Biography of John A. Nash
Audubon County, IA Biographies

With affectionate and tender interest men and women of the present generation, who are enjoying the comforts and advantages made possible by those whose works have ended, revert to the salient points of their careers. The service of one's fellows is the keynote of honorable and efficient citizenship, and when we turn the pages of personal history and realize for the first time how far one noble man or one noble woman may influence for good the currents of life in a community, we are struck with a sense of our own personal responsibilities as citizens of this republic and as factors in the community life of whatever sphere we may dominate. It is not the man who makes the loudest pretentions of greatness who is really great, but rather the man who in a modest and humble spirit meets the obligations which opportunity puts in his pathway. These thoughts are especially suggested by the career of the late John A. Nash, who, until his death on October 28, 1913, was properly regarded as the first citizen of Audubon.

The late John A. Nash was fortunate in having been born of parents who during his youth set for him a worthy example of service. Furthermore, he was fortunate in having been provided in his youth with exceptional educational advantages, which equipped him for a large career of influence. Moreover, in Audubon county at least, he had the advantage of having come here as a young man at the very beginning of the county's settlement, the beginning of its agricultural development; the beginning of its rise to distinction among the sister counties of the great Hawkeye commonwealth. What he did, however, from the beginning of his career in this county is what hundreds of other men similarly situated might have failed to do. He was able to see his opportunities and he was possessed of the inclination and ability to take advantage of them.

Though his last days here were darkened by personal sorrow at the loss of a loved member of his family, he nevertheless bore with fortitude the exacting demands of the omniscient and omnipotent Father and remained until his death an optimist in sorrow, one who could see behind the dark clouds the silver lining that lay beyond. John A. Nash excelled as a lawyer, he was superb as a citizen, patient, kind and unselfish as a father and husband.

Born on May 9, 1854, at Des Moines, Iowa, the late John A. Nash was the son of Rev. John A. Nash, D. D., a Baptist minister who came to Iowa, locating at Des Moines about 185o, when that splendid city of today was no more than a trading post on the outpost of civilization. There he lived for many years, and there the greatest work of his life was performed. He went to Des Moines as a minister in the church, and after some years established Des Moines College, an institution which has had a profound influence on the life of this section, and of which for many years he was the president. Both he and his good wife, whose maiden name was Mary E. Hepburn, were natives of New York state and migrated from New York to Iowa. Both are now deceased. But their good work goes on, not only in the reflected goodness of their distinguished son, the subject of this sketch, but in the lives of their other children and in the lives of the hundreds who came under the spell of their beneficent influence. To Rev. John A. and Mary E. (Hepburn) Nash were born three children besides John A., namely: Janet C., Nettie M. and Harriet N.

John A. Nash, who was the eldest of these children, received his elementary education in the schools of Des Moines, and was graduated from Des Moines College. It was there, under the tutelage of his father and the influence of the church that his early ideals, aspirations and ambitions were formulated. Naturally the influence of christianity was predominant in Des Moines College, and as a student in the institution of which his father was president John A. Nash came under this influence. It is no doubt true that there, in association with his fellow students, his notions of real life and the purposes of the individual in society became fixed.

Early in life John A. Nash decided to equip himself for the law, and, after completing the classisal course at Des Moines College, he entered the Iowa College of Law, now a part of Drake University, and subsequently was graduated with high honors. When his collegiate training was finished he was equipped to practice his profession in the largest cities of the East, since his training was in no wise inferior to that given in the larger universities of the East. But instead of returning to the home of his father, as many other boys might have done, he choose the little town of Stewart, Iowa, as a place where he might begin his practice. There for one year he read law with a Mr. Fogg, and, after gaining some practical experience, the next year formed a partnership with B. S. Phelps and removed to Exira, this county. But Exira was to be only a temporary seat of his professional activities. Audubon at that time was not counted as a city, but upon its establishment as the county seat, Mr. Nash removed to Audubon and continued in the practice of his profession until July, 1913, when he sold the practice and office to Arnold, Ross & Rasmussen.

Two years after beginning the practice of law at Exira, John A. Nash was married on September 1, 1880, to Gertrude Russell, daughter of George B. and Jane (Hutchinson) Russell, who were natives of Scotland and New York state, respectively. Mrs. Nash's father came to America when a mere lad, and after remaining for a time in New York, moved to Wisconsin, where he married and eventually, in 1871, settled at Exira, this county. George B. Russell was a pioneer merchant in what was then a straggling village on the broad prairie. Some years ago he passed away in Audubon, but his widow is still living in California. They had four children: Mrs. Agnes R. Stotts; Charles H., who died in 1898; Mrs. Gertrude Nash, who was born on February 3, 1863, and James F., of Ft. Dodge, Iowa.

To John A. and Gertrude (Russell) Nash two daughters were born, Beatrice, born on June 11, 1881, and Gretchen Russell, August 25, 1883. The former is the wife of Nelson W. Cowles, of Ottumwa, Iowa.

The last years of the late John A. Nash were darkened by the sickness and death of his younger daughter, Gretchen Russell, who died at Monrovia, California, on March 23, 1913, after an illness of two years. It was only seven months later that Mr. Nash himself died. Mrs. Nash spent the last two years of her daughter's life with the latter in California, during which time Mr. Nash made several trips to that state. The news of Gretchen Nash's death brought sorrow to a large circle of friends in Audubon, Iowa. The remains were brought back to Audubon by her parents and the funeral services were conducted by A. B. Miller.

The late John A. Nash will go down in the history of this section as one of the leading citizens of Audubon, where he had a host of friends. Having gone to Audubon in the first place in the employ of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad to quiet the titles to land owned by the company, in Audubon, Shelby and Carroll counties, Mr. Nash had enjoyed, up to within a few months before his death, when he abandoned the practice of law, a large legal business in this section of Iowa. He was a man of quiet and unassuming manners and retiring disposition, who avoided all display of whatever kind. He did much for the city where he lived so long, which his surviving fellow townsmen remember with personal admiration for the memory of the man. Although he served with distinguished ability as mayor of Audubon, perhaps his most helpful service was performed as a private citizen. He was prominent in the fraternal circles of the city, having been a member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, in which order he had attained to the chapter and commandery, the Scottish Rite and the Mystic Shrine. He was also at the time of his death a past chancellor of the Audubon lodge of the Knights of Pythias. Though his wife and daughters were Presbyterians, Mr. Nash himself was not a member of the church. Mrs. Nash, who survives her husband, is a fine type of the broad minded, cultured and refined woman, who enjoys the sincerest respect and esteem of the entire community.

Other men perhaps will perform worthy service in this great county; men are doing it today, in fact, but it is doubtful whether any other man will ever perform a service greater than that of the late John A. Nash, who, a man that might have fitted into the cultured and exacting social life of the East, chose as his sphere of action a straggling village on these broad prairies. His work is done, but his influence will live as long as this favored section endures.

History of Audubon County, Iowa
Its People, Industries and Instutions
H. F. Andrews, Editor
B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
Indianapolis - 1915

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