Posted By: County Coordinator
Date: 3/11/2009 at 15:52:32
John Bilsland, In the city of Madrid are a number of men who are now living in retirement from business life and well do they deserve this rest from labor because of their active connection with business affairs at an earlier date. Of this class Mr Bilsland is a representative. His energies were directed along eh line of agricultural interests and he owned and operated a valuable farm of two hundred and sixty acres a mile and a half north of Madrid. Forty-six years have passed since his arrival in Boone county. Throughout this period he has manifested marked loyalty to the public good by his faithful allegiance to all measures and movements calculated to prove of public benefit.
He was born in Fountain county, Indiana April 7, 1831. His father , John Bilsland Sr was born on the Atlantic while the parents were emigrating to the new world. The paternal grandfather of our subject was Alexander Bilsland, who on reaching America, took up his abode in Pennsylvania, where he engaged in farming and upon the old homestead there John Bilsland Sr was reared. Attracted by military life and desiring to serve his country he enlisted in the regular army with which he was connected for six years, during which time he participated in the war of 1812. Subsequently he returned to his home in Pennsylvania and afterward removed to Pickaway county, Ohio, where he was married to Susan Evans, a lady of Welsh descent who was born in the state of Vermont. Mr Bilsland carried on farming in Pickaway county for a number of years and afterward went to Indiana, locating in Fountain county, where he opened up a farm, transforming it into a productive tract and rearing his family thereon. It was his place of residence until his death.
John Bilsland, of this review was reared upon his fatherís farm in Indiana. He had little opportunity to attend school and is largely a self-educated man. Attracted by the business opportunities of the west he came to Boone county, Iowa in 1853, and purchased 300 acres of wild land. He then returned to Indiana, where he continued to make his home for three more years then he once more came to Iowa. Here he devoted his energies to breaking prairie and transforming the wild land into rich fields. For three years he lived upon his farm and in June 1859, he returned to his native state where he was married in the month of September to Eliza Wagner, who was born in Iroquois county, Illinois. Her father, David Wagner, was on the pioneer settlers of that county and there Mrs Bilsland was reared and educated. After fatherís death she went to Indiana and resided with he sister. While in the latter state she became acquainted with Mr Bilsland and have him her hand in marriage. Soon after the marriage ceremony was performed the young people started for Boone county, beginning their domestic life upon the farm which he had developed here. He further improved the place and as the years passed added all modern equipments and accessories. The fields returned to him splendid harvests and the neat and thrifty appearance of the place indicated his careful supervisor and progressive methods. He continued his farm work until about 1897, although he had removed to Madrid in 1873.
In 1896, Mr Bilsland was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who died on January 25 of that year and was laid to rest in Mount Hope cemetery where a substantial monument marks her place of interment. Mr Bilsland has one daughter. Blanche, now the wife of S B Williams, a grain merchant and leading business man of Madrid. They have two children, Edna and Dorothy.
Politically Mr Bilsland has been a life long Democrat, his first presidential vote having been cast for Franklin Pierce in 1852. His fellow townsmen recognizing his worth and ability called him to office in the public interests and for a number of years he served as township trustee. He as also road supervisor and has ever been a friend to education, doing all in his power to promote the cause of the schools and to secure good teachers that his economic methods have made possible by his services on the school board through a number of years. He has also been a delegate to numerous county and state conventions of his party. He has been a member of the town council of Madrid for several terms and although he has frequently served in office he has never been a politician in the sense of office seeking, accepting such positions because he believed it to be his duty to the community. He is a member of the Christian church, to which his daughter and her husband also belong. Mr Bilsland is serving as one of its trustees and Mrs Williams is a very active church worker. He also belongs to the Masonic fraternity, holding membership in Star Lodge, No 115, F & A M, of Madrid, in which he has served in several official capacities. He came to Boone county in pioneer times before the admission of the state into the Union. His interests in its welfare and progress has ever been manifest by a hearty co-operation in all movements tending to promote material, social, intellectual and moral progress. His entire life has been one over which there falls no shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil. He has passed the psalmistís span of three score years and ten, and now in the evening of his earthly pilgrimage receives the respect and esteem which should ever be accorded to one who has advanced far on lifeís journey.
1902 Boone County History Book
Boone Biographies maintained by Jan Bony.
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