Biography of Hon. Hilton M. Letts
Louisa County, IA Biographies

Death is ever regarded as an unwelcome messenger, but when he enters a happy home and deprives it of one of its most valued members the visitation is, indeed, profoundly to be regretted. When the head of a family is taken away in the midst of a life of usefulness and honor the entire community joins in mourning. Few citizens of Louisa county have been more respected than Hilton M. Letts, whose demise, March 6, 1911, at the age of fifty three years, nine months and twenty days, deprived the county of one of its native sons, whose manly character and kind acts endeared him to all who had the honor of his acquaintance. He was born on the old family homestead in Grand View township, May 13, 1857, being a son of Madison N. Letts, a pioneer and a prominent citizen of this county.

The boyhood days of H. M. Letts were spent upon the home farm and in attendance at the district schools. Later he became a student of the State Agricultural College at Ames, being the first student to enter that institution from Louisa county. After leaving college he engaged in agriculture and stock raising and from the start showed an enterprise and ability that gave assurance of marked success. His business talents were early recognized and at the age of twenty four years he was elected a member of the board of supervisors of Louisa county and was made chairman of that body, serving with highest credit to himself and with special benefit to the county. His services in behalf of Louisa county were further utilized in 1897, when he was elected on the republican ticket as a member of the state legislature. He represented the county in the legislature for four years, from 1898 to 1902, and the office has seldom been filled with such general acceptance to the people. He also served for a number of years as trustee of the Agricultural College at Ames. As the years passed he became one of the leading men of this section. A number of years ago he was appointed general manager of a stock and development company in Yucatan, Mexico, and spent two years in that country to the great advantage of persons interested. He became the owner of more than one thousand acres of good land in Louisa county and was one of the organizers of the Rocky Mountain Supply Company, of Koehler, New Mexico, being associated in this enterprise with his brothers in law, Frank and Charles Springer. The company established the first packing plant in the southwest and handled successfully a large tract of land, Mr. Letts being president of the organization, which under his skilful guidance became highly successful.

On the 5th of May, 1880, Mr. Letts was united in marriage to Miss Nellie Springer, a daughter of the late Judge Francis Springer, of Iowa. To this union three children were born: Mrs. George Remley, of Cimarron, New Mexico; and Mary Helen and Warren. The son is now in charge of the farming interests of his father. Mary Helen was married May 5, 1911, at Columbus Junction to Earl Brown, of Emmetsburg, Iowa, where they are now residing.

Mr. Letts' death was clue to an affection of the heart after a few weeks illness. The following summary of his character appeared in one of the newspapers of Columbus Junction and, having been written by one who was personally acquainted with Mr. Letts, it seems especially appropriate as a conclusion to this review: "Death in any event has its sting, but in this case it seems all the more intense because of Mr. Letts' general character. He was a broad minded man, a man of strong convictions but tender as a child in his association with his family and friends. Throughout his entire active career he was governed by a high sense of duty to those with whom he associated and to his fellowmen regardless of their religious or political belief. He was a sincere and upright man whom to know was to love and whose greatest delight was to assist in promoting the welfare and happiness of others. He was true as steel to his friends and he had a strong contempt for deceit and dishonesty whether in business or in politics. He had little regard for men who were not square in their dealings. His death will be mourned by his numerous friends here and elsewhere. That he was held in high esteem by his many acquaintances is attested by the many expressions of sympathy that from far and near have been extended to the bereaved family."

In accordance with the wishes of Mr. Letts the funeral services were simple but very impressive. On that occasion the Columbus Safeguard of Columbus Junction wrote: "There among his lifelong friends, friends who had been associated with him in the most important affairs and events of his life; among the beloved members of his immediate family, his relatives and his neighbors, surrounded by a wealth of choice flowers, the most fragrant and precious products of the earth, the Rey. R. G. Jones, rector of Christ's Episcopal church of Burlington, uttered a fervent prayer, gave a portion of the Episcopal service and a brief biography of the life of the deceased. Professor C. F. Curtis of the State Agricultural College of Ames, an intimate friend of Mr. Letts, paid the following fine tribute to Mr. Letts, after which the remains were taken to Columbus City and interred in the cemetery at that place: My own inclination would be to sit in silence on this occasion under the burden of the great scrrow that overwhelms us all. My heart goes out to the stricken family and to the host of intimate friends upon whom this grief falls most heavily. The shadow of death conies silently and enshrouded in a mystery too deep for human comprehension. When the light of a strong life goes out we sit in darkness lost in God's unfathomable plan; yet trusting and believing in things unseen and in the life eternal. There is in the making of a strong, purposeful life something akin to the giant of the forest. It gathers a grandeur, a majesty, a tenderness and a deep and lasting affection with the passing of the years. These;ices grapple us with "hooks of steel" and uplift us a little higher and a little further on the journey to the great beyond. For nearly twenty years it has been my privilege to know H. M. Letts and to love and esteem him most highly. During that time as a member of the legislature and as a member of the board of trustees he was a loyal and devoted friend of the Iowa State college. He was a man of high ideals, of unswerving integrity and of unselfish public spirited motives. He gave the best of his commanding powers to every service. He stood uncompromisingly for the things that are honorable and upright. He had deep convictions of truth and a high sense of honor; and he detested sham and wrong in every form. A strong lovable character of this kind leaves a lasting impression on many lives. The many impulses, the clean cut, honest convictions for which he stood became firmly impressed on those of his friends and associates who knew him best; his faith becomes our faith and his clearness of vision points the way to us. The struggle of an earnest life is exemplified in the following lines:

"By thine own soul's law learn to live,
And if men thwart thee take no heed,
And if men hate thee have no care;
Sing thou thy song and do thy deed.
Hope thou thy hope and pray thy prayer,
Keep thou thy soul sworn steadfast oath,
And to thy hearth be true thy heart;
What thy soul teaches learn to know,
And play out thy appointed part;
And thou shalt reap as thou shalt sow;
Nor helped nor hindered in thy growth,
To thy full stature thou shall grow.
Fix on the future goal thy face,
And let thy feet be lured to stray
Not whither, but be swift to run,
And nowhere tarry by the way,
Until at last the end is won
And thou mayst look back from thy place
And see thy long day's journey clone."

History of Louisa County, Iowa
From Its Earliest Settlement to 1912
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1912

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