Paul S. Reinsch Papers, 1835-1924, 1963

Biography/History

Joseph Weeks Babcock, for fourteen years a Republican congressman from Wisconsin's Third District, was born in Swanton, Vermont, March 6, 1850. He was named in honor of his maternal grandfather, Joseph Weeks, a congressman from New Hampshire, and for many years was known by his forebear's last name. When Babcock was five years old his family moved to a farm in Butler County, Iowa. Not long after, they removed to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where the father operated a lumber business. After attending Mount Vernon College, Babcock worked in his father's business. In 1872 he entered the employ of the Ingram, Kennedy and Day Lumber Company of Dubuque. Six years later when the firm Weston, Burch & Co. purchased his father's company, Babcock returned to work for the firm in a junior capacity. He succeeded to such a degree that six years later he purchased an interest, changing the name of the firm to Burch and Babcock. In 1881 Burch and Babcock purchased the Necedah Lumber Company, and Babcock moved to that city to manage the firm. In subsequent years Babcock prospered, ultimately becoming one of Wisconsin's wealthiest men.

Babcock's political career began in 1888 when he was elected to the Wisconsin legislature. Four years later he was elected to Congress. In Washington he chaired the District of Columbia Committee and served on Ways and Means. From 1894 to 1904 he was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. As such, he gained national prominence by successfully managing six consecutive national Republican campaigns. Babcock was also a political broker in Wisconsin, and in 1900 he was instrumental in securing the election of Robert M. La Follette Sr., as governor. Within two years, however, the two men had split over the issue of primary elections, and in 1906 La Follette's opposition was a key factor in Babcock's electoral defeat. Babcock died April 27, 1909.

Babcock married Mary A. Finch of Lyon, Iowa in 1867. She died of cancer in 1899. The couple had one son, Charles Ebenezer, and an adopted daughter, Amelia M. Reed.

Charles E. Babcock was born on November 11, 1868 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He graduated from Oberlin College and the University of Michigan law school, although he never practiced. Instead, when his father went to Washington, Charles managed the Necedah Lumber Company. By the end of the century the firm had cut all of its timber, and Charles moved into other commercial operations in Necedah including real estate and banking. He married Eva Fuller in 1894. Charles Babcock died in an automobile accident in 1926.