The name of Captain Edward P. Bye is well known in connection with the pioneer history of Marion county. Arriving
here in the early days, he lived to witness the many changes which have brought about present conditions and he
was among those who laid the foundation upon which has been built modern progress and prosperity. His memory long
formed a connecting link between the primitive past and the progressive present and deep and sincere regret was
felt when he passed away on the 1st of October, 1913. He was then eighty six years of age, his birth having occurred
in Columbiana county, Ohio, on the 29th of April, 1827. His parents were Redding and Sarah (Corbin) Bye, the former
a native of New Jersey and the latter of Pennsylvania. The Bye family is of Quaker descent.
Captain Bye acquired his education in the common schools and was reared to farm life. He was but thirteen years
of age when the family removed to Jay county, Indiana, where he settled upon a farm, there residing until 1851.
On the 27th of November of that year he arrived in Marion county and was thereafter identified with the development
and upbuilding of his section of the state. When he left his old home near Portland, Indiana, he had but a few
dollars in his pocket. He thought to have better opportunities in the new and growing west and as he was desirous
of improving his condition he resolved that he would save one hundred dollars for each year of his age. He walked
from his home to Indianapolis, proceeded by train to Evansville and thence by steamboat to Keokuk, from which point
he walked to Marion county. When he reached Eddyville he found that his supply of money was exhausted and after
staying all night with a farmer he agreed to make five hundred rails for him, for which he was paid two dollars
and a half. This task completed, he again started on foot for Marion county, the snow lying twelve inches deep
over the prairie. On the 27th of November he reached his destination, at which time his cash capital consisted
of but fifty cents. He at once began working by the day and then, seeing the demand for mechanical work, he started
to do cabinetmaking in a log shop owned by J. R. Palmer and situated at the southeast corner of the public square.
He had never learned the trade but his father had been a cabinetmaker and he had observed him, thereby gaining
a good knowledge of the business. By 1855 he was the proprietor of a shop of his own and during the memorable cholera
plague of that year he made many coffins used for the cholera victims. He was also the owner of the first hearse
in Knoxville. Soon afterward he was called to the office of city marshal but resigned his position when the mayor
would not fine a couple of men for drunkenness whom Captain Bye had arrested. He then resumed cabinetmaking and
also took up contract work as a builder and evidence of his skill is still to be seen in some of the old structures
of the city, including the Governor Stone residence, the United Presbyterian church, the Baptist church and others.
He built the first case for the Knoxville postoffice and for forty years rented box No. 160.
In 1859, attracted by the discovery of gold in the mountains of Colorado, Captain Bye started for Pike's Peak but
when he had proceeded as far as the plains became discouraged and turned back. He again started in 186o and this
time reached his destination. He was in Denver when the first United States mail reached that city and he worked
for a time in a mining camp near the present site of Leadville. While in California Gulch, in Colorado, he ate
bread made from flour worth seventy five dollars per hundredweight. He was a witness of all of the usual scenes
of the mining camp. He assisted in building a church of logs and attended a Sunday school at which there were none
present but armed men and many times those who refused to participate in the services would have a game of cards
in the doorway.
In the fall of 1861 Captain Bye returned to Knoxville and immediately afterward joined Company G of the Fifteenth
Iowa Volunteer Infantry as a private. The regiment went into winter quarters at Keokuk and early in March started
for the front. The first important engagement in which Captain Bye participated was the battle of Shiloh, where
the regiment lost one fourth of its number in killed and wounded. He also participated in the battle of Corinth,
the siege of Vicksburg, the Atlanta campaign, the march to the sea under Sherman and other celebrated military
movements which contributed to the success that finally crowned the Union arms. Following the engagement at Corinth
he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and in October, 1862, was advanced to the position of second lieutenant.
On the yth of March, 1863, he became first lieutenant and on the 27th of August, 1864, was commissioned captain
of Company G, serving with that rank until mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky, on the 24th of July, 1865, for
the war had closed and the country no longer needed his services.
Captain Bye received his honorable discharge at Davenport and returned at once to Knoxville, where he resided until
1869. He then removed to a farm of one hundred and thirty eight acres of land five miles southwest of Knoxville,
upon which his widow and son still reside. He hauled the lumber from Pella, a distance of twenty miles, and built
a house. He engaged in stock raising as well as general farming and in time handled many head of stock each year,
keeping a herd of about one hundred head of cattle and about two hundred head of hogs. As the years passed he brought
his farm to a high state of cultivation and added to his original holdings until within the boundaries of the place
were comprised two hundred and thirty acres, well known as the "Burr Oak Farm." The spirit of progress
and improvement actuated him at all times and he planted many trees, surrounding his home with a beautiful grove
of chestnut and maple trees of his own planting. He established a complete system of waterworks and added other
modern equipments and accessories which made his farm one of the finest in this part of the state.
In 1855 Captain Bye was united in marriage to Miss Luvena Palmer, who passed away on the 23rd of January, 186o.
Their only son, Charles, died in infancy and a daughter of this marriage, Emma, who became the wife of J. B. Clark,
died in 1885 at the age of twenty eight years. On the 15th of October, 1865, Captain Bye was again married, his
second union being with Mrs. Elmira Eldridge, widow of Rufus H. Eldridge, a native of Ohio, whence in early life
she removed to Iowa. Her husband enlisted in the Union army in 1861, becoming a lieutenant in Company K, Fifteenth
Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and was killed at the battle of Corinth on the zd of October, 1862. Both of her parents
have passed away. Her father died in January, 1881, at the age of eighty years, and the mother departed this life
in September, 1905, in her eighty eighth year. Both came from families noted for longevity. By her first marriage
Mrs. Bye had one son, E. R. Eldridge, who is now conducting a store for the sale of books, sporting goods, etc.,
at Mineral Wells, Texas. By their marriage Captain and Mrs. Bye had three children. Delbert O., a lawyer of Alliance,
Nebraska, also owns a farm in that part of the state. He is married and has a family of eight children. George
E., a successful farmer near Moberly, Missouri, is married and has two children. William H., who operates the home
farm for his mother, is also the individual owner of a farm and is well known as a representative and leading agriculturist.
He is a stanch advocate of the republican party.
Captain Bye gave his political allegiance to the republican party and never wavered in his support thereof. He
belonged to the Masonic fraternity and was a charter member of Tadmor Chapter, No. 18, R. A. M. The motive spirit
of his life, however, was found in his belief as a member of the Methodist church. He never forgot his religion
even when in the heart of the mining camps of the west. It was the force which guided him in his actions and made
him the honorable, upright man whom Marion county knew as one of its most valuable and highly respected citizens.
His life was indeed one of worth to the community and no history of Marion county would be complete without mention
of this pioneer citizen.
History of Marion County, Iowa
And its People
John W. Wright, Supervising Editor
W. A. Young, Associate
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Marion County, IA
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