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Homer Howard Field.

History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, from the earliest historic times to 1907 (Volume 1) online

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Plymouth Rock chickens, his opinions being regarded as authority on each
of these.

Mr. Habicht is a native of Kreis, Lauterbach, Germany, born on the
1st of June, 1866, and is a representative of the family which for genera-
tions has been noted for the strong intellectuality of its members in the
section of the fatherland in which they have resided for almost tw : o cen-
turies. Father and son through various generations have preached in the
church at Steinbach, Holenbach, Germany. After a service of about fifty
years in the pulpit at that place, Rev. Ernest Habicht, the grandfather of our
subject, when about to retire from active work of the ministry, was asked by
Kurfeurst, the ruler of that section of Germany in which he resided, to
preach his last sermon from the text which the official should furnish. Rev.
Habicht promised on the condition that he should have the subject some
two or three weeks prior to the time designated for the delivery of the ser-
mon that he might prepare an address worthy so important an occasion.
The days passed and no word came. He entered the pulpit therefore with-
out prior preparation and after the singing of the hymn a knock was heard
at the chancel door and a folded paper was handed him. Opening it and
looking upon each side, he found it blank. Holding the paper up before the
audience he said: "Hero is nothing," and turning the paper over added,
"There is nothing. Out of nothing God made the world. This shall be
my text." He delivered then a powerful sermon, which caused the ruler
to double his pension.

Ansl Ernest Habicht, father of our subject, studied for the ministry but
failed to pass the required and exceptionally rigid examination. He felt
heart broken over his failure to wear the ecclesiastical mantle of his fore-
fathers but turned his attention to other duties. At the usual age he
entered the military service of his country and through the influence of the
Habicht family was later detailed on special duty to guard the estates of a
nobleman, and following his marriage was placed in charge of these estates.
In 1875 he followed his son Frederick William to this country, where he
spent his remaining days, being eventually laid to rest in the cemetery at
Avoca. In early manhood he had wedded Wilhelmina Thiel. and unto
them were born eleven children, of whom three are yet living: Helen, now
the wife of Charles Uhden. of Spokane. Washington; August, who for fifty-
nine years was with the Cereal Mill Company at Akron, Ohio, and i< now
living retired in that city; and Frederick William, of Avoca.

The last named was reared in his native country, where he learned
the blacksmith's trade, and in 1874 he came to the United States, landing
at Castle Garden on the 12th of September of that year, with only three



HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY 381

cents in his pocket. His passage had been paid to Avoca, Iowa, and on his
arrival in New York city he traded his pocketbook for food to sustain him
on his journey west. Soon after reaching his destination he secured a posi-
tion with John Acker, a hardware merchant, in whose employ he remained
for six months, and then being given a recommendation by Mr. Acker he
went to Council Bluffs, where he secured a position with P. C. De Vol, a
wholesale and retail hardware merchant, in whose employ he continued for
a year. He next went to Akron, Ohio, where for one year he was in a hard-
ware store, after which he secured a position in the Cascade House, then the
leading hotel of that place. He was thus employed until 1867, when he
returned to Iowa. For a few months thereafter Mr. Habicht was engaged
in farm work and later he opened a blacksmith shop in Avoca. He secured
a liberal patronage as a blacksmith but the coal gas caused the failure of his
health and led him to seek employment of a different character.

On the 22d of February, 1882, Mr. Habicht was married to Miss Bertha
Klindt, of Avoca, who was born in Davenport, Iowa. Her father, Peter
KliHdt, came to the United States from Germany with his parents when a
lad of eight years. After his marriage Mr. Habicht turned his attention to
farming, and for six years engaged in the cultivation of rented land. During
that period he carefully saved his earnings, and in 1880 he purchased the
old Pattel farm four miles south of Avoca, in Valley township, comprising
two hundred and ten acres of land. This he successfully operated until
1902, when he sold that farm and removed to the vicinity of Avoca in order
to give his children the advantages of better educational facilities afforded
by the town. His place was about a mile northeast of Avoca and here he
settled after entering upon an understanding with the school board that
his children should be admitted to the town schools. His farm, comprising
one hundred and sixty acres, known as The Cedars Farm, is one of the
finest farms in the state of Iowa. His scientific methods of farming were
recognized by the secretary of agriculture of the United States, who in 1905
sent him twenty-five pecks of winter wheat with instructions concerning
the preparation of the soil and the sowing of the seed. The instructions
which he received, however, did not coincide with his views and after several
letters had passed between him and the agricultural department relative to
this, he was advised to act upon his own judgment. As a consequence he
was the first man to harvest a crop of wheat, yielding forty-three and three-
tenths bushels to the acre in Pottawattamie county. He was one of the
most progressive, as well as one of the best known farmers of the county,
and his opinions are largely regarded as authority in agricultural circles.
In addition to cultivating the cereals best adapted to soil and climate, he is
extensively engaged in breeding registered Aberdeen Angus cattle, Poland
China hogs and Plymouth Rock chickens, and is prominently known in con-
nection with the live-stock interests of this part of the state. He is now a mem-
ber of the Poland China Hog Association and the Aberdeen Angus Cattle
Association. He is likewise a stockholder in the Pottawattamie County Fair
Association and of the Pottawattamie Stock Pavilion.



382 HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Habichl have been born nine children, eight of
whom are yet living: Otto, a railroad fireman; Gretchen, the wife of George
Graves, of Manning, Iowa; Bertha and Helen, who are graduates of the
Avoca high school; Minnie. .Martha. Emma and Carl, all yet at home.
The parents are members of the Lutheran church at Avoca, Mr. Ilabicht
being one of it- organizer-. He was the first man to enroll his name as a
member, was the first deacon of the church and is now serving as its col-
lector. In ii- development and growth he is deeply interested and his labors
have contributed much to it- progress a- well a- to its support. In polities
be is independent. For two terms he has served as school director and is a
stalwart champion of practical ami progressive methods of education, lie
belongs to Avoca lodge, No. 220, I. 0. 0. F.. in which he has tilled all of
the offices ami he likewise affiliates with Avoca camp, No. <>•>. M. W. A. He
came tu this country empty-handed and through his unfaltering industry
and perseverance ami good management, combined with unabating business
integrity, In- has become one "I' the prosperous agriculturists of the county,
deserving much credit for whai he has accomplished. Such a record should
serve a- a source '>f inspiration and encouragemenl in others, showing what
may he accomplished by personal effort, and in his work. tn<>. he is dem-
onstrating the fad that intellectuality i- as valuable an asset in agricul-
tural life a- in any other department <>f activity, the scientific methods of
farming which he i- following proving mosl valuable.



BENJAMIN T. STEVENSON.

Benjamin T. Stevenson in his farming interests make.- a specialty of the
raising of lull blooded Galloway cattle, owning some of the best bred cattle in
the -late. His henl is indeed a fine one and he has done much to improve the
!. of cattle produced in Pottawattamie county. In all of bis business in-
terests he is alert ami determined, showing an aptitude for successful manage-
ment.

A native of Ohio. Mr. Stevenson was horn in Greene county, on the JTth
ot December, L852, being the eldest in a family of four children, whose par-
em.- were William and Emma Stevenson. Hie father was horn in Ohio and
the mother in .lame-town. New York. At an early day they arrived in Iowa,
settling in Pottawattamie county among it- pioneer resident-, the father pur-
chasing land where the village of Hancock now .-lands, lie wa.s identified
with the early agricultural development of this part of the state and continued
to make his home in the county until called to his final rest at the venerable age
of eighty-five years. The mother is still living in the village of Hancock.
Their children in addition to Benjamin T. Stevenson are: William R. and
Ada. who are residents of Hancoek; and .1. F.. living in Valley township

Benjamin T. Stevenson accompanied hi.- parents on their removal to
Pottawattamie county in his early boyhood and was here reared amid the wild
scenes and environments of pioneer life. In hi- youth he assisted in the labors




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HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY 385

of the home farm and when he attained his majority he began working in the
brickyard of Joseph True at Avoca, where he continued for one year. On the
expiration of that period he went to Sacramento, California, where he was em-
ployed for three years, returning to Pottawattamie county at the end of that
time. Here he purchased forty acres of land near Hancock and carried on
general agricultural pursuits for three years. He built the first store building
in the village of Hancock, opened a stock of goods and carried on general
merchandising for a year. On selling out he took another trip to the west and
spent one year in Colorado, after which he returned to Pottawattamie county.

It was at this time that Mr. Stevenson was married to Miss Elizabeth
Powell, who was born near Belvidere, Illinois, in 1860, and is a daughter of
I. H. and Sarah Powell, who were born in the Empire state and are now de-
ceased. Their family numbered ten children. Following their marriage Mr.
and Mrs. Stevenson began their domestic life upon the farm which is yet their
home. Here Mr. Stevenson owns two hundred and forty acres of rich and pro-
ductive land located on sections 22 and 26, Valley township, and in addition
to tilling the soil he is engaged quite extensively in raising full blooded Gallo-
way cattle, his fine herd being one of the attractive features of his farm. Every-
thing about his place is indicative of careful supervision and progressive meth-
ods and his work is conducted along profitable lines.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson have been born six children, of whom four
are yet living: William D., who is at home; Kitty, the wife of Thomas Bell,
of Valley township ; and Cornelius and Emma, at home. Mr. Stevenson votes
with the democracy and has served as school director for four terms, believing
firmly in the cause of public education and doing all in his power to promote
the interests of the schools of his locality. He is a member of the Masonic fra-
ternity at Oakland, in which he has filled all of the chairs and is also a charter
member of the Odd Fellows lodge at Hancock, which has been organized for
twenty-seven years and has lost only one member during that time — a most
remarkable record. In his business life, in his fraternal relations and in the
circles of friendship Mr. Stevenson is highly esteemed as one who is always
loyal to high principles and manly conduct.



ORSON W. GRAHAM.

Orson W. Graham, who for many years owned and controlled one of
the good productive industries of Council Bluffs, being engaged in the opera-
tion of a planing mill, made an excellent record in business circles, hi«
diligence and industry proving the motive power in his success. He was
born in Italy, Yates county, New York, on the 4th of August, 1850. The
family is of Scotch lineage and the name was originally spelled Graeme.
Orson Graham, the grandfather of our subject, however, was a native of
New England, while the father, Lewis B. Graham, was born after the re-
moval of his parents to the Empire state, his birth occurring in Italy, New
York, in 1815. During the years of his early manhood he followed farm-



386 HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY

ing, continuing active in that pursuit until 1865, when he was elected clerk
of Yates county. He was afterward prominent in politics and established
a real-estate and insurance business in Penn Yan, in which he continued
up to the time of his death, which occurred in 1902. He was married three
times and his second wife, the mother of our subject, was Pamelia S. Green.
They became the parents of three children, of whom Orson W. is the eldest,
the others being Lucretia 0., now the wife of Frank Wagener, of Pueblo,
Colorado; and Mrs. Theodosia T. Baldwin, of Cleveland, Ohio. Lewis B.
Graham was a soldier in the Civil war.

Orson W. Graham was reared in New York to the age of twenty years,
the family, however, removing from Italy to Penn Yan when he was five
or six years of age. During the winter months he attended school and about
1870 removed westward to Moline, Illinois, where he worked at the carpenter's
trade, which he had learned in the east. He spent two years at that place
and then went to Omaha, Nebraska, where he lived for a year. On the ex-
piration of that period he returned to Penn Yan, New York, where he con-
tinued for a year and afterward went to Clinton, Iowa, where he spent two
or three years as a carpenter. In 1877 he arrived in Pottawattamie county
and, settling on a farm in Washington township, gave his time and energies
to general agricultural pursuits for twelve years. In 1889 he came to
Council Bluffs, where he followed carpentering for two years, and in 1891
he established a planing mill, which he operated successfully for sixteen
years or until February, 1907. He then leased the plant, after having been
closely and successfully associated with the productive industries of the city
for a long period.

In 1874, Mr. Graham was married in Hampton, Illinois, to Miss Char-
lotte A. Wells, and they have one daughter and one son: Mary B., now
the wife of James Butler; and Robert E. Graham, twenty-seven years of
age. Mr. Graham belongs to the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks
and to the Independent < >rder of Odd Fellows. In politics he is a republican
where state and national question- axe involved. He served as alderman-
at-largo in Council Bluffs for two years and has ever been deeply interested in
community affairs as a public-spirited citizen who labors effectively and ear-
nestly for the general good. His name is associated with progress in business
and public life.



JOSHUA H. SPALTI.

Joshua H. Spalti needs no introduction to the readers of this volume,
for the name of Spalti has long figured conspicuously and honorably in con-
nection with the business history of Oakland. The subject of this review
was born in Marion county, Iowa, in 1858, and is the eldest son of Henry
Spalti, who is now living in Plcasantville, Iowa, at the age of eighty-three
years. Further mention of the father is marie in connection with the sketch
of Henry H. Spalti on another page of this work.



HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY 387

Upon the home farm Joshua H. Spalti spent the days of his boyhood
and youth and attended the country schools but when only ten years of age
entered his father's store at Pleasantville, where he was employed until 1883.
In that year he joined his brothers, Henry II. and John H., in the establish-
ment of a mercantile business at Bevington, Iowa, and in the spring of 1887
the firm removed to Oakland, where they opened a large store. Success
attended them in this venture and they carried on the business with increas-
ing prosperity for a number of years. At length they established the Spalti
Brothers Bank and carried on the store and bank for some time, when they
decided to divide their interests and Joshua H. Spalti took as his share the
stock of merchandise and the business block which he now occupies on the
west side of Main street. The original dimensions of the store were forty-
three by ninety-five feet but three additions have been made in the past
three years and the floor space now covers an area of one-third of an acre.
The building is of modern steel and iron front, two stories in height and is
an ornament to the town. It was erected in 1890 and the growth of the
trade has demanded its enlargement. Mr. Spalti conducts a complete de-
partment store and no other commercial enterprise of Pottawattamie county
covers as large a space. He carries a stock valued at about sixty-five thousand
dollars and also has large real-estate interests in Pottawattamie and Marion
counties to the extent of sixty thousand dollars.

In 1880 Mr. Spalti was married to Miss Julia E. Conn, who was born
in Warren county, Iowa, in 1859, and is a daughter of John T. and Ellen
Conn, the former a farmer by occupation. They have five children: War-
ren O, who is a member of the firm of Joshua H. Spalti & Son; Ida C,
the wife of Peter G. Green, who is in the employ of her father; Earl E.,
also in the store; Etta C, attending school; and Mona completes the family,
Mrs. Spalti is a member of the Christian church and she presides with
gracious hospitality over their pleasant home.

Mr. Spalti belongs to the Odd Fellows society, the Masonic fraternity
and the Woodmen. He votes with the republican party and is interested
in progressive citizenship as well as the extensive business affairs which make
him a foremost citizen of Oakland. He has developed a remarkable business
for a town the size of Oakland and in fact such an enterprise would be a
credit to any city of the Union. Industry that never flags, energy that is
unabating and ready discernment in intricate business situations are the
strong elements of his success.



JOHN B. ATKINS.

John B. Atkins, deceased, was one of the wealthy and prominent pioneer
citizens of Council Bluffs who for many years was engaged in the drug business,
his trade developing proportionate to the growth and upbuilding of the city.
He also held many offices here and his public services, as well as his business
life, entitled him to the position of prominence which was universally ac-



388 HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY

corded him. The year 1858 witnessed his arrival in Council Bluffs — a
young man of twenty-three years. He was a native of New York, born
May 29, 1835, his parents being Lewis and Margaret Atkins, who were like-
wise natives of the Empire state. The son was only about a year old when
the parents removed to Mount Clemens, Michigan. The father was a shoe-
maker in early life and following his removal to the middle west he engaged
both in shoemaking and fanning, carrying on the dual pursuits throughout
his remaining days. Both he and his wife died at Mount Clemens.

It was in the common schools of that city that John B. Atkins acquired
his early education, which was supplemented by a course of study in a col-
lege at Detroit from which he was graduated. He afterward attended the
College of Pharmacy in Detroit and likewise completed a course in that
institution. He then returned to Mount Clemens, where he engaged as a
clerk in a drug store until he came to Council Bluffs. The period of his
first residence here, however, was of short duration. He continued to travel
farther westward, spending a short time in Salt Lake City, after which he
again came to Council Bluffs, where he accepted a clerkship in a drug store.
Again, however, he went to the west, locating in Denver, Colorado.

It was in that city that Mr. Atkins was married on the 20th of Octo-
ber, 1859, the lady of his choice being Miss Lydia B. Allen, while theirs
was the first marriage performed in that city. Mrs. Atkins is a representative
of an old and very prominent family of Council Bluffs, her parents being
Colonel Henry and Susan B. (Benner) Allen, both of whom were natives
of Pennsylvania. In the year 1854 the father came to Iowa, settling at
Chariton, where for three years he was government surveyor, in which posi-
tion he surveyed all of the land near Sioux City. He was then sent to
Council Bluffs and also filled the position of government surveyor here, but
on account of hard work was obliged to give up the position. Soon after
he was appointed postmaster and held the office here for two and one half
years. In 1858 he went west on account of ill health and settled in Den-
ver, Colorado, where lie remained until 1861 , in which year he proceeded
southward to New Mexico. He remained there for a short time, going after-
ward to Los Angeles, California, where he made Ins home until his death.
Mrs. Allen still survives and is residing with a daughter in Idaho, being
now eighty-five years of age.

After his marriage Mr. Atkins remained in Denver until the outbreak
of the Civil war, when he went to New Mexico and there enlisted in the
service of his country, being under the command of Colonel Kit Carson
and General Canby. He remained with the Union troops throughout the
war, being in many battles of importance but was never injured, and when
hostilities had ceased he was honorably discharged. After the war he crossed
the plains to Idaho City. Idaho, where he was engaged in the drug business
for three years, and on the expiration of that time he went to Salem, Oregon,
where he conducted a drug store for two years. He and his family then
proceeded by steamer to New York city, after which they returned to Council
Bluffs. Here Mr. Atkins established business, opening a drug store on
Broadway, and throughout his remaining days he engaged in the conduct



HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY 389

of this store. He had a well appointed establishment, carrying a large and
carefully selected line of goods, and as the years passed by he gained a
measure of success which made him one of the wealthy and substantial resi-
dents of Pottawattamie county.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Atkins were born a daughter and a son: Mary,
who died in Council Bluffs in 1883, was the wife of Dr. Thomas B. Lacey,
St., who was one of the prominent physicians of the city but is also now
deceased. Henry C, the son, has always made his home with his mother.
Mrs. Atkins' grandson, Dr. Thomas B. Lacey, Jr., is also a well known and
capable physician and makes his home with his grandmother. Further men-
tion of him will be found on another page of this volume.

Mr. Atkins continued in the drug business until 1903, when his health
became poor and he again went west hoping to be benefited by the change
of climate. He located in Los Angeles and there resided until his death,
which occurred on the 5th of December, 1903. His remains, however, were
brought back to Council Bluffs for interment. At the time of his demise
he was one of the most prominent and honored members of the Masonic
fraternity in the state and was serving a.s grand treasurer for Iowa, which
office he filled for nine years. He was also a valued representative of Abra-
ham Lincoln post, No. 29, G. A. R., and thus kept up close relations with his
old army comrades. For several years he was a member of the city council
and also served on the school board for several years, acting as its president
for four years. His political support was given to the republican party for
a long period, but he afterward became a champion of the democracy. He
was a man ever faithful to his honest conviotions and never faltered in his
allegiance to a cause that he believed to be right. The same loyalty which
he manifested on the field of battle characterized his entire life work. In
his business he was ever watchful of opportunities and of all indications
that pointed toward success, and his energy and determination constituted
the foundation upon which he builded his prosperity.

Mrs. Atkins is a member of the Episcopal church. She owns and
occupies a fine residence at No. 540 Sixth avenue, which has been the Atkins
home for over thirty-five years, and there she is living with her son and
her grandson, Dr. Lacey. She is very well known in Council Bluffs, be-
longing to one of the oldest families and is prominent in social circles.



N. H. LEWIS.



Among the native sons of Pottawattamie county who have gained a
creditable name in business circles is numbered N. H. Lewis, who was born



Online LibraryHomer Howard FieldHistory of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, from the earliest historic times to 1907 (Volume 1) → online text (page 41 of 59)