Biography of William H. Brenton of Adel Township, Iowa

The period of William H. Brenton’s residence in Iowa covered about forty years. This is an age of progress and Iowa is the exponent of the spirit of the age. The state has made wonderful advancement along all lines of activity during the latter half of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth and William H. Brenton belonged to that class of enterprising, public-spirited men who have kept Dallas county apace with the universal development and upbuilding. His name was enrolled among the honored dead and his memory is cherished by many who knew him and respected him because of genuine personal worth.

A native of Indiana, Mr. Brenton was born near the city of Indianapolis on the 12th of January, 1840 . His father was Dr. J. B. Brenton, a native of Kentucky, who was a physician and practiced successfully in Indiana until about 1853, when he removed with his family to Iowa. He made his home upon a farm in Adel township, Dallas county. His son, William H., was at that time a lad of thirteen years and he thus early became familiar with the experiences and hardships of pioneer life. He aided in the arduous task of developing a new farm, working in field and meadow until the place was brought under a high state of cultivation. The only interruption to his farm labor in earlier years was when he offered his services to his country and joined the Union army in 1861. He was the very first to enlist from Dallas county and donning the nation’s blue uniform he marched to the front as a member of the Second Iowa Regiment, under General Tuttle. He was wounded at the battle of Fort Donelson, after which he was granted a furlough and returned home, while later he was discharged, being unable to engage in further active field service. His sympathy was with the Union cause, however, throughout the period of the war and he did everything in his power to support the administration at Washington and the war policy.

On the 25th of May, 1862, Mr. Brenton was married in Dallas county to Miss Mary E. Richmond, a native of Columbia county, New York, and a daughter of Rufus R. and Anna (Rossman) Richmond, who removed to Dallas county, Iowa, when their daughter, Mrs. Brenton, was a maiden of thirteen years. She is a lady of good education, of superior business ability and was often consulted by her husband on business matters of importance. She possessed the native culture and refinement, too, that make a good home and to her husband she was a most faithful companion and helpmate.

Following their marriage they lived for a number of years upon a farm, Mr. Brenton giving his attention to the development and improvement of his land, which he brought under a high state of cultivation, so that the fields annually returned to him a gratifying income. As his financial resources increased he purchased more property and became an extensive landowner, taking his place with the leading business men of the county. In his investments he looked beyond the exigencies of the moment to the possibilities of the future. He and with ready recognition of opportunity he gained a goodly measure of success in all that he did. In 1878 he removed from the farm to Dallas Center, from which point he superintended his general agricultural and live-stock interests. Subsequently he became part owner of the Bank of Dallas Center, was chosen president and his sons still retain his name in that office. He was a very active businessman, farsighted and sagacious and thoroughly reliable. His word was as good as any bond ever solemnized by signature or seal and he was, moreover, a public-spirited citizen, who found time and opportunity to aid any feasible plan for the development and progress of his town and county.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Brenton were born three children who are still living. Charles R. and Clyde E., who are engaged in the banking business; Eva A., now the wife of Donald D. McColl, of Perry, Iowa . The daughter, Eva A., was graduated at the Des Moines College in 1891 with the first honors of her class. For several years following her graduation she was assistant cashier at the bank at Dallas Center, where she displayed marked business and executive ability, resigning from the bank to become the wife of Donald D. McColl, November 10, 1897. They also lost an infant daughter.

The death of Mr. Brenton occurred on the 10th of December, 1893, when he was fifty-three years of age. He was a member of the Presbyterian church, the Masonic fraternity, in which he attained the Knight Templar degree and he was buried with Masonic honors. He commenced life a poor man with little means and at his death was one of the most prosperous citizens of the county. There was not the slightest suggestion of anything hypocritical about him. He was true to his convictions and ever loyal to his friends. He was respected by the community at large and honored by his business associates, while in the closer circles of his social acquaintance he enjoyed the warmest friendship.

Charles R. and Clyde E. Brenton, sons of William H. Brenton, have “paid the price of success” in concentrated effort, indefatigable energy, perseverance and well applied business principles and have won the victory which they determined to gain when they started out on an independent business career. They are particularly well known in connection with financial interests, being extensively engaged in the banking business. They are owners of the Bank of Dallas Center, of which Clyde E. Brenton is cashier and Charles R. Brenton vice president. The name of their father, W.H. Brenton, still appears in the firm as president. Other banking investments and extensive property, grain and lumber interests make them foremost factors in the commercial and financial development of western Iowa . They have been residents of Dallas Center since 1878 and are native sons of the county, having been born on the old family homestead in Adel township. The birth of Charles R. Brenton occurred on the 30th of January, 1864, and Clyde E. Brenton, April 20, 1868 . Both sons attended the public schools of Dallas Center and Clyde E. Brenton was also a student in Des Moines College . Clyde E. Brenton entered the bank when a young man of seventeen years. Notwithstanding his father’s influence might have assisted bin to promotion, he won his advancement through his close application, earnest labor and firm resolve. Each duty entrusted to him was faithfully performed and he thoroughly mastered the business as he worked his way upward step by step.

Eventually he and his brother Charles became partners in the enterprise, purchasing an interest in the business in 1888, and they now own and operate this bank, which is the oldest banking institution of the county, having been organized in 1873. A general banking business is transacted and from the beginning the Bank of Dallas Center has been regarded as a most safe and reliable institution because of the conservative policy which is manifest in its management. In connection with their banking business the brothers own and operate a number of farms, having nearly five thousand acres in improved farms in Adel, Walnut, Sugar Grove and Grant townships from which they derive an excellent income and which renders their banking business of a most safe character, having back of it these extensive landed interests as security. They have erected a good brick business block and two other good business houses in the town and have thus helped to improve this city. Aside from their banking interests at Dallas Center, the Brenton brothers are connected with three other banks, all private institutions. They own a bank at Granger, Iowa, one at Dana, Iowa, and a half interest in the bank at Waukee. They also have a half interest in the bank at Woodward, Iowa, and are connected with the lumber trade under the firm style of Brenton Brothers Lumber Company, with headquarters at Waukee, Fred S. Whiting having charge of the business at that place, of which he is part owner. They are also interested in other lumber enterprises and are connected with the grain trade as owners of elevators. It will thus be seen that the Brenton brothers have operated extensively in financial and commercial circles and they belong to that class of representative American citizens who while promoting individual interests also contribute to the general growth and prosperity. While an excellent family record commends them to the good-will and confidence of their fellowmen, it is their individual worth that has gained for them their present enviable position in the regard of those with whom they have come in contact. Through their business career they have been looked upon as models of integrity and honor, never incurring an obligation that has not been met and standing today an example of what determination and force, combined with the highest degrees of business integrity, can accomplish for a man of natural ability and strength of character.

Both brothers are married. On the 10th of October, 1894, Clyde E. Brenton was united in marriage to Miss Alice Givin, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Givin, formerly of DeSoto, this county, but now of Dallas, Texas . Mr. and Mrs. Brenton commenced their domestic life at the old home, where he has lived for twenty-eight years. They are prominent socially, being greatly esteemed by a large circle of warm friends. Politically Mr. Brenton is a republican and has served as mayor of the city, proving a most capable executive officer. He has been a delegate to the state and county conventions and has exerted considerable influence in political affairs. He and his wife are members of the Presbyterian church, and Mr. Brenton is a Master Mason of Dallas Center lodge, A. F. & A. M., also holding membership with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Woodmen and other fraternal insurance orders.

Charles R. Brenton was married in 1893 to Miss Carrie W. Woodward, who was born and reared here. She is a daughter of John L. and Henrietta L. Woodward, early settlers of Dallas county. They now have two children, Woodward H. and Ruth. Charles R. Brenton is a trustee of Ames College and is interested in the material, intellectual, political and moral progress in his community. He and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal church, in the work of which they take a most active and helpful part. They are also associated with the Sunday school work and their efforts have been effective and far-reaching in this direction. Charles R. Brenton belongs to the Masonic fraternity and to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. His political allegiance is given to the republican party and he was chosen as alternate delegate to the national convention at St. Louis .

The extent and importance of the business operations of the Brenton brothers render it imperative that mention should be made of them in this volume, less the history of Dallas county would be incomplete. Their achievements represent the result of honest endeavor along lines where mature judgment has pointed a way. They possess a weight of character, a native sagacity, a discriminating foresight and a fidelity to purpose that command the respect of all. They have made an honorable record and are recognized as leading citizens of their native county.

Source: Past and Present of Dallas County, Iowa, by Robert F. Wood, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company Chicago, IL, 1907.

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