In the year 1883, a young man moved to Marshalltown and began to “read law”. He worked in the law firm of Sutton and Childs. This was the normal method at that time to become a practicing lawyer. You started to work with an existing lawyer or law firm. In Iowa, after two or more years, you could apply for admission to practice law. The Iowa Supreme Court had several rules which needed to be followed before an applicant could be admitted to practice law. This young man, Benjamin Franklin Cummings, was admitted to practice law in Iowa in late 1885.
B.F. Cummings traveled a long way to get to Marshalltown. He was born in 1864 in Binghamton, NY. When B.F. Cummings came to Marshalltown in 1883 and began to “read law” with the law firm of Sutton & Childs, that law firm was located at 5 West Main Street. Two men, Preston Sutton and William Childs had been practicing law together. After working in the law firm for over two years, Cummings was admitted to practice law in Iowa.
B.F. Cummings began the practice of law as a solo practitioner in Marshalltown with his office upstairs at 8 South First Avenue. His law practice progressed and by the year 1891, he was City Attorney for the City of Marshalltown. By 1896, he was serving as Marshall County attorney as well as conducting his own private practice.
By the year 1897, his practice had progressed to the point that a young man who had grown up in the LeGrand area, Gilbert A. Mote, asked to “read law” and work in the B.F. Cummings Law Office. Two years later in 1899, Mote was admitted to practice law by the Iowa Supreme Court. In the year 1900, the office obtained its first telephone.
The two men practiced together, still at 8 South First Avenue as Cummings & Mote. The two continued their law practice until 1915 when Cummings became an Iowa District Court Judge. Judge Cummings continued to serve as a District Court Judge in the 17th Judicial District, which consisted of Marshall, Tama and Benton counties, until the time of his death in 1930. Cummings was one of the two judges in the 17th Judicial District.
In the year 1923, the law office moved from “over” 8 South First Avenue to “over” 30 East Main Street. It remained at this new location for 38 years. The next move occurred in 1961 when the law office moved to the 3rd floor of the Masonic Temple Building at 26 South First Avenue. Initially, the office rented approximately one-half of the 3rd floor. Today it rents all of the 3rd floor and approximately a third of the 2nd floor.
When Cummings became a judge in 1915, Mote practiced alone until 1942. Mote’s nephew Arley Wilson grew up on a farm in the Green Mountain area, about a mile south of Green Mountain on the west side of the road (now known as Wallace Avenue). Arley graduated from Green Mountain High School in 1929 and later, in 1931, from Marshalltown Junior College. He then attended Iowa State Teacher’s College (now University of Northern Iowa) and graduated in 1933. In September 1939, Arley entered the College of Law in Iowa City. He graduated and passed the Iowa Bar Exam in May 1942.
Upon graduation from Law School, Wilson returned to Marshalltown for one month while he practiced law with his uncle, Gilbert Mote. The firm then became known as Mote & Wilson. Arley entered the Armed Forces on July 3, 1942 and attended Officers’ Candidate School. He then served during World War II as a reconnaissance pilot primarily scouting for enemy troop movements and as an artillery liaison officer with the 88th Div. in North Africa until February, 1944 when he was transferred to the Italian Theater. Arley was discharged from the Army in 1946 with the rank of Captain. Arley had been decorated numerous times. He was awarded the air medal with 9 Oak Leaf Clusters and three battle stars. After returning from military service, Arley again joined his uncle Gilbert Mote and the law firm continued to be known as Mote & Wilson. Arley continued to practice law until his death in 1982.
The next member of the law firm was William L. Welp. He was born in Bancroft, Iowa and graduated from St. John’s High School in Bancroft in June, 1937. He then attended Mankato Commercial College in Mankato, Minnesota where he graduated. He then attended the University of Iowa and was a student in the College of Commerce. He graduated in May of 1942. While a student, he also lettered in baseball where he played catcher for the Hawkeyes. Following graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy and served for three and one half years. Most of this time was aboard ship in the Pacific Ocean in the war against Japan. After service was over, he tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers in spring training the same year Jackie Robinson tried. Bill attended the College of Law at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and graduated in June 1951. Following graduation, Bill moved to Marshalltown where he joined the Mote & Wilson Law firm in June 1951. Bill practiced continuously with the firm until he retired on January 1, 1987. While in Marshalltown, Bill also played baseball for the Marshalltown Ansons. He was their catcher for 5 or 6 years. Bill died in 1997. The law firm name was changed to Mote, Wilson and Welp in 1955.
Roger E. Harrison next joined the firm. Roger graduated from Vinton High School in 1950. He attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City for one year and then attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids for one year. By doing this, he was able to continue his summer night job of working at Wilson’s Packing Plant in Cedar Rapids. In 1952, Roger was drafted and served two years in the U.S. Army. Most of this time was spent in Japan, Korea and Okinawa. After completing his military service, Roger returned to the University of Iowa in 1955 and graduated from the College of Commerce in 1956. He then attended the College of Law in Iowa City and graduated in August 1958.
The next lawyer to join the law firm of Mote, Wilson & Welp was Allen E. Brennecke. He graduated from Marshalltown High School in 1955, from the University of Iowa in business administration in 1959 and from the College of Law in Iowa City in 1961. After graduating from law school, he worked for one year as a law clerk for the Honorable Roy L. Stephenson, who was then a new U.S. District Court Judge in the Southern District of Iowa. Allen began working at the law firm July 1, 1962. Al Brennecke died April 28, 2021.
The next attorney to join the law firm was James R. Moore, from Story City, Iowa. He graduated from Boone High School in 1959 and attended Iowa State University from 1959 to 1963. Following graduation in 1963, he entered the Drake University Law School and graduated in May of 1966. Jim has served as the senior partner in the firm continuously since 2000. These years are second only to Arley Wilson who was senior partner from 1960 until 1980. In the year 1981, the firm name was changed to Welp, Harrison, Brennecke & Moore.
The next attorney to join the law firm was Leslie E. Smaha. He grew up on a farm southeast of Green Mountain and graduated from Green Mountain High School in 1961. Les attended the University of Iowa and graduated from the College of Business in 1965. He then attended the Iowa Law School and graduated from the College of Law in 1968. He worked in the summer of 1966 as a clerk for the Mote, Wilson and Welp Law Firm. Thereafter, he joined the Iowa National Guard and went to basic training in the fall of 1968 and the winter of 1969. He began working at Mote, Wilson and Welp full-time in the spring of 1969. Les became ill and died in January of 2003.
Larry E. McKibben was the next attorney to join the law firm. Larry was born in 1947 in Marshalltown. He graduated from Marshalltown High School in 1965 and attended Marshalltown Community College for one year. Thereafter, he attended the University of Northern Iowa and graduated in January of 1970. He became a student in the College of Law at the University of Iowa in Iowa City in the Fall of 1970 and graduated in December, 1972. Larry began working as an associate at Mote, Wilson and Welp in January 1973. Since 1981, he has been a member of the Board of Directors of Farmers Savings Bank. He is also a past president of the Marshalltown Community School District Board of Directors.
Larry was the Republican candidate for the Iowa Senate in the 1996 election. He was successful and served for twelve years in the Iowa Senate. In 1998, he was the Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa’s Third Congressional District. Unfortunately he was not successful in this election. In 2013, he was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad to be a member of the Iowa Board of Regents which has responsibilities for the three Iowa Universities and the State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind.
Larry McKibben retired from the full time practice of law in 2021 but continues in an "of Counsel" role with the firm.
James L. Goodman attended Marshalltown Schools until his graduation in 1968. He then attended Iowa State University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting in March 1973. He later obtained a degree of Master of Science and Business Administration-management accounting from Colorado State University in November 1974. Following graduation and until May 1976, Jim was a staff auditor for the accounting firm of McGladrey, Hansen & Dunn. From May 1976 until August 1978, he served as assistant controller for Great Plains Bag Company and taught accounting at Drake University in Des Moines from September 1979 until August 1980. Jim entered the Drake Law School in 1978 and obtained his J.D. degree in December 1980. Jim started as an associate with the law firm in February 1981.
Jim has been a speaker at the Iowa State Bar Association December Tax School each year since 1992. He is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel and also in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. Since 2003, each year he has been a presenter at the I.S.U. Farm Tax Schools. In 1992-93, he was chair of the Iowa State Bar Association Tax Section.
William J. Lorenz was born in Independence, Iowa and grew up in Oelwein, Iowa. He graduated from Sacred Heart High School in Oelwein in 1971. Thereafter he attended the University of Northern Iowa where he received a B.A. degree in Business Management and a minor in economics in 1975. Bill then attended Drake University Law School and graduated in 1980. He served as assistant Black Hawk County Attorney from 1980 until 1981. He then joined the firm of Welp, Harrison, Brennecke & Moore on August 3, 1981.
James C. Ellefson was born in Boone, Iowa and graduated from Ankeny High School in 1970. In 1974 he graduated from Wartburg College and in 1977 from Drake Law School. From 1977 until 1979 he clerked for Judge Robert G. Allbee, one year on the Iowa Court of Appeals and one year on the Iowa Supreme Court. Following his clerkship, he became an associate in the Office of Lundy, Butler and Lundy in Eldora from 1979 until 1982. He was a partner in that firm from 1982 until 1985. On July 1, 1985, Jim joined the firm of Welp, Harrison, Brennecke & Moore.
Jim was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad as a District Court Judge for District 2 and began serving on February 1, 2012. In moving to the bench, he became the second member of the firm, along with B.F. Cummings, to conclude his legal career on the bench after having practiced in the law firm.
Douglas Beals was born in Iowa City, Iowa. He was raised in Marshalltown and graduated from Marshalltown Senior High in 1980. He attended Buena Vista College in Storm Lake where he graduated in 1984. He then attended Creighton University School of Law in Omaha from 1984 until 1987 when he graduated. He began working as an associate for Welp, Harrison, Brennecke & Moore in 1987.
The next attorney to join the firm was Michael R. Horn. Mike was born in Monterey Park, California. He graduated from TriCounty High School of Thornburg in 1984. He received a B.A. degree in political science and economics from the University of Iowa in 1989. He graduated from Drake University Law School in 1992 and joined the firm of Welp, Harrison, Brennecke & Moore in July 1992. While a student at the University of Iowa in the 1980s, Mike was one of the managers of the football team under the legendary coach Hayden Fry from 1984 to 1988. Mike was President of the Marshalltown Jaycees in 1994. In 1997, Mike was elected President of the Iowa Jaycees. He also served as legal counsel for the U.S. Jaycees. In addition, he was International Vice President of the U.S. Jaycees and was assigned to five countries in Europe.
The next attorney to join the firm was Norma J. Meade. She was born in St. Nazaire, France and was raised in Elberon, Tama County, Iowa. She graduated in 1985 from Benton Community Schools. She went to basic training and advanced individual training after joining the Iowa National Guard just after high school. In 1987, she graduated from Marshalltown Community College with a certificate in surgical technology. She worked as a surgical technician at various hospitals in Des Moines and in Ames while she furthered her education. She attended Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Drake University and Iowa State University. She graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1993 from Drake University Law School in 1997. Upon passing the bar exam, she worked as an Assistant Wapello County Attorney for one year before joining the firm in 1998.
The next attorney to join the firm was Sean Heitmann. He was born in Marengo, Iowa and graduated from HLV High School in Victor, Iowa in 1997. He graduated from Waldorf College with a B.A. degree in 2000 and from the College of Law at the University of Iowa in 2003.
Brandon W. Ruopp joined the firm in 2012. He was born in Marshalltown and graduated from East Marshall High School in 2001. After graduating from Simpson College in Indianola in 2005, he spent three years in the U.S. Army with service in Korea. In 2009, he entered the College of Law in Iowa City, graduated in 2012 and joined the law firm.
Brandon Buck is the most recent addition to the law firm, having joined it in 2015. Brandon completed his undergraduate work at Iowa State University in 2012 earning a B.A. in history. Brandon completed law school at Drake University in 2015. Brandon grew up in Rhodes, Iowa.
From 1885 when B.F. Cummings opened his law office until 2007, the law firm had practiced only in Marshalltown. In 2007, an opportunity developed in Montezuma, the county seat of Poweshiek County, for the firm to expand geographically. Harvey Horn was a CPA and had an office in Montezuma for over 20 years. He had an extensive income tax practice. In 2007, when Harvey decided to retire, the law office decided to expand. The law office assumed Harvey’s income tax work and also opened a law office.
This presence in Poweshiek County beginning in 2007 led to a second expansion opportunity. Six years later in 2013, James Schwiebert, who had practiced law in Brooklyn, Iowa for over 20 years, merged his law practice with our office. Brooklyn is about 15 miles from Montezuma.
A year later, in 2014, another expansion opportunity arose. The law firm of Mickelson, Roan and Appelgate merged with our law firm. Their office had been practicing in Toledo since it was founded in 1948. With Toledo being the county seat of Tama County, our office now has a law office in the county seat of three Iowa counties.
Our firm has the very special and unusual honor of having had two of its members receive the Iowa State Bar Association’s highest honor, the Award of Merit. The first to receive this recognition was Arley J. Wilson in 1977. A decade later, Allen Brennecke received the Award in 1987. Allen also served as President of the Iowa State Bar Association in 1990-91 after having earlier served as President of the I.S.B.A. Young Lawyers Section. In addition, in the American Bar Association, he served on the Board of Governors from 1982 to 1986 and as Chair of the House of Delegates from 1984 to 1986. His election to become President in 1991 was not successful.
Our firm has always promoted a culture of active participation by its members in professional, charitable and community endeavors. As a result, the firm’s members have been very actively involved in many professional areas of the law as well as in our community.
As we look back upon over a century of practice, the following are the names of the law office:
- 1885 to 1899 B.F. Cummings Law Office
- 1899 to 1915 Cummings & Mote Law Office
- 1915 to 1942 G.A. Mote Law Office
- 1942 to 1955 Mote & Wilson Law Office
- 1955 to 1981 Mote, Wilson & Welp Law Office
- 1981 to 1995 Welp, Harrison, Brennecke & Moore Law Office
- 1995 to 2005 Harrison, Brennecke, Moore, Smaha & McKibben
- 2005 to 2012 Moore, McKibben, Goodman, Lorenz & Ellefson
- Since 2012, Moore, McKibben, Goodman & Lorenz.