MATHIAS MAAG.—A man of good business capacity, energetic and thrifty, Mathias Maag has for nearly thirty years been prominently associated with the agricultural growth and advancement of Benton county, being one of the leading farmers of Saint Clair township. Beginning life even with the world as regarded his finances, he worked steadily, saved his earnings, and is now a man of wealth and influence. He is in truth the architect of his own fortunes, a record of his life furnishing a forcible illustration to the rising generation of the material success to be obtained by diligence, perseverance and a wise system of economy. Mr. Maag was born, June 15, 1855, in Switzerland, which was likewise the birthplace of his parents, David and Barbara (Schad) Maag.
In 1858 David Maag emigrated to the United States in search of profitable employment. He was of a roving disposition, and visited many parts of the central west, and was variously employed. He freighted across the plains for awhile, and afterwards, while buying horses for the St. Louis market, traveled through this section of the country. He died in Wisconsin, in 1865. His wife, whose maiden name was Barbara Schad, was left with three children, which she had brought to Iowa in 1864, when she came here to join her husband. They were David, now living in Watkins, Iowa; Mathias, the subject of this sketch; and Samuel, living in Anderson, Indiana. After the death of her husband she went with her little family to live with an uncle named Miller, in Florence township, near Norway, Benton county. This uncle treated the boys shamefully, being cruel and seemingly inhuman. He would get them out of bed long before daylight to set quail traps, and Mr. Maag can well remember the time when he, his brothers and uncle, would get a top box wagon load of prairie chickens, which would be hauled to Cedar Rapids, weighed as the farmers now weigh corn, and sold.
When a lad of thirteen years, Mathias Maag, and his brother David, two years older, ran away from their uncle's, going over into Iowa county. Mathias worked the following two years for his board, finding a home with a good man, Emanuel Brecht. The following year, 1870, he received sixty-four dollars for his labors, and of this he saved fifty dollars which he loaned at ten per cent, interest. In 1871 he saved sixty of the eighty dollars he earned; in 1872 he received one hundred and twelve dollars, and saved one hundred dollars; in 1873 he earned one hundred and thirty-five dollars wages, but earned enough more by trapping, hunting and doing odd jobs to save one hundred and fifty dollars; in 1874 his wages were increased to one hundred and seventy-five dollars; in 1875 they were two hundred dollars. In 1876 he was given twenty-five acres of land on which to raise wheat, his share to be one-third of the crop. Having practically put all of his earnings at interest, he had at the close of that year a goodly bank account for one dependent entirely upon his own resources. He then wisely invested his money in land, buying one hundred and sixty acres of wild prairie lad in Audubon county, Iowa, paying ten dollars an acre for the tract, paying two years interest on the sum in advance.
Beginning farming for himself in 1878, Mr. Maag rented land in Iowa county for two years. In 1880 he sold his Audubon county property, and bought eighty acres of the land included in his present farm, in Saint Clair township, Benton county. With characteristic energy and hopefulness he began its improvement, and in the course of time added to his original purchase, his homestead now containing two hundred and forty acres of choice land, on which he has made all the improvements, which are many and valuable. He also owns two hundred and forty acres of good land in Brule county, South Dakota. He now rents his farm to his son, who is carrying on general farming with the same good results that fortune showered upon his father.
Mr. Maag married, February 1, 1878, Matilda Gossman, who was born in Morgan county, Ohio, in 1859, a daughter of Solomon and Bridget (Rothenberger) Gossman. Five children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Maag, namely: David, of Florence township, Benton county; Charles, of Saint Clair township; Gallic, living at home; Mary, wife of John Schmidt, of St. Clair township, and Annie, wife of John Boddicker of St. Clair township. Politically Mr. Maag supports the principles of the Republican party by voice and vote, and has served as road supervisor of his township. Religiously he and his family belong to the Catholic church at Norway.
When Mr. Maag ran away from his uncle he took up his residence with Emanuel Brecht, who was his wife's uncle. In 1895 Mr. and Mrs. Brecht, who were both in poor health, Mrs. Brecht suffering with a cancer of the tongue, came to make their home with Mr. and Mrs. Maag. Mr. Brecht died four months later, but Mrs. Brecht, who was cured of the cancer, is still living at the Maag home and in her old age is now being repaid for the kindness shown Mr. Maag as a small boy. Mrs. Brecht is now eighty-nine years old. Mr. Maag is administrator of the Brecht estate.