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Posted By: Nettie Mae (email)
Date: 12/28/2023 at 17:49:55

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895


MR J. R. years, and now in his declining years lives in the enjoyment of a liberal competence — the fruits of his years of honest toil—honored and respected by all who know him. Both his father and grandfather were named John, the latter being a native of the old town of Derby, New Hampshire, whence he moved with his family to New York State. Our subject was born in Albany, New York, October 17, 1811, and there received his education and began his business career as a clerk in a store when eighteen years old. In 1836, with the help of his employer, who became his endorser, he opened a store on his own account and conducted it with good success till 1841. He then sold his business, and turning his steps westward in search of a promising location finally settled in Racine, Wisconsin. He returned to Albany in September, 1843, and married Miss Persis, the daughter of Mr. Levi Phillips of that city. He continued his business at Racine until 1846, and then sold his interest to his partner and returned to Albany. There he bought a ten thousand dollar bankrupt stock of goods at fifty cents on the dollar and again embarked in business but with only moderate success, and his health becoming impaired he sold out in 1852. Casting about for means of bettering his condition Mr. Humphrey was allured by the glowing reports that came from the recently discovered gold fields of Australia and joined the tide of emigration thither, sailing January 15, 1853, on board the old ship “ Baltimore. ” After a tempestuous and perilous voyage of four and a half months, during which the ship made but one stop, at Cape Town, Africa, he was finally landed at Melbourne. With characteristic foresight and shrewdness Mr. Humphrey purchased at Cape Town at a reasonable price several cases of heavy boots and shoes suited to the needs of a mining country. He found a ready sale for the boots at ten dollars per pair and for the shoes a correspondingly high figure. The success of this little venture determined him to invest his energy and limited means in trade rather than in mines. Accordingly, after prospecting for a time at Bendigo mines with indifferent success, he returned to Melbourne. There he bought a stock of dry goods, groceries, etc., which he took to “Farringgower diggings, " and opened a store in a tent . His goods found anxious buyers at a large profit, and in three months his venture netted him a snug little sum . With this, in partnership with a Mr. Noble, who also put in some capital, he purchased a larger stock of goods and took them first to Farringgower and thence to the mining camp of Avoca, where they did a thriving business for some ten months. But this life of separation from his family and friends was irksome to him ; his desire for adventure was satisfied and he determined to return home. Selling his business at auction, he bade good- by to Australia and sailed for home via London and Liverpool, and arrived there after an absence of two and a half years. After a little time spent in recuperating he made a prospecting tour through the West, and among other places visited Davenport. That was in 1855. Learning from the proprietor of the Scott House, where he was stopping, that that hotel was for sale, he purchased it and returned East, and at once brought his family to his new home. In connection with the hotel he built a large barn, his purpose being to secure the patronage of farmers, and for more than twenty years, until he retired from business in 1878, his house was the recognized headquarters for nearly all the farmers of the surrounding country. The business was prosperous from the start and especially so during the Civil War. Mr. Humphrey possessed in an eminent degree the qualities requisite for success in his line of business. Courteous in manner, hospitable, genial and generous, an entertaining talker, full of interesting reminiscences and anecdotes, with keen and sparkling wit, ready repartee and native humor, and withal decisive, discriminating and of sound judgment, he impressed himself upon all who came under his influence and was universally popular. Now at the age of eighty-four he is vigorous in body and mind. Through his long and active career he has been ably assisted by his accomplished wife, who has been to him in the highest sense a helpmeet and companion. She has given much time and study to the subjects of geology and mineralogy, and has in their home a valuable collection of specimens and curios which she has gathered. In this collection are many family heirlooms, comprising rare old embroideries, and paintings, and quaint old articles of furniture, made or owned by members of the ancestral line and handed down from generation to generation, and whose value cannot be estimated in dollars and cents.

Mr. Humphrey has never taken a prominent part in politics. He is a Republican and was once nominated for Mayor of Davenport, but with no prospect of being elected, since the city is overwhelmingly Democratic.

He is a member of Trinity Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, and on the occasion of his eightieth birthday his Masonic brethren celebrated the event with a gathering at his home, at which original poems suited to the occasion were read and speeches made, altogether a most gratifying tribute of esteem and tender regard.

Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey have had six children, of whom four lived to mature age, viz: Henrietta M .; Levi P., who died in 1878; William W., now in the insurance business and in charge of the Safety Deposit Vaults, corner of Second and Main Streets, Davenport, and Emeline L., widow of the late George Gould of Davenport. Two died in infancy.


Scott Biographies maintained by Lynn McCleary.
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