Biography of John C. Stephenson
Buchanan County, IA Biographies





John C. Stevenson, an honored pioneer and a retired farmer of Littleton, Iowa, has resided in this locality for many years and has witnessed the great changes in conditions which have taken place here. There is only one other man, Charles Melrose, Jr., living here today who was here when Mr. Stevenson arrived. Our subject was born in Tippecanoe county, Indiana, May 11, 1840, a son of Alexander and Mary Ann (Cameron) Stevenson. The father was a native of Pennsylvania, his parents being James and Elizabeth (Mitchell) Stevenson, both natives of Lower Dublin. Their marriage occurred in the Emerald isle on the 9th of April, 1807, and later in the same year they came to America, locating at Path Valley, Pennsylvania, whence they subsequently removed with their family to Boone county, Indiana, where the parents spent their remaining years. James Stevenson was a weaver by trade. Our subject has in his possession the recommendations given his grandfather in Ireland. His grandmother died when forty eight or forty nine years old. She was the mother of four daughters and three sons, but Alaxender, the father of our subject, was the only son that grew to maturity and reared a family.

Alexander Stevenson was reared in Pennsylvania and Ohio and was married in Ross county of the latter state, near Fort Defiance. On the 7th of September, 1850, he came west with his family from Colfax, Indiana, making the trip with an ox team and three horses. He took up a claim on school land in Perry township, this county, which, however, proved not to be open to settlement at that time, and in March, 1851, he filed upon a claim in Fairbank township. At that time there were only two houses in Perry township and one in Fairbank township, the dwelling of Mr. Stevenson being the second erected in the latter. His first residence was a log cabin, two and a half miles north of the village of Littleton, and the erection of even that rude structure was no inconsiderable task. It was necessary to float logs to Independence in order to have them sawed so that they could be used for flooring, and they hauled them back. The chimney was built of stones, sticks and mud. There were no neighbors for miles to the north of them and only three buildings in Independence. Mr. Stevenson brbke the heavy sod of the prairie and split rails to make the fences for his fields. Although the life of those days would seem very hard and uninviting to the present generation, the pioneers found many pleasant features in it apart from the stern satisfaction of knowing that they were developing fine farms from wild land and that they were laying the foundation for a highly prosperous community of the future. Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson were among the most respected of those early settlers and remained upon their farm in Fairbank township until their deaths. The father was a democrat in politics and was one of the leaders in the Presbytesian church, being an elder of his congregation for fifty years and one of the organizers of the church of that denomination at Littleton, which was established in 1853. He died April 6, 1885, at the age of seventy six years His wife, who was a native of Ohio, was also one of the charter members of the Presbyterian church of Littleton. She died a few months before her husband, passing away on the 4th of February, 1885, when seventy seven years of age. To them were born three children, but one son died at the age of five years and the daughter at the age of two.

John C. Stevenson is the only survivor and he shared with his parents the life of the pioneer. He was but ten years old when he accompanied them to this county and a year later began breaking the prairie sod, driving five yoke of oxen. It was a very wet year and breaking ground was unusually difficult, but he was of the stock that nothing could daunt and not only assisted in getting his father's land ready for cultivation, but broke land for the new settlers who arrived in the county His opportunities for acquiring an education were very meager, as there were no schools in the county for three years after the arrival of the family and his only instruction was that given by his mother. In 1853 the first schoolhouse was built in Perry township and during the winter following he attended regularly, walking a mile and a half each way. During the summer he assisted with the work of the farm and continued to aid his father until his marriage. In order to reach the nearest mill it was necessary to make a three days journey with oxen and there was always danger from the Indians, who were very numerous and belonged to a number of tribes, including the Sioux, the Winnebagas and the Misquakas. There were no bridges over the streams that had to be crossed and in the spring floods the fords sometimes became impassable.

After his marriage Mr. Stevenson began his independent business career. He became the owner of four hundred and thirty acres of land on sections 34 and 35, Fairbank township, and there engaged in cultivating the fields and in feeding stock for the market. He was also a well known breeder of pure bloodea shorthorn cattle and for nineteen years shipped stock to Nebraska, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Oklahoma, as well as to various parts of this state. He also engaged in the dairy business quite extensively for a great many years and found this as well as the other phases of his activity very profitable. He managed well his diversified interests and manifested sound judgment in the investment of his capital. In 1911 he retired and built his present beautiful home in Littleton, where he has since resided.

Mr. Stevenson married Miss Mary Amelia Wilson, on the 4th of September, 1861, which was the bride's birthday. She is a native of Pennsylvania and a daughter of Samuel and Sarah (Henry) Wilson, both likewise natives of the Keystone state. Her mother passed away in 1850, but her father removed with his family to Iowa in 1855, making the trip with a wagon and team of horses. He located in Fairbank township, this county, where he purchased a farm, and devoted his time to agriculture until his death. Mrs. Stevenson was only a girl when she came to this county and she and her future husband were schoolmates. To them have been born ten children, namely: Laura J., at home; Elmer, who owns a part of the homestead; Effie K., who is the wife of Rev. Parley E. Zartman, secretary of the Moody Institute of Chicago; Eber F., M. D., practicing at Waterloo, Iowa; Mertie H., who died in 1900; Ralph J., who is a farmer residing near Rowley, this county; Ray C., living at Littleton; M. Grace, a stenographer employed at the Moody Bible Institute at Chicago; and two who died in childhood.

Mr. Stevenson is a democrat in politics, but at local elections votes for the candidate whom he deems best suited for the office without regard to party affiliation. He has held a number of township offices, being assessor of Fairbank township for four years, school director for thirty years, and for some time served as justice of the peace. Ever since the organization of the Littleton Cemetery Association he has served as its president and under his care the city of the dead is kept in fine condition. In 1859 he united with the Presbyterian church and in 1885 was elected an elder, serving in that capacity ever since, and in addition has been clerk of the session for twenty five or thirty years. Since 1885 he has been treasurer of the church and has always taken a deep interest in everything affecting its welfare. He has not only given of his time to its affairs but has contributed liberally toward its support and gave generously toward the building fund of the new church edifice. Although he is seventy four years of age and has already lived longer than the three score years and ten which the Psalmist allotted to man, he is still very active and enjoys excellent physical and mental health. Many interests in his community have profited by his labors and counsel and he is still a force in the life of his town. He is especially deserving of honor, as he was one of those first settlers who so bravely labored amid hard conditions of life and who persevered in spite of many obstacles, laying well the foundation of the prosperity which is now so evident to all. In 1914 he and his wife visited his old home in Indiana. On the 4th of September, 1911, they celebrated their golden wedding, there being present on that occasion about two hundred relatives and friends, and they were the recipients of many beautiful presents and the congratulations and well wishes of all.

From:
History of Bachanan County, Iowa
And its People
By Harry Church and Katharyn J. Chappell
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago 1914


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