James Briar


Throughout a period of residence of fifty-eight years in Allamakee county James Briar has gained the respect and esteem of his fellow citizens, being numbered today among the section’s most honored pioneers. He has been one of the greatest forces in agricultural development for more than half a century, making substantial contributions to the county’s resources by opening up and developing two fine farms. He is, moveover, entitled to representation in this volume through his worthy and loyal service on southern battlefields during the Civil war.

Mr. Briar is a native of New York and was born in Albany, October 28, 1838. When he was only five years of age he moved with his parents to Oswego county, where they located upon a farm and where he grew to manhood. He acquired his education in the district schools, attending during the winter months and spending his summers aiding in the operation of the homestead. He gained in this way a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the details of arming and this early experience has been invaluable to him in the course of his later career. In 1855 he came west as a young man and located in Allamakee county, where for several years he worked out on a farm, his principal duties consisting of breaking the prairie land with ox teams. He continued at this occupation until August 13, 1862, when he joined the Union army, enlisting in Company a. Twenty-seventh Iowa volunteer Infantry. Soon after his company was sent to Dubuque, where its organization was completed and where it drilled for some time, afterward being sent north to Minneapolis as a guard to the paymaster, who brought money to the Indians. The company was afterward sent to Memphis, Tennessee, where it spent the winter, and in the following year it participated in the siege of Vicksburg and General Sherman went to Jackson, Mississippi. Returning to Memphis, it was made a member of Banks’ expedition up the Red river and it took part in a two days’ battle and in numerous skirmishes and minor engagements before it was again sent to Memphis and thence to Tupelo, where it was in the thick of battle. Mr. Briar afterward went with his regiment to St. Louis and was in the raid through Missouri after Price’s army, driving that general out of the state. He then returned to St. Louis and from there went down the river to New Orleans and thence to Mobile and Spanish Fort. He aided in the capture of Fort Blakely and was afterward sent to Montgomery, Alabama, where his regiment remained until the close of the war. After Lee’s surrender it was sent north to Clinton, Iowa, and there mustered out, Mr. Briar receiving his honorable discharge.

After the close of the war Mr. Briar returned home and for three years engaged in farming, cultivation the old home place. At the end of that time he moved to Waukon, where for five years he engaged in teaming, later again turning his attention to general farming. He purchased a tract of land three miles south of the city, which he farmed and improved for some time, exchanging it finally for a larger place. To this he made substantial additions from time to time, owning finally two hundred acres of productive land. This he fenced into six fields surrounded by barbed wire fences, erected a large residence, a substantial barn and a number of outbuildings, making it one of the best equipped and most valuable farming properties in this vicinity. He continued to reside thereon until 1894, when he moved to Waukon, where he has since made his home. He later sold his farm and retired from active life, having earned leisure and rest by many years of honorable and worthy labor.

In the fall of 1865 Mr. Briar married Miss Sarah A. Gates, a daughter of Samuel Gates and a sister of Mrs. Hugh McCabe, of whom more extended mention is made elsewhere in this work. Mrs. Briar was born in Decatur county, Indiana, but came to Allamakee county when she was thirteen years of age. She and her husband became the parents of eleven children, ten of whom are still living; William H., who is in the real-estate business in Mason City; Samuel D., who resides in Sawyer, South Dakota; Joseph H., who is in business in Winona; Julia, the wife of A. P. Denning, of Heyburn, Idaho; James Elmer, who served as bugler in a Waukon company during the Spanish-American war and who is now engaged in farming in Buford, North Dakota; Charles C., of Berthold, North Dakota; Adelia May, the wife of E. R. Peirce, of Idaho; Asa L., who is associated with his brother, Joseph H., in the marble business in Winona; Arthur L., a commercial traveler with headquarters in Minneapolis; and A. J., a farmer in Buford, North Dakota. Mr. and Mrs. Briar lost a daughter, Elizabeth, who died in infancy.

Politically Mr. Briar is affiliated with the republican party and has always taken an active part in public affairs. While still upon his farm he was elected township trustee and road supervisor and for many years has been identified with school matters, serving as one of the school directors. He has been a delegate to numerous county conventions and has done able work on the grand and petit juries. Fraternally he is connected with John J. Stillman Post, G. A. R., and is now senior vice commander. His wife is a member of the Women’s Relief Corps and has been on the official board for a number of years. Mr. Briar has resided in Allamakee county for nearly sixty years and his interests are thoroughly identified with those of this section. He has witnessed a great deal of the growth and development of the county and in all work of progress has borne his full share both by his individual labors and his active cooperation in progressive public measures. No man in Waukon is more widely and favorably known than he, whose good citizenship displayed on southern battlefields has survived unabated for over half a century.

-source: Past & Present of Allamakee County; by Ellery M. Hancock; S. J. Clarke Pub. Co.; 1913
-transcribed by Diana Diedrich

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