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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Edwin H. Conger

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EDWIN H. CONGER


EDWIN H. CONGER, soldier, banker and statesman, was born in Knox County, Illinois, March 7, 1843. He attended the public schools in boyhood and, entering Lombard University at Galesburg, graduated in 1862. Mr. Conger enlisted as a private in an Illinois regiment. He made a brave soldier and was promoted several times, finally becoming captain of his company and at the close of the war was brevetted major. Upon his return home he entered the Albany Law School, where he graduated in 1866 and entered upon practice at Galesburg, but two years later removed to Iowa, locating on a farm near Dexter. After five years he became a resident of the village and engaged in banking. In 1875 he established another bank at Stuart. He was for several years one of the trustees of Mitchellville Seminary. In 1878 he was elected treasurer of Dallas County and in 1880 was nominated by the Republican Convention for State Treasurer. He was elected, serving two terms with marked ability. Remaining in Des Moines, after he retired, in 1886 he was elected to Congress in the Seventh District. In 1888 he was reflected, serving until appointed by President Harrison minister to Brazil where he served with distinction for four years. Upon the election of McKinley, in 1897, Major Conger was restored to the Brazilian mission. But American interests in China requiring an experienced diplomat, the President transferred him to that empire. When the Boxer uprising took place and the massacres began, great anxiety was felt for the safety of all of the foreign ministers at Peking, who were soon isolated from all communication with their governments, the city being surrounded and in possession of the hostile armies of Boxers. For weeks Peking was cut off from any communication with the outside world and it was feared that all of the foreign ministers with their families had perished from the attacks of fanatical insurgents. The anxiety of the Iowa people was intense for the safety of Major Conger and his family and one morning the news came that all of the foreign ministers and their families had, after a long and heroic defense, been slaughtered. Finally the allied armies of America and Europe forced their way to the Chinese Capital and relieved the besieged ministers, who with their families and other Christiana had been shut up for weeks in the British legation buildings fighting day and night for their lives, subsisting a part of the time on mule meat. All through the terrible ordeal Major Conger was one of the bravest of the defenders and his wise counsel in the dire extremity was acknowledged by all to have aided materially in saving the little garrison from extermination. Returning home for a few months' rest Major Conger and family met with a hearty reception. After consultation with the President he returned to his post in China.