JOHN BOOK, the old, popular, retired and honored citizen of Blairstown, is one of those rare men who, despite years of ill health, has not only won a business standing in the community, but has preserved a kindly and cheerful temper under all the suffering laid upon him. He has gained a high reputation as a general merchant; has well served as school director, and is a representative citizen of broad usefulness, integrity and charity.
Mr. Book is a native of Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, born on the 17th of December, 1839, to Conrad and Mary (Olie) Book. The father, who was born June 29, 1805, and died July 3, 1886, and the mother, who was born in 1814 and passed away in July, 1854, were also natives of that German duchy. Their three living children, of the four born to them, are as follows: Conrad, who now is a resident of Cedar Rapids; John, of this biography; and Elizabeth, now Mrs. Douk of Jasper, Minnesota. Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Book emigrated to the United States in 1854, taking their four children with them. The vessel on which they sailed was bound for New Orleans, but was becalmed for three days off the Cuban coast, and met with so many reverses (both of storm and calm) that it was fifty-four days in making port. From New Orleans the family took an old side-wheel steamer and spent another fourteen days reaching their destination at Guttenburg, Clayton county, Iowa. The mother died during the year of the family emigration, and in 1866 the father moved to Benton county, where he died twenty years afterward.
John Book was fourteen years of age when he came to the United States with his parents and other children, and well remembers the trying ocean and river voyages already described. He obtained all his regular schooling in Germany, his education in Iowa being in the line of experience, reading and self-instruction. Mr. Book commenced his business career in a typical country store in Clayton county, and recalls the days when, as clerk, salesman and everything else, he saw corn sold at ten cents a bushel and dressed hogs at a cent and a half a pound. In 1864 he located at Blairstown, associating himself with H. H. Tazeman in the purchase and operation of a general store which was purchased from a Mr. Dickerson. This business was conducted by the two for ten years, but in the fall of 1874 Mr. Book was obliged to sell his interest on account of ill health and remained inactive until 1879. In that year his strength had been so far restored that he formed a partnership with Hiram Saulsbury, also in general merchandise, the firm being dissolved by mutual consent in 1884 and each establishing an independent business with the divided stock. Mr. Book conducted his store until 1905, when he permanently retired with a goodly competency and an unsullied name as a merchant and a citizen.
On March 28, 1862, John Book was united in marriage with Miss Harriet M. Washburn, born in Livingston county, New York, on the 8th of November, 1841, daughter of John G. and Ruth (Gillett) Washburn. The father was a native of Massachusetts, born in 1804, who died in 1864, and the mother, a Connecticut lady, was born in 1800 and survived until her sixty-fifth year. They were the parents of seven children, three still living: Matthew K., now a resident of St. Louis; Mills, of Kansas City, Missouri; and Mrs. John Book. In 1843 Mrs. Book's parents had located at Beloit, Wisconsin, making the bulk of their journey thither by way of the great lakes. The father was a stone mason, but, after working at his trade for two years, commenced to farm, and was thus engaged in Wisconsin until 1849, when he went to California. Remaining on the Pacific coast for nine years, working in the mines and engaged in any occupation in which there was honest profit, in 1858 Mr. Washburn returned to Wisconsin. In 1861 he moved to Clayton county, Iowa, and in the following year to St. Joe, Missouri, where both he and his wife passed their last years. The two children born to Mr. and Mrs. Book were Jessie M., who is now at home, and Frank 0., a resident of Omaha, Nebraska. Both parents are old and honored members of the Blairstown Presbyterian church.