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BONSON, William Watts

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Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
BONSON, William Watts (Dubuque, Ia, May 22, 1870--May 6, 1946). Educated in the local schools, Bonson attended the state university for two years and then entered law school at Columbia College. He returned to Dubuque and entered legal practice with his brother, Robert BONSON. (1)

W. W. Bonson was elected an alderman from the Fourth Ward on April 5, 1895. He also served as secretary of the NUTWOOD DRIVING CLUB and the HIGHLAND STOCK FARM and was a director of the GERMAN BANK. (2) In 1900 Bonson was secretary of the Dubuque Water Company when it was purchased by the city. (3)

In February 1904 a large amount of money was borrowed by W. W. Bonson, Robert BONSON, and Peter KIENE to construct boats and machinery doing business as the IOWA IRON WORKS.

Notes were signed or endorsed by W. W. Bonson and Robert BONSON and given to Peter Kiene with the assurance that he would be responsible for the debt. There was no further accounting between the Bonsons and Kiene, who paid the interest on the indebtedness, but sold the notes to other parties. In 1914 the firm of PETER KIENE AND SON fell into bankruptcy.

Burnage Villa (1951) Photo courtesy: Robert E. Bonson
Burnage Villa (1979) later became the basis of FOUNTAIN PARK. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
The total Bonson indebtedness came to $150,000 (worth $3,697,860.00 in 2018). Their assets turned over to the bankruptcy court included holdings in the Bonson Concentrator Company with its subsidiaries, over forty separate tracts of land and their holdings in over 1,000 acres of mineral lots, lands and properties in Dubuque County. They also had to forfeit their residence and farm of about 140 acres known as "Burnage Villa" which had been the homestead of the Bonson family for over thirty years. The only exceptions were claimed for life insurance and personal and household goods and wages. (4)

Legal trouble continued. In March, 1922 Frederick C. ROBINSON filed suit in district court against the Bonson Dry Concentrator Company, KLAUER MANUFACTURING COMPANY, Bonson Dry Process Company, W. W. Bonson, and William H. KLAUER for $2,600 he alleged was due him on an unsatisfied judgement awarded him on unpaid notes for borrowed money. The plaintiff also sought to have the respective rights of the partners in a specified list of mining machinery be determined by the court. (5)



1 "W. W. Bonson," Dubuque Daily Herald Souvenir Edition, January 25 1896, p. 30

2. Ibid.

3. "The Committee Accepts," The Dubuque Herald, January 28, 1900, p. 9

4. "Bonsons File Petitions in Bandruptcy," The Telegraph-Herald, February 17 1914, p. 1

5. "Courthouse News," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, March 7, 1922, p. 9