Biography of Colonel Jed Lake
Buchanan County, IA Biographies





COLONEL JED LAKE.
The number of those surviving who were in reality pioneers in the state and who, through unremitting toil and the brave endurance of hardships, took possession of the wild prairies years ago in the name of civilization, whether as farmers, professional men or merchants, is fast decreasing, but the memory of their heroic lives will remain as a stimulus to endeavor as long as the great state which they founded endures. Colonel Jed Lake, who passed away at Independence on the 7th of June, 1914, was a man who, coming to this country in the early days, suffered the discomforts of pioneer life and also knew the stern pleasure that comes from persevering in a worthy work and from performing faithfully a duty. He was one of the first attorneys of the county and rose to a position of leadership at the local bar, which he retained until the infirmities of age compelled him to largely retire from practice.

His birth occurred in Cortland county, New York, on the 18th of November, 1830, and his parents were Jedediah and Patience (Church) Lake. The father was born in 1798, in Montgomery county, New York, a son of Henry Lake, who served under General George Washington in the Revolutionary war, enlisting when a boy of seventeen years and serving for four years. In 1822 Jededialm Lake settled in Virgil, Cortland county, New York, and there his marriage to Miss Church occurred. She was a native of Windsor, Vermont, and by her marriage became the mother of four children, of whom the subject of this review was the third in order of birth. The father died when the Colonel was but three years of age, leaving the mother with four children, the eldest of whom was but seven years old.

Colonel Lake attended the common schools in the acquirement of an education, and worked at whatever he could find to do in order to partly provide for his own support. At one time he drove a team on the Erie canal for thirteen dollars a month and as soon as he had received sufficient education he engaged in teaching school. He also worked as a. farm hand for some time and as he was determined to continue his studies he lived as economically as possible and saved his earnings and in this way accumulated a sufficient sum to enable him to attend the New York Central College at McGraw, New York. While a student there he worked in his spare time and thus paid part of his expenses. He later attended Homer Academy, taking an advanced course in mathematics, but as his health had partially failed he left school and turned his attention to outdoor work.

In 1855, when a young man of twenty five, Colonel Lake came to Buchanan county and for two years worked upon a farm in Buffalo township but at the end of that time came to Independence and began the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in the spring of 1859 and immediately entered upon practice. In 1861 he was elected to the state legislature and served in the session when that body pledged the support of Iowa to the preservation of the Union. His service to his country in its time of need did not end there, as in the summer of 1862 he enlisted in Company H, Twenty seventh Iowa Infantry, was elected lieutenant of his company and soon after appointed by Governor Kirkwood as lieutenant colonel of the regiment, which soon after its organization was sent to Minnesota to protect the frontier settlements against the Indians. When the danger from that quarter had been averted the command was ordered south and took an active part in the war until the close of hostilities. During much of the time Colonel Lake was in command of his regiment and proved a gallant and faithful officer.

Upon his return from the war he resumed the practice of his profession and in July, 1870, formed a partnership with M. W. Harmon, which was continued with mutual pleasure and profit until it was severed by death. In 1878 the firm of Lake & Harmon was retained to defend a large number of actions brought against residents of Iowa by the owners of a patent known as the "driven well" patent. These suits were brought in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Iowa, the defendants in most cases being farmers, who were sued for royalties claimed by the owners of the patent. Colonel Lake took charge of the defense in this extensive litigation and the trial in the federal court in Iowa resulted in victory for the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed to the supreme court of the United States, thich confirmed the decision of the lower court. This litigation lasted nine years and was of national importance as hundreds of people had been sued in similar actions in many other states. The Colonel was a man of great natural vigor of mind and his thorough training coupled with his long and varied experience enabled him to use his mental powers to the best advantage. The clarity and incisive qualities of his intellect enabled whim to seize upon the vital point in any matter and to present his arguments with great lucidity, while the force of his personality made his presentation of his case impressive and attention compelling. His practice was large and important and his colleagues in the profession recognized him as their leader and often sought his advice.

Colonel Lake never held any office of profit but faithfully served the public in many official positions. For six years he was city councilman, for seven years a member of the board of education, for two years he was on the board of supervisors, for eight years he was a trustee for the Iowa Hospital for the Insane, at Independence, for fifteen years one of the commissioners of insanity for Buchanan county, and he served as a member of the board of commissioners appointed by the governor to construct a hospital for the insane at Cherokee. Colonel Lake was appointed a commissioner to value a large tract of land in Mendocino county, California, an Indian reservation, which required about seven months of work. When Perry Munson told Colonel Lake of his intention to erect a building for the use of an industrial training school and other purposes and also informed him that he was unable to find a suitable location, the Colonel at once offered a part of his home property for that purpose and donated the site for the school. The location is one of the most convenient that could have been found and the public owes much to the Colonel for thus making manual training a possibility. He was named as one of the trustees of the property and until his death served in that capacity and was always untiring in his efforts to advance the interests of the institution His last appearance in court was in an action to maintain the rights of the public to the school property. In many other ways he manifested an unusual public spirit, being willing to make personal sacrifices in order to advance the community welfare. As an instance of this spirit those who were living in Independence in 1875 may recall that at that time when the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad Company proposed to construct its Decorah division through Independence Colonel Lake gave the enterprise his earnest support and at a time during a financial stringency when failure seemed imminent, he and Dr. Bryant personally guaranteed the grading of several miles of the road, thereby securing it for the town. He was a director and attorney for the First National Bank of Independence and also a director and chairman of the executive committee of the Independence Mill Company as well as its local representative.

Colonel Lake was married January 2, 1861, to Miss Sarah E. Meyer, who was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, January 2, 1842, a daughter of Henry and Isadora (Sullivan) Meyer. Her father was born near Hamburg, Germany, and was married in 1835 in London, England, to Miss Sullivan, a native of that city, and they soon afterward emigrated to the United States. After an ocean voyage of seven weeks they landed in America and made their way to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, where they settled. The father farmed there for some time and then removed with his family to Rockford, Illinois, where they remained until 1855, in which year they came by wagon to this county and the father entered government land in Byron township. He improved the same and operated it until his death, at seventy six years of age. His wife died when sixty five years old. To their union were born twelve children, six of whom grew to maturity. Mrs. Lake was only a. child when she accompanied her parents to this county and here she grew to womanhood and attended school. By her marriage she became the mother of three children. Rush C., an attorney in Kansas City, Missouri, is quite prominent in city politics and a leader in his profession. Jarvis N. died in infancy. Harriet I., the only daughter, resides with her mother. She is very active in women's clubs, having served as regent for Iowa of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and is also well known in the Colonial Dames.

Mrs Lake is one of the few pioneer women now living and is known throughout the city for her good deeds as she has done much to aid the sick and poor, and her sincere sympathy for those in trouble has made her ministrations welcome and acceptable. She is a quiet, unassuming woman but has great strength of character and also much practical business ability. She was for sixteen years president of the Ladies' Poor Relief Society and has since been made an honorary life member of the same. At the time of the Civil war, when her husband, enlisted for service, their eldest child was an infant and she went to the home of her parents and while living there saved the money which the Colonel sent her and with it purchased a farm, which proved an excellent investment. She has many friends, who hold her in affectionate regard, and her long and useful life and womanly qualities command the respect of the community. She proved in all respects a worthy helpmate to Colonel Lake and was always in sympathy with his undertakings and aided him in his work in many ways. He was foremost in any movement that promised to advance the interests of Independence and the city owes much to him. His great hearted and broadminded personality commanded the respect of those who at times differed with him in their judgment as to the best course to pursue in a given matter and those to whom he gave his friendship prized highly his regard and favorable opinion. His personal appearance fitted well with his character, as he was a man of large frame, well proportioned and of great physical strength. His demise, which occurred June 7, 1914, was the occasion of much sincere sorrow throughout the county and the influence of his life is potent in making for true manhood and unselfish public service.

From:
History of Bachanan County, Iowa
And its People
By Harry Church and Katharyn J. Chappell
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago 1914


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