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J. N. Iliff


Posted By: C. Diamond IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 1/3/2011 at 18:02:51

Biographical Souvenir of the counties of Delaware and Buchanan.
Chicago: F. A. Battey & Company. 1890.
pp. 523-5.

J. N. ILIFF, Buchanan countyís present popular and efficient sheriff, is not an old man, but is, nevertheless, an old Iowan, having passed all but three of the forty-four years of his life in this state, saving also temporary absence during his term of service in the late war. He is a native of Green county, Wis., and was born August 27, 1846. He comes of pioneer ancestry, his fatherís people having been among the early settlers of Ohio, and his motherís people among the early settlers of Wisconsin. His parents are also remembered as pioneers of this state, they having settled in Fayette county in 1849, when that county and all the region lying about it was a prairie and forest wilderness. The father, Benjamin Iliff was born in Ohio, and lived successively, when a young man, in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin. He married in Wisconsin, and after a few yearsí residence there, moved to Iowa, locating in Fayette county, where he afterwards lived and where he also died, dying in 1874, at the age of fifty-seven. He was a farmer and spent his whole life engaged in agricultural pursuits, in which he was fairly successful. He was twice married, marrying first while a resident of Green county, Wis. His first wife was the mother of the subject of our sketch. She bore the maiden name of Alvina Morrison and was born in Green county, Wis. She died in Fayette county, Iowa, in 1852, at the age of twenty-seven. She left two children besides our subject, a daughter and son, both younger than himself. The daughter, Susan, is now the wife of William Wattles, and resides at Stockville, Frontier county, Nebr.; and the son, James A., resides at West Union, Fayette county, this state. The second wife of the elder Iliff bore the maiden name of Hannah Kirkpatrick and she died in Nebraska in 1888. The four children of this union are--George F., of Fairfield, Clay county, Nebr.; Frances, wife of R. H. Wolf, of Minneapolis, Minn.; Ira B., of Fairfield, Clay county, Nebr., and Iva, wife of James Hughes, of Fairfield, Clay county, Nebr.

It will be seen, from the dates already given, that the subject of this notice was but little more than an infant when his parents moved to Fayette county, this state. His childhood and youth were passed upon his fatherís farm in that county and he grew up engaged in farming pursuits, much as any boy in his condition might be supposed to do. In his earlier years he attended the district schools of the locality where he resided and received the rudiments of an ordinary English education, such as was afforded by the district schools of that time and locality. Unfortunately for Mr. Iliff he came upon the stage of action when, his country was in the throes of Civil war and the unsettling effects of that war soon became apparent in his career. It was his fatherís intention to give him a good collegiate training and prepare him for one of the useful professions. With this end in view he had already been placed in Western college at Western, Iowa, and had taken one year's course in that institution, when, the ďwar feverĒ proving too strong for him, he suddenly, on July 1, 1863, gave up his studies and, without his fatherís consent, enlisted in Company E, Ninth Iowa cavalry, going at once to the front. He was in the service about two years and a half, sharing the fortunes of the Ninth Iowa cavalry, in the discharge of its arduous garrison duties and numerous fruitless expeditions over the highways and byways and through the bottomless swamps and malarious districts of Arkansas. He was discharged at Little Rock February 3, 1866, having served throughout the term of his enlistment as a private, and, like all the faithful twelve hundred members of his regiment, having performed many arduous and useful labors, but having won but little military distinction.

Returning home at the close of the war, although when a young man past his majority, he took up his studies where he left them off and completed his education. Before entering the army he had begun the study of surveying, and he renewed this after returning home, prosecuting it with vigor, mostly in private, and by so doing attained a marked proficiency in that useful branch of learning.

On February 27, 1868, Mr. Iliff married, taking to wife Miss Rachel C. George, then of West Union, Fayette county, this state settled down and engaged in farming in that county and followed farming and surveying in that and Dickinson county until 1876, when he moved to Buchanan county locating at Jesup. Three years after moving to Buchanan county he was elected county surveyor and held this office by successive re-elections for six years. In November, 1887, he was elected sheriff of the county and two years later was reelected to the same office, holding now his second term, and having also in the meantime moved to the county seat, Independence.

Mr. Iliff is a republican in politics and has always been elected to office on the republican ticket; but he is not an offensive partisan, and he has many friends and supporters outside of the ranks of his own party. He is highly esteemed as a citizen, and the faithful administration of the duties of his office has won him the good will and hearty commendation of all his fellow-citizens, regardless of party affiliations. The office of sheriff is by no means an easy one to fill. Of all the executive offices of a county its duties are the most exacting. The sheriff is the perpetual guardian of the peace of the community--the conservator always of the public welfare. He stands as the representative of law and order, and if he faithfully discharges his duties and meets the expecations of the better class of his fellow-citizens he must of necessity make enemies of some. But in the discharge of his functions in this respect his judgment and discretion are not so often put to the test as in meeting his responsibilities in the ordinary course of litigation. Law represents a constant conflict of interest and even after a cause has been tried and passed into the form of a judgment or execution, the contest has by no means ceased, there being a wide margin for the exercise of sound sense and discriminating judgment upon the part of those who are called on to close the case up and make a final disposal of it. Tried by this test Mr. Iliff has made a splendid officer, administering the civil affairs connected with his position with rare skill and efficiency.

As already stated, our subject married in 1868. The lady whom he selected to share his lifeís fortunes was a daughter of one of the early settlers of Fayette county, James George, still a resident of that county. Mrs. Iliff was born in Greene county, Wis., and was only a child when her parents moved to Iowa. She was reared in Fayette county and in her girlhood saw much of pioneer life, being well skilled in all the ways and means of getting on in a new country. She has by reason of this fact been all the better enabled to bear her husband a faithful companionship, sharing his labors and entering actively into all his plans and purposes as only a good wife can do. Mr. and Mrs. Iliff have had born to them a family of four children, two sons and two daughters--George Harlan, Clyde Everett, Olive L. and Amy Alice.

Being an old soldier, Mr. Iliff naturally has a warm place in his breast for all of his old comrades, and no man would go further or do more to help one of these than he would. Nor are his sympathies confined to his comrades only; he gives to their widows and orphans when in need of his counsel and assistance such aid as his means and opportunities will allow. He is also a member of two of the principal benevolent orders--the Masonic Fraternity and the Knights of Pythias--in each of which orders he takes much interest and gives their broad and charitable purposes a practical meaning in his every-day life and conduct.

Personal contact with Mr. Iliff will be sufficient to account to any one for a large measure of his popularity. He possesses one of those open and frank dispositions which render him easy of approach and makes intercourse with him a pleasure. Having been reared on the farm and surrounded from childhood up with an atmosphere of honesty, freedom and liberality found no where in such perfection as in the great-hearted West, his life has been well ordered, being grounded on the most solid maxims by which human conduct can be regulated and adorned by the most manly virtues.


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