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James B. Skahill
Born July 23, 1852


Among the more prosperous and prominent farmers of Washington township is numbered James B. Skahill, who at one time owned six hundred acres of excellent land here. He was born July 23, 1852, a son of Patrick and Mary (Murray) Skahill, both natives of Ireland. The former was born in 1815 and came to America in 1850, seeking to better his fortunes in a land which was not subject to the oppression which then visited the land of his birth. After spending a few years in the east, Mr. Skahill came to Jones county, where he purchased two hundred acres of wild land. This he improved and cultivated with considerable success, for although he had come to this country a poor man, he worked his way upward by industry and determination, until at his death he was in the enjoyment of a large competence. He was not long permitted to enjoy the comforts of the new world, for his death occurred in 1867. In the fifteen years or so that he spent in this county, however, he left his impress upon his township, for he rendered efficient service as trustee. His wife, who was about ten years his junior, also died in 1867. Of their six children, James B. Skahill is now the only survivor.
James B. Skahill, who was not fifteen years of age when he and his brothers and sisters were left orphans, the oldest being only sixteen, joined his efforts with those of his sister, a maid of twelve, with the intention of operating the farm and keeping the family together, being the youngest children in the county to conduct a home at that time. They succeeded in their undertakings for about seven years, when one of the children having died and others married, it was decided to sell the property and divide the proceeds. In the years of the struggle, Mr. Skahill had received some education in the public schools of the township, but it was very meager in comparison with the practical training he obtained from meeting squarely and unflinchingly the problems of life as they presented themselves. After the separation of the family he bought a farm of his own and now owns upwards of six hundred acres, although he has given two hundred acres to his two sons, that they might have a substantial start in life. While he pursues a general line of agriculture he has many other interests, besides mere farming. He aims to keep twenty-five or more cows in his dairy, hauling, during the best seasons, as much as five hundred pounds of milk to the creamery. He also carries the milk for neighbors, so that his dairy receipts average about five dollars a day. He feeds yearly about one hundred head of cattle and from seventy-five to one hundred hogs, besides having about sixteen horses of various ages. From sixty to eighty acres he plants in corn and each year he cuts about one hundred acres of hay. From all these various interests he derives a most gratifying return, which is a tangible evidence of his skill, his thrift and his industry. The characteristics which secured the advancement of his father along the highway of this world's progress, have been his heritage; but no man, who when scarcely more than a boy was inspired with ambition such as would have done credit to maturer years, could devote himself to what he believed to be his calling without winning from it a good fortune commensurate with his determination to succeed.
Mr. Skahill has been twice married, his first wife being Miss Eliza Kenney, by whom he had three children, namely: Willie, who married Mary McNiff, of Danbury; Anna, the wife of Thomas Evers, of Ryan; and Mary. After her death he was united in marriage to Miss Margaret Durigan, a daughter of James and Mary Durigan, residents of Jones county, where Mr. Durigan secured a fair competence from the tilling of the soil. Five children were born of this union Frank, James, Katie, Harry and John. All the children were given an education in the district schools, while James, Mary and Harry pursued their studies farther. Mary attended the public school at Temple Hill. then taught for ten years and is now the wife of Thomas Hollihan, a livery man of Ryan, Iowa. James completed his education at Cedar Rapids and is now in the employ as bookkeeper, of the Cedar Rapids Oil Company. Harry is now a student at St. Joseph's College, Dubuque, Iowa.
A democrat in his political affiliations, Mr. Skahill has been elected by that party to the office of township assessor, which he filled for five years; that of clerk, which he held for ten years; and that of secretary of the school board, administering his duties in that capacity for seventeen years. He is a devout member of the Catholic church.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 414.

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