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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/William L. Carpenter

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[Wm. L. Carpenter]


WILLIAM L. CARPENTER was born near Salem, Ohio, on the 5th of October, 1841. His education was acquired in the public schools and at Epworth Academy. His father and family removed to Iowa in 1854, locating on a farm in Dubuque County where William remained until a few years before the Civil War when he went to Black Hawk County where he engaged in school teaching and farming. In August, 1862, he enlisted in Company G, Thirty-second Iowa Volunteers, in May, 1863, was promoted to second lieutenant and in 1864 became adjutant of the regiment in which position he served to the close of the war. His gallantry at the Battle of Nashville was commended by special mention in general orders. When theGrange movement began he took an active interest in the cause and in 1875 was elected secretary of the State Grange, holding the position several years. Removing to Des Moines, he engaged in manufacturing. When the barb wire trust of Washburn, Moen & Co. was organized and undertook to control the manufacture and fix the price of wire fencing. Captain Carpenter was one of the first to suggest to the farmers to unite in resisting the powerful monopoly in fixing prices. The fight continued for seven years in the courts during which time the “Farmers' Protective Association,” through the factory established by Carpenter and Given, continued to manufacture and fix a reasonable price for fence wire. Litigation of a formidable character was instituted against the managers of the free factory; intimidation and bribery were attempted, and finally when all efforts failed to suppress competition the trust was compelled to reduce prices to those fixed by the farmers' association. Through the struggle William L. Carpenter kept the free factory running, unawed by threats and scorning all attempts at bribery. The same nerve that won promotion on the field of battle was shown by Carpenter in his contest with the powerful Washburn Syndicate. In 1886 he was nominated by the Democrats of the Seventh District for Congress but the District had too large a Republican majority to be overcome. He was elected mayor of Des Moines in 1888, serving two years. In 1890 he was appointed Custodian of the Public Buildings of the State, serving four years. He has been active in all humane works, serving on the commissions for aid to the Johnstown sufferers, the starving in India and the Cuban Relief Commission.