Writer and poet Jay G. Sigmund was born December 11, 1885 on a farm one mile south of Waubeek, Iowa.
Sigmund was born on a farm about one mile south of Waubeek. The 120-acre
farm is in the NE corner of Section 29. Around 1900, Sigmund's father
bought a farm three miles and a half southeast of Central City on
the Wapsipinicon River. That 75-acre farm is located in Section 12.
his life, Jay Sigmund cultivated his many interests and abilities.
He was a businessman, writer, poet, student of natural history, amateur
archeologist and an encourager of the arts. He even learned the art
of carving and taxidermy! He is remembered as a quiet man who had
tremendous influence on the people around him. Undoubtedly, these
attributes helped him succeed in his professional work.
Jay Sigmund the businessman
He joined the Cedar Rapids Life Insurance Company in 1908 and eventually became vice president. On November 14, 1933, Sigmund wrote a letter from his insurance company to Dr. C.G. Stookey of Mechanicsville, Iowa. In the letter Sigmund not only describes in very accurate detail where he lived as a boy in Linn County but also some of his accomplishments as an author.
Jay Sigmund the outdoorsman
He developed this interest while growing up along the banks of the Wapsipinicon River. Throughout his life, Sigmund and his friends enjoyed spending time "excavating" artifacts along the banks of the Wapsipinicon River. This interest earned Sigmund and his friends the nickname "weekend archeologists." Some of the arrowheads and other artifacts he found are part of The History Center's collection. His poem Fossils reflects his awe of Linn County prehistory. Read more about the interesting archeological history of Iowa.
Jay Sigmund the writer
His poetry and prose reflect his love of Linn County, Cedar Rapids, Central City, Waubeek and the Wapsipinicon Valley. In this excerpt from the 1927 essay Stretches of Song, Sigmund wrote:
Another of his poems titled The Arrow-Head, reflects his love of the natural world and his curiosity about the past.
Jay Sigmund and the arts
Among Jay Sigmund's friend was American Regionalist artist Grant Wood. Sigmund encouraged his friend Grant Wood to paint what he knew best - Iowa. With Sigmund's advice, Grant Wood went on to paint some his most famous Eastern Iowa landscapes and scenes, including Woman with Plants, American Gothic, Stone City, and Fall Plowing.
Jay Sigmund's daughter-in-law, Virginia Sigmund Myers, recalled when Grant Wood and his wife Sarah spent summers in Waubeek, including the summer of 1935 when a group of friends gathered at the Sigmund home to celebrate Grant Wood's Dinner for Threshers.
With his interest in the arts, Sigmund was a member of the Chicago Renaissance Group, a group of writers and artists whose membership included Carl Sandburg, Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, Christopher Morley and others.
Jay Sigmund Remembered
A 1937 rabbit hunting accident along the river cost Sigmund his life. He fell, accidentally discharging his shotgun and shooting himself in the leg. Sigmund was unable to walk, and by the time people found him, he had lost too much blood. He died the next day in a Cedar Rapids hospital. He left behind a wife and three children.
By the time of his death, Jay Sigmund had published over 1,200 poems, 125 short stories and 25 one-act plays, all written during his spare time from his insurance work.
The Linn County Conservation Commission dedicated a seven-acre park on the Wapsipinicon River near Waubeek in honor of Sigmund.
Friend and writer Paul Engle paid homage to Jay Sigmund in his memorial poem written after Sigmund's death.
It is titled simply Jay G. Sigmund.