ISAIAH VAN METRE was born in Fairfield County, Ohio, November 21, 1838. His father, John E. Van Metre, was born in Berkeley County, Virginia, May 4, 1786, and his mother, whose maiden name was Josina Van Metre, was born in the same county in 1806, they being distantly related. Our subject’s parents removed to Fairfield County, Ohio, in 1832, later moving to Pickaway County. John E. Van Metre served several terms in the Legislature of Ohio, and was for a number of years on the bench. He was a Whig in politics and campaigned with Tom Corwin and Tom Ewing, notable men of the day, and told many stories in later days illustrative of the dissimilarity of disposition of the two men who were often guests at his house. Campaigning in those days was done on horseback and was accompanied by many hardships, yet had pleasant excitements and did not lack for jollity.

The family moved to Iowa in 1855 and Isaiah Van Metre, a boy well along in his teens, came with them. He and an older brother came across country with two teams and 50 head of shorthorn cattle and some extra horses. The family proceeded by boat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to Muscatine and from there by wagon to Cedar Rapids. The family stayed for the winter in Cedar Rapids; the older boys went 24 miles west where land had been purchased to get out timber for a house. Isaiah, assisted by another boy, took care of the stock on a 120 acre farm previously purchased, five miles south of Cedar Rapids. In the spring he went with the stock to the Benton County farm and drove a team of six yoke of oxen hitched to a breaking plow.

Late in the summer Isaiah entered the office of his brother, Ezra Van Metre, a lawyer practicing in Cedar Rapids. In the fall his brother died but he continued his studies in the office of D. M. McIntosh and finished in the law office of Col. I. M. Preston at Marion, where he was admitted to the bar in 1858. He went to the western part of the State in the spring, but returned home in the fall and taught a term of school. In the spring of 1859 he went to Vinton, Benton County, and had a half interest in the Benton County Democrat during the most exciting political campaign in the history of the State. Later selling out to his partner, he taught a term of school in Iowa County, got acquainted with some politicians, took a half interest in the Marengo Democrat and after a few months sold out and went to school at Mount Vernon for a time, after which he drifted over to Cedar Rapids where he remained until the Civil War broke out, when he enlisted in Company K, 1st Reg., Iowa Vol. Inf., for the three months service. He came home when the three months were ended, well run down, and was denied the privilege of continuing in the service for that reason, although he was offered a commission to raise a company. He went to Leavenworth, Kansas, and was again declared unfit for service, after which he went to Colorado and in September was accepted as a recruit in the Independent Battery of Colorado, under Captain McClain. He served until the end of the war, made a good record and was discharged at Fort Leavenworth,
near the first of July, 1865. His war experience was not materially different from that of the general run of soldiers. He suffered hardships, ran narrow escapes and experienced many exciting adventures.

On his return home, he divided his time between the law and newspaper work for two years and then went to the mountains in search of gold and a fortune; but both eluded him and he came home and spent the winter and following summer. That fall (1869) fortune smiled on him. He got a school near State Center, Marshall County, where he made the acquaintance of Miss Eleanor Isabel Thompson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Thompson. That was his good luck. He went to Humboldt County and bought the Humboldt County Independent, and on December 25, 1872, he went back to Marshall County and married Miss. Thompson. They lived in Dakota City, Humboldt County, until the spring of 1877, when he disposed of the Independent and purchased a half interest in the Cedar Falls Recorder. He remained with that paper until the fall of 1879 when he removed to Waterloo and in connection with J. H. Wilson started the Cedar Valley Tribune. He remained with this paper (afterward the Waterloo Tribune) until May 2, 1901, when he sold it to a company. For the last 17 years, he was owner and editor of the Tribune.

Ten children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Van Metre—six boys and four girls. Three died in infancy and a little girl, Alice Ruth, died just two and a half years ago, aged 11 years. Six children are living. Margaret, the eldest, a graduate of the State University of Iowa at Iowa City, is a writer and newspaper correspondent; Richard is in his senior year in the medical department of the State University of Iowa; Ricker is in his junior year in the law department of the University of Minnesota; Virginia graduated from the East Waterloo High School in June, 1903; while Horace and Maurice (twins), aged nine years, are making things lively about home and around the neighborhood.

Isaiah Van Metre has always been a Democrat. Although his father was a Whig and he was nurtured on Whig doctrines from early boyhood, reading the Ohio State Journal, the Cincinnati Gazette and the New York Tribune, including Horace Greeley’s series of protectionist articles, and nothing on the other side, yet he could never harmonize the doctrine of protection for protection’s sake with a free field for all and special privileges to none. He has always believed that a tariff for revenue only is the correct principle, and is of the opinion that it would have been of immeasurable advantage to the country if our industries had been permitted to develop naturally with such incidental protection as a tariff for revenue would afford, and that we would have been saved the menace to our institutions which the trusts, fostered, sheltered and built up by protection, present.

His paper, the Humboldt County Independent, was the only paper in the State of any political faith that indorsed Grant’s veto of the $300,000,000 greenback inflation bill, passed by the Congress of 1873.  His paper, the Cedar Falls Recorder, was the only paper in the State that condemned the action of Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman,. in suspending the retirement of the greenbacks in 1878. He was one of the first if not the first man in the State to advocate the single gold standard; in 1896 he supported Palmer for President against Bryan and "16 to 1." His portrait is given elsewhere in this work.

Copied from: "History of Black Hawk County and Representative Citizens" pages 365-367


The material on the site is intended for free personal, non-commercial use. Commercial use of any of the materials presented on these pages is prohibited. Please do not consider any information on this site as a primary source, all data should be verified by you, the researcher. If you encounter any problems or have a question/correction, you can Email me at Scott Van Metre