John B. Sutter

John B. Sutter

Probably no man is more familiar with pioneer customs and conditions in Allamakee county than John B. Sutter, to whom they are matters of personal experience rather than history. As a boy of eleven years he came to this section of Iowa and he has since that time witnessed practically the entire development of the state, taking an active and honorable part in the work of upbuilding. Although he is now about to retire from active life, he has been for years numbered among the greatest individual forces in agricultural development in this section and has by his ability, untiring energy and steadfastness of purpose won success, prominence and substantial fortune.

Mr. Sutter was born in Ripley county, Indiana, October 30, 1840, and is a son of John B. and Elizabeth (Kiser) Sutter, natives of Switzerland, where the father spent his early childhood. He afterward took passage with his parents on board a vessel bound for America, all of the family dying at sea with the exception of the father of the subject of this review and his brother Joseph. In order to pay for their passage across the Atlantic the brothers after their arrival were bound out as farm laborers in one of the eastern states, but Joseph Sutter ran away before the expiration of the required term. However, John served out the entire period and at the age of twenty-one received his release, going immediately to Missouri, where for five years he worked as a pilot on a flat boat. In 1850 he came to Iowa and landed at Dubuque, where he remained for one winter. In the fall of 1851 he moved to Allamakee county and entered government land and resided in this part of Iowa until his death. In Indiana he had purchased a number of soldier’s land warrants and he applied these on Iowa land, accumulating over two thousand acres in Allamakee county. He later sold this vast tract and purchased a farm in Clayton county, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits until he retired from active life, returning at that time and making his home with his son until his death, which occurred March 29, 1898, when he was within twenty days of being ninety-two years of age. He was a public-spirited and progressive citizen and active in public affairs, having served for five years as county assessor and for some time as county supervisor, school treasurer and justice of the peace. He served on the school board for a number of years and was a director in various banks and other business enterprises, leaving the impress of his ability and personality upon many fields of endeavor. He survived his wife, who died in 1882, some sixteen years.

John B. Sutter was eleven years of age when his parents moved to Allamakee county and he entered the class which was being held at the home of Mr. Winslow just across the line in Clayton county. Mrs. Winslow taught this school, which offered the only educational facilities in this vicinity, there being no public schools in those early days. Mr. Sutter grew up amid pioneer conditions and as a boy assisted his father with the work of the homestead. When he grew older he began driving a team from the old mission to Dubuque, being employed by Mr. Linton, and he would often be three days or more upon the road. It was no uncommon experience for him to get stuck in a slough and remain overnight in the open, the Indians often assisting him out of his predicament. He and his brother afterward operated a breaking outfit drawn by seven yoke of cattle and with this they broke land all over Allamakee and Clayton counties. At one time they went into Minnesota, where they broke three hundred and sixty acres of land and in the following year a tract of one hundred and sixty acres. They received two dollars and a half per acre for breaking prairie land and five dollars for timber tracts. During this time Mr. Sutter purchased a farm and at the age of twenty-two moved upon this property, upon which he has since carried forward the work of improvement and development. When he took up his residence upon it it was all raw land upon which the timber had not yet been cut. Mr. Sutter felled the trees and with characteristic energy began cultivating the property, which became more and more productive and valuable with the passing years. Upon it he made substantial improvements, erecting a fine residence, barns and outbuildings and installing modern machinery to facilitate the work of the fields. His farm became one of the finest and best managed agricultural properties in this vicinity and he himself took rank among the most representative and substantial men in the township. He has recently sold all but forty acres of his homestead and has purchased a residence in Monona, where he intends to live retired, having earned comfort and leisure through well directed and untiring labor in the past.

On the 22d of October, 1863, Mr. Sutter was united in marriage to Miss Mary Plank, who was born in Missouri in November, 1841, a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Ebinger) Plank, natives of Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, where the father was ordained to the Methodist Episcopal ministry. The father crossed the Atlantic at a very early date and located in Chicago, where he for some years conducted a hotel, and he was afterward a resident of various states to which he had been sent by the Methodist Episcopal conference, and he later became a landowner in Allamakee county. Selling out his interests here he moved to Dakota and entered government land, dying there February 14, 1890. He had survived his wife some years, her death having occurred in 1882. Mr. and Mrs. Sutter have become the parents of five children: Viola, who was born May 26, 1870, and who married Frank Jones, a farmer of Fairview township; Edna, whose birth occurred on January 4, 1872, and who married J. W. Bennett, who was a druggist but now has turned his attention to farming in the vicinity of Janesville, this state; Frank, who was born January 18, 1874, and who died March 10, 1879; Clara M., whose birth occurred December 26, 1875, and who graduated from the Iowa State Teachers College, being now engaged in teaching in Aberdeen, South Dakota; and Nettie, who was born October 19, 1880, and who married Theodore Schlitter, a farmer, in Clayton county.

Mr. Sutter gives his political allegiance to the democratic party and has served for nine years as township trustee, for a number of years as constable, and for a long period as president of the school board, the cause of education finding in him a loyal and able supporter. At all times he has been interested in the welfare of the county and has given active cooperation to many movements for the public good, while his efforts in behalf of public improvement have been effective and far reaching. Living in Iowa for sixty-two years and having been active in agricultural circles in Allamakee county for over forty, he is one of the best known citizens of this locality, being recognized as a man of tried integrity and worth, of business enterprise and unfaltering diligence. Now that he is seventy-three years of age he enjoys a well earned rest, for it is fitting that his former business career should give him this period of leisure to enjoy the fruits of his former toil. His fellow citizens honor and respect him and wherever he is known he has an extensive circle of friends.

-transcribed by Linda Earnheart

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