McElroy, William O.

W. O. McElroy

The Newton Public Library was officially organized in July, 1896 with W. O. McElroy as chairman of the board of trustees.[1] According to his biography in the 1912 history of Jasper County, Iowa, McElroy was president of the library board “ever since the library was built, about sixteen years ago, in fact, the city is largely indebted to him for securing the handsome donation by Andrew Carnegie for the building, and Mr. McElroy spent a great deal of time in seeing that the building was erected according to plans and specifications, spending a great deal more time in this way than one would naturally suppose, but he has the good of the community at heart and has ever sought to serve the public well.”[2]

William Owen McElroy, the son of Hugh and Martha (Kerr) McElroy, both natives of Ohio, was born in Fayette County, Ohio, February 2, 1858.[3] The family emigrated to Jasper County, when their son, W. O., was 11 years of age, locating about five miles north of Newton.[4] W. O. McElroy spent his early life on the home farm assisting with the general work during the crop season.[5] He attended the common schools in the winter time, also took a course at Hazel Dell Academy at Newton.[6] In 1880, he entered Iowa Agricultural College in Ames, taking a course in civil engineering; he graduated there in 1881.[7] For two years he followed this profession, but “having entertained a laudable ambition to enter the legal profession,” he began the study of law in 1883 with Col. David Ryan, of Newton.[8] He was admitted to the bar six months later.[9] Thereafter, he practiced law in Jasper County from 1884 to 1914.[10] He was also a partner with J. B. Eyerly in the Newton firm of McElroy & Eyerly, abstracts, loans, and real estate.[11] On September 6, 1888, McElroy was united in marriage with Julia Cavanagh (1860-1935), of Iowa City.[12] They were the parents of four children: Margaret, Harold, Richard, and Carroll.[13] In addition to his service as president of the library board, McElroy served as city solicitor and as a member of the school board.[14] A longtime trustee of the Iowa State College at Ames, he was chairman of the board for six years.[15] He was a Republican in politics, but was not especially active in political affairs.[16] Fraternally, he stood high in Masonic circles, being a member of the blue lodge, and having attained the Royal Arch and Knight Templar degrees.[17] He and his family worshipped at the Congregational Church.[18] At the time of his passing in 1914 at age 56, Iowa Library Quarterly lamented, “The public library has suffered a great loss in the death of W. O. McElroy, who had served as president of the library board since the establishment of the library was authorized by law in 1894. During that time he gave his best thought and earnest endeavor to the advancement of library interests.”[19] Prof. E. J. H. Beard was appointed to complete McElroy’s unexpired term as president, and the new trustee was A. K. Lufkin (also q. v.).[20]

-Larry Ray Hurto

[1] 1896-1957 Library Trustees, Newton Public Library History.

[2] Gen. James B. Weaver, ed., Past and Present of Jasper County, Iowa, Vol. I (Indianapolis, IN: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1912), p. 498.

[3] Ibid., p. 496.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 497.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Newton Daily News, August 24, 1914.

[11] J. M. Young, comp., Newton City Directory; 1899-1900 (Newton, IA: Journal Print, 1899), p. 81.

[12] Past and Present of Jasper County, Iowa, p. 497.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., p. 498.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid. This source says that McElroy served as County Attorney but this writer could find no confirmation of this.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Iowa Library Quarterly, July-September, 1914, p. 110. McElroy died August 24, 1914. Newton Daily Journal, August 24, 1914. “Death was caused by a slow hemorrhage of the brain which developed during the latter part of last week,” The Newton Daily News reported on August 24, 1914. McElroy is buried with his wife and son, Harold, in Newton Union Cemetery. Jasper County Genealogical Society, comp., Jasper County, Iowa, Cemeteries: Newton Union Cemetery, Blocks 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 (Des Moines: Iowa Genealogical Society, 1994), p. 518.

[20] Iowa Library Quarterly, July-September, 1914, p. 110.