Stories from more Distant Cousins

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I found interesting information while filling in the blanks on distant cousins. Joseph R Zuver, born in Pennsylvania in 1834 was my first cousin 5 times removed. He ended up in Iowa after raising his siblings and getting a law degree and eventually becoming a circuit court judge. This biography was written about his life –

“Joseph R. Zuver, circuit judge of the fourth district, is a native of Kittanning, Armstrong county, Pennsylvania, son of Jacob and Catherine Claypole (Claypool) Zuver, and was born on the 16th of September, 1833. His paternal grandfather came from Germany, and nothing is known of the family farther back. Joseph was the third child in a family of ten children, eight of whom are yet living. An elder brother had a feeble constitution, and at fifteen years of age Joseph had not only to take care of himself, but in a large measure, of his parents and younger members of the family.


At the age mentioned, with an ordinary common school education, he commenced flat-boating on the Alleghany and the Ohio rivers, operating on these streams, in various capacities, most of the time until thirty-four years old. He was a steam boat pilot during the first year of the civil war, and captain of a boat in 1862, 1866 and 1867.


During this period he also learned the carpenter’s trade, working at it at different periods. He also taught school three terms, and had pressing invitations to continue teaching; but he could make more at flat-boating and steam boating, and his responsibilities compelled him to make all the money that he could, without any regard to congeniality of pursuits.


In the spring of 1868 Judge Zuver came to the Missouri slope in Iowa; read law in Missouri Valley, Harrison county; was admitted to the bar at Magnolia, then the county seat, in June, 1869, and practiced in Missouri Valley and in Magnolia until he went on the bench. He was appointed circuit judge on the 7th of September, 1874, to fill a vacancy occasioned by the resignation of the Hon. Addison Oliver, now in congress; was elected by the people the next month, to fill the unexpired term; was re-elected in 1876, and now holds the office, his term expiring on the 31st of December 1880. Before going on the bench he was regarded as among the best read lawyers in the judicial district, and since assuming the ermine he has exhibited his eminent fitness for the honor, he having most of the qualities which make a good jurist.


Judge Zuver was a whig in early life, and has acted with the republican party since 1860. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and of the Masonic Fraternity, and is a man of undoubted honesty and of high moral character.


The judge was first married in January, 1861 to Miss Mary J. Richardson, of Pennsylvania. He had six children by her and five of them are living. His present wife was Mrs. Josie Marshall, of Missouri Valley Iowa, married on the 15th of February, 1872.


Though a well read lawyer, the judge has only moderate literary attainments. Realizing his deficiency in this respect, he takes good care that his children shall be well educated. They are all in the graded schools of Sioux City, and his eldest son, in his sixteenth year, is the best scholar, of his age, in the school. His attainments are almost astonishing.


While in Pennsylvania and Harrison county, Iowa, the judge did much good work in the school board, and probably the cause of education has no warmer friend in the state. Sioux City has been his home since June 1875, and as a citizen the people are beginning to realize and appreciate his worth.”


Of the judge’s five children, one, James M Zuver would meet an untimely and controversial death.


“The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) > 1900 > December > 2


Fatal Wreck on Elkorn

Special Engine Runs Into Freight near Nickerson


Fremont, Neb. Dec 1 – (Special) – A special engine which had been ordered west on the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri railroad dashed into an east bound special freight, three miles west of Nickerson, this afternoon about 4 o’clock. Both engines were badly demolished and Engineer James Zuver of the special engine was so badly injured that he died shortly afterwards.


Circumstances concerning the wreck are meager. As near as can be learned Zuver is held responsible for the accident, having run by Nickerson when he had been ordered to stop there. The accident was on a curve, and a bluff hid the approaching freight. None of the other trainmen are seriously injured, but all were worse for the experience. Sheriff Kreader, as acting coroner, went to the place this evening to hold an inquest. The work of removing the wreck was started at once and occupied four hours. All west bound trains were held there until the debris was removed.


Engineer Zuver is a son of Judge Zuver, who is well known in Sioux City. His run is out of Missouri Valley.”

James’ widow, Etta Ester Sayers Zuver Fitzgibbons, would end up suing for the loss of her husband 3 years later.

“Davenport Daily Republican (Davenport, Iowa) > 1903 > March > 6


Onawa, March 5 – Suit has been brought by Mrs. E. E. Fitzwuler (Etta Ester Zuver – Fitzgibbons) in the United States court at Council Bluffs against the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad Company, claiming $20,000 damages for the death of James Zuver, an engineer who was killed in a collision near Nickerson dec1, 1900.


James Zuver was a son of Judge Zuver, formerly judge of the district court of this district, and a resident of Sioux City for some years, and had a large acquaintance along the line of the old Sioux City & Pacific railroad. He was running and engine from Missouri Valley to Hooper, Neb., under special orders, which stated the track was clear, but owing to a conflict of orders, met his death in a collision.”


I haven’t found the conclusion to the suit yet. Etta’s new husband would raise James’ 2 children, Ivy and Joseph as his own. He and Etta never had children of their own. 


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