J. S. Bryson


In pioneer times the Bryson family was founded in Iowa and ever since the name has stood as a synonym for integrity, honesty and steadfastness of purpose combined with a determination and energy which always result in success. From 1851 until his death John Scott Bryson remained an active and honored citizen of Paint Creek township and through the years of an active and honorable business career he commanded the respect and enjoyed the confidence and good-will of all with whom he came in contact. His work formed an important element in the development and upbuilding of this section of the state, his life measured up to the full standard of upright manhood in all things and his death deprived Allamakee county of one of the earliest and greatest of her pioneers.

John Scott Bryson was born in Dundee, Scotland, June 13, 1831, and was a son of James Bryson and a grandson of Alexander M. Bryson, natives of Redgorton, Braehead, Perthshire, Scotland, the former born August 26, 1802. The family is of ancient origin and its history is definite as far back as 1700. When James Bryson, the father of our subject, was seven years of age he was left an orphan and dependent upon his own resources. As a boy he herded cattle and sheep in Perthshire, later becoming errand boy for a fashionable lady and still later obtaining employment in the linen and woolen mills of his native country. On the 1st of March, 1824, he married Miss Margaret Scott and in April, 1835, the family emigrated to America, settling in Canada on the St. Clair river. There the father took up two hundred acres of dense timber land and after enduring great hardships and privations founded a home, in which they continued to reside until 1840, when they removed to the United States, settling in Thompsonville, Connecticut, where the father and children obtained employment in the factory of the Thompsonville Carpet Company. After nine years they removed to Rock county, Wisconsin, but a year later went to Auburn, New York, where they again worked in a factory. In April, 1850, the family again started west and in May of the same year landed from a horse ferryboat on the west side of the Mississippi river at McGregor's Landing, Iowa, a state which had been their objective point for several years. On the 11th of May, 1851, they settled in what is now Paint Creek township, Allamakee county, the father taking up land on sections 17 and 18 and developing there a profitable and productive farm. This property he sold in 1866 and removed to Elgin, Illinois, but after one year returned to Paint Creek township, continuing to reside here until his death. The mother died on the 1st of September, 1873, and the father passed away at the home of his son, John Scott, November 30, 1889. Both the Brysons and Scotts were representatives of old Scotch families and for generations were all church members and good Christian people.

John S. Bryson was twenty years of age when he came with the family to Allamakee county and amid pioneer conditions then prevailing he spent his early manhood, assisting in clearing, improving and developing a new farm and beginning a career in this state which, always intimately connected with the interests of this section, has been one of the greatest individual forces in its upbuilding. Working together, he and his brother each secured good farms, the subject of this review acquiring one hundred and sixty acres on section 17, where his widow and children now reside. Upon this property he carried on the work of improvement for many years, developing it from a raw tract into a productive farm, and he continued to reside upon it until his death, which occurred on the 1st of July, 1905. Each year of his life witnessed his increasing success, for he understood farming in principle and detail and worked earnestly and steadfastly in the cultivation of his holdings, prosperity steadily attending his well directed labors. He became known as one of the prosperous and substantial farmers of the county but was not interested in wealth as an end in itself. He was more especially interested in the development of his township, where he built the first mill and aided in the establishment of other equally necessary institutions, and his cooperation could always be counted upon to further projects and movements for community advancement. Until 1894 he made all the reports to the Iowa Agricultural Society and for the agricultural department at Washington from the time it was organized until 1900. For twenty years he helped settle estates as guardian, trustee, administrator and executor, accomplishing a great deal of important work and bringing to a final settlement over twenty-six large estates. He was never known to take advantage of the interests of his fellowmen in any business transaction and he had great respect and sympathy for those in distress or trouble.

A man of excellent moral character, Mr. Bryson was an earnest worker in the cause of temperance and, having taken the pledge himself when he was twelve years of age, faithfully kept it until his death. He remained almost continuously upon his farm but in 1892 made a trip to the Pacific coast, visiting relatives there and returning in the following year by way of Winnipeg, Canada. Before his death he published a book of one hundred and seventy-five pages containing the history of the Bryson, Scott and allied families, spending many years and no small amount of money in collecting the material for the volume, which was widely circulated among his friends and relatives. For a man of limited education and no other experience in that kind of work this was a very able effort and is highly prized by those who own a copy as a valuable contribution to Allamakee county's history.

On the 11th of January, 1865, Mr. Bryson married Miss Tilda C. Rema, who came to this county with her parents in 1851, and they reared a family.

Mr. Bryson was an active religious worker, helping to organize the Sabbath school in Paint Creek township and acting as superintendent and class leader for a number of years. He gave his political allegiance to the republican party and was an unsuccessful candidate for the state legislature, consenting to make the race merely to help the ticket, knowing that the democratic majority was too large to overcome. However, he held various other positions of trust and responsibility, never seeking to evade the obligations of citizenship and serving with credit and distinction as township clerk and secretary of the school board. He was public-spirited and loyal in all matters of citizenship, taking a deep interest in the advancement and progress of the section to which he came as a pioneer, and thus it was that in his passing Allamakee county lost one of its most representative and valued citizens.

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

Return to 1913 biographies index