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Abner Harrison McCrary


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/4/2001 at 08:24:57

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890 County
Hon. Abner Harrison McCrary, who is now living a retired life in Pleasant Hill, Van Buren County, is numbered not only among the prominent citizens of this community, but is widely known among the older settlers of the State, he himself being on e of the early frontiersmen. His life is prominently connected with its history, his aid has been given for its advancement and progress, and in its legislative halls he served as an honored member.
Mr. McCrary was born in Vanderburg County, on February 23, 1814. In that early period in the history of the Indiana Territory the facilities for securing an education were very poor, and as he had no means with which to attend the colleges of the East, his advantages were necessarily limited. His boyhood days were spent in a manner similar to that of all lads in a like condition, and on attaining to mature years he started out in life for himself. On February 6, 1834, he was united in marriage with Miss Nercissa Mangum, and they began their domestic life in
Gibson County, where Mr. McCrary began clearing and developing a farm lying along the banks of Big Creek, but the situation was not a healthful one, the fever and ague seemed fastening itself upon them, and in the fall of 1835, in order to avoid its ravages, they sold out and started for the West. They first made a location in McDonough County Illinois, where they spent the winter in a schoolhouse, as the immigration to that part of the country had been so great in the previous few months that no dwelling could be obtained. Mr. McCrary at once began the erection of a cabin on what was known as the military tract, but before the new house was completed, on April 4, 1836, there was born to them in the little schoolhouse a son. Not long afterward, however, they were installed in their new home. Great difficulty was experienced by the settlers of that day in procuring their claims and Mr. McCrary shared in the disadvantages, which fell to the lot of many. After having made considerable improvement, and occupying his new home a year, the agent who had the land in charge visited the settlement and put such a high price upon the property that our subject felt unable to pay the sum. It certainly was a most discouraging incident, and with little hope of better success he traveled over portions of McDonough, Hancock, Adams and Warren Counties, but everywhere met with the same difficulty.
After some time spent in this manner, Mr. McCrary became satisfied that he could not find a home in that locality, and concluded to cross the Father of Waters to what was known as Black Hawk Purchase, and see if he could not meet with better success in that region. Accordingly, in the winter of 1836-37, accompanied by his brother J.C. McCrary, and his wife’s brother A.W. Mangum, he started for Iowa. There was at that time twelve inches of snow upon the ground, but with tools, bedding, and ten days rations for man and beast, they started out, their vehicle being a wagon box placed on runners. At Warsaw they crossed the Mississippi River on the ice, and in the same manner made their way up the Des Moines River about forty miles, until reaching what is now the center of Van Buren County. Driving inland for a few miles, they located on the south side of the river, but here also experienced some difficulty, which was occasioned by land speculators who traveled through the country, marking out the land into large tracts, which they would sell at their own price to strangers who were desirous of locating in piece. This practice was carried on to such extent that it became necessary to adopt by-laws to regulate their conflicting interests. By the new law one man could not hold more than a quarter section of land unless he bought it. This proved but partially successful, however, as the speculators would combine and claim the best portions of the country, trading between one another so as to evade the law. Much advantage was taken in this manner of those who wished to make homes in the community, but Mr. McCrary and his comrades were not so easily deterred from the object of their trip to Iowa. They informed themselves in relation to the claim law in order to know what they were required go do, then located land and remained on the same until they had erected cabins, when they returned to Illinois.
In the spring of 1837, accompanied by his faithful wife, Mr. McCrary started for the new home in the wilds of the Black Hawk purchase, which was then a part of the Territory of Wisconsin, arriving at their destination on April 23. A little log cabin in the midst of a grove of timber, and furnished with few of the comforts of life, was their home. Their neighbors were far distant, and frequently the red men would be among their visitors; many privations and hardships were to be endured, difficulties and obstacles were to be overcome, and the work which lay before them of developing a farm was no easy task, but though the path was a rugged one, it led to a home and competence, and ever looking forward to the result to be attained, their hardships seemed the lighter. They have prospered since coming to Van Buren County, and Mr. McCrary is numbered among the substantial citizens of the community, yet success has not always been attendant upon his footsteps. During the years of 1839, 1840, and 1841, a financial panic was upon the country, the effects of which were felt by many of the early settlers. In fact some were unable to pay for their lands, and Mr. McCrary, with others determined to secure only eighty acres, and availed himself of the preemption law to secure that amount. However by industry and economy he had saved sufficient to purchase another eighty acres, and his hope of procuring a home for his family was at length realized. He continued his farming operations for many years, and became the owner of one of the finest country homes in the county. His zeal and energy paved the way to success, and a as a result of his earnest efforts he secured a property which now places him in comfortable circumstances and enabled him to live in retirement from the busy cares of life.
Mr. McCrary has not labored alone for his own interests, but has been a prominent man in public places, and while serving in official capacities has aided greatly in the advancement of the county’s interests. In the year 1841 he was elected Justice of the Peace, a position, which he held through successive elections for eight years. In 1848 he represented Van Buren County in the State Legislature, being the first to hold the office after the adoption of the constitution. He was a member of the General Assembly when the difficulties arose in relation to the boundary between Iowa and Missouri. He was opposed to the first constitution of Iowa in consequence of its limitation of the western boundary line of the State and voted for the constitution, which is now in vogue. In 1850 Mr. McCrary was again elected a member of the General Assembly, and during that session the revised code was adopted. So ably did he represent his constituents in the lower house that, in 1852 he was elected, to the State Senate. During that term provisions were made for removing the capital to Des Moines, and making an appropriation of the old State House in Iowa City for a State University. In 1860 he again served as State Senator, in the term which embraced the period of the war, and when the duties of the legislators were fraught with deep interest and often times with peril. He was chairman of the Senate committee to which was referred the first bill in Iowa asking for a Sunday law. On the same committee, and opposed to Mr. McCrary as a Christian man, was a radical infidel, who did all in his power to prevent the passage of the bill, but through the instrumentality of our subject and other friends of the measure it became the law.
In the fall of 1833, when a young man of nineteen years, Mr. McCrary made the good confession and united with the Christian Church. Although a busy man, his time well taken up by business and political interests, he has ever found time to devote to religious work. With the Bible as a guide, and with its promises and precepts ever before him, his course has been such as to win him the respect and highest regard of all with whom he came in contact. Not ashamed or afraid to express his views, he has ever taken his stand on the side of right and opposed the wrong. When a member of the Legislature, in addition to his favoring a bill for Sunday law, he did much in that important position for the cause of Christianity, and so pronounced was he on the side of morality that he was never approached by those who were willing to make of politics a corrupt thing or a means of securing money. About the year 1858 he was chosen one of the Elders of the Christian Church of Pleasant Hill, and in that capacity faithfully served for many years, having the approval of the congregation. In his Christian life, as in his business life, he has met with failures, yet he has profited by experience and with pure motives pressed onward. Charitable and benevolent, the poor find in him a friend, the discouraged, a sympathizer.
The following children were born of the union of Mr. and Mrs. McCrary: William M., born in McDonough County Illinois, April 4, 1836, is now living in Council Bluffs; Marietta, born in Van Buren County October 24, 1838, is the wife of J.W. Garvin of Edgar Clay County Nebraska; James N., born April 17, 1841 is a resident of Chicago; A. Jasper, born March 20, 1844 is an attorney-at-law of Keokuk Iowa; Lucinda C., born October 15, 1846, died December 22, 1848; Curtis R., born April 1, 1849, is living in Van Buren County; Ira C., born January 4, 1852, is a salesman in the employ of Edwin Manning at Douds Station.
In the spring of 1876, Mr. McCrary purchased property in Pleasant Hill, and the following October removed with his wife to that town, where they have since made their home. This worthy couple, who have traveled life’s journey together for fifty-four years, are widely and favorable known throughout the entire community, and it is with pleasure that we record their sketch in the history of their adopted county, with the growth and progress of which they have been so closely and prominently connected.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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