PRESERVING THE PAST: Meet Beaumont E. Stonebraker

In Beaumont E. Stonebraker's "Miscellaneous History," within the first volume of the "History of Calhoun County, Iowa," the last lynx to reside in the county was killed in 1869. According to the story, the lynx was initially thought to be a thief. [File photo]
Lynne Gentry
Special to The Graphic-Advocate

Beyond a wealth of primary sources, the Calhoun County Museum is rich in secondary sources.  These books, newspapers, magazines and pamphlets date from the late 1800s. 

I admit to having just a bit of bibliomania, and I can hear my friend Linda chortling right now. So, reading from the shelves of the museum is what I call fun.

As readers of this column know, I cite the two-volume Stonebraker History of Calhoun County quite often. Published in 1915, the books were edited by Beaumont E. Stonebraker.  

The full title of the works is History of Calhoun County, Iowa: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievements, Volume I and II.

A postscript on the final pages of Volume I says the following: “To feel an interest in those who came before us and paved the way for modern progress; to profit from their mistakes; to keep alive the memory of the good and true in their achievements, is a duty that every citizen owes to a common humanity.” 

In presenting this work to the people of Calhoun County, the editor and publishers desire to state that no effort has been spared to give to them an authentic and comprehensive history of the county.

Stonebraker included a modest biographical sketch of himself in Volume II. He was born in 1869 on a farm near LeClaire in Scott County. In 1883, the family moved to Rockwell City. 

After his education, he became compositor on the Rockwell City Leader, a newspaper of the time. He was the county auditor and treasurer for seven years.

He joined his father in a furniture business and opened a branch store in Lake City in 1898. This business sold in 1906.

Stonebraker married twice, his first wife dying in 1902. His second marriage produced three children, one of whom died of pneumonia at the age of three.

The Stonebrakers lived in Des Moines for a time, as he served on a special state tax commission. In 1915, he served as the secretary of the Rockwell City Commercial Club. 

I haven’t been able to discover how Stonebraker became the editor of the History of Calhoun County. 

A 1949 edition of the Rockwell City Advocate said this about B.E. Stonebraker: “Mr. Stonebraker has been active in many fields during his 80 years—in county government, in private business. He can relate scores of interesting accounts pertaining to the past history of this county. Finding reminiscing a delightful pastime now, there is one story he especially enjoys telling. It’s a tale of how the swampland in Calhoun County, was converted to the state’s most fertile soil.” 

Here I will say, it’s also a tale I will preserve for a future column.

A 1951 obituary includes this single reference about the history: “In 1915, he wrote and published a two-volume history of Calhoun County. The obituary also said that his many interests included political activity and he was a member of the Presidential Electoral College in 1920. He held a lifelong love of nature and the soil of Iowa.”

Perhaps it was Stonebraker’s role as county auditor or his newspaper background that created his editorial work on the county history. Whatever did set him to work on the two history volumes, I’m thankful for it. 

Where else can I learn easily learn that in 1860, there were 139 horses in Calhoun County? At that time, there were only 147 humans here!

Stonebraker’s Volume I was a deep study of the county, beginning with the geology and geography of the land. It travels through the Native American presence to the earliest explorers and settlers. 

The book describes the swamplands, the formation of townships and towns. 

Also included are military history, finance and taxation practices, education, churches and social societies. 

I especially enjoy the last chapter titled “Miscellaneous History.” 

It is there I learn that the last lynx in Calhoun County was killed in 1869. The farmers in the southwest part of the county had begun missing pigs, lambs and poultry. At first, they thought of a thief. 

Stonebraker’s history concludes this way: “Then rumors of a strange animal of some sort spread over the neighborhood. Its cries had been heard at night and it was said to have its lair somewhere in Lake Creek Grove. A hunting party was organized, the grove surrounded and the beast brought to bay. A well-directed bullet from a rifle ended its career. The carcass was prepared by a taxidermist and for some time stood on exhibition in the window of John Lumpkin’s store at Lake City. This was the last lynx ever killed in the county.” 

How did Stonebraker come by a story that occurred the year he was born?


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