Biography of Capt. John Steen
Saunders County, NE Biographies





Captain John Steen, seventy four years of age, is a prominent citizen of Nebraska and a valued resident of Wahoo. He has the activity and vigor of a man of fifty and in spirit and interest seems yet in his prime. He has long been an influential factor in political circles of the state, leaving the impress of his individuality upon plans and events which have molded the history of the commonwealth. Much of his life has been spent in public service and the promptness and fidelity with which he has discharged the duties devolving upon him have made his record free from all shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil.

A native of Norway, captain Steen was born near Christiania on the 20th of October, 1841, a son of Thron and lngeborg (Halverson) Steen, the former a native of Christiania, and the latter of Gudbrandsdal. Coming to the United States, they landed at Quebec on the 28th of May, 1853, and from the seaboard proceeded to Winneshiek county, Iowa, where the father preempted land near Decorah. This he improved and developed, making his home thereon until death called him in 1865, when he was sixty three years of age. The mother long survived, passing away in August, 1888, at the age of eighty five years. They were both consistent members of the Evangelical Lutheran church and were recognized throughout the community as people of the highest respectability. They had a family of eight sons and two daughters and six of the sons served in the Union army.

Captain Steen was a lad of twelve years, when in 1858 he came with his parents to the new world and upon the farm in Iowa his boyhood days were spent. His educational privileges were limited to a few months' attendance at the district schools and at the outbreak of the Civil war he enlisted in defense of the Union cause, becoming a member of Company G, Twelfth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, on the 21st of October, 1861. He joined the army as a private and two of his brothers were also in the same company. After serving for three years Captain Steen reenlisted in the same command and a little later was appointed regimental quartermaster sergeant, continuing with that rank until the close of the war. During the Vicksburg campaign he acted as sergent major. He participated in many of the most hotly contested engagements, including the battles of Fort Henry, Donelson, Shiloh, the two battles of Jackson, the battle of Champion's Hill and the siege of Vicksburg. On the 6th of April, 1862, he was wounded by a gunshot in the left side and was captured and held prisoner at Macon, Georgia, until the fall of the same year, when he was paroled and sent to Benton Barracks, where he was exchanged in December, 1863. All of the members of the regiment not killed at Shiloh, where the losses were very heavy, were captured. After being exchanged Mr. Steen returned to his command and took part in the engagements at Tupelo, Mississippi, Nashville, Tennessee, and Spanish Fort, Alabama. They captured the fort on the 8th of April and on the following day General Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. The regiment to which Captain Steen belonged was sent to Selma, Alabama, and kept on duty there throughout the summer. He was discharged in January, 1866, at Memphis, Tennessee, ands was mustered out at Davenport, Iowa.

Captain Steen returned home with a most creditable military record and that fall engaged in merchandising at Decorah, where he continued in business for fourteen months. He lost every dollar, amounting to one thousand dollars, that he had saved while in service. He afterward filled the position of deputy sheriff for a time and in 1869 went to Omaha, where he obtained a position as money order clerk in the postoffice. A few months later he became postal clerk on the Union Pacific Railroad, running from Omaha to Ogden, and in 1871 he was elected city treasurer of Omaha, which position he filled for three years. In 1874 he became chief clerk of the chief paymaster, U. S. A., and occupied that position for a year, when he resigned and bought a half interest in a lumberyard at Fremont, Nebraska, where he continued until 1877. He then sold out and removed to Wahoo, entering into partnership with his brother, Otto Steen, in the hardware and implement business. That relation was maintained until 1886, during which period they met with a substantial measure of success. In that year, however, Captain Steen sold out. In the meantime he had served from 1878 until 1883 as postmaster of Wahoo and in the latter year was appointed postoffice inspector, having charge of a subdivision covering Nebraska and Wyoming. He served in that connection until 1886, when he purchased a half interest in the hardware business of N. H. Barnes, of Wahoo, with whom he was thus associated until the fall of 1888, when he was elected commiesioner of public lands and buildings for Nebraska He then sold his store and devoted his time to his official duties. By virtue of his office he was ea-officio railway commissioner and chairman of the board of control for the years 1889 and 1890. In 1891 he was made postoffiec inspector in the St. Louis division with headquarters at Omaha, where he remained for five years, when, owing to a change in them presidential administration he was removed and has since lived retired. At one time he was identified with agricultural pursuits, having in the spring of 1907 taken a homestead in Scotts Bluff county, Nebraska, on which he resided for three and a half years. He then sold that property for five thousand dollars, after which, accompanied by his wife, he took a trip back to his old home in Norway and spent about a year there.

On the 10th of September, 1870, Captain Steen was married to Miss Marie Louise Hough, a native of Norway, who came to the United States in 1855 with her parents, Hans G. and Christine (Olson) Hough, of Osterdal, Norway. They located in Fayette county, Iowa, where she was reared and educated. To Mr. and Mrs. Steen were born six children, two daughters who died in infancy; Nora, the wife of Albert Killian, of Wahoo; Theron Hough, assistant secretary of the United States legation at Vienna, Austria, who married Miss Grace Greenough, of Philadelphia; Clarence Guido, who is a practicing dentist in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and married Miss Mable Mellinger, of Burlington, Iowa; and Mona Lillian, who is an accomplished pianist and resides with her parents.

Captain Steen has been a prominent factor in both local and state politics. For a long period he supported the republican party and was a delegate to state conventions from 1872 until 1900. In 1908, however, he left the republican ranks and has since been an independent democrat. He belongs to John A. Andrews Post, No. 90, G. A. R., of Wahoo, of which he became a charter member, and through connection with that organization maintains most pleasant relations with his old army comrades. He and his family are members of the Methodist Episcopal church and they occupy a beautiful home, while Captain Steen also owns business property in Wahoo and in Scottsbluff, and in Lancaster county, Nebraska, he has a farm of four hundred acres worth fifty thousand dollars. He is a self made man, his success being attributable entirely to his own efforts and judicious investments. He has many sterling qualities and his friends throughout the state are legion. His life in many respects has been an eventful on; fraught with honorable purpose and characterized by intense activity and loyalty to every trust reposed in him.

From:
Past and Present Saunders County, Nebraska
A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Charles Perky Supervising Editor
Vol. II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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