Edward Ames Temple was, among many other things, a detail man. It’s not surprising, then, that the tombstone marking his grave and those of five other family members is among the most complex in the Chariton Cemetery, loaded with symbols, the centerpiece of a family circle where mortal remains are arranged like so many slices of an apple pie.
Buried here in addition to Edward, remembered most often when he’s remembered at all as founder of what now is the Principal Financial Group (17,000 employees worldwide, $72 billion in assets, headquartered in Des Moines), are his wife, Elizabeth Jane (Swett) Temple; their adopted son and nephew, Porter George Swett; little Porter’s mother, Matilda E. (Weaver) Swett, who died a few days after his birth; and Elizabeth Jane’s parents, Moses Porter and Abby Jane (Tillman) Swett.
It’s difficult to say when this unconventional arrangement was developed, but my guess is soon after 1880, when both Porter George and his adoptive mother, Elizabeth Jane, died --- he on April 30 of scarlet fever and she of “rheumatism of the heart” on Dec. 6. The white marble family tombstone with eight faces, six inscribed but now eroding, appears to date from the 1880s.
The current arrangement of graves cannot be original to the plot. Elizabeth Jane’s father, Moses Porter Swett, died on June 27, 1860, four years before The Chariton Cemetery Co. was organized and the cemetery ground purchased and platted. He, most likely, was buried first at the Columbus School site, then reinterred in the new cemetery. His wife, Abby Jane, died Sept. 28, 1865, when the new cemetery was in use. Matilda E. Swett died in 1877.
While it is possible the octagonal tombstone surrounded by octagonal curbing that apparently encloses the graves could have been set down atop graves aligned conventionally east-west, that does not seem likely. Initials engraved upon six of the eight stone posts that mark turning points for the octagon seem to indicate the precise locations of graves arranged in a circle around the center monument. In addition, it would have been uncharacteristic of a man so precise as Edward A. Temple not to ensure that what was underground matched the aboveground configuration.
So it seems likely that when Edward alighted up this scheme for the family plot, anyone interred upon it previously was uprooted and reburied to conform to plan. Excavation would prove the point --- but such a thing is discouraged by both cemetery rules and state law. On Resurrection morn, according to this arrangement, the family would arise to form a partial circle, perhaps facing the stone cross atop the central monument and each other. Not many would worry about such a thing in this day and age, but I suspect that Edward A. Temple did.
Edward was, by his own account, born on Sept. 23, 1831, in Lebanon, St. Clair County, Illinois, to George and Sarah Forest (Deaton) Temple. Although there were nine children altogether, three died in infancy. Edward was third among the six survivors. The others were George Deaton Temple (born 4 March 1827), who spent much of his adult life at Fairfield but died in Burlington on Dec. 26, 1894; Cyrus Floyd Temple (born Feb. 4, 1829), who joined his brother in Chariton in 1855 and died here on 9 May 1894; Jonas “Joe” DeWitt Temple (born Jan. 28, 1838), who did not marry and died in Des Moines on June 28, 1898; Augustus Dodge Temple (born 8 November 1840), who lived at one time in Chariton but moved west and died at Kingman, Kansas, on 19 August 1889; and Cecelia Ann Temple (born April 11, 1846), who did not marry and was housekeeper and companion to her brother, Edward, until his death. Cecelia died in Des Moines on Sept. 10, 1919. George Sr. and Sarah Temple, one of the infants, Jonas, George and Cecelia are buried at Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington.
In 1837, when Edward was six, the family moved west to Burlington, then in Wisconsin Territory and next the Iowa territorial capital. A tailor by trade, George Temple Sr. became prominent in city, territorial and state politics, serving as Burlington postmaster during the Van Buren administration, as mayor and as a member (and twice speaker) of the Iowa Legislature.
Edward attended private schools in Burlington until he was 15, then went to work in what probably were a series of clerical posts for city and county officials, even serving as deputy Burlington postmaster. In 1849, when he was 18, Temple joined the staff of Fairfield-based entrepreneur Bernhard Henn and moved there. Edward's brother, George D., already had moved to Fairfield where he was employed in the U.S. land office.
In Fairfield, Edward met and on May 1, 1851, married Elizabeth Jane Swett, daughter of Moses Porter and Abby Jane (Tillman) Swett. Some years later, in 1857, Elizabeth’s sister, Julia, would marry Edward’s brother, Augustus Dodge. The Swetts had moved to Jefferson County from New York in the spring of 1845. Moses’s occupation when the 1850 census was taken was tinner.
These were heady times in Iowa both for land-hungry pioneers and hungrier speculators. As Iowa was opened for settlement, land was offered by the U.S. government for $1.25 an acre. In addition, military land warrants had been issued to thousands of veterans of the Mexican and other wars. These, too, could be sold to speculators by veterans who had no interest in moving west.
To take full advantage of the opportunities, Bernhard Henn and others had organized the firm of Henn, Williams & Co., and in November of 1851, Edward joined that firm. In 1853, when the U.S. land office was moved from Fairfield to Chariton, Henn, Williams & Co. opened an office here, too, and Edward was named its manager. He and Elizabeth arrived in Chariton during February 1853. Before the firm was dissolved in 1857, branch offices also had been opened in Fort Dodge and Council Bluffs.
The Temples bought and sold land independently, too. It is occasionally stated that Edward once owned Mount Ayr, the seat of Ringgold County, and that is true --- up to a point. When the newly-appointed commissioners of Ringgold County met in 1855 to select a county seat site, they selected property owned by Edward and Elizabeth Temple, which the Temples then sold to the commissioners for development.
When the Henn & Williams partnership was dissolved in 1857, the Temple brothers formed their own company to do much the same sort of business. The outlook seemed promising but the timing was awful. The brothers were caught up in the nationwide financial panic of that year and did not prosper. Roughly 90 percent of their liquid assets were lost in a New York bank failure and subsequent financial manipulations by the bank owners. Although the Temples did not walk away from their obligations, it took years for the firm to recover --- in part by selling land and other holdings at fire-sale prices. The Chariton office was closed and operations transferred to Ottumwa, where Edward and Elizabeth moved. Dreams of riches evaporated, but Temple Brothers were able to sell out during the early 1860s to W.B. Bonnifield, who in 1863 launched Ottumwa’s First National Bank.
Elizabeth’s parents, Moses P. and Abby Swett, had followed the Temples to Lucas County during the late 1850s and still were residents in 1860, when Moses’s occupation was listed as grocer in the federal census of that year. During May of 1860, however, he died; Abby followed him in death five years later. Both were only in their 50s.
In 1862, freed of business obligations in Iowa, Edward and Elizabeth with six others set out from Ottumwa to seek opportunity in the Salmon River country of Idaho, where gold had been discovered. A five-month journey in wagons drawn by mule teams took them eventually to Portland, Oregon, where Elizabeth remained with relatives. Edward returned to Idaho, spending parts of 1863 and 1864 prospecting for gold and dealing in just about anything that could be bought or sold.
This did not prove profitable, and Edward returned to Portland late in 1864. He found work as chief clerk in the Quartermaster’s Department at Fort Vancouver in Washington Territory and later served as Fort Vancouver’s chief quartermaster until the Civil War ended.
In June of 1866, when he was 35, the Temples returned from the West to Chariton where he launched a new career. He entered as a minor partner in and manager of Chariton’s first bank, operated by the firm F.W. Brooks & Co. Francis W. Brooks also was president of the National State Bank of Burlington and his partner, William F. Coolbaugh, formerly of Burlington, president of Union National Bank in Chicago.
Upon F.W. Brooks’ death in 1869, the company that bore his name was merged into Lyman Cook & Co. (Cook also was a Burlington banker) and a year later, into First National Bank of Chariton, incorporated in that year by among others Smith H. Mallory, Chariton-based railroad entrepreneur and principal stockholder, Lyman Cook and Edward Temple. Mallory served as president of this bank until his deah in 1903; Edward, as vice-president and cashier until the mid-1880s.
It was during this period commencing in 1866 that the Temples began to prosper and became community leaders in Chariton, forming relationships that would endure until death, most notably with Smith H. Mallory, his wife, Annie, and daughter, Jessie. Edward and Elizabeth became members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and led an active social life.
An example of their involvement in Chariton society is offered in a report published on June 10, 1871, in The Chariton Democrat and headlined “A Brilliant Affair.” The story described in glowing terms an evening party with approximately 240 guests that had been held at the Temple home and on its “extensive” grounds, lighted by lanterns “hanging from every tree” the preceding Thursday. While musical entertainment and “nonsense” occupied guests inside the house, eight sets of croquet and other games were available to amuse those outside. Refreshments were served at 11 p.m. --- sandwiches, various cakes, fresh fruit and lemonade --- and by midnight, festivities were winding down. Edward’s and Elizabeth’s party, according to The Democrat, was pronounced by their guests to have been “one of the most brilliant and extensive Chariton ever saw.”
Edward and Elizabeth had not had children, but sad circumstances during 1877 increased their family by three. Elizabeth’s brother, Moses Albert Swett, had married Matilda E. Weaver on April 21, 1868, in Lucas County, and they had produced three children: Harriet E., Sarah Grace and Porter George. Matilda died, however, on June 29, 1877, of complications from childbirth a few days after Porter George’s birth. The three small children were taken in by Edward and Elizabeth and so far as is known never lived with their father again.
In 1880, Edward’s world in one sense came crashing down around his ears. Little Porter George died on April 30 of that year of scarlet fever and Elizabeth, on Dec. 6, of “rheumatism of the heart.”
The Chariton Leader of Dec. 11 reported as follows: “Died, in this city, on Monday evening the 6th inst. Of Rheumatism of the heart. Mrs. E.A. Temple.
“The sad news of her death was received by all her friends with profound sorrow. For many years she has resided in this city, each year only serving to widen the circle of her devoted friends. Though blessed with no children of her own, a year or two ago she and her husband adopted into their family three little children left motherless by the death of Mrs. Temple’s sister (-in-law). The rearing and educating of them was to her a delight, while they added to her happiness by the cheerful light of their presence. The little fellows will lament her as a mother, and kind friends will miss her from their social circles. Funeral services were held at the St. Andrew’s church on Wednesday, after which the remains were deposited in their last resting place in the Chariton cemetery.”
Aided by his recently-widowed mother and maiden sister, Cecelia, Edward continued to father the two little girls, Harriet and Sarah. He never showed an inclination to remarry and seems to have been remarkably devoted to the memory of the late Elizabeth.
This devotion resulted in one of the odder census entries I’ve come across in many years of research. By 1900, Edward had moved his family to Des Moines and was living there on Ninth Street when the federal census was taken in June. Enumerated as a member of Edward’s household in addition to his sister, Cecilia, nieces Harriet and Sarah, and a servant named Alma Peterson was his wife, Elizabeth J. Temple, although dead now 20 years. According to the census entry, Elizabeth, born during May of 1830, was 70 years old and they had been married for 49 years. Few would have gone to the trouble of deceiving a census-taker in this manner, but obviously Elizabeth’s spirit still was very much alive in Edward’s heart.
Four years later, Edward ordered what would be Elizabeth’s final memorial --- a marble altar for the new St. Andrew’s Church in Chariton, an altar still in use in the parish although the building it was ordered for, in large part a monument to the Mallory family, has long since crumbled.