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Decatur County Iowa Genealogy
Pioneer Biographies



C. E. GURNSEY, stock-raiser, P. O. Cloverdale, was born in Michigan in 1849, where he lived until 1863; thence to Decatur County, Iowa, where he remained until 1870, coming from there to Kansas, locating in Howard County, and took a claim. It was 120 miles to a railroad point, and there were but few settlers. He improved his claim and lived there for ten years; he then traded for a farm on Section 11 and 12, Township 33, Range 8, on the Big Caney River, and proceeded to make a stock farm of it. His place contains 800 acres, with forty-eight acres of timber, and all conveniences for stock-raising; 640 acres are inclosed by fence, 200 acres in cultivation, and good house, and orchard of two and one-half acres; and has the place stocked with forty cows. Besides this, he owns one-half interest in 250 head of fat cattle, and will make it a point to fatten that number or more each season.
The subject of this sketch came to Kansas without anything to make a start, and has made a good success. In 1876, he was married to Miss Mary Spears, of Cloverdale. They have four children, viz.; Mary, Evert, Estella and Herman.

 Extracted from "Cutler's History of Kansas" published 1883
Found in Chautagua Co KS


JOHN HEASTON was born in Henry County, Ind., March 23, 1857, living there two years when his parents moved to Decatur County, Iowa, where he remained eight years. Then removed to Harrison County, Mo., remaining nine years. He returned to Decatur County, Iowa, where he married March 3, 1871, Miss Sarah J. Johnson. They have three children--Della, Eva, Josie. In 1874 he moved to Morris County, Kan., engaging in farming until 1879, when he moved to Council Grove, where he opened an agricultural implement store, which he has since carried on in partnership with Mr. Martin and John Sims.

 Extracted from "Cutler's History of Kansas" published 1883
Found in Morris County, Ks


Lewis Wallace Jennings, who is now living a retired life in Hunters, is one of the substantial men of the section and since 1900 has identified his interests with this place. He owns one of the most tasty and comfortable residences in Hunters and has an abundance of spring water piped into it from a beautiful spring up the mountain. He was born in Rolersville, Ohio, on March 22, 1844, the son of General Lewis and Lorhama (Hollaway) Jennings. The father was a general in the Mexican war and William Jennings Bryan is his nephew. He lived in Ohio until 1854 then came to Decatur county, Iowa, where he died in 1870.
The mother was a native of Pontiac, Ohio, and died when our subject was five. Lewis was the youngest of thirteen children and remained with his father until July 16, 1862, when he enlisted in Company H, Twenty-sixth Iowa Infantry, being sworn in at Clinton. He was with Sherman and was soon taken sick and sent home on a furlough. When able to do guard duty he was left to guard Davenport, Iowa. At Vicksburg, he was taken captive and in the fall of 1863, at the Black river in Mississippi, he was discharged on account of disability.
On February 22, 1864, Mr. Jennings married Miss Margaret, daughter of William and Clista (Barenger) Inman. She was born in Ohio on February 18, 1845. Twelve children have been the fruit of this union:
William, an engineer in Lewiston; Francis N. and Albert, farmers near Hunters; Ada, wife of C. Davis, son of "Cashup" Davis, of Whitman county; Mary B., wife of S. Britton, a merchant of Wilbur; Robert Lee, near Hunters; Amanda, deceased; Lulu, wife of Theodore McMeekin, near Bissell; Andrew, of Wilbur; George W., deceased; James, near Hunters; Charles, at home. Mr. and Mrs. Jennings were married in Sandusky and then farmed in Iowa until 1876. In that year came a trip via San Francisco and Portland to Colfax, Washington. In Whitman county, Mr. Jennings farmed and faced the Indians, refusing to leave his home when the others flocked to town.
He continued there with good success until 1900, when he sold and removed to his present abode. Mr. Jennings has the distinction of building the first hotel in Pullman, the same being where the Artesian house now stands.
Mr. Jennings is a member of the I.O.O.F. and has passed the chairs.

 Possibly from the History Of Stevens County, Stevens County Washington
(If you have information on the correct source for this biography, please let me know. It was received with no source information)


James H. Martin still owns two hundred acres of excellent land in Bloomington and Fayette townships, his home being on section 22, Bloomington township, and he held title to six hundred acres of land until he divided the greater part of his holdings among his children.
He was born in 1855, in Birmingham, Staffordshire, England, a son of William and Martha (Tucker) Martin. About 1857 the father emigrated to America and a year or so later the family followed him to this country. They resided at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for one year, after which a removal was made to Rock Island, Illinios, where they lived for two years. Subsequently the family residence was maintained at Kewanee, that state. The father owned a small coal mine, and as he was a practical miner and very energetic and industrious, he gained financial independence. He passed away in Kewanee in 1889 when about sixty years old, but his widow is still living at the advanced age of eighty years. The homestead is still in the possession of the family. Mr. Martin was a devout member of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, to which his wife also belongs. They were the parents of five sons and three daughters, nameley: James H.; John, a farmer of Fayette township; Mrs. Martha Tucker, Mrs. Rosanna Lyons and Mrs. Elizabeth Lamb, all of Illinois; William, who was killed on a railroad at Independence, Missouri; George of Fayette township, this county; and Thomas, a farmer living near Cainesville, Missouri.
James H. Martin was reared in Illinois and there received his education. In 1880, when a young man of twenty-five years, he removed to Decatur county, Iowa, and settled near the state line in Fayette township, buying eighty acres of land on section 26 from the United Order of Enoch. Subsequently he added forty acres adjoining and remained upon that farm for ten years, making a number of improvements. In 1890 he sold that one hundred and twenty acres and purchased three hundred and twenty acres on section 22, Bloomington township, to which he later added forty acres. He remained upon that place for ten years, after which he removed to Lamoni, where he resided for one year. At the end of that time he purchased one hundred and eighty-six acres in the Evergreen Settlement southwest of Lamoni, where he resided for about a decade. He then returned to his farm on section 22, Bloomington township, where he has since made his home. He has improved his place well and keeps everything in excellent condition, while his well directed industry has made him a successful farmer and stock-raiser. Although at one time he owned six hundred acres of land, he has but now two hundred acres, as he has divided his holdings among his children. The first eighty acres which he purchased cost twelve dollars and a half per acre, but is now easily worth one hundred dollars per acre. He began his independent career with a capital of less than four hundred dollars and the financial independence which is now his is the merited reward of energy and good management.
Mr. Martin was married in Illinois to Miss Sarah Ann Atkinson, a native of England, who came to America when thirteen years of age and who passed away in 1911 when about sixty years of age, leaving five children: William, thirty two years old, who is still at home; Martha, the wife of A. L. Keen, a farmer of this county, by whom she has a daughter, MIldred; James, Jr. who owns a number of farms and is sucessfully engaged in business in Lamoni, and who married, in Illinois, Miss Hazel Roth; Clarence, a farmer of this county, who was married in Missouri to Miss Ora Cawfelt; and Ruth, the wife of R. A. Hammer, mentioned elsewhere in this work.
On the 26th Of October, 1913, Mr. Martin married Mrs. Emma (Hersha) Good. By her previous marriage she has four children, of whom two reside in Lamoni: Clarence, cashier of Farmers State Bank; Alma, a high-school graduate and a clever cartoonist; Galdys (sic), who is attending school; and John, at home.
Mr. Martin is a republican and although several times solicited to become a candidate for public office, has always refused. He has, however, served as a member of the board of education, as he recognizes the paramount importance of an excellent system of public schools.
He became a member of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints at Kewanee and has since, or for a period of forty years, taken great interest in the welfare and growth of that organization. He gave the local congregation an acre of ground on which the house of worship was erected, and has contributed generously to the current expenses of the church. His wife is also identified with the Latter Day Saints. In addition to his farm, he owns an excellent residence in Lamoni, where his daughter, Mrs. Hammer, now lives.
He began his independent career with very little capital, but he believed that energy and sound judgment, coupled with the opportunities of the middle west, would enable him to achieve success and that faith has been amply justified, as he is one of the substantial men of his township.

History of Decatur County, Published 1915, Volume 2, p.26-28
*Please note there are several minor errors in this article.
A photograph of the Martin Brothers


Jake C. Robberts, attorney of David City, Butler Co., Neb., was born at Grinnell, Poweshiek Co., Iowa, October 2, 1850. He is the son of Rev. James Fletcher and Roxanna Robberts, who settled in Poweshiek County, Iowa, in 1848.  He attended Western College, in Linn County, Iowa, one year, and Simpson Centenary College, at Indianola, Warren Co., Iowa, four years. After leaving college he settled on a farm in Decatur County, Iowa, in which county he was made Deputy Treasurer of the county; was twice elected to the office of County Superintendent of Schools for the county; was admitted to practice law in March, 1873, before Hon. James W. Hewett, Circuit Judge. He married Miss Sallie C. Martin, of Leon, Iowa, on December 23, 1873; moved to David City, Butler Co.,  Neb., in January, 1877, and commenced practicing law. In 1880, Mr. Robberts was elected to the Nebraska Legislature from Butler County, and served in the Sixteenth Session, in 1881, from the Fifty-first District, including Butler, Colfax and  Platte Counties. He was Chairman of the Committee of Railroads. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of the A., F. & A. M., Fidelity Lodge, No. 51, David City, also a member of the I. O. O. F., at David City. Is also a member of the firm of W. J. Cordner & Co., who own a large cattle ranch two miles from David
City, and breed Short-Horn Durham cattle.

Andreas History of The State of Nebraska. Butler Co


J. H. VANDEVER, farmer, P. O. Newton, owns forty acres here, all enclosed and under cultivation, with a good orchard of 110 apples and 50 peach trees, and fine frame dwelling, 20x24, two stories with kitchen, 16x18, one story barn, 18x42, with buggy shed, 12x32. He also owns a fine farm of 400 acres on Section 4, Highland Township, all enclosed with hedge, with cross fences of post and wire, 200 acres under cultivation, with bearing orchard of 100 apple and 100 peach trees and 20 acres of cultivated timber, and the rest in pasture with dwelling, 16x20, with well, 12x16, with cellar under the whole building, barn 34x40, with tool house, 12x16, three wells and windmill. He raised in 1882, 50 acres of Russian wheat which averaged 30 bushels per acre, and 50 acres Gold Drop which averaged 28 bushels per acre.
He was born in Carroll County, Ind., January 19, 1838. Was married July 21, 1858 to Miss Amanda A, Carter. Immigrated to Iowa in 1859, settled in Decatur County, lived there two years, then returned to Indiana and enlisted in 1862 in Company E, Eighty-seventh Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and served with his command in the western department, participated in a number of skirmishes and general engagements among others Perryville, Ky., Chattanooga and Chickamauga, after which he was promoted from Color bearer of the regiment to First Lieutenant of Company E. and was in the battle of Mission Ridge and all the engagements of the Atlanta campaign with Sherman on his march to the sea and north through the Carolinas and to Washington D. C. In the grand review, and was mustered out in June 1865. Returned to Indiana and lived there until coming to Kansas in 1872, first locating on his farm in Highland Township and improving it and bought and locating on present place of residence in 1879. Is engaged in stock-raising as well as farming, having at present fifty-five head of cattle.
They have nine children -- Mollie C., Effie, Myrtle, Edna, Johnnie, Willie, Freddie, Pearl and Carl. Effie and Johnnie died in July, 1872, were buried at Fletcher's Lake, Fulton Co., Ind., ages respectively ten and three. Mollie C. is now the wife of Mr. A. C. Frederick, resident of Riverside, Cal.   Mr. Vandever is a member of the G. A. R.

Extracted from "Cutler's History of Kansas" published 1883
Found in Harvey Co KS

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