James Patrick Conway

James P. Conway

James Patrick Conway was born at Portage, Wyoming county, New York, on January 3, 1861, within sling shot range of the then highest railroad bridge in the world, which spanned the Genesee river near the first of its triple precipices, which tumble over three falls, the first ninety feet, the second sixty feet, and the third one hundred feet. The wooden bridge was two hundred and thirty-four feet high above the first cataract and is described in volume 4, on page 328, Encyclopedia Britannica. Though young when last the sound of the rushing waters echoed in his ears, he still loves the sound of dashing waters and the wildest rushing of the waves, undoubtedly inherited from the surroundings of his birthplace. In October, 1862, he moved with his parents to Meadville, Pennsylvania, and in September, 1864, to Lansing, Iowa, where his father, Neal Cornelius Conway, and his mother, Ellen Conway (whose maiden name was not changed by Marriage) lived the remainder of their lives. Both of his parents were born near Bangor, County Mayo, Ireland, his father on May 1, 1810, and his mother on September 29, 1821. When famine and pestilence swept Ireland in 1847, the landlord’s iron-clad leases to secure the crop payment of each tenant in a barony, who was compelled to guarantee the payment of all the tenants in the barony, robbed his grandmother, or mother’s mother, then a widow with twelve children, out of a snug fortune to pay the rents, not against any of her holdings but that of her neighbors. The tailoring trade being out of commission, his father purchased tickets for the family to America. They went to Liverpool and for weeks waited for the vessel to be put in readiness for the voyage. In the meantime his mother’s mother became afflicted with typhoid and had to remain and run through the siege of twenty odd days. The vessel when ready left port for Halifax. His mother and her two children remained to take care of her mother. Two pennies were all that was left; these she invested and reinvested on her return to her mother’s home had a few pounds of meal and twenty-one pennies. Two years later she and a number of relatives left for America by way of New Orleans to see a brother who was then located there. They were thirteen weeks and three days at sea, during which time they encountered a three days severe wind and thunder storm before the Christmas holidays. The captain, officers and crew, except one man, abandoned the ship and took refuge in its hold. The upper deck and masts were swept into the sea. Still this man, who was the dethroned captain of the vessel, the Argo, and lost his job by reason of running his vessel on its former trip too fast to America, stuck to the helm and begged his “sixty brave sailors” to come to his aid, and the sound of his voice through the hatchway rang in the ears of all his hearers until the date of their death. Mrs. Mary Ryder, wife of P. F. Ryder, recorder of Allamakee county, Iowa, in the ‘60s, never forgot the sound of his voice although she was but a little child when she heard it. No sailor responded. On Christmas evening this brave soul dropped dead at the helm, and when the storm abated the cowardly captain and his crew sneaked from under the berths and heaved him overboard as a sacrifice to the mad Atlantic. The vessel then in mid ocean had been driven below the equator, and after some repairs slowly sailed northward, landing at Jamaica, Cuba, and finally reached New Orleans at a time when the scourge of cholera was then raging. On reaching the home of their brother they found that he had died the night before of cholera and was then being buried. The cholera stuck the Conways and their relatives and out of forty-seven only six survived. These after many trials and hardships reached their relatives and enjoyed long and useful lives. His father and mother celebrated their golden wedding anniversary October 28, 1889, when all the family assembled-their last meeting. They would have celebrated their sixtieth anniversary but for the illness of his father. His father died December 8, 1899, at the age of eighty-nine years. His mother died March 6, 1905, at the age of eighty-four years. They raised a family of twelve children, five of whom survived them. A daughter, Mrs. Ryder, who thereafter with her two sons moved to a claim near Chinook, Montana, was murdered in daylight by being shot through a window in her home by a vagabond trapper on May 8, 1912. Another daughter is Mrs. Ellen Marvin, of Zumbrota, Minnesota. J. W. Conway is editor of the Champion, of Norton, Kansas. D. M. Conway is of the same place and T. P. Conway, of Lansing, Iowa.

J. P. Conway attributes his education to his mother, who taught him his letters from there old stove, No. 8, manufactured by George Francis Filly, of St. Louis, Missouri, which practically contained all the letters of the alphabet. During the winter months he attended the rural school of his district and in summer operated the farm, and later attended Professor Laurens Seminary at Waukon, Iowa, and at the age of seventeen commenced teaching school at Barber’s mills, Minnesota. In the winter thereafter he continued teaching at the Four Mile House, Eitzen, Minnesota; Van Cooley, Village Creek, Lansing, Calhoun, and as principal of the New Albin schools until 1891, when he entered the law department of the University of the State of Wisconsin at Madison, where he graduated in June, 1893, as Bachelor of Laws. The latter part of June, 1893, after visiting the World’s Fair at Chicago, he arrived home and before he could salute his parents was employed and engaged in a law suit at the city hall, and he says from that moment he has had plenty of legal work to do. He was city solicitor for eight years, and at the last city election on March 31, 1913, was without opposition elected mayor of the city of Lansing, Iowa. When the Peoples State Bank was organized in 1911 he could have had any office he desired, but would not accept anything except that of director. He has been a lifelong democrat, tolerant in his views with the good of every party, and tells the good deeds and acts which they and their leaders have done, and scathes with scorn and derision the evils which some have inflicted upon the people. He says he has no political ambitions, but he has told a few of his close friends that when his financial condition will permit him and he has the time to spare, that no office from the president down will be too great or small for him to fill if he can do any good for the people and his country. Jim was born and raised a Catholic. He tells us that he was baptized “three times.” Only one counted, of course, and which one he does not remember. When born, Dr. Ray, then a postgraduate, from Paris, France, pronounced him dead and Mrs. Rattican -the untrained nurse- a good old neighbor- was on duty. While the mother lay unconscious after the twelve-pounder, the nurse assisted by the father went through the formalities of baptizing. When the mother aroused and felt for the child-not finding it she wanted to know what had become of it. On looking over the foot of the bed she spied the white garments around the child whom they told her was dead. She sprang from her bed, took the infant from its shrouds-told the doctor it was not dead-blew in its ears and mouth, attempting respiration, rubbed and bathed it in liquor, and in about one-half hour the first pulse was noticed by a quiver of the lips and opening of the mouth. His mother baptized him, and after that Father Dolan baptized him. All three are now dead, and Jim says that the three stuck and did not wash off.

J. P. Conway was married to Ellen McCafferty, at Lansing, on May 20, 1890. She was the youngest daughter of Anthony and Mary McCaffery, (whose maiden nave was not changed by her marriage) both born in County Donegal, Ireland, who for many years lived at the “Four Mile House,” where many a weary traveler found rest, refreshment and shelter in the early ‘60s, when grain was hauled to Lansing from Decorah, Waukon, Prosper, Spring Grove, and Caledonia. Her mother died May 27, 1882, and her father died May 27, 1886, leaving four daughters: Mrs. Conway; Miss Rosa McCafferty; Mrs. Eunice Fleming, now of Laurel, Nebraska; and Mary McCafferty, now Sister Seraphia, of La Crosse, Wisconsin; and one son, Anthony J. McCafferty, who died while mayor of the city of Lansing, on September 2, 1909.

Two children were born to Mr. And Mrs. Conway, a daughter on August 4, 1891, who after a few months a life passed out through the veil of eternity to join the numberless in the great Beyond; and a son, William James, who was born October 25, 1896.

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

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