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The IAGenWeb Project

History of Benton County, Iowa
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1910; Luther B. Hill, Ed.

Pages 456-457

PAUL CANTWELL is numbered among the early pioneers of Benton county, and he now owns a splendidly improved farm in sections 14 and 15, Union township. He was born in county Tipperary, Ireland, in 1827, a son of Patrick and Mary (Power) Cantwell, and the mother died in Ireland. Only two of their five children are now living, the younger being John Cantwell, whose home is in New York.

Paul Cantwell received a public school education in his native county of Tipperary, and in December, 1848, he arrived in the United States after an ocean voyage of six weeks. During his first four years in this country he remained in New York employed at railroad work, but during the winter months he went south. In 1857 he went to LaSalle county, Illinois, and during the memorable hard times which followed he was sent to Bloomington, that state, and found employment only after much difficulty. In 1861 he came to Iowa and assisted in the construction of the Northwestern Railroad from Cedar Rapids to Belle Plaine, and while at the latter place he attended a Fourth of July celebration at Patrick Kelly's home in Union township. In relating the incident Mr. Cantwell remarked that "although we were not all American citizens we celebrated the day in a very appropriate manner." It was at this time that Mr. Cantwell was induced to purchase land here, buying eighty acres of his present estate in section 15, Union township. But the land was then in its primitive state, and he purchased it for three dollars and a half an acre, but even at that small figure he many times afterward regretted his act, for he experienced great difficulty in paying for his little farm. He continued at railroad work east of Belle Plaine until 1866, and he then came to his farm and built a small house, fourteen by eighteen feet, a most primitive dwelling, unplastered and unadorned, and for a time he was obliged to burn green wood during the winter and suffered greatly from the cold. But prosperity has blessed his earnest efforts, and he now owns two hundred acres of finely improved land, and the improvements which now adorn this splendid estate, even to the planting of the trees, have been placed there by him. He has served his township as a trustee, and in politics he is allied with the Democracy.

In January of 1862 Mr. Cantwell was married to Mary Hickey, who was born in Ireland, a daughter of John and Bridget (McMahon) Hickey, who came to the United States in 1852. They located first at Fairmont, Ohio, where the father worked at his trade of a stone mason, and in 1856 they moved to Columbus, Ohio, and in 1859 to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, locating at the latter place when the city contained but two store buildings. In 1869 they came from Cedar Rapids to Benton county, purchasing a farm in Union township, and they spent the remainder of their lives there. Of the twelve children which blessed the marriage union of Mr. and Mrs. Cantwell nine are living, namely: John, whose home is in California; Michael, of McGregor, Iowa; Thomas and Paul, Jr., both in Union township; Bridget, the wife of Robert A. Duncalf, also of Union township; Nellie, the wife of James Nolan, of the same place, and Patrick, William and Mary, at home with their parents. Mr. Cantwell is a well read man and an influential citizen, and he is revered as one of the early pioneers of Benton county.

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