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Johnson County >> 1912 Index

Leading Events in Johnson County, Iowa
by Charles R. Aurner. 2 vols. Cedar Rapids: Western Hist. Pr., 1912-13.


Unless noted, biographies submitted by Richard Barton.


The "Old Philip Clark farm," situated one and one-half miles south of Iowa City, on the River Road, is famous as the scene of the first court house in Johnson county, wherein the early legal history of the county took form.  This house was the residence of James McCollister for some time after his purchase of the farm in 1864, and therein his only daughter Mrs. A. G. Showers, of Iowa City, was born.  The legends of court life in Johnson county recite that juries, after receiving the evidence, left the old building and made their deliberations on the open prairie on account of lack of room for privacy in the court house.  James McCollister, soon after purchasing the farm in 1864, began the erection of a new brick residence, which he has added to from time to time until it has reached very large proportions, being one of the most stately mansions in Johnson county, with every modern improvement.  The great farm of eight hundred acres has been improved until it is easily one of the finest estates in Iowa.  In addition to the family mansion, the farm contains several residences for the use of tenants and immense barns for housing stock and feed.  Water for all purposes is supplied by windmills.  a remarkable fact in connection with this farm is that there have been but two transfers made of it - one from the United States to Philip Clark and the second from Philip Clark to James McCollister, and there has never been a mortgage placed upon it.

James McCollister is a native of Ohio, born in Pike county March 8, 1835.  His father, Judge Charles McCollister, was born in Maryland in 1799, and come to Ohio in 1803 with his parents, Robert and Mary McCollister, who were also natives of Maryland.  They settled near Chillicothe.  Robert McCollister was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  He was of Scotch ancestry.  Judge Charles McCollister, father of James, was a man of great natural ability, sound sense, and forceful character.  In spite of the primitive methods of education of his time he acquired a goodly stock of practical learning and became one of the first school teachers of Pike county. After he had married and secured a farm, he continued the work of teaching in connection with his agricultural pursuits.  His ability brought him irresistibly to the front in the public affairs of his county, and he was first chosen justice of the peace, then county treasurer, and later judge of the court of common pleas, remaining on the bench for ten years.  He was a lifelong democrat, and the only defeat he ever suffered was at the hands of the know-nothing party in 1854.  The following year he removed to Johnson county, Iowa, and settled five miles south of Iowa City on the farm known as the "Judge Coleman Farm," consisting of 1,000 acres, which he purchased.  Under his management this place became one of the best cultivated and most productive farms of eastern Iowa.  His agricultural interests were of such extent that he took an active part in politics in Iowa.  He was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal church, though formerly a Presbyterian.  His death in 1876 was universally regretted.  His wife, our subject's mother, was Mary Stinson, born in Ross county, Ohio, in 1802, her father being James Stinson, a native of New Jersey and a veteran of the War of 1812.  She died at the advanced age of eighty-eight years in 1890, having survived her husband fourteen years.  This excellent couple were the parents of eleven children, all of whom reached maturity and reared families of their own. Their names are as follows: Jacob, of Oklahoma City; Malinda, wife of Samuel Maneir; Robert, deceased, married to Malinda Stinson; Mary, wife of the late Le Grande Byington, of Iowa City; Lydia, wife of George Corwin, of Carthage, Missouri; Martha, wife of M. Dunlop, of Ross county, Ohio, both deceased; Elizabeth, wife of G. W. Nelson, of Johnson county, Iowa; and Emma, widow of James Anderson, of Johnson county, Iowa.

James McCollister received a common school education in Pike county, Ohio, his "schooling" being obtained in one of the log cabin school houses of the day, where the methods and facilities were of the most primitive sort.  School teachers were poorly paid, the highest salary received being only $20.00 per month.  Perseverance and ambition were essential on the part of the student in those days to cover the handicap of short terms and limited curriculum, in contrast to the advantages of the twentieth century, which "Dad's pocketbook" can place within the reach of every child.  Young McCollister supplemented his common school training with a course in the graded schools of Waverly.  James McCollister's journey from Ohio to Johnson county, Iowa, was made by team and wagon.  On his arrival here he began work on the farm with his father, assisting him in general agricultural work until he was twenty-nine years of age.  In March, 1864, he purchased his present farm.

In March, 1862, our subject was married to Miss Mary E. Hill, a native of Johnson county, who was born September 12, 1844.  She is a daughter of William Carpenter, but was adopted by Thomas Hill, by whom she was reared and educated.  Two children were born to James McCollister and wife:  Thomas Jefferson, born in December, 1862, married to Henrietta Briggs, residing on one of his father's farms south of Lone Tree, Iowa; Mary E., born in 1864, wife of A. J. Showers, residing in Iowa City.

Stability and continuity are marked traits of James McCollister. This is proven by the fact that he has resided continuously on the farm he first purchased in Johnson county and has developed, improved, and maintained the same without mortgage indebtedness.  It is further illustrated by the fact that he has uninterruptedly voted the straight democratic ticket for fifty-five years. His political faith is the result of deep conviction, and, while not an offensive partisan, he has been active in the work of his party and has served it whenever occasion demanded.  He has been identified with every important enterprise in Johnson county which his judgment approved, his opinion being law in many instances in the settlement of business propositions.  Having amassed large wealth, he has felt himself to be in a sense a steward of his possessions and his pocketbook has always been available for the promotion of the best interests of his county and his fellow men.  He is a member of the I. O. O. F. and the Legion of Honor, having held prominent positions in both orders.  At seventy-six years, he is in stalwart health and is regarded as one of the progressive representative citizens of the county.


The ancestry and genealogy of the McCollister family is quite fully set forth in the sketch of James McCollister, the father of our subject, which appears elsewhere in this volume. The reader's attention is called to this in connection with the present biography of Thomas Jefferson McCollister, of Lone Tree, Iowa.

Our subject was born in Johnson county December 4, 1862.  He attended the public schools of the county, receiving there-from a good fundamental education.  This he supplemented by courses at the Iowa City Academy and the Williams Commercial College, graduating from the latter institution in 1884.  Thereafter he took up the business of farming on the old homestead below Iowa City in connection with his father.  When he was twenty-two years of age he moved to his present location, near Lone Tree, and, with the exception of five years spent at Iowa City, has resided there ever since.  For several years past Mr. McCollister has made a specialty of raising purebred Aberdeen Angus cattle, and his name stands high among stock men and cattle buyers for the excellence of his product.

Mr. McCollister has been married twice.  His first wife was Miss Lettie Briggs, a native of Johnson county, Iowa.  Three children were born to this union:  Oscar, married and living in Rock Island, Ill.; James and Glenn.  The latter married and living in Dubuque, Iowa.  Mr. McCollister was married again, 1901 to Miss Julia E. Hynes, a native of Louisa county, Iowa. Their only child a bright winsome little boy died May 19, 1913, aged 5 years, 1 month and 20 days.

Mrs. McCollister is a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Eden) Hynes, natives of Ireland and England, respectively.  The father was born in County Clare, Ireland, September 29, 1821, and came to America when 17 years of age and died in Johnson county, April 9, 1907.  He was the parent of nineteen children.

The home life of Mr. and Mrs. McCollister is filled with comfort and good cheer, and is typical of the prosperous section of Johnson county in which they reside.

Politically, like his father, Mr. McCollister has always been a democrat.  He is a member of the M. w. A. of Lone Tree, Camp 2505.  Is a member of the Episcopal church.  His wife is a member of the Catholic church.