Lawyers & Land Officers

Smith family in Fairfield, IA.

Fairfield lawyer and real-estate dealer E. R. Smith and family in front of their house at 103 South B Street, ca. 1903-1909.

Edgar Russell Smith was born on August 25, 1869 in Birmingham, Van Buren County, Iowa, the older of the two surviving children of James Nelson Smith, a livery and feed-store keeper from Jefferson County, and his wife Isabella Taylor, a native of Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Before Edgar was ten his family moved just north to Fairfield, where his father raised and sold livestock. His younger brother Harry Ernest followed in their father’s footsteps as a stock dealer, but Edgar graduated from Parsons College with a B.S. degree in 1891, from the University of Iowa with an LL.B. degree with the class of 1895, and then returned to Fairfield to practice law – now usually calling himself by his middle name, or simply by his initials, E. R. The Fairfield Weekly Journal for January 5, 1898, page 4, advertised that “E. R. Smith, Attorney and Counsellor at Law” did a general law business and wrote deeds, mortgages, leases, etc., as well as collecting debts, offering real-estate loans, and settling estates. His office was on the north side of the Park, over Davis’s store: perhaps at 53 East Broadway, where W. H. Davis had sold groceries until at least the early 1890s. (

On September 28, 1898 Russell married Susan Wilson Blair (1869-1955), a daughter of Mary J. (Wilson) and homeopathic physician Dr. George H. Blair, and a niece of Fairfield’s famous Senator James F. Wilson. Two of Russell and Susan’s first three children — Eloise Blair (1900-1982), Harry Booker (1902-1983), and Mary Alyce (1908-1985) – probably appear on their parents’ laps in this photograph of the family in front of their house at 103 South B Street; if they are the older two, the picture may have been taken as early as 1903, and the elderly gentleman on the porch behind Mrs. Smith may be Russel’s father, who died in March 1904. The woman seated to the right of Mrs. Smith might be her older sister Alice, widow of Fairfield clothier Harry F. Booker. Mrs. Smith had lived with Harry and Alice Booker as a girl after her father died in the early 1880s. The couple at the far right may be Mrs. Smith’s oldest sister Mary and her husband Charles M. Junkin.

Probably not present in the photograph was the Smiths’ live-in servant, Lizzie Bucker, listed as 18 years old in the 1910 U.S. Census. Russell and Sue’s fourth child, Edgar Russell Smith, Jr., was born in 1911, the year his proud father appeared in their National Year Book as member 22514 of the Sons of the American Revolution, tracing his descent from his great-great grandfather, Orderly Sergeant John Hall of the Third North Carolina Regiment.

In 1918 E. R. Smith bought the Gaines building on the east corner of the north side of the Square (61 E. Broadway, 100-104 N. Main), which he occupied as president of the Jefferson County Abstract and Loan Co. – a company he had headed since 1911 or earlier. The building’s original owner was tinsmith Richard Gaines, whose niece Ada Black Smith was E. R. Smith’s sister-in-law. Around 1890 W. M. Black’s insurance, real estate and loan agency occupied the rear of this building, shown in a photograph here:!/photo.php?fbid=147185585326470&set=a.147182405326788.25692.105927739452255&theater.
After Russell’s son Harry Booker Smith also became a lawyer in 1925, he joined his father here in the law-firm of Smith & Smith. E. R. Smith retained this building until 1937, after which it has continuously held a barber shop: first that of “Red” Barton, who cut hair here for nearly 30 years, succeeded by Larry’s Barber Shop for about the last 40 years.

By 1920, real-estate dealer Russell and his family had moved to 206 S. Main, just north across Adams Street from where the Fairfield Public Library has replaced the old Slagle house. He was there still with his wife and two younger children in 1930, working as a lawyer with a general practice, and the Fairfield Directory still listed E. R. and Sue B. Smith there in 1937. (For a picture of the house at 206 S. Main, see!/photo.php?fbid=179977365380625&set=a.154454417932920.27826.105927739452255&theater.)

E. R. Smith died on September 25, 1949 in Des Moines; his wife Sue followed him on November 29, 1955.

Bernhart Henn

November 8, 2010

Bernhart Henn, Fairfield IA pioneer banker.

“Your sincere friend, Bernhart Henn”

Bernhart Henn (1817-1865), Fairfield Iowa’s pioneer banker

The son of Bernhart and Ann (Hudson) Henn, Bernhart was born in Cherry Valley, New York in 1817. As a young man, Henn mined lead in Wisconsin with General Augustus Caesar Dodge, and clerked for him when Dodge became register of the land office in Burlington in 1838. He married Elizabeth Price of Baltimore in 1841, and the couple had six children.

Henn himself became Fairfield Iowa’s land office register from 1846 through 1849, was elected president of the Fairfield branch of the State University in May 1849, and was senior member of Fairfield Iowa’s first bank: Henn, Williams & Co., founded on January 1, 1851.

Bernhart Henn served as Democratic U. S. Congressman from 1851 to 1855, during which time he supported the controversial “pro-slavery” Kansas-Nebraska Act. After returning from Washington, D.C. to Fairfield, Iowa, he remained involved in banking and real estate until his death on August 30, 1865, a scant four months after the end of the Civil War.

His gracious 1857 brick mansion – for years affectionately called “the Henn House” – was restored in 1986 and still stands just north of downtown Fairfield Iowa on the college campus of what is now Maharishi University of Management.

An early photograph of the Henn Mansion on the campus of Parsons College in Fairfield Iowa, 1890.

Fairfield Iowa lawyer, politician Moses McCoid.

Born in Bellefontaine, Ohio in 1840, Moses Ayers McCoid came with his family in 1851 to Fairfield, Iowa, where his father Robert kept first a stove and tinware store at 59 W. Broadway and later a hotel at 122 N. Court.

After attending college in Washington, Pa., “Mose” studied law in Fairfield with James F. Wilson and D. P. Stubbs until the Civil War broke out and he enlisted in Co. E of the 2nd Iowa Infantry. He fought at the battles of Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Bear Creek, and Resaca, and for bravery was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and then regimental adjutant. In 1863 Moses married Helen Martha Irland, with whom he eventually had eight children.

After the war Moses practiced law brilliantly in Fairfield, Iowa and was elected district attorney in 1867 and 1871, and state senator from 1872 to 1879. He then served three successive terms as U.S. representative, from 1879 to 1885. Thereafter he again practiced law in Fairfield, and in 1902 wrote a biography of an old Fairfield friend entitled “John Williamson of Hardscrabble.”

When not in Washington, D.C., Moses and his family lived on Fairfield’s “Piety Hill,” probably at 301 W. Kirkwood St., Fairfield, Iowa, two blocks south of the college campus. From 1886 until his death in 1904, Moses owned the beautiful brick Bonfield-Eichhorn building at the southeast corner of the square at 100 E. Burlington St., adjoining the old Leggett House hotel, and now part of the First National Bank lot. Upstairs Moses had his law offices, while downstairs his son Arthur kept a grocery store, and later C. C. Morris sold jewelry.

A good view of the Bonfield-Eichhorn-McCoid building appears at the far right of this photograph looking east down Burlington St.:

Christian Slagle, Fairfield IA lawyer.
Why does this man’s portrait greet us as we enter the Fairfield Public Library, and what does he have to do with Chautauqua Park?

Christian Wolff Slagle, one of Iowa’s pioneer lawyers, was born November 20, 1820 in Washington, Pennsylvania, the eldest son and second of nine children of harness-maker and saddler Jacob Slagle and the widow Martha (Alison) McKemey. By previous marriage each of his parents had an older son, and both became saddlers, like Jacob: Martha’s son Joseph Alison McKemey came to Iowa in 1839, settled near Fairfield in 1842, and partnered in the 1850s with Jacob’s oldest son James M. Slagle, selling harness and saddlery in a one-story, wooden shop on the west corner of the north side of Fairfield’s square, now numbered 61 W. Broadway.

Christian was evidently more cerebral than his half-brothers, and after graduating from Washington College in 1840 he studied law for several years with Hon. Thomas McKean Thompson McKennan, as would Caleb Baldwin several years later. Upon being admitted to the bar in 1843, Christian chose his boyhood friend George Acheson as his law-partner. At first glance the two made an unlikely pair, for Slagle was a blond and phlegmatic Whig and Republican while Acheson was a short, dark, nervously quick and eloquent Democrat, until the ourbreak of the Civil War. But their differences were clearly complementary, as their partnership endured for the rest of their lives, nearly forty years. By then they had become the oldest law firm not only in Fairfield, but in all of Iowa.

Messrs. Slagle and Acheson arrived in Fairfield on April 23, 1843. Iowa was then recently organized as a territory; the government land office had been removed from Burlington to Fairfield in 1842, and business was booming. The two first boarded upstairs in a wooden building at 107 E. Broadway, where Caleb Baldwin’s father Nehemiah would later reside. Slagle & Acheson opened their first law-office in the National Hotel, on the north side of the square.

The two friends even became quasi-related in 1847, when George Acheson married Mary Hemphill, whose sister had married Christian W. Slagle’s half-brother Joseph McKemey three years earlier. George and Mary eventually had five children. Not to be outdone, in 1849 Christian wedded Nancy M. Seward, with whom he had six children.

In August 1852 the partners moved their law office to 110 S. Main, where they would ever after remain. Perhaps they retained a soft spot for the old National Hotel, however, for in 1875 they collaborated with George W. Workman and built on its site the brick block which remains there today, at 53-57 W. Broadway.

Despite his firm support of the Republican party and his life-long passion for civil rights, Slagle refused all invitations to enter into politics, channeling his civic impulses in other ways. He was a charter member of Iowa Encampment No. 6 of the International Order of Odd Fellows, organized in December 1848. He helped found the Jefferson County Agricultural Society and also the State Agricultural Society. From its inception in 1853 he unflaggingly supported Fairfield’s public library and museum, and was one of its first trustees. He collected and preserved the recollections of Jefferson County pioneers in a county history. He was also a regent of the State University of Iowa from 1866 to 1882, and acting president of the University in 1877-8.

In the 1860s Messrs. Slagle & Acheson purchased a portion of the old Bayard Farm east of town: a lovely sanctuary with wooded hills and stream which for years had been known as Bayard’s Grove. Naturally it was then called Slagle & Acheson’s Grove, and later simply Slagle’s Grove.

George Acheson died in April 1881; C. W. Slagle died in October of 1882, and today practically no one remembers Slagle’s Grove. Nonetheless the grove remains, beautiful as always and accessible to all, though since 1906 it has been known as Chautauqua Park.

Caleb Baldwin (1824-1876) Fairfield, IA lawyer.

In the early 1850s Fairfield lawyer Caleb Baldwin occupied the “office in the Brick Building over Sargent & Gibson’s Store,” now 57 E. Broadway, with his law-partner Samuel Clinton. Caleb must have negotiated the stairs to his office with some difficulty; at 340 pounds he was one of the largest men in Iowa.

Though his immense girth caused him embarrassment all his life, it also combined with his mental acuity to accord him universal attention and profound respect. Tender-hearted, gentle, musically talented – he played the piano as well as the largest French horn in Fairfield’s band – and a wonderfully intuitive judge of men, Caleb Baldwin served as the county’s prosecuting attorney in 1854 and 1855, and became district judge in 1856, whereon his partner Clinton became prosecuting attorney.

Like many Fairfield pioneers, Caleb came here from Washington County, Pennsylvania, where he was born in 1824. After graduating from Washington College in 1842, he taught school for a year in Paris, Kentucky, and then returned to Pennsylvania to study law with Hon. Thomas McKean Thompson McKennan. After being admitted to the bar, Caleb came in 1846 to to practice law in Fairfield, where his older brother John had settled shortly earlier. In 1848 Caleb married Jane Barr, with whom he eventually had six children.

Caleb was also postmaster here in 1850-1852, keeping the post office at 52 North Main, a property he bought in 1850 and sold to Christian S. and Joshua Monroe Shaffer in 1857. The teen-aged mail-carrier James Baird Weaver later recalled, “I frequently rode up to the post-office door and threw the mail bag into his hands. He was a young man of enormous size, weighing three hundred pounds, active and powerful, and completely filled the door as he appeared to receive the bags….”

Caleb built a house at 501 South Main about 1852; before it was finished, Abraham Lincoln engaged him to try a case in Omaha — the only case recorded with Lincoln as a client. Between 1852 and 1855 Caleb served successively as secretary, vice-president, and president of the Jefferson County Agricultural Society.

After living in Fairfield for eleven years, in 1857 Caleb moved to Council Bluffs, where his brother John had moved earlier. There Caleb was selected a judge of the Iowa Supreme Court in 1859, becoming chief justice in 1862. In 1865 President Lincoln appointed him U. S. district attorney for Iowa.

Between 1863 and 1868 Caleb partnered with Nathan Phillips Dodge in the banking firm of Baldwin & Dodge, which had been founded by their older brothers, John T. Baldwin and Grenville Mellen Dodge. From 1868 to 1874 Caleb Baldwin and his new partner George Franklin Wright were attorneys for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Burlington & Missouri, and the Union Pacific railroads.

President Ulysses S. Grant then appointed Caleb Baldwin one of the five judges of the court of the Alabama Claims Commission in 1874; he died in Council Bluffs on December 15, 1876.

Charles Negas of Fairfield, ia.
“Yours &c.,
Charles Negus”

Hon. Charles Negus

Tall, dignified and majestically imposing, equally well-versed in legal principles and human frailty, Charles Negus was a notable pioneer lawyer in Fairfield as well as a diligent and entertaining historian of Iowa.

One of our greatest delights while researching Fairfield’s pioneer days was the discovery of Charles Negus’s “Early Times in Iowa,” published in the Annals of Iowa in installments in the 1870s. In an age of Victorian prudery and ancestor-worship, Charles stands out by revealing his Fairfield contemporaries of the 1840s and ‘50s with wit, humor, sympathy and pathos, but above all with honesty. If a certain well-known hotel-keeper was also a coin-forger and a chicken-thief, Negus tells us. If a married county treasurer destroyed his life believing a prankster’s forged love-notes were from a comely young woman, Negus informs us. If a respected county prosecutor and estate trustee was also a thief, note-forger and destroyer of evidence, Negus lets us know. He gives the facts, and he names the names.

Born on December 19, 1815, in Webster, Worcester Co., Massachusetts, Charles Negus was the only child of Susan (Cortis) and Lyman Negus. His father died when Charles was less than a year old, and he was raised first by doting grandparents and then – in shocking contrast – by a stepfather who was a gambler and alcoholic, causing Charles to abstain from both pitfalls his entire life.

Charles graduated in 1838 from Wesleyan College in Middletown, Connecticut, and then for a year taught privately near Dinwiddie Courthouse in Virginia. He was admitted to the bar in 1840, and came the following year to Fairfield, Iowa, where he practiced law for the next 36 years. In 1844 Charles was a trustee of the Methodist Mission in Fairfield; that same year he married Martha Eleanor Smith of Richmond, Virginia. Between 1846 and 1851 they had three children.

Fairfield rewarded Charles for his energy and diligence; he served as county judge of Probate Court in 1844-1846 and 1856, representative to the General Assembly in 1850, president of the Fairfield and Mt. Pleasant Plank Road Company in 1852-53, and treasurer or president of the Jefferson County Agricultural Society from 1852 for ten years.

With bricklayer Jesse B. Winn, Charles built a large three-story brick building at 55-57 South Court St in 1852. The Odd Fellows owned and occupied the third floor of Winn’s building, No. 55, while the Freemasons used the third floor of the Negus Block, No. 57. On August 27, 1853, the new Jefferson County Public Library opened in a room in the Negus Block. Dr. J. M. Shaffer was the first librarian, while Caleb Baldwin, James F. Wilson, and the doctor organized a lecture-course early in 1855. Charles Negus also offered the third story of his building for Rev. William Adderly’s monthly Episcopal services, and was later elected a member of the first vestry of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. By October 1854 the Sons of Temperance met also in No. 57, probably on the second floor. That year his building-partner Jesse Winn moved west to Council Bluffs, and two years later was shot and killed in a land dispute in Elk Horn City, Nebraska.

During the antebellum years Charles Negus continued to excel, serving as West Point visitor in 1855, and as the county’s prosecuting attorney in 1857. But Negus was a dedicated Democrat, and when the Civil War erupted in 1861, he was the only attorney in Fairfield who refused to take the oath of allegiance to support the U. S. Government: an oath moved by Democrat George Acheson and seconded by Republican James F. Wilson. During the War Acheson became a Republican, but Negus remained ever a Democrat and “Copperhead,” and was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1864. During those difficult years, Negus was reviled as a traitor by many former friends.

Charles’s honor was not permanently stained by the war; he served as president of the Iowa Railroad Company from 1865 to 1877, and as president of the City Board of Education from 1868 to 1877. He held the first meeting in 1874 to encourage Parsons College to come to Fairfield. Only two years after its founding here he died, on May 4, 1877. But in the Annals of Iowa his warmth, his wit, his humor and his honesty speak to us as keenly and clearly as ever.

A good photo of the Negus Block appears here:!/photo.php?fbid=147183795326649&set=a.147182405326788.25692.105927739452255&pid=234458&id=105927739452255

D. P. Stubbs: Fairfield Iowa lawyer, mayor, horse-breeder, Iowa state senator.

Daniel Parham Stubbs (1829-1905) was born in Preble Co., Ohio to abolitionist Quakers William and Delilah (Parham) Stubbs. He obtained his law degree in 1856 and the next year after touring Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, he settled in Fairfield, Iowa where he practiced law, partnering for his first five years here with James F. Wilson of Fairfield.

Like his partner, D. P. Stubbs soon entered politics and as a Republican was elected Fairfield’s mayor in 1859 and 1860, and Iowa state senator in 1863-67, when he authored the resolution to ratify the amendment abolishing slavery. On the Greenback Party ticket Stubbs ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1877, for representative in 1879, and for U.S. senator in 1880.

An effective orator and successful defense lawyer, Stubbs defended the notorious Fairfield Iowa desperado Charles C. Scott, alias Frank Rande, in 1878 and against tremendous odds obtained for him a life sentence instead of hanging.

D. P. Stubbs, Fairfield, Iowa lawyer.

Immediately after the fire of April 1883, D. P. Stubbs built a two-story brick business block at 51-53 S. Court in Fairfield, Iowa. His new Stubbs Block sported a heavy-corniced facade with second-story windows arranged in two groups of five under ornate Romanesque arches.

Daniel and his wife Carrie (Hollingsworth) had four children: Orsino D., Charles Elbert, Cora M., and Minnehaha. In 1885 D. P. Stubbs purchased 400 acres of the old Bayard farm just east of Fairfield, Iowa where with his two sons he imported and bred fine Oldenburg coach and heavy draft horses.

For information about D. P. Stubb’s son and Fairfield Iowa horse farm, click here.