1890 Portrait and Biographical Album
of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties, Iowa

Van Buren County Biographical Sketches Transcribed Below


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PROF. JOHN HENRY LANDES, County Superintendent of Schools of Van Buren County, and one of the leading residents of Keosauqua, was born in Putnam County, Ind., on the 6th of October, 1850. His father, Ananias Landes, was a native of Virginia, born in Augusta in 1826. When a lad of twelve summers he emigrated with his parents to Indiana, the family locating in Putnam County, where he grew to manhood. His school training was in advance of that which most boys of his clay received. He acquired a collegiate education and thus having fitted himself for the duties of life he embarked upon a mercantile career in Green Castle, continuing in that line of business with good success until 1860, when he decided to make his home in Iowa. He chose Davis County as the scene of his future labors and there spent several years and then removed to Clarke County, Iowa, where he passed the remainder of his days. In whatever community he resided he became a prominent citizen on account of his worth and ability. He was a man well informed on all public affairs and exerted an influence in behalf of the best interests and worthy enterprises of the county. In political sentiment, he was first a Whig, later a Know Nothing and on the organization of the Republican party joined its ranks, continuing a faithful adherent of its principles until his death. 

In Putnam County, Ind., Ananias Landes was united in marriage with Miss Anker Boyd, a native of that State and a daughter of Robert Boyd. They became parents of six children, the eldest of whom is John H.; Margaret A. is the wife of O. C. Macy of Missouri; Albert Cary, a graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Des Moines, Iowa, is now engaged in the practice of his profession in Clarke County; Robert. S. is living in Westerville, Decatur County, Kan.; Augusta A. and Emma M. complete the family. The father died in Clarke County; Iowa, in 1878, and the mother departed this life in 1889. They were Presbyterians, lived consistent Christian lives and died in the faith of that church. 

John Henry Landes is a self made man who by his own efforts has risen from a humble position to one of honor. In early life he displayed an aptitude for learning and soon mastered the branches taught in the common schools. He desired then to further continue his studies but his father being unable to grant his wish, he was thus thrown upon his own resources and working as a farm hand he obtained the money which defrayed his expenses while a student in the Troy Academy of Davis County. He then engaged in teaching and performed any other honest labor that might replenish his exhausted exchecquer and thereby enabled him to pursue a course in the Iowa State University. Industry and perseverance overcame the obstacles in his path and accomplished that result. In 1878, after leaving the University, he received a call to the high school of Keosauqua, of which he remained principal for nine years. A short time convinced the citizens of this community that he was capable of filling his position and would faithfully discharge his every duty, which led to them retaining him in the position until he was called upon, in the autumn of 1887, to fill a vacancy in the office of County Superintendent of Schools. The following autumn he was elected to that office on the Republican ticket and two years later was re-elected, still continuing in the office, the duties of which he discharges with credit to himself and to the satisfaction of his constituents. 

In 1879, a marriage ceremony was performed in Troy, Iowa, which united the destinies of Prof. Landes and Miss CalheCunningham. The lady is a. native of Davis County, and a daughter of Obadiah and Cynthia Cunningham. Three children have been born of their union, sons, Don Henry, Carl C. and Gene. The Professor and his estimable wife hold a high position in the social world and have won the respect of all who known them. He is a member of Keosauqua Lodge, No. 23, I. O. O. F. and in political sentiment is a Republican. Although he feels an interest in political affairs, he has never been an office seeker, believing rather that the position should seek the man. It was thus in his case and the wisdom of the people in their choice has long since become evident.

JAMES LEFFLER follows farming as a means of livelihood, carrying on operations in that line on section 18, Harrisburg Township. He was born in Van Buren County on August 20, 1845, and is a son of Mansuet and Irene (Cavin) Leffler. His father, a native of Baden, Germany, was born in 1803, grew to manhood in that country and served for six years in the German Army. With a desire to benefit his financial condition he sailed for America in 1833, and four years later, in 1837, became a resident of what is now Van Buren County, but at that time was a part of the Territory of Michigan. Little indeed is known concerning the early history of this settlement that is not familiar to Mr. Leffler, who is still residing in the community at the advanced age of eighty-seven years. The death of his wife occurred in 1880. She was a native of Tennessee and by her marriage became the mother of eleven children. 

James was the fifth in order of birth in that family. He was reared to manhood in the county of his nativity and like a dutiful son remained at home assisting his father in the labors of the farm until twenty-two years of age, when he left the parental roof and started out in life for himself beginning operations as a farmer on rented land. As success in this life is generally due to determined effort, supplemented by industry and business ability, little fears were entertained concerning his future and his course has justified the expectation of his friends. As quickly as possible he gathered together the funds necessary for securing a farm of his own and at length procured his present home, settling down to steady work. A rich and well cultivated tract of land of one hundred and eighty-eight and three-fourths acres now pays tribute to his care and cultivation, many good improvements, add ornament and value to the place and the best grades of farm stock are there seen. For a number of years he has also successfully engaged in practice as a veterinary surgeon. 

In 1871, Mr. Leffler was united in marriage with Miss Mary A. Hatch of Van Buren County, daughter of William and Margaret (Boner) Hatch. Two children grace their union, a son and daughter — Mattie and Omar L. 

Mr. Leffler is a charter member of Des Moines Valley Lodge, No. 138, I. O. O. F. and was the first secretary of the organization. He keeps himself well informed on all matters of general interest, is a worthy citizen and an active local politician, supporting the Democratic party. He has now served acceptably as Clerk of the township for about seven years, Tustee three years, Assessor one year and has been a delegate to both county and State conventions. The name of Leffler is inseparably connected with the history of Van Buren County. The honored father of our subject as one of its pioneers, and James, as one of its worthy citizens have borne their share in the upbuilding of the county, have aided in its progress and have been witnesses of its wonderful development and transformation. They shared in the hardships and trials of pioneer life, their home was in this community when the Indians were more numerous than the white settlers, while wild animals were yet seen and when wild game of all kinds was to be found in abundance. It was no easy task to give up the comforts and luxuries of the East to make homes in a wild and unbroken western country and the greatest gratitude should be rendered unto the noble men and women who bore such sacrifices and laid the foundation for the prosperity and advancement which now characterize the county.

ZACHARIAH TAYLOR LEWIS, present Recorder of Jefferson County, Iowa, and a resident of Fairfield, is now serving his third term and sixth year in the above position. He is a native of Iowa, born in Van Buren County, October 9, 1847. He is second in order of birth of a family of twelve children born unto Owen and Margaret D. (Jackson) Lewis, who are numbered among the early settlers of Iowa. His father was born in Shelby County, Ind., December 9, 1821, and is a son of William Lewis, who served in the War of 1812. The family immigrated to the West from New England, where the original ancestors had probably settled in a very early day. Owen Lewis came to Iowa on the 20th of March, 1837. Margaret D. Jackson was born in Randolph County, N. C., February 8, 1824, and came with her parents, David and Sarah Jackson, to Iowa July 4, 1836. They first settled in Lee County, and a few years later removed to Jefferson County. Owen Lewis, and Margaret D. Jackson, were married in Jefferson County on the 28th of May 1844. They are still residents of this county, making their home in Liberty Township, and are numbered among the highly respected citizens of the community. Mr. Lewis has lived the life of a quiet unassuming farmer, supporting the Republican party since its formation, but taking no special interest in politics. 

The childhood and youth of our subject were spent in Liberty Township, in a manner similar to that in which all farmer lads pass their time. His primary education was acquired in the common schools of the neighborhood and supplemented by a course in the Academy of Birmingham. He then started out in life for himself and up to the time when he entered upon his official duties as County Recorder, was engaged in farming and teaching. In the autumn of 1884, his name was placed before the people as a candidate of the Republican party for the office of Recorder of Jefferson County, and being elected by a handsome majority he entered upon the discharge of his duties on the 1st of January, 1885. So ably did he fill the office that he was re-elected in 1886, and again in 1888, and is now serving his sixth year in the same position. His time and attention is devoted almost exclusively to the business connected with it and he has therefore proved a competent official. 

In Black Hawk Township on December 1, 1886, Mr. Lewis was joined in wedlock with Miss Mary J. Minter, a native of this county, and a daughter of James Monroe and Hannah L. (Trail) Minter. 

David K. Minter, the grandfather of Mrs. Lewis, was born in Virginia in 1810, and when a child removed with his parents to Tennessee, and there grew to manhood. Having attained his majority, he went to Jacksonville, Ill., where he taught school for some years. He subsequently removed to Iowa, settling near Mt. Pleasant, where he was married in 1839. In 1842, he came to Jefferson County, locating in Penn Township, where his death occurred, December 9, 1888. James M. Minter was born in Penn Township in 1843. He served as a soldier during the late Civil War. in Company F, Eighth Iowa Infantry. In 1865, he wedded Miss Hannah L. Trail, who lived but a few years, and after her death removed to Nebraska where be still resides. Mrs. Minter was born in 1846; her parents were natives of Maryland and settled in Washington County, Iowa, in 1858, and two years later located in Jefferson County. 

The union of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis has been blessed with two children: Lila May, born May 1, 1888, and Charles M., born June 13, 1890. They have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in Fairfield and Jefferson County, and well deserve the high regard in which they are held by all who know them.

CAPT. WILLIAM McBETH, who for four years gallantly defended the old flag during the late war, and is now a prominent citizen of Keosauqua, Iowa, was born in Springfield, Ohio, on the 8th of October, 1839, being a son of John and Rachel (Kenton) McBeth. His father was a native of Pennsylvania, hut his mother was born in the Buckeye State and a great grand niece of Simon Kenton, the celebrated Indian warrior. The family of which our subject is a member nurnbered six children, five of whom are living at this writing in 1890. William being the eldest; John A., who served with credit in an Ohio regiment during the late war and is now living in Putnan County, Ohio; James who was in the three months' service, makes his home in Zanesfield, Ohio; Samuel, who was the bugler in the First Missouri Sharp-shooters, died in the Buckeye State; Henry D. is a printer of Eldora, Kan.; Matilda is now Mrs. Foster, of Kerry, Ohio. John McBeth was married previous to his union with Rachel Kenton, and by his first wife had two children — Robert and Louisa. His death occurred in 1852, but the mother of our subject long survived him, dying in 1884. They were both members of the Covenanter Church and were highly respected members of the community, where they made their home. Mr. McBeth, strongly opposing the institution of slavery, early became an Abolitionist and his house was a station of the famous Underground Railroad. The sufferings of many a poor negro did he alleviate and then aid him on his way to Canada and freedom. 

During the early years of his boyhood, Mr. McBeth, our subject, attended the common schools of Clark County, Ohio, during the winter season, but when he was a lad of fourteen years his father died and, being the eldest of the family, the burden of caring for his mother and the younger children fell upon his tender shoulders. His education was thus necessarily brought to an end; for the heavy responsibility resting upon him would permit of no time spent in the school room. The care of the family was a hard task for one so young, but the united efforts of mother and son kept the family together, provided for their wants and educated the smaller children. Thus nobly did he perform the duties devolving upon him, and the same faithfulness and loyalty have characterized his subsequent career. 

In 1858, with the hope of bettering his financial condition, Mr. McBeth left his native State for the West, and for eighteen months engaged in breaking prairie in Clark and Coles Counties, Ill. At the expiration of that time, in the autumn of 1860, he returned to Ohio where he spent the winter. A dark cloud was then gathering over the country and the low roar of its thunderings was already heard making many to fear for the future of the Nation. Mr. McBeth watched with interest the progress of events, determined that if the South carried out its threats of secession he would strike a blow for the preservation of the Union. Ft. Sumter was fired upon and scarce had the echoes of its guns ceased to reverberate ere he offered his services to the the Government, enlisting at the call for troops, for three months' service in the Twenty-third Ohio Infantry. The regiment, however, was mustered in for three years but, not liking the captain of his company, Mr. McBeth refused to muster. Soon afterward he joined the boys in blue in Company E, Eighty-second Ohio Infantry, and was mustered in at Kenton. The regiment was ordered to West Virginia and at the battle of Bull Pasture Mr. McBeth was wounded. He was then sent home, but as soon as possible he returned to the service and was made Second Lieutenant in a company of the Forty-fifth Ohio Infantry. At the siege of Knoxville he was captured and remained a prisoner in the South for sixteen months, during which time he fully realized what it meant to he a captive in the hands of the rebels. He was incarcerated in Libby Prison for five months, was confined at Macon, Ga., for six months, at Savannah, one month, and the remainder of the time at Charleston and Columbia, S. C. Twice during the time he succeeded in making his escape but was both times recaptured, and at length was exchanged at Wilmington, N. C. In the winter of 1862-3, while at Lexington, Ky., Mr. McBeth was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant and in the fall of 1863, while yet a rebel prisoner, was promoted to the rank of Captain. On being exchanged he at once took command of his company and remained in the service until the close of the war, when in June, 1865, he was mustered out. 

On the cessation of hostilities, Capt. McBeth returned to his home in Ohio, and in February, 1866, was united in marriage with Miss H. I. Inghram, a native of the Buckeye State. Immediately afterward the young couple started for Van Buren County, Iowa, where they have since resided. Their home has been blessed by the presence of six children, three of whom are yet living: Effie R., now the wife of the Rev. J. W. Potter, a Methodist minister, at present in charge of a church in Burlington, Iowa; Paul H., who is a printer by trade, and Robert R. at home. Mrs. McBeth is a member of the Congregational Church. They have now been residents of this community for almost a quarter of a century and by their lives of uprightness, actuated by worthy motives, they have won the high regard of those with whom they have come in contact. The Captain is engaged in the hardware business. Capt. McBeth is independent in politics.

ANDREW ALLEN McLEAN, late of Milton, now deceased, was born in Westmoreland County, Pa., February 24, 1814. His father, Thomas McLean, was of American birth, but of Scotch descent. and his mother, whose maiden name was Sarah Matthews, was of Irish descent. Our subject received a common-school education, which was supplemented by self-culture and extensive reading, making him a well-informed man. He learned the trade of a tin and coppersmith in his youth in Somerset, Pa., and in 1837 went to Connellsville, in that State, where he engaged in business as a dealer in stoves and tinware. 

On the 3d of October, 1843, in Connellsville, Mr. McLean married Miss Catherine E. Littell, daughter of Samuel and Catherine (Custer) Littell. The lady was born in Uniontown, Fayette County, Pa.. May 19, 1819. Her mother was a daughter of George Custer, an own cousin to President George Washington, and Gen. Custer, of world-wide reputation in Indian warfare, was a second cousin to Mrs. McLean. Samuel Littell, her father, was a man of superior mental force, self educated, a good scholar and an able public speaker. He was a prominent man in public affairs in his locality, and was especially earnest in his efforts to promote the cause of temperance. In company with the Rev. Archibald Fairchild and Isaac Nixon, he formed the first temperance society west of the Alleghanies. This family also had its representatives in the War of the Revolution, two uncles of Mr. Littell having aided the Colonies in their struggle for independence. 

Mr. McLean continued business in Connellsville, Pa., until April, 1851, when he sold out and removed to Athens, Ohio. The succeeding six years were spent in farming within a mile of that city, and in 1857, accompanied by his family, he took up his residence in Columbiana County, Ohio, where he followed the same pursuit for a like period of time. Thence he removed to Malvern Hill, of the same State, where he was engaged in the hardware, stove and tinware business until 1865, which year witnessed his arrival in Iowa, locating near Fremont, Mahaska County. The previous year, in company with A. R. Haines and A. Stewart, Mr. McLean came to this State, bringing a flock of eighteen hundred merino sheep, the largest flock of sheep known to have crossed the Mississippi at Burlington up to that time. The year following, 1866, he came with his family to Van Buren County and purchased a farm, which is situated six miles south of Keosauqua, and which comprised a part of what is known as the Brooks Farm, one of the oldest settled places in the county. There Mr. McLean carried on farming until 1871, when he came to Milton with the extension of the Burlington & Southwestern Railroad to this place. On coming to the city, he again embarked in mercantile pursuits, carrying a full line of stoves, tinware, hardware and farming implements. His son, S. L. McLean, was associated with him in business as equal partner, and the connection was continued until the death of the father, which occurred October 29, 1885, since which time the business has been carried on by the son. 

Unto Mr. and Mrs. McLean were born five children, one son and four daughters -- Samuel Littell, the only son, was born in Connellsville, Pa., August 11, 1844, and on the 25th of September, 1879, married Miss Maggie Bruce, daughter of Amor Bruce. She was born in Van Buren County, in March, 1860, and died at their home in Milton, September 28, 1881. One child was born of their union, a son, who died at the age of nine months, four days prior to the death of the mother. Emma Louisa, the second child of the family, was born in Connellsville, Pa., November 27, 1849, and is the wife of Alonzo L. Marsan, a native of Van Buren County, now living in Milton; Sarah Belle, born near Athens, Ohio, January 11, 1856, died in Van Buren County, October 29, 1872, at the age of sixteen and a half years; Flora C. was born in Malvern, Ohio, May 16. 1861, and is now the wife E. B. Cassady, of Milton. 

Mr. McLean was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for forty years, and then joined the Methodist Protestant, to which denomination he belonged at the time of his death. In politics he was an old-line Democrat, and although he was never ambitious of official distinction, he was always an earnest supporter of his party principles and took a warm interest in its success. On coming to Milton, he retained the ownership of his farm of two hundred acres near Keosauqua, which is now the property of Mrs. McLean. The farm is well improved with good buildings, and comprises one of the most valuable tracts of land in the locality. Mrs. McLean, who is a bright, intelligent lady, well preserved physically and mentally, resides at the old homestead in Milton, which is still the home of some of her children. She is a consistent member of the Methodist Protestant Church and is held in high esteem by all who enjoy her acquaintance. 

Mr. McLean was a man of superior mental force, sound judgment and natural ability. He was energetic and earnest in whatever he undertook, and was governed by his intercourse with the world by principles of the strictest integrity and honesty. He accumulated a goodly property by legitimate means of labor and judicious investments, and died in the enjoyment of the good will and kindly regard of a wide circle of acquaintances and friends.

HON. ABNER HARRISON McCRARY, who is now living a retired life in Pleasant Hill, Van Buren County, is numbered not only among the prominent citizens of this community, but is widely known among the older settlers of the State, he himself being one of the early frontiersmen. His life is prominently netted with its history, his aid has been given for its advancement and progress, and in its legislative halls he served as an honored member. Mr. McCrary was born in Vanderburg County, Ind., on the 23d of February, 1814. In that early period in the history of the Indiana Territory the facilities for securing an education were very poor, and as he had no means with which to attend the colleges of the East, his advantages were necessarily limited. His boyhood days were spent in a manner similar to that of all lads in a like condition, and on attaining to mature years he started out in life for himself. On the 6th of February, 1834, he was united in marriage with Miss Nercissa Mangum, and they began their domestic life in Gibson County, where Mr. McCrary began. clearing and developing a farm lying along the banks of Big Creek, but the situation was not a healthful one, the fever and ague seemed fastening itself upon them, and in the fall of 1835, in order to avoid its ravages, they sold out and started for the West. They first made a location in McDonough County, Ill., where they spent the winter in a schoolhouse, as the immigration to that part of the country had been so great in the previous few months that no dwelling could be obtained. Mr. McCrary at once began the erection of a cabin on what was known as the military tract, but before the new home was completed, on the 4th of April, 1836, there was born unto them in the little schoolhouse a son. Not long afterward, however, they were installed in their new home. Great difficulty was experienced by the settlers of that day in procuring their claims and Mr. McCrary shared in the disadvantages which fell to the lot of many. After having made considerable improvement and occupied his new home a year, the agent who had the land in charge visited the settlement and put such a high price upon the property that our subject felt unable to pay the sum. It certainly was a most discouraging incident, and with little hope of better success he traveled over portions of McDonough, Hancock, Adams and Warren Counties, but everywhere met with the same difficulty. 

After some time spent in this manner, Mr. McCrary became satisfied that he could not find a home in that locality, and concluded to cross the Father of Waters to what was known as the Black Hawk purchase, and see if he could not meet with better success in that region. Accordingly, in the winter of 1836-37, accompanied by his brother, J. C. McCrary, and his wife's brother, A. W. Mangum, he started for Iowa. There were at that time twelve inches of snow upon the ground, but with tools. bedding and ten days rations for man and beast, they started out, their vehicle being a wagon box placed on runners. At Warsaw they crossed the Mississippi River on the ice, and in the same manner made their way up the Des Moines River about forty miles, until reaching what is now the center of Van Buren County. Driving inland for a few miles they located on the south side of the river, but here also experienced some difficulty which was occasioned by land speculators who traveled through the country, marking out the land into large tracts which they would sell at their own price to strangers who were desirous of locating in piece. This practice was carried on to such an extent that it became necessary to adopt by-laws to regulate their conflicting interests. By the new law one man could not hold more than a quarter-section of land unless he bought it. This proved but partially successful, however, as the speculators would combine and claim the best portions of the country, trading between one another so as to evade the law. Much advantage was taken in this manner of those who wished to makes homes in the community, but Mr. McCrary and his comrades were not so easily deterred from the object of their trip to Iowa. They informed themselves in relation to the claim law in order to know what they were required to do, then located land and remained on the same until they had erected cabins, when they returned to Illinois. 

In the spring of 1837, accompanied by his faithful wife, Mr. McCrary started for the new home in the wilds of the Black Hawk purchase, which was then a part of the Territory of Wisconsin, arriving at their destination on the 23d of April. A little log cabin in the midst of a grove of timber, and furnished with few of the comforts of life, was their home. Their neighbors were far distant, and frequently the red men would be among their visitors; many privations and hardships were to be endured, difficulties and obstacles were to be overcome, and the work which lay before them of developing a farm was no easy task, but though the path was a rugged one, it led to a home and competence, and ever looking forward to the result to be attained, their hardships seemed the lighter. They have prospered since coming to Van Buren County, and Mr. McCrary is numbered among the substantial citizens of the community, yet success has not always been attendant upon his footsteps. During the years of 1839, 1840 and 1841, a financial panic was upon the country, the effects of which were felt by many of the early settlers. In fact some were unable to pay for their lands, and Mr. McCrary, with others, determined to secure only eighty acres, and availed himself of the pre-emption law to secure that amount. However, by industry and economy be had saved sufficient to purchase another eighty eighty acres, and his hope of procuring a home for his family was at length realized. He continued his farming operations for many years, and became the owner of one of the finest country homes in the county. His zeal and energy paved the way to success, and as the result of his earnest efforts he secured a property which now places him in comfortable circumstances and enables him to live in retirement from the busy cares of life. 

Mr. McCrary has not labored alone for his own interests, but has been a prominent man in public places, and while serving in official capacities has aided greatly in the advancement of the county's interests. In the year 1841 he was elected Justice of the Peace, a position which he held through successive elections for eight years. In 1848 he represented Van Buren County in the State Legislature, being the first to hold the office after the adoption of the constitution. He was a member of the General Assembly when the difficulties arose in relation to the boundary between Iowa and Missouri. He was an opposer of the first constitution of Iowa in consequence of its limitation of the western boundary line of the State, and voted for the constituation which is now in vogue. In 1850 Mr. McCrary was again elected a member of the General Assembly, and during that session the revised code was adopted. So ably did he represent his constituents in the Lower House that in 1852 he was elected to the State Senate. During that term provisions were made for removing the capital to Des Moines, and making an appropriation of the old State House in Iowa City for a State University. In 1860 he again served as State Senator, in the term which embraced the period of the war, and when the duties of the legislators were fraught with deep interest and often times with peril. He was chairman of the Senate committee to which was referred the first bill in Iowa asking for a Sunday law. On the same committee, and opposed to Mr. McCrary as a Christian man, was a radical infidel, who did all in his power to prevent the passage of the bill, but through the instrumentality of our subject and other friends of the measure it became a law. 

In the fall of 1833, when a young man of nine-teen years, Mr. McCrary made the good confession and united with the Christian Church. Although a busy man, his time well taken up by business and political interests, he has ever found time to devote to religious work. With the Bible as a guide, and with its promises and precepts ever before him, his course has been such as to win him the respect and highest regard of all with whom he came in contact. Not ashamed or afraid to express his views, he has ever taken his stand on the side of right and opposed the wrong. While a member of the Legislature, in addition to his favoring a bill for the Sunday law, he did much in that important position for the cause of Christianity, and so pronounced was he on the side of morality that he was never approached by those who were willing to make of polities a corrupt thing or a means of securing money. About the year 1858 he was chosen one of the Elders of the Christian Church, of Pleasant Hill, and in that capacity faithfully served for many years, having the approval of the congregation. In his Christian life, as in his business life, he has met with failures, yet he has profited by experience and with pure motives pressed onward. Charitable and benevolent, the poor find in him a friend, the discouraged, a sympathizer. 

The following children were born of the union of Mr. and Mrs. McCrary: William M., born in McDonough County, Ill., April 4, 1836, is now living in Council Bluffs; Marietta, born in Van Buren County, October 24, 1838, is the wife of J. W. Garvin, of Edgar, Clay County, Neb.; James N., born April 17, 1841, is a resident of Chicago; A. Jasper, born March 20, 1844, is an attorney-at- law of Keokuk, Iowa; Lucinda (2., born October 15, 1816, died December 22, 1848; Curtis R., born April 1, 1849, is living in Van Buren County; Ira C., born January 4, 1852, is a salesman in the employ of Edwin Manning, at Douds Station. 

In the spring of 1876, Mr. McCrary purchased property in Pleasant Hill, and the following October removed with his wife to that town, where they have since made their home. This worthy couple, who have traveled life's journey together for fifty-four years, are widely and favorably known throughout the entire community, and it is with pleasure that we record their sketch in the history of their adopted county, with the growth and progress of which they have been so closely and prominently connected.

HON. GEORGE W. McCRARY, deceased. The citizens of Iowa feel a special interest in him whose name heads this sketch and the people of Van Buren County are justly proud of his brilliant record, as he was known personally to many of them, having been reared in their midst. He was a son of James McCrary, one of the esteemed citizens of the county. He was born in Indiana on the 9th of August, 1835, but when only a year old was brought by his parents to Iowa and amid the wild scenes of pioneer life in Van Buren County spent the days of his boyhood and youth. From his childhood he manifested a great desire for learning, making every effort to obtain an education and like the majority of our greatest and best countrymen he was a self-made man. The proud position to which he attained he won by his own efforts and ability and greater honor is due him from the fact. After attending the public schools and mastering the common branches he attended an academy and on the completion of his school life entered the law office of Samuel F. Miller, late a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. After a thorough course of reading Mr. McCrary was admitted to the bar in 1856, and the following year his official career began. Although then but twenty-two years of age he was elected to the Iowa Legislature for the term of two years and served acceptably as a member of the Lower House. It will readily be seen that he won the confidence and respect of his constituents for in 1861 he was the choice of his district for the office of State Senator, a position which he filled four years. Fitted by nature to become a leader, be rose from a place of comparative obscurity to a position of prominence in the General Assembly of Iowa and having gained a State wide reputation he was placed before the people of the Nation as a representative in the legislative halls of this great commonwealth. 

In 1868 George W. McCrary was elected to the Forty-first Congress, being one of the youngest members of that body and for three consecutive terms he held the office. In the Forty-first Congress he was placed on the committees on naval affairs, revision of the laws and elections, and distinguished himself as one of the best informed lawyers in Congress on the subject of election laws. In the Forty-second Congress he was made Chairman of the Committee on Elections and his management was characterized by great fairness while his reports were generally adopted without revision. In the Forty-third Congress he was made Chairman of the Committee on Railways and Canals—to which committee all questions of transportation are referred—prepared a report on the constitutional power of Congress to regulate commerce by rail among the States, which was considered exhaustive and conclusive; and reported a bill on the subject which he advocated with remarkable power and which after a memorable debate passed the House. As a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Forty-fourth Congress, he was the author of the bill providing for the re-organization of the judiciary of the United States, which passed the House by a large majority. He also proposed the plan for having a joint committee to count the electoral vote, took an active part in preparing the electoral bill and in arguing the question before the House. At the close of his Congressional career, which expired March 4, 1877, Mr. McCrary accepted the position of Secretary of War proffered him by President Hayes and was an influential member of the Cabinet. Of him the remark was frequently made that "when the Secretary of War speaks, all listen attentively." In 1879 he was nominated by the President for the position of Judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit of the United States courts, which appointment was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, the office continuing for life. Undoubtedly Judge McCrary was endowed by nature with superior gifts yet he deserves the greatest credit for the position to which he attained. Reared in obscurity among the wilds of the Territory of Iowa, with little advantages for advancement, he yet overcame the difficulties and disadvantages which lay in his path, working his way upward step by step to a position of fame, becoming one of the honored statesmen of the Nation. His colleagues respected him, other men honored him and his friends revere his memory. His death occurred at St. Joseph, Mo., on the 23d of June, 1890, and his remains were interred at Keokuk, Iowa.

MAJ. JOHN C. McCRARY of Keosauqua, Iowa, was a faithful soldier during the struggle for the preservation of the Union, is numbered among the pioneer settlers of Van Buren County and yet ranks among her leading and influential citizens. Two brothers, A. H. and J. C. McCrary came to Iowa when it formed a part of the Territory of Wisconsin. Few whom they found at that day still survive and those who yet remain have but a few years in all probability before them, and for the purpose of perpetuating their memory and the deeds which they performed we write this volume. Theirs has been a noble work well done, and to them we owe an unbounded debt of gratitude which can be paid in no other way than by thus perpetuating their lives and sacredly cherishing their memories. 

The Major is a native of Indiana and a son of Rev. John and Ruth (Wasson) McCrary. He was born on the 7th of June, 1817, and at the age of eighteen years accompanied his parents to McDonough County, Ill., but remained in that region for only about twelve months. In the winter of 1836-37, in company with his brother, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume, he came to Van Buren County and made a claim which he purchased at the land sale and which to-day he still has in his possession. Obtaining it from the government, it was consequently wholly unimproved, not a furrow had been turned or the work of development commenced. With zeal and energy he began the arduous task of transforming the wild prairie into a fertile farm and zealously continued his agricultural pursuits until 1861, in which year other interests claimed his time and attention. 

The firing upon Ft. Sumter was to Mr. McCrary a call to arms, and in the first year of the struggle he became a member of Company G, of the Third Iowa Cavalry. He was tendered the Captaincy of the company but thinking himself unfit for that position through inexperience, he contented himself with the office of First Lieutenant and with his company was mustered into service at Keokuk. The regiment was divided into two battalions, with one of which Mr. McCrary was sent to Kirksville, Mo. At that place Capt. Maine was killed and he was promoted to fill the vacancy. The regiment was soon afterwards attached to Davidson's Division under Gen. Steele, at Little Rock, and in September, 1863, the brigade was moved south to Benton, Ark., where Capt. McCrary was appointed Provost Marshal of that district, in which capacity he served about four months. During the time the other battalions joined the forces there encamped and were then ordered back to Little Rock where a portion of the regiment, including our subject veteranized and received a thirty days' furlough. At the expiration of that time they re-assembled at Keokuk. Shortly afterwards Maj. Caldwell, of the Third Iowa Cavalry, was promoted to be Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment and a. vacancy thus caused was to be supplied. The choice fell upon Capt. McCrary but by a noble sacrifice he surrendered the honor. At that time there was but one of the original Captains left in the regiment — Capt. Muggett, of whom Mr. McCrary was a warm personal friend. Realizing that his friend might feel offended by his promotion, he went to him, stated that the offer was not of his own seeking and told him that he would resign the honor to him. The Captain replied that he disliked the idea of accepting the favor, yet as he had entered the service wearing the Captain's stripes he did not like to return bearing the same. Through the generosity of Mr. McCrary it was arranged that Capt. Muggett should be appointed Major, while he himself should take charge of the company thus left without a leader. Not long afterwards, however, Maj. Muggett resigned and our subject was promoted to the position. As the Colonel and Lieutenant Colonel were then detailed for special service, he was left in command of the regiment which had previously participated in the hard fought battle of Guntown, and also the engagement at Tupelo, Miss. They afterwards returned to Memphis and were stationed in that city when Gen. Forrest made his raid, during which the Third Iowa Cavalry succeeded in capturing some of the convalescents. In Memphis Maj. McCrary was badly injured by being thrown from a vicious horse which unfitted him for duty for some time. While convalescing he returned home but as soon as possible rejoined his regiment at Memphis where he tendered his resignation, which, however was not accepted. At Louisville he again wished to resign and by the advice of the surgeon was discharged on the 28th of January, 1865, being physically unable to continue in command. From the time of his enlistment until mustered out, Maj. McCrary proved a faithful soldier and was ever found at his post discharging his duties with all promptness. He won alike the respect and confidence of his superior officers and the soldiers under him. 

On the 15th of August, 1839, in Van Buren County, Maj. McCrary wedded Miss Keren Leach, a native of Virginia and by their union were born six children, four of whom are now living — Margaret A., wife of William B. Hamilton of Dakota; Abner N., who served through the war in the same regiment with his father; Amanda, wife of William H. H. Thatcher of Topeka, Kan.; John L. who died in November, 1861; Oscar a resident of Van Buren County; and Orrin who is living in Nebraska. 

The Major is a pronounced Republican, unswerving in his support to the party principles and was honored by an election to the office of Sheriff, in which position he served two terms with credit to himself and satisfaction to his constituents.

REV. JOHN McCRARY, deceased, is numbered among the early comers of Van Buren County, but died the same year of his arrival in the community. He was a son of James and Isabel G. McCrary and was born about the year 1770, in Iradell County, N. C. Having attained to man's estate, in 1793 he was united in marriage with Ruth Wasson, and they began their domestic life in the State of his nativity but on account of the institution of slavery they removed to Tennessee where they made their home until 1810. That year witnessed their settlement in Indiana, where they spent a quarter of a century. In 1835, they removed to McDonough County, Ill., but after a year continued on their westward journey to what is now Van Buren County, Iowa., but only a short time had been spent by Mr. McCrary in that community when he was called to his final rest. 

Unto this worthy couple was born a family of eight children, four sons and four daughters, viz: Polly, James, Lucinda, Rebecca, Miner, Minerva, Abner H., and John C., whose sketch appears on another page of this work. 

Mr. McCrary was reared in the faith of the Presbyterian Church and maintained his connection with the same until about the year 1800, when his views having changed he severed his connection with that denomination and became a member of the Christian Church. He was one of the sturdy and honored pioneers of Indiana and was the organizer of a number of churches in the vicinity of his home. Living in a day when the slavery question was the most important issue to engage the attention of the people, he took strong grounds against the institution, especially its introduction into northern territory. Believing it to be a sin he did not hesitate to express his views in regard to it and in the division of the church occasioned by the opposing views of the members on that subject, he took his stand with those who believed that "all men are created equal and that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." On the temperance question he was no less outspoken, urging upon the people the necessity of abstaining from the use of alcoholic drinks. After living a true Christian life during a half century, the greater part of which time he was engaged in the self-sacrificing labors of a pioneer minister of the Gospel, this good man passed to his heavenly reward. His wife was his able and faithful assistant in his work and the promises concerning the future life were dear unto her as unto him.

ARCHIBALD McDONALD, of the firm of McDonald & Meek, was born in Ft. Madison, on the 1st of December, 1844, and when a babe of three years was brought by his parents to Van Buren County, where he has since made his home. In his youth he was liberally educated, and throughout his life has manifested an interest in the cause of education, and done not a little for the schools of this community. His primary training was supplemented by a course in Howe's Academy, of Mt. Pleasant, and for a time he further continued his studies in Oskaloosa College. When his school life was ended he took up the profession of teaching as his life work. For three terms he taught in the district school, and then accepted a call as teacher in the public schools of Bonaparte, where he remained two years. He was then employed three years at Vernon, after which, about the year 1867, he took a trip to California, where he followed his profession during the winter at Salmon Falls. After a year spent on the Pacific Slope, he returned to his home in Van Buren County, and again took charge of the Bonaparte schools. His efforts as a teacher have been attended with marked success, he having given entire satisfaction wherever employed. In 1874 he was elected County Superintendent of Schools of Van Buren County, and would have again been nominated had he not refused to accept a renomination. His official term having expired, in 1878 he went to Colorado, where he spent two seasons, also engaged in teaching. On his return to Bonaparte, Mr. McDonald was employed as a salesman until 1881, when he purchased the interest of Mr. Johnson in the mercantile business, the firm name being changed from Christie & Johnson to Christie & McDonald. They carried on business together for some time, the connection being dissolved only at the death of Mr. Christie, when Robert E. Meek succeeded to the business as a partner of our subject. They now carry on operations under the firm name of McDonald & Meek, and theirs is one of the leading business industries of Bonaparte. 

Mrs. McDonald was, prior to her marriage, Miss Mary L. Rehkopf. This lady was born in Bentonsport, Iowa, but their marriage was celebrated in Wisconsin. One daughter was born of their union — Mary M. After eighteen months of happy wedded life, the young wife and mother was called to her final rest. For his present wife Mr. McDonald chose Miss Cora L. Brown, daughter of N. G. and Letitia Brown, of Bentonsport. Two children have been born unto them, a son and daughter — Brown Archibald and Gertrude C. 

Mr. McDonald takes considerable interest in civic societies, and is a prominent Mason, belonging to Bonaparte Lodge, No. 73, A. F. & A. M.; La Fayette Chapter, No. 61, R. A.. M., and Commandery No. 28, K. T. He was Master of the lodge and Treasurer and Secretary of the chapter, and represented the local organization in the Grand Lodge. The business abilities of Mr. McDonald are such as to win him success, and he is now numbered among the substantial citizens of the community.

CHARLES McDONALD, deceased, is numbered among the pioneer settlers of Van Buren County, and at his death, which occurred in 1877, much sorrow was felt, for the community lost a good citizen, his neighbors a kind friend, and his family a loving husband and father. He was born in the North of Ireland, in 1813, but the family is of Scotch origin. When he was a mere child his father died, and in 1818, with the other members of the family, he was brought by his mother to this country, they taking up their residence in Philadelphia., Pa. He there acquired a limited education, and when a young man learned the trade of a plasterer. He was married in Phildelphia, Pa., to Martha McGarvey, and shortly afterward emigrated to La Grange, Mo., where he followed his trade for some years. His next place of residence was in Quincy, Ill., after which he made a settlement in Ft. Madison, Iowa, and in 1847 purchased land in Van Buren County, and here removed in order to rear his family upon a farm. Mr. McDonald came to the West in limited circumstances, and not only overcame the hardships and difficulties of pioneer life, but surmounted all obstacles which impeded his progress toward the goal of prosperity, he performed the not easy task of developing from the wild land a rich and fertile farm, and at the same time carried on his trade of plastering. He had no leisure time in those days, but gave his attention solely to his business, that he might provide for the wants of his family and surround them with all the comforts possible. 

Unto Mr. and Mrs. McDonald were born ten children, of whom the following lived to adult age: Maggie, wife of James Dick, a prominent farmer of Lee County, Iowa; Mattie, at home; Ella, wife of Charles E. Rau, of Mason City, Iowa; Archibald, a resident of Bonaparte; Colwell, a farmer of Harrisburg Township; Charles W., who makes his home in Council Bluffs; and Robert, who is also living in Harrisburg Township. Helen died at the age of nineteen; the other two members of the family died in childhood. 

In polities Mr. McDonald was a stanch Democrat, was well posted in political affairs, and could always hold his own in an argument, but never sought public office for himself. He was a man of more than average ability, was well informed concerning all questions of general import, and was familiar with many of our standard authors. He was especially fond of reading Burns, and could quote page after page of his writings. In his views, he was charitable; in his dealings, upright and honorable, and his word was as good as his bond. He died at his home in this county in 1877, respected by all who knew him. His wife, who was a most estimable lady, and the equal of her husband in literary attainments, also has many warm friends.

JOHN McMILLEN, with one exception, is the oldest resident of Birmingham, Van Buren County. He was born near the boundary line of counties Antrim, Armagh and Down, lreland, June 9, 1808, and is a son of David and Elizabeth McMillen. His grandfather was a Highland Scotchman, his parents were both of Scotch descent and he possesses much of the sturdiness characteristic of that race. His father was a bleacher by trade and followed that business during his residence on the Bann Water in the Emerald Isle. Pleasing reports of the New World and the opportunities which it afforded its people reached him from time to time, and at length he determined to try his fortune in the land of the free. In 1812, accompanied by his wife and six children, he set sail for the United State but ere the long ocean voyage was over one of the children had sickened and died and was laid to rest beneath the waves of the sea. The vessel reached the harbor of New York on a certain Friday and the following day war was declared with Great Britain. Mr. McMillen and his family continued their journey to Harrisburg, and from there to Washington County, Pa., on pack horses, where he and his wife spent the remainder of their lives. They were highly respected people and members of the Seceders' Church. Our subject has but one sister now living — Mrs. lsabella Ralston, who resides in Claysville, Washington County, Pa., being now about ninety years of age. 

John McMillen spent his boyhood clays at work upon his father's farm and in attendance at the common schools where he acquired a fair education. Like a dutiful son he worked for his parents until twenty-five years of age. On the 28th of February, 1833, he was united in marriage with Miss Jane McMillen, who was born in Washington County, Pa., about 1810, and was a very distant relative of his. He then turned his attention to the cultivation of the old farm, which he continued to operate until 1855, when, following the course of emigration which was steadily drifting westward, he landed in Van Buren County, Iowa. For a time he engaged in farming north of Birmingham but in 1865 he changed his occupation and started upon the road as traveling salesman for William Elliott, dealer in agricultural implements, with whom he remained some fifteen years, since which time he has been engaged in the implement business for himself. He has sold all kinds of merchandise in that line from a clothes wringer to a portable steam sawmill. He was very successful as a salesman, oftentimes his sales in one year amounting to some $20,000 worth of machinery. 

Mrs. McMillen died in November. 1856. Unto them were born six children, of whom three are now living — David who succeeds his father in the implement business in Birmingham; Margaret at home; and Elizabeth who is a teacher of much ability. For eighteen years in succession she has held the position of primary teacher in the Birmingham schools, being universally liked. 

Previous to 1860, Mr. McMillen was a supporter of Democratic principles, but in that year he became a Republican and in many elections cast his ballot in its support, but since the rise of the Prohibition party, has connected himself with the latter body. He and all his family are members of the United Presbyterian Church. He was married in 1862 to Mary Borland, who died in 1875. Though eighty-two years of age Mr. McMillen is bright in mind and retains well his physical vigor. In Birmingham, not to know him argues oneself unknown, and his many friends esteem and respect him for a life characterized by honorable purpose and worthy motives.

MILES McSURELY, who resides on section 9, Washington Township, Van Buren County, is one of the few pioneer settlers who has lived to witness the wonderful development of this grand State which far surpasses the most sanguine day dreams of the pioneer, as with brave heart and sinewy arm he entered the forests of the Des Moines Valley to hew out the logs, puncheons and clapboards, for a home and wrest from its primitive growth of forest, the soil which was destined to become the foundation upon which was reared this vast commonwealth. 

Mr. McSurely is a native of Ohio, born February 9, 1809, and the second in order of birth in a family of seven children, whose parents were James and Maria McSurely. His father, a native of Ireland, came to this country at the close of the Revolutionary War and for a time made his home in Kentucky. He there married and then removed with his bride to Ohio, where he followed his trade of weaving until his death, which occurred in 1840. His wife was a native of Kentucky and died in the Buckeye State in 1833. 

The subject of this sketch grew to manhood in Ohio, and in his youth learned the trade of a ship carpenter. Having attained to man's estate, on the 24th of January, 1833, he wedded Miss Catherine McCann, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Rose) McCann. The young couple started in life with a capital consisting of health, energy and mutual confidence, theft aim being to secure a comfortable home. After working for three or four years at his trade on the Ohio River, they decided to try their fortune in the wild West, by which term Iowa was then known, and in March, 1837, Mr. McSurely entered one hundred and sixty acres of land from the Government in Van Buren County. The following spring the family moved into a little log cabin which he had hastily erected and began life in true pioneer style. The dimensions of the dwelling were 14x16 feet and it was destitute of a floor except the earth, and several weeks elapsed before Mr. McSurely could spare the time to prepare the puncheons for a floor. After eighteen months, he sold out and began the improvement of another quarter section. This he also disposed of and in June, 1844, bought the farm upon which he has made his home continuously since. Forty-six years have served to transform that barren tract into a region of great fertility and productiveness. A neat and commodious dwelling, tastefully furnished and provided with all the comforts of life furnish them a home and this is surrounded by barns and outbuildings such as are indispensable to the model farm of the Nineteenth Century. Fences have divided the land into well kept fields, and the neatness and order which there reign, give evidence to the passer-by of the thrift and industry of the owner, who has labored indefatigably for the interests of his family. He has however, not been alone in his efforts, but has been ably assisted and seconded by his estimable wife, who ever bore her part in the hardships and trials of earlier days and who unremittingly cared for the household affairs while her husband was busy in the fields. 

The long period of fifty-eight years has elapsed since this worthy couple, as man and wife, started out on life's journey together. As is the common lot, they have met with reverses and discouragements, but altogether theirs has been a happy and prosperous life. Their union has been blessed with a family of ten children, seven of whom are yet living: Mary J., the eldest, is now the wife of E. Nesmith, of Davis County, by whom she has six children: Dora. Minnie, Cora, Eliza, Ella, and Bertha; Margaret, the second of the family, is now deceased; William makes his home in California; Benjamin, who was a member of Company G, Third Iowa Infantry, died in Mexico. Mo., during the service; Rufus is also deceased; Anderson, who is living in Montana, enlisted in Company G, Third Iowa Cavalry, in 1863, and served until the close of the war; Hannah cares for her parents in their old age and has charge of the household duties; James is a restident of Keosauqua; Kate is the wife of J. W. McManaman, of Decatur County, Iowa, and the mother of six children— Rufus, Mary, Roscoe, I. W., Kate, and Robert. John, who is now in the West, completes the family. 

At one time Mr. McSurely owned four hundred and sixty-three acres of land. Of this he retains one hundred and sixty acres as a home for himself and wife, and the balance he has given to his children. As they have left the parental roof for homes of their own, he has given to each enough money or property with which they may make a good start in life and in return received the care and love of dutiful children. Their daughter, Hannah, still remains with them, caring for them in their declining years with a filial devotion that is sure of a blessed reward. But as you talk with the worthy couple of bygone days, they will tell you that the happiest moments of their lives were spent in the log cabin of long ago with their children all about them; when neighbors were few, but as they met to exchange the hospitalities of their humble homes it was with the true hearty friendship characteristic of this sturdy generation which is now slowly but surely passing away. Mr. McSurely has always been an active Republican in politics. He enjoys the confidence and high esteem of his friends and neighbors and is well deserving a place among the representative citizens of Van Buren County.

Transcribed by Rich Lowe for the Van Buren County IAGenWeb Project - copyright 2007

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