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George Saum
Born April 22, 1814


In the death of George Saum there passed away one of Jones county's prominent and honored pioneer residents. His history is worthy of appreciation for his life was characterized by many sterling qualities, and the work which he. did in the development and improvement of this section of the state was of a most important character. He was born in Highland county, Ohio, April 22, 1814, and was a son of Jacob Saum.
As the name indicates the family is of German lineage, and was founded in America by the grandfather of George Saum, who held official position in the commissary department of the continental army under Washington. In 1828 Jacob Saum removed with his family from Ohio to Warren county, Indiana, so that the experiences of pioneer life in the latter state were familiar to George Saum during the period of his youth. He continued in Indiana during the ages of fourteen and twenty-five years and in 1838 made his first trip to Iowa, stopping on the Indian reserve in Lee county. He made temporary location there with his family but in June, 1839, removed to Jones county, settling at Walnut Grove, Rome township. His family then numbered a wife and three children J. D., afterward of Olin; Nicholas, who became a resident of Mechanicsville, Iowa, and died February 1, 1907; and Polly A., who became Mrs. Robert Johnson, of Anamosa.
Mr. Saum's first purchase of land was one hundred and sixty acres which is still in the possession of the family. Through some mistake Orville Cronkhite entered eighty acres of the same quarter which Mr. Saum was improving, and the latter gave him his note for one hundred dollars with twenty per cent interest. He succeeded in wiping out the indebtedness in two years, although that was at a time when money was very scarce in the neighborhood. On reaching the farm the family camped under a bur oak tree, but Mr. Saum at once began the construction of a good log house, and although it contained only one room it was sixteen by eighteen feet. In its building he had the assistance of the few men who were then living in the district. His possessions, aside from his land, consisted of a yoke of oxen, an old wagon and a pony which would not have sold for a sum sufficient to enable him to discharge his indebtedness, which amounted to eighty dollars. Walnut Grove at that time contained about six hundred acres of good timber land. The well known Tom Green afterward a resident of Wyoming, a man of the Daniel Boone type in some of his sterling traits of character, also located at Walnut Grove and the two married sisters. They were also associated in the purchase of three hundred and twenty acres of land held as a claim by William Hamilton, and each thus secured eighty acres of prairie and eighty acres of timber land. Mr. Green attended the government land sales in Dubuque in July, 1840, completed the entry of the three hundred and twenty acres and paid for it.
After arriving in the county Mr. Saum bent his energies to general agricultural pursuits and continued to reside upon his farm until 1878. As the years passed he prospered in his undertakings and became the owner of about sixteen hundred acres in Jones county and four hundred acres in Cedar county. About 1874 he divided up something like sixteen hundred acres between his eight children, and at that time he closed out his other business interests. For three or four years, however, he continued to reside in Anamosa and in Davenport, after which he went to California, where he devoted twenty years to horticultural pursuits. In the meantime he had been one of the early horticulturists of Jones county, for in the spring of 1842 he bought from an old Quaker from Richmond, Indiana, about one hundred apple trees and a few pear and cherry trees, which he planted on his farm in Rome township. The apple trees were soon in good bearing and for years thereafter he made display of his fruit at the county fairs, thus giving tangible evidence to the unbelieving of what could be done in the line of fruit production on the Iowa prairies. He was likewise the pioneer in the introduction of thoroughbred shorthorn cattle, for in 1846 he brought to the county three cows and an imported bull, locomotive, which had been purchased in England by a Kentucky company. Cattle then sold at a very low figure, but Mr. Saum purchased his shorthorns at a cost of a little over one hundred dollars each. He had to borrow a part of the money, but be determined to have the best stock ' and the wisdom of his course was demonstrated. His farm work was at all times actuated by the spirit of progress and improvement, and he was among the first to introduce the improved farm machinery which invention gave to the agriculturist. In 1844 he purchased the first McCormick reaper brought into the county and with it cut his own wheat and oats and also assisted his neighbors. This reaper was sold a year later for another and afterward that was replaced by a third, having a Moore attachment. In those days the plows used had wooden mold--boards, and Mr. Saum was among the first to learn of the manufacture of steel plows-made by John Deere of Grand De Tour, Illinois. He then handled plows for Mr. Deere for six or seven years, selling to the farmers of the community, and although he trusted them for payment he never lost a cent.
As previously stated, Mr. Saum had three children when he came to Iowa. Seven children were born unto him and his wife at Walnut Grove, of whom one died in infancy. The death of the mother occurred on the home farm May 22, 1873, and in 1874 Mr. Saum married Miss Cordelia Huggins, of Anamosa, a sister of Burrill Huggins, now of Indianola. In 1879 they removed to Healdsburg, California, Mr. Saum there giving his attention to fruit culture for twenty years. Throughout this period, however, he considered Anamosa his real home and in 1899 returned to this city. His last years were there passed, and he delighted in recounting incidents of pioneer life and recalling the conditions which then existed in contrast with the improvements and progress that was made. His memory formed a connecting link between the primitive past and the prosperous present. In early times he did everything possible to stimulate growth and development here along lines that would work for the betterment of the community. Denied but the most meager educational advantages in his own youth, he always advocated education and in 1842 opened the first school in Walnut Grove, giving the first log cabin which he had erected to be used for school purposes. Two years later he and his hired man cut down trees, hauled the logs together, gathered in the neighbors and put up a new schoolhouse which they seated with puncheon benches. Occasionally a church service was held in this schoolhouse, the scattered families of the region coming to hear the gospel proclaimed by some circuit rider. The Sunday school was always carried on quite regularly there.
In their earlier years Mr. and Mrs. Saum were devoted members of the United Brethren church, and at all times his life was upright and honorable. It was a matter of deep rejoicing to him that Iowa won for herself such prominent place in the Union through the utilization of her natural resources and the development of her varied interests. He lived here at a time when Dubuque, Davenport and Muscatine were the only markets for wheat, corn, oats, pork, cattle and even for butter and eggs. He was always an optimist, a man of large views of present possibilities and still larger views of the possibilities and achievements of the future. "On more than one occasion has he given free rein to thought and imagination," said one who knew him well, "we have been greatly impressed with his remarkably clear grasp of national character in all the higher elements of greatness and power and in America's supreme eminence and present and ultimate influence among the nations of the earth. Faith in the future was an inborn characteristic of his nature and this was what brought him to Iowa six years before the state was admitted to the Union, it being only a wilderness inherited by Indians, while deer, elk and rattlesnakes were among its natural products. This unquenchable spirit in those years of privation, trackless prairies and bridgeless streams, made Mr. Saum not only a pioneer but a heroic helper and leader in securing for himself and for his fellow workers every available instrumentality in education and in material equipment necessary for the founding and building of a state. His greatest pride was in Iowa and in her steady growth he wrought well his part and to him and those who labored with him is Iowa largely indebted for her peerless record among the commonwealths of the Union."
Mr. Saum spent his last years in the home of his daughter, Mrs. William Peet, save the last week when he was at the home of another daughter, Mrs. Johnson, where he passed away at the age of ninety-four years. His life was one of success, judged not only by what he accomplishes for himself but by the high standard of success in what he did for others, As a leader in lines of progress he did much both directly and indirectly for the county, and at all times he was ready to assist another by word of advice or encouragement or through a substantial aid. He was one of the best known and most honored of the pioneers of Jones county.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 158.

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