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Decatur County >> 1915 Index

History of Decatur County, Iowa
J. M. Howell and H. C. Smith, supervising eds. 2 vols. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1915.


Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.

John L. Latta

Since July 1, 1911, John L. Latta has been engaged in business in Grand River as a dealer in hardware and furniture and as an undertaker and embalmer. For many years he followed the profession of teaching and gained an enviable reputation as an instructor. He was born in Akron, Harrison county, Missouri, six miles south of his present farm, on the 16th of October, 1864, a son of Calvin and Rachel (Jenkins) Latta. The Latta family is descended from French Huguenots, who fled from persecution in France to Ireland, whence in the seventeenth century William Latta emigrated to the United States, becoming one of William Penn's colony in Pennsylvania. Our subject's grandfather, Moses Latta, removed with his family to Indiana when his son Calvin, who was born in Ross county, Ohio, was but a small boy. They settled in what was then known as Dearborn county but which became Ross county on the subdivision of the former county. Moses Latta was a farmer and stockman and passed away in Indiana when he had reached a ripe old age. There Calvin Latta grew to manhood and on the 19th of March, 1846, his marriage occurred.  Not long afterward he and his bride removed to Muscatine county, Iowa, where they resided until 1856, when he sold out and they removed to Akron, Harrison county, Missouri. He preempted one hundred and sixty acre of swamp land and although he met with reverses he continued to reside there until 1866, when he came to Decatur county, Iowa, locating in district No. 3, New Buda township. He became the owner of three hundred acres of fine land and was very successful as a farmer and stock-raiser, being noted as a breeder of fine Belgian horses. He passed away February 4, 1892, when almost seventy-four years of age, his birth having occurred on the 12th of February, 1818. His wife was born near Germantown, Pennsylvania, on the 25th of August, 1824. When she was a small child her father died and she lost her other when she was but eight years of age. She was reared in the home of a Presbyterian minister and was given excellent educational advantages. In her girlhood she removed to Indiana, where her marriage occurred. She passed away March 19, 1896, in the faith of the Presbyterian church, to which she had belonged for many years. She had seven children, five of whom survive, namely: Mary Ann, now Mrs. A. N. Willis, of this county; Moses, a retired farmer residing in Davis City; Warren J., a blacksmith of Davis City, who is mentioned elsewhere in this work; Stephen b., who is living on a farm in Eden township southeast of Leon; and John L. Two daughters, Martha and Margaret, died in infancy.

John L. Latta was reared under the parental roof and at the usual age entered the public schools. After completing his course in the Davis City high school he began teaching and for eighteen years followed that profession and continued his studies. After serving for a year as assistant principal of the Lamoni high school he was made principal of the West Side school at Lamoni. In the fall of 1896 he accepted the principalship of the school at Grand River, where he remained of three years. He was next principal of the Weldon schools, holding that office for a similar period of time. During these years he taught in the County Normal Institute. He had previously attended the Central Normal University at Humeston and there won the degree of Bachelor of Science.  Not long after he was graduated from the school it was destroyed by fire. He felt that his work as a teacher would be benefited by further advanced study and in 1902 and 1903 he took a course at the Iowa State Teachers' College at Cedar Falls, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Didactics from that institution. Following his graduation therefrom he taught at Sioux Center, Iowa, for a year and was then engaged in manufacturing in independence, Missouri, for two years, or until August, 1906. In that year he became superintendent of schools at Tripoli, Bremer county, and on leaving that place became teacher of mathematics in the high school at Iowa Falls and served during the two succeeding years as principal of that school.

On the 1st of July, 1911, Mr. Latta entered business circles of Grand River as the owner of a hardware and furniture store and he has since gained a place in the ranks of the leading and most successful merchants of the town. He is also a licensed embalmer and undertaker, having completed a course in embalming at Des Moines and having since taken a post-graduate course therein. His stock and fixtures are worth about seven thousand dollars and as he carries a complete line of hardware and furniture and seeks to give his customers the greatest possible value and the best service that it is within his power to give his patronage has grown steadily. He also owns ninety acres of land in the southeastern part of New Buda township and derives therefrom a gratifying addition to his income.

On the 10th of October, 1897, in Lamoni, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Latta and Miss Esther C. Cooper, who was born in Plano, Illinois, in 1874, of the marriage of I. N. W. and Sarah (Skeen) Cooper, natives respectively of Ohio and of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were married at Plano, Illinois, where they remained until they removed to Decatur county, Iowa, where they remained for three years and where a son, Daniel, was born. Following their return to Plano, Illinois, the mother passed away, her demise occurring in 1877. The following year Mr. Cooper married Miss Mell A. Skeen, a half-sister of his first wife, and in 1879 they located on a farm in Fayette township, this county, five miles southwest of Lamoni, where they continued to reside until 1890. In that year Mr. Cooper was accidentally injured and gave up the active work of the farm, removing to Lamoni, where he purchased a residence. He lived there for eight years and then removed to Independence, Missouri, where his death occurred in August, 1906, when he was sixty-three years old. In his early manhood he taught school in Plano, Illinois, and his wife followed that profession at Braddocks, that state. While living in this county he was for many years principal of the schools at Decatur City and was for several years treasurer and bookkeeper of the Herald Publishing Company. From the '60s until his demise he was a member of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints and served as an elder therein for a number of years.

To Mr. Cooper and his first wife were born five children: Mrs. Anna May Mather, of Independence, Missouri; R. T., a banker of Los Angeles, California, who is an elder in the church; Daniel P., a physician of Council Bluffs, Iowa; Mrs. Latta; and Mrs. Sarah J. Conway, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. To the second union were born two daughters" Mrs. Pauline smith, of Kansas City, Missouri; and Ruth, who is residing at Independence, Missouri, with her widowed mother. Mrs. Latta was reared at Lamoni and after completing the course in the local high school taught the first and second primary grades in the Lamoni schools until her marriage. Mr. And Mrs. Latta have a daughter, Vivian Lucile, whose birth occurred January 14, 1902, and who is a freshman in the high school at Grand River.

Mr. Latta is an active democrat and is a leader of that party in this county. He was at one time his party's candidate for county clerk and his personal popularity was attested by the fact that he ran ahead of his ticket. While living in Bremer county he was a candidate for the office of county superintendent of schools but was defeated by the saloon element, which he fought in and out of season. Fraternally he belongs to the Masonic lodge at Grand River and both he and his wife hold membership in the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints at Independence, Missouri. Both are highly educated and refined and have gained a large circle of friends in Grand River. Mr. Latta finds that the conduct of his growing business makes heavy demands upon his time but he also recognizes his obligations as a citizen and never fails to cooperate in movements seeking the community welfare. 

Warren J. Latta is conducting a blacksmith shop at David City and has built up a large business by excellent workmanship and fair dealing. He was born in Akron, Missouri, April 16, 1858, a son of Calvin and Rachel (Jenkins) Latta, natives respectively of Ohio and Pennsylvania. The father was taken to Indiana by his parents when that state was still a frontier region and there grew to manhood. He turned his attention to farming and after following agricultural pursuits in the Hoosier state for several years removed to Muscatine, Iowa, where he engaged in teaming for some time. About 1855 he went to Akron, Missouri, where he farmed until 1866, when he came to Decatur county and purchased land in New Buda township. Is farm, which comprised three hundred and thirteen acres, was well improved, and he derived therefrom a gratifying annual income. He passed away in February, 1892, but was survived by his widow for four years.

Warren J. Latta was reared and educated in Missouri and New Buda township, this county, and continued to reside with his parents until they were called by death. He and four brothers farmed the place in partnership until 1905, when they divided the land, his share being eighty acres. From 1905 until 1914 he farmed independently but in March of the later year he sold forty acres and removed to Davis City, where he established a blacksmith shop, the only smithy in the town. While still living upon the farm he had for fifteen years done blacksmithing and had gained a reputation for excellent work in that line. He has met with gratifying success since coming to Davis City and derives a good income from his trade. He also owns a brick business building, two stories and basement, and holds title to his comfortable residence.

Mr. Latta was married on the 19th of March, 1890, to Miss Harriet Robbins, a daughter of john and Rachel (Davis) Robbins, natives respectively of Indiana and Ohio. The father, who was one of the pioneers of Decatur county, Iowa, bought land in Burrell township in an early day and gave the remainder of his life to the operation of his farm. He passed away in November, 1913, and his wife died in 1893. To Mr. And Mrs. Latta were born twelve children, five of whom died in infancy, the others being: Perry and James, who are in partnership with their father and who also conduct a garage and machine shop; Martha b., the wife of Clarence Vandall, who is operating land belonging to our subject; Maude, who married Otho Wishon, a resident of Harrison county, Missouri; Alice W., who is keeping house for her father; and Charles and George, who are attending school. Mrs. Latta passed away July 9, 1913, after a prolonged illness, and her demise was the occasion of much sincere grief, for she had many warm friends.

Mr. Latta is a democrat and has at all times performed his duties as a citizen conscientiously. While actively engaged in agricultural pursuits he was recognized as a successful farmer and stock-raiser and gave particular attention to breeding thoroughbred Percheron horses.  Since his removal to Davis City he has won a place among the town's prosperous residents and is highly esteemed here.