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James Craig Berry


Posted By: Ruth McDowell (email)
Date: 5/7/2010 at 17:40:12

Taken from "History of Union County, Iowa - From the Earliest Historic Times to 1908" by George A. Ide, pp. 544-546.

Comparatively few are the residents of Union county who came here in early days and aided in laying the foundation for the present development and progress of this section of the state. Mr. Berry, however, has lived here since April,1864, and has been well known as a contractor, builder and merchant, his business enterprise and activity contrbuting to the substantial development of the community. He dates his residence in the state from 1849, at which time he located in Burlington. He has today passed the eighty-eighth milestone on life's journey and an honorable, upright career has won him the respect and veneration of all with whom he has been associated.

Mr. Berry was born in Augusta county, Virginia, April 18, 1820, a son of Charles and Elizabeth (Craig) Berry, who were likewise natives of the Old Dominion. The family is of Scotch lineage, three brothers having come from the land of the heather and taken up their abode in Virginia at a very early epoch in its history.

J.C. Berry spent the first seven years of his life in the state of his nativity and in 1827 accompanied his parents to the frontier of Ohio, settling in Madison county, twenty-six miles west of Columbus. Their home was in the midst of the green woods. The father bought a tract of timber land and cutting away trees and clearing out the stumps he brought the fields under cultivation and made a good farm, upon which he reared his family. There Charles Berry lived for more than two decades, when in 1849 he came to Iowa, settling in Burlington, where he resided two or three years. At that time the white settlers had not penetrated into the wild regions of the state, there being only a few settlers along the river, but the more adventurous spirits were coming to realize what the state offered in its broad prairies and one by one the settlers proceeded into the central and western districts and reclaimed the wild lands for the purpose of civilization. After living in Burlington for two or three years Mr. Berry removed to Louisa county, where he secured land and cultivated a farm. Subsequently he went to Colorado, where he joined a daughter and spent the last eighteen years of his life, there passing away on the 6th of December, 1884, at the ripe old age of ninety-two years. He was an active, devoted and faithful member of the Presbyterian church, taking a helpful interest in the various departments of the church work and serving for years as a Sunday school teacher. He was largely instrumental in building up a church in Central City, Colorado, where he lived for sixteen years with his daughter. He left to his family the priceless heritage of an untarnished name and an example that is well worthy of emulation.

J.C. Berry was reared to manhood in Ohio and learned the trade of a carpenter and joiner, at which he began working when seventeen years of age. He accompanied his parents to Iowa and at Burlington worked at his trade in the employ of others for a time, while later he engaged in contracting and building on his own account. He was thus connected with the substantial improvement of the city until 1864, when he came to Union county and purchased land on Sand creek. He at first had one hundred and sixty acres of land, which he cultivated, and as the years passed he carried on his farm work. Near the center of the place was a fine spring, furnishing an excellent supply of cold, pure water. He built a good house and barn, fenced the fields and carried on the work of cultivating the cereals best adapted to soil and climate, annually harvesting good crops and also raising some stock. He was thus engaged in farming until1890, when, at the age of seventy years, he put aside the more active work of the fields, rented his land and removed to Afton, where he purchased residence property. He afterward sold that place, which in the meantime he had enlarged and improved, but he now owns three good residences in the village. He here engaged in the hardware business for six years, after which he sold out and has since lived practically retired, save for the supervision which he gives to his investments.

Mr. Berry was married in Ohio in June, 1849, to Miss Sarah Craig, who was born in Virginia but was reared in Logan county, Ohio. They have six living children: James D., who owns and operates a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Sand Creek township: William Berry, a prominent and well known physician and surgeon of South Omaha; Elijah, a resident farmer of Ringgold county, Iowa; Kate, the wife of A.S. Brown, a prominent farmer of Sand Creek township; Maggie, the wife of William Sherer, a well-to-do agriculturist of Sand Creek township; and Mary, the wife of Albert McFarland, a business man of Des Moines. They lost their first-born, Theodore Berry, who grew to manhood, was married and settled in Ringgold county. Later he sold out there and went to Missouri, where he died at the age of fify-one years.

Mr. Berry gave to his children good educational privileges and they have lived to become a credit to his name. He and his wife are devoted members of the Presbyterian church, with which they have long been identified, taking active interest in the church work and serving also as a Sunday school teacher. Mr. Berry gave his early political allegiance to the whig party and upon its dissolution joined the republican party. He has been officially connected with the schools and for some years was township school treasurer. All his life he has supported measures of progress and improvement. He does not talk of the "good old days" as something which he wishes might return, for he realizes fully the advancement that has been wrought and which has revolutionized methods of business as well as modes of living. He rejoices in what has been accomplished and although now well advanced in years still maintains a deep interest in what is going on in the world , so that in spirit and interests he seems yet in his prime, although the snows of nearly nine decades have whitened his hair.


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