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Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa
Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887

MAJ. JAMES DOWNS, a retired farmer residing in Urbana, on Culver square, was born in Crawford County, Ind., Dec. 15, 1811, and is a son of Elias and Sarah (Monk) Downs, natives of Kentucky, who emigrated to Crawford County, Ind., in 1810. His mother died in 1825. His father remained in Indiana for many years, then emigrated to Adams County, Ill., and located near Quincy, where he engaged in farming some ten or twelve years. He then went to live with a daughter in McDonough County, where he died.

When quite young the subject of this sketch began to learn the printer's trade, but served only a short time, and commenced to learn the tanner's trade at Paoli, Ind., serving an apprenticeship of seven years. He then worked as a journeyman for two years, after which he bought an interest in a tannery in Washington, Tazewell Co., Ill., which he ran about two years. On account of ill-health he sold out and commenced farming in the same neighborhood, buying town property in Groveland, in which place he lived two years. He then moved to Knox County, Ill., and for two years again worked at his trade. In July, 1841, he loaded up his goods, and with his family started for Benton County. Iowa. On his arrival he located on section 25, where his father-in-law had entered land the previous year. Entering 160 acres of land, he commenced improving a farm, on which he lived some four or five years. He then sold out, and in company with his brother-in-law purchased 400 acres of land and a sawmill in Linn County, where he lived two years. Selling out, he removed to near where Urbana now is, in 1855, where he erected a steam sawmill with a twenty-five horsepower engine and a fifty-two-inch saw, which he ran two years. He then traded this property for a farm of 160 acres, half a mile from Urbana, and there farmed two years, when he sold one-half of the farm and traded the other half for the property which he has since made his home, with the exception of one year spent at Marion.

Maj. Downs has been twice married. His first took place Dec. 25, 1834, with Isabella Davis, and to their union were born nine children, five of whom are living — Harriet M., Sarah, Mary, Martha and James C. The deceased are William G., who died at Vicksburg from disease contracted while in the army; Alexander, who also died of disease contracted while in the army; Edward and Margaret. Mrs. Downs' death took place Feb. 21, 1879, and he again married, Jan. 6, 1885, Elizabeth Howard, of Marion, Iowa.

Maj. Downs is a member of Lodge No. 328, I. O. O. F. Mrs. Downs is connected by membership with the Presbyterian Church. Before the State was admitted into the Union, Mr. Downs held the office of Sheriff of Benton County, of which he has been a resident for almost half a century, and is one of the few oldest pioneers living at the present time. He is now leading a retired but happy life in Urbana, Polk Township.

Source Citation: "1887 Benton County, Iowa Biographies"  [database online]  Benton County IAGenWeb Project. <>
Original data: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa." Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887, p. 254.
Transcribed by: Sue Soden. Submitted to the Benton County IAGenWeb Project on January 28th, 2009.  Copyright © 2009 The IAGenWeb Project.

Return to: 1887 Biography Index

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