A Narrative History
The People of Iowa
SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN
EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY,
EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M.
Curator of the
Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa
THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc.
Chicago and New York
WILLIAM F. GHORMLEY. Of the men who are identified with the various forms
of insurance at Des Moines, the career of William F. Ghormley, president of
the Harvester Horticultural Mutual Insurance Association, is probably one of
the most interesting and unique. When he started in this business it was as a
solicitor of hail insurance in Minnesota, at a salary of fifteen dollars a
week. Today, as a result of his own industry and business ability, he is at
the head of one of the largest enterprises of its kind in the Middle West.
Mr. Ghormley was born at Yates City, Knox County, Illinois, October 14, 1858, and is a son of William C. and Elizabeth (Coyner)Ghormley. He is a direct descendant of Gorm the Old, who in 920 united all the small Danish states, and his grandson, Sweyn, who became the head of a powerful kingdom as a result, began the conquest of Norway and of England, which was ultimately completed by his son Canute. Gorm the Old served as king of Denmark for forty-one years, had six sons who served as kings, and his daughter married three kings and two of her sons were kings. Later generations changed both the name and the habitation of the family, and Hugh Ghormley, came to America from North of Ireland prior to 1766, settling in Pennsylvania, where was born his son,
Thomas. The latter moved to Greenfield,Ohio, the birthplace of Hugh Ghormley, the grandfather of William F. Ghormley.
William C. Ghormley, the father of William F. Ghormley, was born at Greenfield, Ohio, where he met and married Elizabeth Coyner, a native of the same place, and a daughter of Robert Coyner, who was born in Virginia, but lived the greater part of his life in Ohio. He was a slave-owner in his earlier years, but eventually set his slaves free, and in Ohio devoted himself to the pursuits of agriculture, in which he became very successful. He was also a prominent and influential man in his community, where he served in the capacity of justice of the peace. He was a son of Luther and Susan Coyner, and a grandson of Martin Coyner, the ninth son of Jacob and Margaret (Diller) Konadt, as the name was then spelled. Jacob Konadt or Coyner was born in Wurttemburg, Germany, and came to America in the early 1700s, here marrying and founding the
family in Pennsylvania.
William C. Ghormley came to Iowa from Illinois in 1877 and purchased a farm
in Greene County. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church, a Republican,
a prohibitionist and an abolitionist. Both he and his worthy wife have
passed away. They were the parents of eight children, of whom two survive:
William F., of this review; and Rev. Newton B., a minister of the Free Methodist
Church of Butte, Nebraska.
The common schools furnished William F. Ghormley with his early educational
training, following which he pursued a course at the Omaha Commercial
College, Omaha, Nebraska. He then was engaged in farming in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado until he was thirty years of age, and it is recorded that within the space of two years he owned at different times fifty-four farms in the State of Iowa. His first work after he had given up farming was as a solicitor of hail insurance in Minnesota at fifteen dollars a week, and later he was advanced to eighteen dollars and then to twenty-three dollars. Subsequently he was given a district agency, and from that time to the present his career has been one of rapid and constant advancement. In 1900 Mr. Ghormley founded the Horticultural Insurance Company, of which he still holds the charter, and which he operated successfully for a period of more than two decades. In 1921 he disposed of the business of this concern for $275,000, and in Des Moines purchased the Harvester Horticultural Mutual Insurance Association, a strictly hail insurance business, of which he has since been president. He has achieved a big financial as well as personal success, and is one of the best known and most highly esteemed men in the insurance field. His commodious offices are located in the Valley National Bank Building.
In 1880 Mr. Ghormley was united in marriage with Miss Martha Fross, who was
born at Madison, Wisconsin, and died in 1896. They became the parents of six
children, of whom three are living; Bertha, the wife of Glen Tidrick, an insurance man of Des Moines; Elinor, also the wife of an insurance man of Des Moines, Charles A. Housh; and Grace, the wife of Leland Parr, who taught at
the University of Chicago, for five years, has been a teacher of biology in Egypt for years, and is now a professor on the faculty of the American College, Beirut, Syria. In 1900 William F. Ghormley married Frances L. Gardner, of Leon, Iowa, and they have one son, Hugh W., who was educated at Drake and University of Chicago, was formerly a member of the faculty of Butler University,
Indianapolis, Indiana, and since the age of seventeen years has been a preacher of the Christian faith. William F. Ghormley is a member of the Christian Church and of the Board of Elders thereof. Fraternally he is affiliated with
the Brotherhood of American Yeomen and the A. O. U. W. Politically he is a Republican, and at one time served as secretary of the Laymen's Civic Union.
*Check your facts, don't know how accurate.