law, gradually working into a claim business at Washington, to which city he removed about 1874. In that city he died, on Saturday, Dec. 22, 1883. He had a large family, Carleton, one of his sons, was an officer in the Third Iowa Cavalry during the war.

Gov. Lowe was a man of detail, accurate and industrious. In private and public life he was pure, upright and honest. In religious faith he was inclined to be a Spiritualist.

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

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