Biography of John H. Branch
Iowa County, IA Biographies





John Howard Branch was one of the leaders in commercial, industrial and financial circles of Marengo and for many years directed the policy of the First National Bank and its associate, the Iowa County Loan & Savings Bank, being president of both institutions. He was also prominent in the councils of a number tf business and industrial concerns. He was born in Farmington, Geauga county, Ohio, May 13, 1838, a son of Daniel and Sarah Frances (Waldo) Branch, graduates of Andover and Oberlin Colleges respectively. Both were school teachers and the father was also a Baptist minister. He and his wife have been called to their reward and their remains are interred in the cemetery at Marengo.

John Howard Branch arrived in Iowa City when eighteen years of age and found employment in a bank, there learning the fundamental principles of the banking business. In March, 1867, he came to Marengo and started a private bank, which he continued until March, 1880, when it was merged into the First National Bank of Marengo, and soon afterward he completed the organization of the Iowa County Loan & Savings Bank. Mr. Branch was elected president of both institutions and was the first banker in the city. He remained at the head of both banks until the time of his demise and it was largely due to his influence and the wisdom which he displayed in directing their affairs that they were established upon a firm foundation and gained the confidence of the public so soon. Their growth has been continuous since organization and they are today a splendid monument to the work of their first president and the other men who have been connected with them in an official capacity. His ability as a financier was recognized in banking circles and his advice on matters of investment was often sought. Although his duties as president of the First National Bank and the Iowa County Loan & Savings Bank demanded much of his time, he was also identified with other interests. At the time that the institution for the education of the deaf and dumb was located at Iowa City, Mr. Branch was treasurer and for a number of years he served as trustee of the school, his excellent judgment and knowledge of business methods proving very valuable in managing the affairs of the institution.

He was the organizer of the local telephone company and was prominent in the control of a number of other local concerns, all of which have proved advantageous to the community and factors in its commercial and industrial expansion. Mr. Branch was a public spirited citizen in every sense of the term and advocated anything and everything that promised the betterment of Marengo. He made it possible for the city to have an electric lighting system by taking the initiative in the organization of the Marengo Electric Light & Power Company and was also active in forming the Marengo Telephone Company. Of these corporations he served as the managing officer, being president of both companies. These public utilities are acknowledged to be the results of his efforts and have been important factors in making Marengo an up to date and enterprising city.

On the 15th of August, 1866, Mr. Branch was married at Iowa City to Miss Susan Rose Rowley, whose birth occurred at Bloomfield, New York, on the 12th of January, 1844, her parents being Alpheus and Amelia (Coy) Rowley. Mr. and Mrs. Branch became the parents of four children, as follows: Adelaide Susan, who was born on the 30th of August, 1868, died on the 14th of January of the following year. Winifred Myrtle, whose natal day was the t5th of January, 1870, is the wife of J. H. Lewis. Sarah Elizabeth, who was born August 29, 1876, died September 26, 1878. Ernest Waldo, whose birth occurred on the 9th of September, 1879, is a resident of Dallas, Texas. He is married and has three children: Gwen Roslyn, whose birth occurred on the 7th of February, 1903; Gail Angelyn, born April 12, 1904; and Jefferson Howard, born on the 17th of July, 1906.

Mr. Branch supported the republican party, as he believed in the wisdom of its policies. However, he was never a politician nor a seeker for office. His fraternal relations were with the Masonic order and he was a highly esteemed member of the local blue lodge. He was reared in the Baptist faith, but as there was no church of that denomination in Marengo, joined the Presbyterian church with his wife and took an active and helpful part in church and Sunday school work. He possessed an excellent voice and often sang at church services and entertainments. His demise, which occurred on the 9th of January, 1907, was the occasion of deep and widespread regret, the community losing one of its leading and influential citizens and one who had been the moving spirit in everything pertaining to its welfare and upbuilding. He avoided all ostentation or display, but his fellow citizens recognized that he was one of the men who did the most to secure the city's advancement along all lines of worthy endeavor and he was held in the higher esteem because of his simplicity and modesty. His record is one that is in itself highly creditable, but it becomes doubly so when we remember that he was a self made man and that his opportunities were only such as the average man enjoys.

From:
History of Iowa County, Iowa
And its People
By: James C. Dinwiddie
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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