Barthinius Wick

Cedar Rapids man was known as a gentleman and a scholar

Barthinius Wick was a history buff, shown here in 1939.
Barthinius Wick was a history buff, shown here in 1939.

Barthinius Larson Wick was recognized on the wintry streets of Cedar Rapids by his trademark fur hat.

A 1949 Gazette story referred to him as "an agile, vigorous man," and he was the man behind the foundation that sponsored Cedar Rapids' Meth-Wick Manor retirement home.

He was a well-known lawyer and the resident authority on Cedar Rapids history. His book, "History of Linn County," was published in 1911 and co-authored by Luther Brewer. It often is used as a local reference.

Wick deplored the lack of attention paid to local history.

"I'm disgusted with people who don't save every relic as they do in the eastern states and in the old countries," he said. "There should be city and county historical societies everywhere, and we should preserve old letters and documents referring to the beginnings of the territory and state."

Native Norwegian

Wick was born Feb. 29, 1864, in Stavanger, Norway, to Lars and Inger Wick. The couple were Norwegian pioneers who had settled near Norway, Iowa.

Their only child won a scholarship to the University of Iowa to study history. He graduated in 1891 and received his master's degree in 1893. He also earned a bachelor of science degree and his law degree.

He taught history for a while but then fell ill with tuberculosis. Doctors advised him to return to his native Norway and spend time among the rocks and pines. He did and made a full recovery.

In 1893, he moved to Cedar Rapids to practice law. He held a solo law practice for 50 years, specializing in probate law, and took on a partner, Howard Smith, in the last years before he died. His law office in the old Order of Railway Conductors & Brakemen building at the corner of First Avenue and First Street contained an extensive library.

He loved reading, art and travel. His travels took him to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, the Bermudas and South America. He spoke several foreign languages and easily made friends on his travels.

According to his friend W.R. Boyd: "He knew Europe almost as well as most people know the town in which they live."

At a 1908 debate on the best place to be born, Wick defended his native Norway. He said that the Norwegians were believers in the Rooseveltian theory of 13 in a family. The children are early taught the lessons of freedom -- if you were born in Norway your father, your grandfather and your great-grandfather were free men.

"I believe in Norway and I believe in being born there, but I believe in getting to the United States as soon as possible."

Civic Service

Wick served on several boards in Cedar Rapids, including the library board and the board of the Home for Aged Women. He was appointed to the library board in 1908, but no one bothered to inform him or his fellow appointees until 1910. He willingly filled out the remainder of his six-year term and then served another term.

He also served as president of the Linn County Bar Association and the Linn County Historical Society. He also was a member of several state and national historical associations and was a director of the Security Savings Bank and the Morris Plan Co.

Helped Launch Meth-Wick

Wick never married. He died Oct. 8, 1947, in St. Luke's Hospital at the age of 83.

Wick was concerned about the welfare of aging single men. He noted that there were several options for women, but none for men. His estate left $300,000 to form a foundation that eventually partnered with the Upper Iowa Conference of the Methodist Church to build a retirement home. After learning there were not enough men of modest means to make the home a success, women were invited to stay as well. A 26-acre site was purchased in the late 1950s by his foundation, and ground was broken in 1960.Meth-Wick Manor, named for the Methodist Church and Wick, was opened for occupancy in late 1961. The facility now covers 65 acres with seven building residences.

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