Farwell ancestors make stop in Monticello

Last week, a decendant of S.S. Farwell, his great great grandson, stopped in Monticello to take in his family’s local history. Stephen Farwell Templeton and his wife Beth from Georgia spent a couple days in town. While at the Heritage Center, Stephen got an up-close and personal look at S.S. Farwell’s battle sword from the Civil War. He recalled playing with the sword as a child.

Several locals shared their knowledge of local history with the Templetons. From left are Byron Freese, Jones County Historical Society; Pam (Norlin) Foley; Stephen and Beth Templeton; Jan Hoag, Monticello Chamber director; and Bob Hendricks, Heritage Center Board. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Dr. Stephen Templeton takes in a room at the Monticello Heritage Center dedicated to the history of John McDonald Hospital.
Visit with local historians on family history
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     So many people remember the “Farwell House,” located on N. Chestnut Street in Monticello.

     That house saw many owners in its time, most notably Mary and Gus Norlin, who had the historic home restored and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. (Today the home is owned by David Penn.) The home was built in 1869; S.S. Farwell acquired it in 1876.

     While the Farwell name is non-existent in Monticello, Major S.S. (Sewell Spaulding) Farwell’s great great grandson recently paid a visit to the town his ancestors once lived and thrived.

     Dr. Stephen Farwell Templeton (yes, his middle name is his family’s claim to fame) and his wife, Beth, of Georgia, drove through Iowa on their way north to their son’s wedding in Minneapolis.

     Stephen’s Farwell family lineage includes:

     • S.S. Farwell, great great grandfather

     • Luna (Farwell) Templeton, great grandmother

     • Henry Farwell Templeton, grandfather

     • Stuart Templeton, father

     Having never lived or visited Monticello in his life, Stephen wanted to see the homes and sites associated with his family’s history.

     Stephen was born and grew up in Texas. It was Henry Templeton who brought the Farwell/Templeton name to Texas.

     Since his father, Stuart, passed away, Stephen said his uncle, Philip Farwell Templeton, was excited for his nephew to see Monticello.

     While in town, the Templetons visited the Farwell mansion, the Farwell farm, Oakwood Cemetery, the old library, the United Church of Monticello, the Monticello Heritage and Cultural Center, and the building that houses Monticello Sports.

     “It was a blessing to see the Farwell house,” remarked Stephen of the Chestnut Street home. “I have pictures of the house before it was renovated.”

     With the Farwell home on Chestnut Street, the Farwell farm is located north on Highway 38, now owned by Russ and Danica Hughes. That house was built by S.S. Farwell in 1858.

     The farmhouse once housed Zopher and Betsey Farwell, S.S. Farwell’s parents.

     The Monticello Sports building is the former Monticello State Bank. S.S. Farwell was one of the first stakeholders of the bank.

     The Templetons were able to get a tour of the building, thanks to Todd Lambert, who showed them the original bank vault door in the basement.

     The United Church is now a combined Methodist and Congregationalist church. The Farwells were once members of the First Congregationalist Church in Monticello.

     They ended their two-day stop in Monticello visiting with several local historians at the Heritage Center: Pam (Norlin) Foley, Jan Hoag, Byron Freese, and Bob Hendricks. Nick Strittmatter also stopped in briefly. Nick and Anne Strittmatter live in the Carpenter house on N. Walnut Street, built by Henry Carpenter in 1896. Henry (H.M.) Carpenter married S.S. Farwell’s daughter Mary.

     Once the Templestons were referred to the Monticello Chamber for their visit, Hoag set up a roundtable of sorts to share some local history with Stephen and Beth. (Hoag actually lived in two of the homes adjacent to the Farwell House.

     Freese brought with him a prized possession in the hands of the Jones County Historical Society at Edinburgh Village: S.S. Farwell’s battle sword. To Stephen’s delight, he had not set eyes on the sword since he was a little boy.

     “My grandpa had the sword in Texas,” he recalled. “We played with it as children.”

     Stephen said when he and his brother, as children, saw the rust spots forming on the sword they thought it was dried blood from Farwell’s battles during the war.

     The sword as an inscription on it noting that it is a Tiffany & Co. sword, made in New York City.

     Faoley also presented the Templetons with DVDs containing footage of Gus Norlin giving tours of the Farwell home and gardens.

     Through the years, Foley’s father, Gus Norlin made contact with Henry Farwell, even acquiring an unbound copy of the Farwell Biographies 1736-1865.” Gus passed the book down to Foley, who’s had it ever since her father passed away. The book was written by Luna (Farwell) Templeton, and covers the family’s travels from New Hampshire, Ohio, and Iowa. The book also contains transcripts of S.S. Farwell’s letters from the battlefields home during the Civil War.

     “My brother Scott has the only bound copy remaining,” shared Stephen.

     S.S. Farwell was a local hero, veteran, and philanthropist. He’s the first Monticello resident to be named to the Pioneer Division Hall of Fame. He served in the 47th Congress from 1881-83, the only Monticello resident to serve U.S. Congress.

     He moved to Monticello shortly before the Civil War and established residency. Her served in the Union Army as a captain and advanced his rank. According to the “History of Jones County” book, a group of local soldiers held elections for officers, naming S.S. Farwell captain.

     According to a letter Stephen shared written from his grandfather, Henry Farwell, in 1976, “Sewell felt obligated to serve his country and was instrumental in forming a company of recruits from the Monticello area. He was appointed captain by this group and commanded them throughout the entire war.”

     He served in the Iowa Senate from 1866-68.

     Locally, Farwell is responsible for many attractions. He was one of the original Jones County Fair Board members. He was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Monticello in 1858. In 1909, he presented the soldier’s monument to the Oakwood Cemetery Association. He hosted several fundraisers and dinners for the original library in his home. In 1903, he was appointed one of the first trustees of the library, and later served as president of the board.

     S.S. Farwell passed away in September 1909, shortly after he dedicated the soldiers monument.

     “We always wanted to come here,” noted Stephen. “I’d always heard about the Farwell House.”

     “I guarantee you people in this town have no recollection of Farwell,” noted Foley of the local history.


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