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John McCrea Brainard


Posted By: County Coordinator (email)
Date: 4/15/2010 at 14:01:57

No history of Boone county would be coplete without extended reference to John McCrea Brainard, now one of the venerable residents of the city of Boone, having passed the seventy-eighth milestone on life's journey. Through much of this period he has been a resident of Iowa, where for more than a half century he was connected with the profession of teaching and with journalism, becoming widely known in the field of newpaper publication.
Mr Barinard was born in Blairsville, Indiana county, Pennsylvania, on March 30, 1836, and comes of English ancestry, tracting the line back to Daniel Brainard, who when but eight years of age, crossed the Atlantic form England and found a home in Harford, Connecticut, in 1640. Two years later he became a citizen of and large landholder in Haddam, Connecticut, and he aided in the substatial development of the section of the colony in which he lived. He passed away in Haddam, April 1, 1715. His family numberd seven sons and a daughter. The pateranl grandparents of John McCrea Brainard were Isaac and Alice (Brainard) Brainard, who though of the same name were not relatives. their son, Martin Brainard, was born at Randolph, Vermont, June 29, 1796, and completed a course of study in Dartmouth College by graduation with the class of 1817. He then enteerd upon the study of law, was admitted to the bar at Utica, New York, in Pennsylvania and in Wisconsin. In the autumn of 1875 he removed with his family to St Augustine, Florida, and was laid to rest in the old Huguenot cemetery there. His wife bore the maiden name of Agnes Moorhead, but was usually known by her pet name of Nancy. She was born near Blarisville, Pennsylvania, March 13, 1813, a daughter of Samuel and Martha (Bell) Moorhead, and on November 6, 1830, she gave her hand in marriage to Martin Brainard, who she survived for a decade, passing away in St Augustine, Florida, December 14, 1893. The ancestral record in the maternal lines speaks of Mrs Brainard as a woman of more then usual eduaction for those days who was possessed of a tenacious memory and a capacity for ready and pertinent quotation, generally recognized among her acquaintanes. Her ancestry was Scotch-Irish, imigrating 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 Chamersburg. 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, beig killed by the Indian allies of the British while crossing Chesnut Ridge on his way to Fort Ligonier, in the same county. The intermarriages of the Moorhead famillies were almost without exception in with persons of Sctoch-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 appear frequently in the list of brides in later generations.
John McCrea Brainard was the fourth in order of birth in a family of thriteen children. The three olders sons died in early childood, while the remaining ten children reached adult age. The subject of this sketch began his education under the teaching of his parents, who instructed him to some extent in the Latin language, in addition to those braches which today constitute the public school curriculum. He was afterward sent to the public schools in the autumn of 1851 enrolled in the preparatory academy at Eldersridge, Pennsylvania, beig at then fifteen years of age. In that school he prepared for the junior year at Jefferson College, teaching school in the winter and attending the five months' terms at the academy. In the spring of 1853 the family removed from Pensylvania to Beloit, Wisconsin, where John McCrea Brainard continued his education as a student at the college at that place but only remained until fall, when he returned to Pennsylvania, where he alternately studied in the academy and taught schoool until the spring of 1856. With the completion of his academic course he decided to establih his home in the West. Before taking up his abode in the Mississippi valley, however, Mr Brainard was married to Miss Martha Vale Wilson, a daughter of Sanford and Letitia (Clark) Wilson, of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania. The wedding was celebrated March 18 1856, in Callensburg, Clarion county, Pennsylvania. The bride's mother was a cousin of Governor James Clark the thrd and last territorial governor of Iowa, who shortly after the lose of his official term died of cholera and was laid to rest in Burlington. Mr and Mrs Brainard became the parents of seven children: Justin born May 9, 1858, at Charles City, Iowa, married Gladys J Calonkey, September 4, 1884, and is now living in Florida, Walter L born March 12, 1860, at Clear Lake, Iowa was married June 20, 1886, to Lizzie A Shackleton, and died September 23, 1887, Frank S born February 18, 1862 at Clear Lake, Iowa is a resident of Boone, Iowa, Elmer E born Janaury 31, 1864 at Nevada, Iowa, was married at Elkader, Iowa January 2, 1889 to Fannie E Woodward and makes his home in Williston, North Dakota, Mabel Alice born December 24, 1865, in Nevada, Iowa she is the widow of Dr J T Coveny and they resided in Oscaloosa, Iowa until the Doctor's death, Emma Vale born May 23, 1871 Boone, Iowa was married February 17, 1896 to Stillman Pearson and resides in Aurora, Illinois. She had a twin brother who died a few days after their birth.
Amost immediately after their marriage Mr and Mrs Brainard started for the middle west and on July 21, 1856 they arrived in Floyd county, Iowa becoming residents of Charles City. In the autumn of that year Mr Brainard accepted the postion of teacher in the public schools of Charles City, with which he was connected for a year. He was afterward in the employ of the bank of Ferguson & Eastman, was in the store of Ferguson & Stanley and was connected with the county offices. In 1858 he removed from Charles City to Mason City, where he engaged in teaching through the succeeding year and in the autumn of 1859 accepted a school at Clear Lake, where he taught thourgh the ensuing winter. During his residnece there he began newspaper publication, entering into partnership with Silan Noyes in the establishment of the first newspaper at that place, known as the Clear Lake Independent. Since then Mr Brainard has abeen almost continuously conceed with journalism. He was at that time twenty-three years of age. The following year the Indepndent suspended, and the office was removed to new Amsterdam, Hancock county, where Mr Brainard published the paper during a portion of the year 1861. Times became every hard with the outbreak of the Civil war, however, and again he discontinued his paper and turned his attention to merchandising in Clear Lake, still in partnership with Mr Noyes, but his fourtune attended this venture, owing to the fact that many to whom they had exteded credit went to the war and lost their lives on the field of battle, so that the accounts could not be collected.
In the summer of 1863, Mr Brainard removed to Nevada, Story county, where he purchased the Reveille from George Schoonover, which he rechristened The Story County Aegis. After five years spent in Nevada he prchased the interest of John Chapman in the Council Bluffs Nonpareil, which he edited during a part of 1868 and 1869. He next purchased the Boone Standard and from that time forward was conneted with journalistic, business and public interests in Boone, where three years before he had attedned the first sale of lots. The Standard was published without missing an issue for nearly a third of a century, or until Jaunary 1, 1902, when because of advancing years and of changed conditions in the field of newspaper pubications, Mr Brainard retired. A contempory biographer has said in this connection: "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 coipelled by the logic of their environments to give up a line of business and retire to a life wholly private, become soured and minanthropic, imagining that they have been illused, that repubics are ungreatful and all that sort of thing. Not so was it with John Brainard. He was that the days of the country weekly had passed away never to return and he accepted the situation cheerfully without a word of complaint, turning his attention to other fields of usefulness.
"The writer has known Mr Brainard intimatley and well for nearly forty years and it is a pleasure to bear testimony to his may 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 peice of writing and printing. No parent ever felt any hesitancy in having it come into the home. It always contained much said effort then was of the day that was in the highest degere insturctive . Even now old settlers speak of most cordial terms of what John Brainard's paper was a quarter of a cetury ago. A complete file of that most excellent journal is in the State Historical Library at Des Moines."
Mr Brainard has several times been called to public office, although never a politician in the sense of office seeking. In 1862 he was elected to fill a vacany for the sixth district of Iowa in the state board of education, but on March 24, 1864, this borad was abolished by act of the general assembly. On February 14, 1873, he received from President Grant the commission that made him postmaster of Boone and in 1877-80 he as a member of the Boone school board. In 1886 he was eleced to the city council and there labored earnestly and effectively to advance the welfare of the city. In 1893, when it was decided to build a genreal sewer system, he was largely instrumental in securing as its advisory engineer in this work the distiunguished Colonel George E Waring, whose plans were substantially adopted. In 1881-82 Mr Brainard was active in promoting the St Louis, Des Moines & Northern Railway, from Boone to Des Moines, now a part of the Chicago, Milwaukee and & St Paul system. He was also one of the foremost factos in establishing and promotnng the public library, which is a monument of his interest in the general welfare. He remains today one of the valued and honored residents of Boone, the growth and development of which he has witnessed for forty-five years, taking most active and helpful part in all the work of progress and improvment. There are few more thoroughly informed concerning the history of this section of the state, and his labors have been effective and far-reaching, not only for the material advancement, but also in behalf of the intellectual and moral progerss of the district.

1914 Boone County History Book


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