John Harnack


John Harnack, one of the most wealthy and prominent citizens of Postville, where he lives retired, was born in Clayton county, Iowa, October 29, 1857, and is a son of Christ and Dora (Sasz) Harnack, natives of Mecklenburg, Germany, the former born July 21, 1817, and the latter November 11, 1822. Both crossed the Atlantic in the same vessel but did not meet until they reached Clayton county, Iowa, the mother having made the journey with her uncle, who settled in Gutenberg. The father also became a resident of that community and there worked at cutting cord wood during the winters and spending his summers as a laborer in a stone quarry, receiving for this work fifty cents per day. After his marriage he worked for several years in the employ of others but eventually was obliged on account of his failing health to turn his attention to farming. He rented land near Garnavillo, in Clayton county, and remained upon it for a few years, later purchasing an eighty acre tract of land near Elkader. This was entirely unimproved, but with characteristic energy Mr. Harnack set himself to the task of developing it. With a yoke of oxen he made trips to McGregor and there purchased lumber, with which he built the first house upon the homestead, in which he lived five years. There he carried on the cultivation of his farm, facing with confidence and courage the hardships and difficulties incident to pioneer existence. During the first years he was obliged to keep his seed corn under his bed in order to save it from depredation of the many squirrels which fed upon it if it were left uncovered. Eventually he replaced his first house by a two room cabin of hewed logs and a few years later he sold the farm for two thousand dollars, having in the meantime cleared and improved it to a remarkable extent. He afterward purchased a one hundred acre farm in the same vicinity and upon it re resided for three years, at the end of which time he sold the property, buying one hundred and sixty acres in the same township near Clayton Center. This he improved and developed until 1878, when he disposed of the land and purchased two hundred and seven and three quarter acres in Grand Meadow township, Clayton county, upon which he resided until 1886, when he rented the farm and moved into Postville, where he has since lived retired. For some time he owned another farm in Fayette county, just across the county line, but this he sold to his son in 1885. He and his wife still make their home in Postville, where they are numbered among the prominent and representative citizens. In their family were seven children: Bernhardt, who died in infancy; John, of this review; Sophia, the wife of August Dahl, a retired farmer living in Postville; Ida, who married John Krambeer, who lives upon his farm in Post township; Anna, the wife of Joseph Schultz, a farmer of Winneshiek county, Emma, who married Lousi Meier, engaged in farming in Post township; and Mary, who after the death of her first husband, Henry Bradt, wedded John Schroder, a retired farmer living in Postville.

John Harnack spent his childhood upon his father’s farm, dividing his time in his youth between his studies at the Garnavillo district school and work in the operation of the homestead. He afterward spent two winters in the German school at Clayton Center and was still later a student in the district school near Clayton. He remained at home until after his marriage, which occurred in 1885, and he then purchased from his father eighty acres of land in Fayette county. After one year, however, he returned home and rented his father’s homestead, operating both farms for some time and finally selling his own eighty acre tract. He afterward purchased a farm one mile west of Postville, his two hundred acres lying partly in Winneshiek and partly in Allamakee county. Upon this property he carried on general agricultural pursuits for eight years, his industry and practical methods winning for him a gratifying degree of success, and gaining him a place among the representative and substantial agriculturists of the region. At the end of that time, however, he rented out the property and moved into Postville, where he became connected with business interests as an employ of Henry Eckert in the latter’s implement concern. He made good use of his time and opportunities, and his industry, diligence and energy resulted in his acquiring a comfortable competence, which enabled him to lay aside the cares of active business life. He now makes his home in one of the most modern and attractive residences in the city and he lives most of his time to the management and supervision of his extensive real-estate interests, which include not only his two hundred acre farm but also his residence and a number of valuable lots in Postville.

On the 14th of April, 1885, Mr.. Harnack married Miss Maggie Thoma, who was born in Reed township, Clayton county, June 17, 1864. She is a daughter of Fred and Katherina (Pesch) Thoma, both natives of the kingdom of Bavaria, Germany, who in early life crossed the Atlantic to America, settling in Clayton county on a farm. This property the father operated until about the year 1887, when he moved to Postville, where he lived retired until his death, in 1878. Mrs. Harnack was one of nine children, two of whom died in infancy. The others are: George, a farmer in Post township; Anna, the widow of Charles Schultz, formerly a retired farmer living in Postville; Conrad, a resident of Chicago; Savina, the wife of Louis Saulsgaber, a resident of Minnesota; Fred, who makes his home in Omaha, Nebraska; and John, also a resident of Omaha. After the death of his first wife the father was again married, and to this union was born one child, Paulina, who married Bruce Klingman, steward of the Elks Club at Clinton, Iowa. Mr. and Mrs. Harnack became the parents of four children: Sadie K. E., who was born June 8, 1887, and who died November 26, 1894; Libbie, whose birth occurred on the 4th of November, 1888, and who died November 22, 1894; Fred, who was born February 11, 1892, and died November 22,1894; and Hulda, who was born January 3, 1896, and who is now attending the Postville high school, from which she was graduated in June, 1913.

Mr. Harnack gives his political allegiance to the democratic party and, thought he has never aspired to public office, he served for four years as a member of the city council. Fraternally he is connected with the Turner Society at Postville and his religious views are in accord with the doctrines of the Lutheran church. He stands high in the regard of the people of this community and his progressive spirit, his high standards of honor and integrity and his many sterling qualities of mind and character have won him the respect and esteem of all who are in any was associated with him.

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

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