David W. Douglass


The real builders and promoters of Allamakee county have largely been the men who came into this region when it was an unimproved tract and utilized its natural resources, transforming the wild prairie land into rich and productive fields, the products of which constitute the chief source of the county’s wealth. David W. Douglass, now residing in Waukon, is one of those who have contributed in substantial measure to the county’s development and advancement, for he opened up and improved a number of new farms, which he developed in accordance with modern agricultural methods. He is further entitled to a place among the honored men of this section as a veteran of the Civil war. Mr. Douglass has been a resident of Iowa for sixty years but was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, September 3, 1838, and is a son of David and Catherine Douglass, also natives of Scotland. The father crossed the Atlantic to America about the year 1849 and located in Lake county, Illinois, where he was joined by his wife and son in 1851. Two years later they moved to Iowa and located in Ludlow township, Allamakee County, where the father purchased an eighty acre tract of land, which he cultivated and improved until his death.

David W. Douglass was a lad of fifteen when he came with his parents to Iowa. He grew up on his father’s farm and in his childhood broke the raw soil with ox teams and aided in the development and improvement of the property. On the 11th of April, 1862, he joined the Union army, enlisting in Company B, Sixteenth Regular United States Infantry, Second Battalion, and with his company was sent to Columbus, where a camp of instruction was maintained. The regiment remained there only a short time and was then ordered to the front, where it participated in fourteen major engagements, including that of Stone River, where it went into battle one thousand strong and came out with one hundred survivors, the others having been killed, wounded or taken prisoner. He took part in the battles of Chickamauga, the first and second engagements at Buzzards Roost, the engagement at Resaca, Georgia, at New Hope church, at Kenesaw Mountain, Rough Station, Peach Tree Creek, Jonesboro and Atlanta. At Stone River Mr. Douglass received a gunshot wound in the breast but was not disabled, continuing his active service until the close of the war. He was mustered out, above the clouds on the top of Lookout Mountain, April 11, 1865, two days after Lee’s surrender, having gained promotion from the ranks to the position of corporal in December, 1864. He later served on detached duty at brigade headquarters, acting for the First Division of the Fourteenth Army Corps.

After his discharge Mr. Douglass returned to Iowa and made his home upon his father’s farm. In the following year he fitted out a breaking outfit, consisting of a large breaking plow and a five-yoke team of oxen, and with this he engaged in breaking the prairie soil for one season. He married in 1867 and in the same year purchased one hundred and sixty acres of raw land, of which he broke eighty, selling the other half of his property. He farmed upon this tract of land for ten years, disposed of it at the end of that time at a profit and moved to Worth county, Iowa, where he rented land and farmed for one year. Returning to Allamakee county, he purchased eighty acres in the vicinity of Waukon and spent ten years upon the property, bringing it to a high state of development. He eventually sold this farm also and for two years thereafter rented land, buying at the end of that time another tract near Waukon. This was already improved to some extent but Mr. Douglass carried forward the work of development along modern lines and when he disposed of it received fifty dollars per acre. At that time he moved into Waukon and purchased a home but afterward sold it and went to Oklahoma, where he again turned his attention to general agricultural pursuits, purchasing a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, which he held for a time and later sold at a handsome profit. Since taking up his residence permanently in this city he has bought and sold a great deal of residence property and also bought and sold another farm. His unremitting diligence has brought him success, which enables him to put aside further business cares, and he is now living retired, having earned leisure and rest by many years of well directed labor.

In 1867 Mr. Douglass was united in marriage to Miss Adaline D. Ewing, who was born in Perry county, Indiana. She is a daughter of James B. Ewing, a native of Ohio, who grew to manhood in that state and there married Elizabeth French, of Kentucky. Mr. Ewing moved into Iowa in 1853 and was one of the early settlers in Franklin township, Allamakee county. He became well known as the tallest man in this part of the state, being six feet, eight inches in height, and he was universally known as Uncle Jim Ewing. Mr. and Mrs. Douglass became the parents of three sons and four daughters. James I., makes his home in South Dakota. Mary is the wife of George Ralston, of Jefferson township, Allamakee county. Alexander W. acted for some time as superintendent and manager of an eighteen hundred acre grain farm in North Dakota, near Jamestown. He was a soldier in the Spanish-American war, serving first as corporal and later as lieutenant of militia. He now resides at home. William W. is a farmer in Allamakee county. Anna became the wife of Charles Welch, of Beulah Station. Jessie married Robert Adams, of Lincoln, Nebraska. Agnes grew to maturity and was for some time a stenographer in Chicago. She died February 2, 1907, at the age of twenty years.

Mr. Douglass has been affiliated with the republican party since its organization and is one of its most loyal and earnest supporters. He is a member of John J. Stillman Post, G. A. R., and for years has served as officer of the day at all functions and parades of the organization. Few men in Allamakee county are more widely and favorably known than Mr. Douglass, who has made his home here since he was a lad of fifteen and who in the sixty years which have since intervened has opened up and developed several new farms, his labors constituting an important element in the general agricultural advancement. Now, that he has passed the seventy-fourth mile-stone on life’s journey, he is enjoying a well earned rest, which is the natural reward of his former life of toil. His fellow townsmen honor and respect him and wherever he is known he has an extensive circle of friends.

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

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