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John William James
Born June 16, 1833

John William James, one of the early settlers of Madison township and, until he retired from active life, one of its most successful farmers, was born near Harper's Ferry, in what is now Jefferson county, West Virginia, June 16, 1833. He is the son of Walter and Susanna (Ault) James, both natives of Maryland, in which state they grew up and were married, but shortly after their union 6ey removed to West Virginia. In 1855 they came west to Iowa, locating in Jones county, where Walter James procured a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Madison township. He paid but two dollars and a half an acre for the property for it was virgin soil which he had to prepare for cultivation. There he built the log house which served him as a home for many years. In 1860 his wife died and several years later he sold the farm and removed to Wyoming, Iowa, where he made his home until his death, which occurred in 1893 in his eighty-ninth year. He was a lifelong democrat, though never an office-seeker. He took a real interest in community affairs, however, and for a number of Years member of the school board, using his influence to advance the cause of on in Jones county. In the words and deeds of their daily lives both he and his wife were consistent Christians, finding their religious guidance in the Methodist faith.
John Williams James was reared at home and acquired his education in the schools of his native place and upon the home farm under the guidance father. He was a young man when his parents came to Iowa and, for two years he participated in the rugged life of the pioneers. In 1857, however, he went to Maryland to wed the woman he had chosen for his wife. Until 1865 he remained in the east, working by the-month, for the most part in West Virginia, and then came west, reaching Jones county, Iowa, November 3 of that year. For about two years he worked for various men by the month and then purchased eighty acres in Madison township for ten dollars an acre. As he had only one hundred dollars with which to make the first payment, he rented the farm to another man, and shortly after traded the land for a piece of property adjoining. There he resided for about four years when he again traded, obtaining the farm on which his son Smith James lives today. It was his home until 1893, when, on the occasion of his son's marriage, he went to live on another farm about one mile west of the old place. In 1899 he relinquished the heavier of life's cares and retired to Wyoming, Iowa, which has since been his home.
On the 1st of March 1857, Mr. James was married to Miss Martha Ann Smith, a native of Sharpsburg, Maryland, where the battle of Antietam, one of the important engagements of the Civil war, was fought. Of this union there have been born five children, four of whom now survive. Eleanora, the eldest, became the wife of 0. H. Peck, a farmer and stockman of Madison township. Kate married George W. Mead, who lives near Anamosa, this county. Smith, is accorded extended mention in another part of this volume. John W. is a resident of Aurora county, South Dakota.
At one time Mr. James owned three hundred and thirty acres of some of the richest land in this locality and, well improved. He has disposed of all save a small piece of timber land, however, for he felt that to be the wiser policy since his active farming days were over. But he is still the successful agriculturist in the minds of his friends and neighbors, who say that he, more than any other man, had the skill to renew the fertility of the soil and to win from it the most bountiful harvests. Highly respected, he was one to whom the people would turn naturally for their leader in political and public affairs, but aside from filling the position of school director for a number of terms he constantly refused to accept any office tendered him. His political ideas accorded with the platform of the prohibition party, while he and his wife worshiped with the Methodist Episcopal church.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 519.


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