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John McCrea Brainard


Posted By: County Coordinator
Date: 3/10/2009 at 12:15:16

John McCrea Brainard was born in Blairsville, Indiana county, Pennsylvania, March 30, 1836, in the seventh generation of English ancestry. The immigrant ancestor was Daniel Brainard, who crossed the seas when but eight years of age, and found a home in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1640. In 1662 he became a citizen of and large landholder in Haddam, Connecticut, was a successful colonist, reared eight children--seven sons and one daughter--died and was buried in Haddam, April 1, 1715.
The father of our subject, Martin Brainard, sixth in line of descent from this immigrant ancestor, was a son of Isaac and Alice (Brainard) Brainard (not relatives), born at Randolph, Vermont, June 29, 1796, graduated at Dartmouth College in 1817, studied and was admitted to the bar at Utica, New York, practiced at Rochester and Buffalo in that state, and in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, died at St Augustine, Florida, April 17, 1883 (whither the family had moved in the autumn of 1875), and was buried in the “Old Huguenot Cemetery” in that city. The mother was Agnes (more generally known by her pet name, Nancy), daughter of Samuel and Martha (Bell) Moorhead, was born near Blairsville, Pennsylvania, March 13, 1813, married November 6, 1830, and died at St Augustine, Florida, December 14, 1893. She was a woman of more than usual education for those days, was possessed of a tenacious memory and a capacity for ready and pertinent quotation, generally recognized among her acquaintances. Her ancestry was Scotch-Irish, immigrating in the early part of the eighteenth or latter part of the seventeenth century, via Baltimore, and settling in the rich Cumberland valley, Franklin county, Pennsylvania, near Chambersburg. Her grandfather, Samuel Moorhead, of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, married Agnes, daughter of Samuel Craig, also of Scotch-Irish stock, who was a soldier of the Revolutionary war and lost his life in the line of duty, being killed by the Indian allies of the British wile crossing Chestnut Ridge on his way to Rot Ligonier, in the same county. The intermarriages of the Moorhead families were almost without exception with persons of Scotch-Irish descent, and this was also true to a considerable extent on the Brainard side of the house, the first-- Daniel-- having married a Scotch lassie, Hannah Spencer, and Scotch names appearing frequently in the list of brides in later generations.
John M was the fourth child in a family of thirteen, three older brothers dying in early childhood. The remaining ten children -- three girls and seven boys-- are still living: John M the subject of this sketch, Boone, Iowa, Justin M, Waterloo, Iowa, Mary Alice (Seymour), Chicago, Joseph, Boone, Iowa, David W, South Orange, New Jersey, R H, Curwensville, Pennsylvania, William A, St Augustine, Florida, Martha E (Kidder), Ripon, Wisconsin, Harriet H (Foster), St Augustine, Florida, and Henry M, South Orange, New Jersey.
John M Brainard received his primary education, including the elements of the Latin language, from his parents at home. Then, after a few terms in the common schools, which were excellent for that period he was sent, in the autumn of 1851, to the preparatory academy at elders ridge, in the same county. He was then fifteen year of age and soon became self-supporting. At this school he was prepared for the junior year at Jefferson College, teaching school in the winter and attending the five months terms at the academy. One of his pupils in those early days was Ell Torrance, now commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. Another was Lieutenant Geary, son of General and afterwards Governor Geary. Lieutenant Geary was killed in the battle of Lookout Mountain, (General Hooker’s movement), which introduced the battle of Chattanooga. In the spring of 1853 his father’s family removed from Pennsylvania to Beloit, Wisconsin. He entered the college at that place, but only remained until fall, when he returned to Pennsylvania, where he alternately studied in the academy and taught school until the spring of 1856.
Soon after his completion of the academic course he decided to go west. This westward migration was preceded by his marriage to Miss Martha Vale Wilson, daughter of Sanford and Leticia (Clark) Wilson. Of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania. The marriage was in Callensburg, Clarion county, Pennsylvania. March 18, 1856, (Letitia Clark was a cousin of Governor James Clark, the third and last territorial governor of Iowa, who died by cholera shortly after the close of his official term, and lies buried at Burlington, Iowa) The children of this marriage are seven, all but two of whom are living: Justin, born May 9, 1858, at Charles City, Iowa, married Gladys J Calonkey September 4, 1884, living in Boone, Walter L, born March 12, 1860, at Clear Lake, Iowa, married Lizzie A Shackleton, June 20, 1886, at Boone, died September 23, 1887, buried at Boone. Frank S, born February 18, 1862, at Clear Lake, Iowa, lives at Centralia, Illinois. Elmer E, born January 31, 1864, at Nevada, Iowa, married Fannie E Woodward, January 2, 1889, at Elkader, Iowa, lives at Pocatello, Idaho. Mabel Alice, born December 24, 1865, at Nevada, Iowa, married J T Coveny, M D, October 17, 1889, lives in Oskaloosa, Iowa. They have two sons, H Ward and Clarence C, Emma Vale, born May 23, 1871, at Boone, Iowa, married Stillman Pearson, February 17, 1896, lives in Aurora, Illinois. A twin brother of the latter (unnamed) died a few days after birth.
The young husband and wife came out to Wisconsin, and July 21 of the same year, 1856, removed to Floyd county, Iowa, taking up their abode in Charles City, since which time they have resided continuously in Iowa. In the autumn of 1856 he as employed to teach the public schools in Charles City, where he remained for a year. He was afterwards employed in the bank of Ferguson & Eastman, in the store of Ferguson & Stanley, and in the county offices He remained in Charles City until 1858, when having secured a school at Mason City, he removed there and taught it during the ensuing year.
In the autumn of 1859 he removed to Clear Lake and taught the school there during the ensuing winter. While so employed he became associated with Silan Noyes in the establishment of t he first newspaper in Clear Lake. The paper was known as the “The Clear Lake Independent.” Journalism was from that time forward his life work. At the time of entering this profession he was twenty-three years of age. The following year “The Independent” suspended, and the office was removed to New Amsterdam, Hancock county, where it was published for a portion of the year 1861. At the outbreak of the Civil war times became very hard for country journals on the frontier, and “The Independent” was again suspended, the proprietors engaging in merchandising at clear Lake. This venture proved to be an unfortunate one. Many of their goods went to persons who were afterwards lost in the war, and to their dependent wives and children on the frontier, and such accounts were never collected. In the summer of 1863 Mr Brainard sought a new field, going to Nevada, Story county, Iowa, where he bought the “Reveille” from George Schoonover, which he rechristened “The Story County Egis.” He remained in Nevada for five years, and in the autumn of 1868 acquired John Chapman’s interest in the “ Council Bluffs Nonpareil,” which he edited the latter portion of that year and into the summer of 1869. About this time he purchased “The Boone Standard,” when his editorial wanderings ceased. He had attended the first sale of lots in the embryo town three years before. The paper was published without missing an issue until January 1, 1902, or nearly a third of a century. It publication became too great a burden, owning to his advancing years, and the changed circumstances of newspaper publication, which rendered a weekly paper unprofitable, and to the public undesirable. Only daily papers can meet the demands of the people these days of telegraphs and rural mail delivery. While Brainard’s modest little “Standard” was always readable from the first line to the last, the propitious days for a weekly in Boone county, Iowa had “faded into the azure of the past.” Some men of his years, when compelled by the logic of their environments to give up a line of business and retire to a life wholly private, become soured and misanthropic, imagining that they have been ill-used, that “republics are ungrateful” and all that sort of thing. Not so was it with John M Brainard, He saw that the days of the country weekly had passed away never to return, and he accepted the situation cheerfully without a work f complaint, turning his attention to other fields of usefulness.
While he has never been in the generally accepted sense an office seeker, at times the favor of the people or of influential friends has called upon him for public service. In 1862 he was elected a member of the state board of education from the sixth district of Iowa to fill a vacancy. But the action of the general assembly March 24, 1864, relieved him from further duty by the abolition of the board. On February 14, 1873, his “valentine” was President Grant’s commission as postmaster for Boone, Iowa a position with he filled for the usual term of four years. He served a term of the Boone school board, by appointment, in 1877 and 1878. In 1886 he was elected, for the term of two years, a member of the city council of Boone, a period of development in its growth which gave him opportunity for the impress of some of his cherished conceptions of civic improvement upon the community. In 1893, , when the city decided to construct a general sewer system, he was largely instrumental in securing as its advisory engineer in this work the distinguished Colonel George E Waring Jr, whose plans were substantially adopted. In1881-1882, he was active in the promotion of the St Louis, Des Moines & Northern Railway, from Boone to Des Moines, now the property of the Chicago, Milwaukee & ST Paul Railway Company. The opening of this line in July 1882, marked the commencement of an era of new prosperity for the city of Boone and the territory adjoining the new line.
The writer has known Mr Brainard intimately and well for nearly forty years, and it is a pleasure to bear testimony to his many excellent qualities of head and heart. As a writer for the press he was one of the first among those who came as pioneers into northwestern Iowa prior to 1860. His paper was a clean piece of writing and printing. No parent ever felt an hesitancy in having it come into the home. It always contained much aside form the news of the day that was in the highest degree instructive. Even now old settlers speak in most cordial terms of what John Brainard’s paper was a quarter of a century ago. A complete file of that most e3xcellent journal is in the State Historical Library at Des Moines. Among other good works he has always been a persistent advocate of public libraries. The city of Boone is now, thanks to a few excellent people, building up a growing library, to which all are welcomed. But the sentiment in its favor has arisen mainly from the untiring work of John M Brainard. This is conceded by everybody. Another point my be mentioned. He has labored in season and out of season for the best interests of the public schools. No other ten men in Boone have done so much unrequited labor for the cause of education. Others have been “to busy” but a man with tastes in these directions, whose heart is in the work, can generally find time to help a good cause.
His many appreciative, abiding friends will join the writer in the hope that many happy years yet remain to Mr Brainard, and that --among the trees and lowers planted by his own hand, and fondly cherished from year to year, and cheered by the songs of the birds which always find protection within his gates--he may, in content and happiness, “crown a life of labor with an age of ease.”

1902 Boone County History Book


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