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John McKean
Born 19 July 1835

HON. JOHN McKEAN, Judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Anamosa; is a native of Lawrence Co., Penn., and was born on the 19th of July, 1835, his parents being James and Nancy (Smith) McKean. Hugh McKean, the pioneer, and grandfather of the subject of this sketch, came over at the close of the American Revolution. James McKean was a soldier in the second war with England, and was stationed for some time at Erie. Penn.; he studied at the Mercer Academy, became a Presbyterian minister and preached for nearly forty years, dying in Scotch Grove, Jones Co., Iowa, in September, 1876. The wife of James McKean was also of Irish descent; she was a native of Westmoreland Co., Penn., and a very pious and worthy woman. the mother of eight children, of whom John was the fifth child. James McKean moved with his family to Carroll Co., Ohio, when John was an infant, and the father having a farm, the son, when arrived at suitable age, spent his summers in agricultural and his winters in intellectual pursuits, attending a common school until 16, and then spending one year at the new Hagerstown Academy, a little later; he studied at New Richmond College, Jefferson Co., for eight months. In October, 1854, John and an elder brother, James W. McKean, came to Jones Co., Iowa, with a two-horse wagon, pitched their tent in Scotch Grove Township; camped in the woods on Sec. 3 in the winter and spring, and during that period fenced forty acres of prairie land and built a small frame house, nearly all of it with material of their own getting-out; the remainder of the family reached Scotch Grove the ensuing June; the next winter, John taught a select school, he having been similarly engaged two seasons before leaving Ohio; in May 1856, James and John returned to the East, entered Jefferson College, Unionsburg, Penn., and graduated in August, 1859; in March of that year, John McLean was a Franklin debater, and received the award of honor in a logical contest held that month, five learned men acting as judges. On leaving college, Mr. McKean returned to Jones Co., Iowa, located at Anamosa, the county seat, where he read law with S. T. Pierce, and was admitted to practice in 1861, and has ever since been a member of the Jones Co. bar. During the last ten or twelve years, he has spent no inconsiderable part of his time in the service of the State; he was a member of the Lower House of the General Assembly in 1866 and 1868, and was in the Senate in the regular sessions of 1870 and 1872; being nominated for Circuit Judge in the summer of 1872, he resigned his seat in the Senate and did not attend the adjourned session. While in the Lower House, he was Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, a very important committee in that juncture of our national history, and, in the Senate, was always on the Committee of Ways and Means and the Judiciary. While in the House, he introduced the bill, which became a law, allowing townships, towns and cities to levy a 5-per-cent tax to aid in constructing railroads. As a legislator, he showed himself an ardent friend to the State University and the Agricultural College, and of educational matters generally. He served for six years as Regent of the State University. and while in the Senate, he originated the measure and secured the passage of a bill for a second Penitentiary, located at Anamosa, Jones Co. Judge McKean took his seat on the bench in January, 1873; was re-elected at the end of four years, and his present term will expire in January, 1881. He is one of the best equity lawyers in the State; is noted for his honesty, and carries all the best traits of his character to the bench, being above bribery and corruption. He was a Democrat till the civil war burst upon the land, and shortly afterward, from a War Democrat, became an out-and-out Republican, to which party he owes his repeated political honors. The Judge is a Freemason, a member of the Commandery and an Odd Fellow. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, an Elder in the same and a man of the purest Christian character. He was for some time a Trustee of the Lenox Collegiate Institute, a Presbyterian school, located at Hopkinton, Delaware Co., Iowa. The wife of Judge McKean was Mrs. Nancy A. Carr, of Jones Co.; they were married on the 16th of November, 1865, and have six children.

From History of Jones County, Iowa, Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1879, page 566.

JOHN MCKEAN is a native of the State of Pennsylvania, born in Lawrence County on the 19th of July, 1835. He was an infant when his father removed to Ohio and located on a farm where the boy received his early education. Later he attended New Richmond College. In 1854 John and a brother came to Iowa in an emigrant wagon, taking a claim at Scotch Grove in Jones County, where they opened a farm. He read law at Anamosa in Jones County, was admitted to the bar and there began to practice. In 1865 he was elected to the house of the Eleventh General Assembly serving two terms, after which he was promoted to the Senate where he served in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth General Assemblies. Mr. McKean was an able and influential legislator and did good service for the Agricultural College and the State University; for six years he was a regent of the latter. He secured the establishment of an additional penitentiary at Anamosa. In 1872 he was elected judge of the Circuit Court, where he remained for many years.

Source: History of Iowa Vol. IV, Benjamin F. Gue, New York City, 1903


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