Club News – Newton Daily News

Kiwanis Club

Emerson Hough would be surprised if anyone spent a year researching his life. But Dr. Tom Hoover did. And while Hoover said Hough had a “fascinating life,” Hough himself felt his life wasn’t worth much. He suffered from “numerous childhood illnesses,” Hoover said, as well as anxiety and depression.

Hoover, a former East Iowa history teacher and coach and former director of educational services for Newton Schools, spoke to the Newton Noon Kiwanis Club on May 18.

In addition to rubbing shoulders with Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Hough has written 33 books (including one in collaboration with “Wizard of Oz” author L. Frank Baum). His works have also served as the basis for 13 films. He was a lifelong friend of Pat Garrett, known for killing Billy the Kid.

Hough was born in Newton in 1857. His childhood home is located across from his namesake school, Emerson Hough Elementary. Hough was a member of the first class of three to graduate from Newton High School in 1875.

He attended the University of Iowa, earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and then became a lawyer. Finding there were too many lawyers in Newton, he moved to White Oak, NM, opening a law practice and writing for the local newspaper for $5 a week.

He moved back to Iowa when his mother was sick. Later, he traveled the country writing for newspapers. In 1899, he was hired by George Bird Grinnell as Western editor of “Forest and Stream” magazine. Through an assignment for the magazine, Hough investigated the bison population in Yellowstone National Park. His study found that mainly due to poaching, the park’s herd had been drastically reduced. Largely due to Hough’s efforts, the U.S. Congress passed legislation making poaching in national parks a criminal offense.

Hough helped convince President Wilson to create the National Park Service (1916) and also helped found the Izaak Walton League (1922), Hoover said, adding, “He said his fervor for conservation came of his childhood in Iowa. and watch farmers tend to their crops.

Hough married Charlotte Chesebro of Chicago in 1897. He died April 30, 1923, in Evanston, Illinois, a week after seeing the Chicago premiere of “The Covered Wagon”, based on his 1922 book.

Hough is quoted as saying, “I never had any money at all, or social standing, or influential friends, or genius or talent, or favoring opportunities as far as I know. I had my education, my “sand”, and that was it.

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