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James Nowning


Posted By: Deborah Gilbert (email)
Date: 9/8/2016 at 13:44:24

Maxwell Book: 1883-1983

James Matison Nowning and Abigail Smith were married April 12, 1866. They lived northeast of iowa Center. Abigail came to Story County with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John W. Smith, from Indiana, near Indianapolis, where a cousin, Mr. Heaton, operated a flour mill. The family had emigrated from Virginia to Indiana. They came to Story County with a team of oxen and wagon, a team of horses and carriage, and Smith had his equipment and tools. At his death he left 80 acres of land to each of this three sons and 40 acres to each of his three daughters.

James Nowning came to Story County from Indiana as a young man. He had a brother who was killed in the Civil War, and a sister who married and lived in Louisiana.

After their marriage James and Abigail lived in a two room log cabin on her 40 acres and farmed and produced the food for the ten children who were born to them. All ten grew to maturity. They were as follows: Julia Etta (Whitinger), Mary Aldora (Gunder), James Chalmer, John Andrew, Rachael Evaline (Ogle), Joseph Warren, Phedeliah Jane (Wade), Carrie Belle (Ayers), Charles Franklin and Daisy Pearl Kimberley.

James died in 1883, one month before the tenth child was born. The oldest child was then 16 years-old. Abigail supported her children by doing washings for neighbors, selling butter, eggs and other produce and growing their own food. As each child became old enough he or she went to work as a hired girl or farm hand.

In those days farmers were very nearly self sufficient. One of Abigail's granddaughters remembers the maple grove on the north and west sides of the log cabin. It served as a windbreak, and in the spring the trees were tapped and the sap boiled down for syrup and sugar. They raised a few acres of white corn for hominy and to grind into meal for corn bread and mush.

Abigail made her own vinegar and soap. When a hog was butchered the cracklings from rendered lard were crumbled and used as a shortening in corn bread. Head cheese was made and pigs feet pickled. Nothing was wasted except the squeal. They had a huge garden and orchard, complete with strawberries, raspberries, currants, rhubarb, etc.

In the early days they raised some sheep and Abigail spun the wool and knitted mittens, stockings, caps and scarves for her children and grandchildren. abigail was known as an excellent cook, her specialty being hickory nut cake which was a white layer cake frosted with finely chopped hickory nuts and sweet cream and white sugar beaten together until the sugar dissolved.

Abigail died in 1913, at the age of 67 years-old, and was buried beside her husband in the Iowa Center Cemetery.


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