Born in Keosauqua, Iowa, he attended common schools and learned to become a printer. During the Civil War he enlisted in the Union Army, serving in the Sixty-seventh Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to second lieutenant and then honorably discharged. He reenlisted in the spring of 1863 as a private in the Seventh Iowa Volunteer Cavalry. He was promoted to adjutant of the regiment and served until 1866.
He settled in Omaha, Nebraska in 1866. He was appointed register of the United States land office in West Point, Nebraska serving from May 17, 1869 to September 30, 1871. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1869, setting up practice in West Point.
He was elected judge to the sixth judicial district in 1875. He ran in Nebraska at-large for the Forty-sixth and Forty-seventh congress, being elected as a Republican both times. He was elected to the newly created 3rd district of Nebraska to the Forty-eighth Congresses. In all he served from March 4, 1879 to March 3, 1885. During his time in the Forty-seventh Congress he was the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. He declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1884. He was the United States Senate Sergeant at Arms from June 30, 1890 to August 6, 1893. After that he resumed practicing law in West Point. He retired to Chicago, Illinois in 1908, where he later died. He was buried in Union Ridge Cemetery, Norwood Park, Illinois.