Many of us already know that Waukee was founded in 1869, when General Lewis Addison Grant and Major William Ragan purchased 320 acres of land from Cyrus W. Fischer. But how much do you know about these men? Let’s take a closer look at the life of Lewis Addison Grant.
Grant was born to James and Elizabeth Wyman Grant on January 17, 1828, in Winhall Hallow, Bennington County, Vermont. The youngest of 10 children, he attended school at the Academy at Chester in Townsend, Vermont until he was 16 years old. He also taught school for five years while he studied law. He passed the bar in 1855 and practiced law in Bellow Falls, Vermont.
Grant married S. Agasta Hartwell on March 11, 1857. The couple welcomed a daughter named Augusta Sarah in 1859. Unfortunately, his wife passed away on January 27, 1859. Lewis remarried four years later to Mary Helen Pierce—a niece of President Franklin Pierce. Together, they had two sons, Ulysses Sherman, born in 1867, and James Colfax, born in 1869.
Grant left the firm of Stoughton & Grant to enter the Army at the onset of the Civil War. He was commissioned major of the Fifth Vermont Infantry Volunteers which was mustered into service on September 16, 1861 at St. Albans, Vermont to serve three years.
According to war department records, Major Grant participated in several important battles with his brigade in the confederate army, including those in Yorktown on May 5, 1862; Golding Farm on June 28, 1862; Savage Station on June 29, 1862; White Oak Swamp on June 30, 1862; and Fredericksburg from December 13-14, 1862. In the position of Brigade Commander or Division Commander, he battled Fredericksburg and Salem Heights from May 3-5, 1863; Gettysburg from July 2-3, 1863; and many more.
“The battle at Salem Heights, Virginia, on May 3, 1863, was the first taste of combat leadership for Colonel Lewis Grant, who had assumed command of his brigade only two and one-half months earlier. He was cited for his heroic leadership in that action wherein, having already crossed the river, he deployed his men along Hazel run, outside Fredericksburg. The Confederate army poured out of the city and attacked the Union forces near Salem Church, where Colonel Grant led his men is a brave defense during which he was himself wounded. His forces held throughout the night, enabling the Sixth corps to cross the river the following morning.”
Grant was honorably discharged as a Colonel on May 20, 1864. He then accepted an appointment as Brigadier General of Volunteers. The same year, he was commissioned Major General of United States Volunteers for gallant and meritorious service in the campaign before Richmond, Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. From June 18 to July 10, 1864, he and his men were at the Siege of Petersburg; from Dec. 1864 to April 1865, they were at the assault on Petersburg; and from April 2-6, 1865, they were at Sailor Creek.
Our General Grant was a distinguished officer and a commander of the famed Vermont Brigade. Honorably discharged on August 24, 1865, he was approached to accept another commission in July of 1866. After four years of serving, he declined the honor, preferring to live a private life.
After his discharge, General Grant resumed practicing law in Moline, Illinois and later, in Des Moines.
In 1869, his land investment company, Grant, Ragan and Co., planned and laid out our Waukee. General Grant’s business ventures led him to the Twin Cities. His real estate interests in the Twin Cities eventually demanded more of his attention and he and his family moved there.
From 1890-1893, he served as Assistant Secretary of War. During six weeks of this time (Nov. 5, 1891 to Dec. 17, 1891), he served as Acting Secretary of War, under President Benjamin Harrison, until Secretary Elkins entered office. On May 11, 1893, General Grant received the Medal of Honor for his part in the Battle of Salem Heights.
Lewis Grant died at the age of 90 on March 20, 1918, in Minneapolis. He is buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.