ITS HISTORY AND TRADITION
G. S. TOLIVER
To Gillum S. Toliver, of Jefferson, Greene county, belongs the distinction
of being the oldest member of the bar in his county, and his record of
sixty-two years of continuous practice of his profession is probably not excelled in this state. During all these years, covering the most momentous events of the world's history, there has not been a time when he was not regarded as one of the leaders of the bar, while as a private citizen he has stood as the peer of any of his fellowmen.
In the paternal line of descent Mr. Toliver comes from old English ancestry,
though the earliest antecedent of whom any definite facts are known was Jesse
Toliver, of Virginia, from which state he joined the Continental army, serving seven years in the war of the Revolution, during five years of which time he was a captain of the line. Among his children was John Toliver, who became a farmer in Ashe county, North Carolina, and who was the father of Isom Toliver, who was born in Ashe county July 29, 1814.
In young manhood the latter migrated to Owen county, Indiana, where he was
married and where he devoted himself to the creation of a farm out of the
wilderness which then characterized that section of the country. In the spring
of 1848, with their five children, he and his wife started westward, traveling
with oxen and wagon, wending their way through Illinois and Missouri and as
far as Salem, Arkansas, when they decided that Richland county, Illinois,
presented the best outlook for a future home, and there they located. This was
their home until the fall of 1853, when again they started toward the setting
sun. They spent the ensuing winter in Wapello county, Iowa, and on April 6,
1854, came to Greene county, where Mr. Toliver entered three hundred acres
of government land. They were the tenth family to settle in this county and
the fourth family west of the river in what is now Franklin township. Here
Isom Toliver developed a valuable farm from the raw prairie and lived there
until 1868, when he sold that place and bought an improved farm in Bristol
township, where he made his home during the remaining years of his life, his death occurring there September 13, 1893. During the forty years in which he lived in this county he evinced the keenest interest in the welfare and development of the community, cooperating in every possible way for the advancement of the public good, and enjoyed to a marked degree the respect and confidence of his fellowmen. While living in Indiana he had been a member of the United
Brethren church and he always stood for those things which were best in community life, his own life being an example of right living. He belonged to the Masonic order and exemplified its beneficent teachings in his actions.
Politically he was a whig until the dissolution of that party, from which time he was a stanch republican.
On August 6, 1836, in Owen county, Indiana, Isom Toliver was married to Miss
Matilda Reynolds, who was born in Randolph county, North Carolina, a
daughter of James and Sally (Greene) Reynolds, the latter a relative of General
Nathanael Greene, of Revolutionary war fame. Mrs. Toliver died January 14, 1893.
To them were born eleven children, four of whom died in childhood, the
others being as follows: John H. was born in Indiana and came to Greene county
with his parents. He enlisted for service in the Thirty-ninth Regiment, Iowa
Volunteer Infantry, of which he became fife major, but before going to the
front he was taken sick and died in Davenport, Iowa, leaving a wife, whose
maiden name was Nancy King. Gillum S. is the immediate subject of this sketch.
J. M. became a prominent attorney of Lake City, Iowa, where he located in
1871. He was a second lieutenant of Company E, Thirty-ninth Regiment, Iowa
Volunteer Infantry, and for years was district attorney for the northwestern
district of this state. He was married to Mary Stanford, a daughter of James
Stanford, an early settler of Greene county. J. C. served as a private for two
years in Company H, Tenth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and afterward
engaged in the practice of law in Ainsworth, Nebraska, where he also served as
judge of the county court. He had been recorder of Greene county two terms.
He married Ella McCoy, of this county. D. R., who became a member of the
livery firm of Lower & Toliver, of Jefferson, was married to Margaret Mosteller,
a daughter of Peter Mosteller, an early settler of Bristol township. Terry
J. became the wife of A. H. McClurg, of Brush, Colorado. Isom M., who became
a farmer in Molalla, Oregon, was married to Mollie Forbes, of Greene county.
Gillum S. Toliver was born in Owen county, Indiana, on the 11th of February,
1840, and was a lad of fourteen years when the family came to Greene county, Iowa. There was not at that time a schoolhouse in this county, but in the summer of 1856 he attended school for three months at Panora, Guthrie county,
and in the winter of 1856-7 pursued his studies for three months when Captain A. R. Mills taught in the Brand schoolhouse in Washington township, Greene county. That winter there were ninety pupils in the school, coming from a radius of five miles up and down the river. He also attended school during the two following winters and taught school in the summer of 1859. The money which he earned teaching school in Washington township was contributed toward the building of a house on the home farm in Franklin township. In September, 1860, he walked from Greene county to Ottumwa, Iowa, to take the examination that would permit him to teach a school in Wapello county, where he had an
uncle living. He was four days in making the trip, an dall the money he had was a three dollar bill. Money was so scarce in the district that at the different places where he stopped for food and lodging no one could change the bill, until at his last stop a settler changed it and charged him ten cents for the accommodation. At Ottumwas he spent five cents for cheese and crackers, making his total expenses for the journey fifteen cents. While in Wapello county he worked on Saturdays in order to pay his board. During that winter he spent nine dollars for clothes and then in the spring he walked back home, carrying with him one hundred and forty-one dollars as the proceeds of his winter's work. Ambitious for further education, he then entered Western College, but while there the boys from Greene county who had enlisted for the war
rendezvoused at Iowa City and Mr. Toliver, fired with the spirit of patriotism, enlisted in Company H, Tenth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, September 28, 1861, remaining with that command until discharged because of rheumatism in May, 1862. On his return home, he entered Iowa State University, at Iowa City, and later attended the law school of the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor. While in college, he was appointed county surveyor of Greene county, to fill a vacancy, serving one year, and then was elected to the full two year term. In 1868-9 he was elected county treasurer, in which position he proved
himself an able and efficient public officer.
In 1865 Mr. Toliver has been admitted to the bar and in 1870 he formed a law
partnership with J. J. Russell, a relation which was continued uninterrupted
until the death of Mr. Russell in 1901, this firm standing as the most
prominent and successful law firm in Greene county. Since then Mr. Toliver has been alone in the practice and has sustained a reputation for keenness and sagacity that has been well merited, for he has been uniformly successful and has always been a foreman worthy of any man's steel. An eloquent and convincing speaker, thorough in his analysis, determined in his fight for any cause in which he is interested, and exceedingly safe and sound as an adviser, he has commanded the absolute confidence of the public and the highest measure of respect on the part of his professional colleagues, and easily stands in the very forefront of the distinguished lawyers of his section of the state. On February 26, 1873, Mr. Toliver was united in marriage to Miss Belle Blake, who was born in Pennsylvania, June 24, 1856, a daughter of Charles T. and Sarah A. (Taylor) Blake, the latter of whom was a relative of General Zachary Taylor. To Mr. and Mrs. Toliver were born two children: Iris, who became the wife of F. D. Milligan, of Jefferson; and Portia, who became the wife of A. W. Goke.
Politically Mr. Toliver has been a lifelong supporter of the republican
party and has maintained a keen interest in public affairs. He represented
Greene, Calhoun, Pocahontas and Humboldt counties ably in the thirteenth general assembly and for thirty-six years was president of the commission for the insane of Greene county. He is a member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. Kindly and courteous in manner, upright in character and clean in life, he has well merited the exalted place which he has long held.