Fremont County, Iowa

Family History Stories

John Allen Howard
(Methodist Minister)

Transcribed by Paula Snyder – September 5, 2004 – great great granddaughter of John Allen Howard

A Short Narrative of My Life 
By J. A. Howard 

In undertaking to give the reader of these pages the story of my life, I will not undertake in a solemn strain to narrate this narration, but will try and put as much sunshine in these pages as possible. 

I am the son of my Father as all of my Fathers were. I was born very young and have never been ashamed of it, and have never desired to grow old, so at this writing from the best of my recollection, and the evidence set down in the old family Bible, I am now nearing the age of sixty-eight years. That old family record says 1 was born in the year of our Lord on the 16th day of January 1853, so you see I was born in an early day of my life near New Providence in Greene County, Illinois. My Father's name was simply John Howard, and my mother's name was Marjory Ann, her maiden name being Bell. My mother died when I was but five years of age hence my memory concerning her is rather vague. My mother was a beautiful woman being one of the Bells of the community in which she lived, I think I will always hold it against my mother for my good looks, therefore I am not responsible for them. My father lived to be 76 years old and anxiously passed to his reward in my own arms.  

As I was born very young, I married correspondingly young, at the age of nineteen, and have been married to the same woman ever since. I was very fortunate in my marriage, having found a beautiful girl in my own community who was willing to take me just as I was. I suppose she thought then that it was a cheap bargain, and now she knows it. The most of our troubles have been little ones, eight of whom have grown to man and womanhood and they seem real glad that they have been thus fortunate in having us for their parents. I did not have to leave my own community to find a lady girl that would have me as many young fellows do. I never have been a giant in physical strength or mental ability, or a financial success, but when I die I will take about  as much with me as anybody that I know anything about. 1 brought nothing into this world and it looks like I am going to take precious little out. 

The people that I have known have been very good to me, and that have not been a few. I am proud of a large circle of acquaintances, whether they are proud of it or not. I am glad of the fact that I have known quite well many other great and talented men and women, and the most of them have been willing to acknowledge my acquaintance in public. There are a great many great and good men that I have never met (not yet). I have known and remember to have seen such men as Peter Cartwright, who was quite as noted preacher in early days of Methodism in Illinois as I have been in later days in Iowa. I also knew Peter Acres of Jacksonville, Illinois. I do not suppose he remembers ever knowing me for I was just a lad when he was an aged man and a friend of Abraham Lincoln. I have never seen Abe Lincoln but I remember there was such a man living in my day (will wonders never cease) two such characters living at the same time and in the same state, but he never lived very long after I came upon the stage of action. I have lived to see the Republican Party come into power at a time when great men were needed. I have lived to see the demon rum throttled by the throat and driven into holes in the walls and into the dark places of the earth and hope to see it driven into Hades where it belongs and where it originated, for John Barley Corn is surely a child of the devil, but he has been buried with his face down and the harder he attempts to get out the deeper he will get in. 

I have known, seen and heard such great Christian teachers and workers as Dwight L. Moody, R. E. Torrey, Billy Sunday and Joseph Wells. I will not burden the reader's mind with the names of those men I have never known, for they are many. 

My earliest impressions were very impressionable, the first was a longing in my stomach and I have never been clear of for only a very short while at a time since. There is a saying that early impressions last the longest. It would seem then, that the stomach is the most sensitive part of a man. I think, however, that my little wife is a very sensitive part of me for she seems to understand perfectly what is good for my stomach and a good many other things that are good for me. She has labored very hard for many years to satisfy the longing of, and early impressions of my stomach and life. She has not always succeeded from the fact of limitations which were not her own, therefore I do not lay it up against her, arid I forgive her as I wish to be forgiven. My wife has assisted me very materially in bringing forth and securing what assets that we together do now possess, and the good book says "She shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house and thy children as olive plants about thy table." Psalms 128:3, and if her children who may sometime read these lines will turn and read the whole of the 128th Psalm will find almost a perfect fulfillment of these words in the life of their mother. These olive plants about our table have tried the ability and proved the sagacity and ingenuity of one who has indeed proved herself that fruitful vine in meeting the needs and requirements of so many little olive plants about our table who resembled their father when it comes to things good to eat, and many other things that were just as important, for which her children do now "Rise up and call her blessed." And now at the age of sixty-eight she still retains the ability to prepare things to tempt the appetite not only of her children, but her grand children and great grandchildren, of the latter there are two already. 

This leads me to speak of our marriage more specifically, as I have mentioned before occurred when we were young folks in the month of April, the 30th day, eighteen hundred and seventy-two. We lived quite cozily together, not in a cottage, but a cabin of two rooms that let in plenty of fresh air and some sunshine and in this cabin four of our children were born, in the almost ten years in which we lived in it. The oldest and first was born on a beautiful June afternoon the 14th day. She lived to bring the brightest of sunshine and sweetest of disposition to bless and cheer our young hearts until she was almost 22 months old when one day in March 1874, we carefully laid her away to rest until that day that God shall call us all home to be with him forever. We do not think of her as dead but alive forevermore. Her name was Mary Lela. 

In this humble cabin home Cora Elizabeth, Nellie Minerva, and Orville Francis were born, all who for many years have enjoyed the family estate and are now living in different parts of the country, Cora and Orville in Iowa, farmers, and Nellie in Kansas. 

On the 15th day of Oct., 1882 we (my wife's brother, George Clark and myself) started in our frail bark, a light prairie schooner, for Harrison County, Iowa, the mother and three children coming through later on the train. We landed the first day of November and began husking corn the next day for our oldest brother who had been living in Iowa for about three years. In the spring of 1883, we built us a cottage and settled down for the life of an industrious farmer, where we lived, toiled, and mingled with the people, neighbors, and friends until the fall of 1889, when we moved to Logan, the county seat of Harrison County. On the farm we raised corn and cows, chickens and children. While living on the farm, Hattie Florence was born, who is now the wife of a popular and progressive Methodist preacher in Denver, Colo. Also on the farm was born the future literary artist of the whole family, when she gets started, but she has hardly got started yet, but she is still young and always will be, she is somewhat like her daddy, real modest, and does not let the people know what she does know and think (O, I suppose her husband R. G. Conrad knows some of the things she thinks about). He is a man of some rare accomplishments and ability when it comes to fixing up cast off Overland cars and making them hit the pike with limited speed. So we might truthfully say the most profitable productions on the farm were as usual, children. Our neighbors were also productive in this line while we lived in the neighborhood. 

In the spring of 1888, we left the work of the farm to a hired boy who did well and we were commissioned as a Sunday School Missionary of the American Sunday School Union, so we left the hard work on the farm for a more strenuous labor among the good, bad and indifferent people of Harrison County. We labored in this capacity in Harrison County until August 1893. After the lapse of thirty years or more the effects of our feeble efforts are still visible. We went everywhere striving to do good and finding plenty of opportunity for Christian service. We plead and planted and prayed for the seed that we endeavored to sow to bring forth a harvest. 

Some of the marvelous productions of our home while living in Logan, IA, were the coming to bless and bring sunshine were first Naomi Merle, now the wife of a prosperous farmer living in Sidney, which town we have chosen for our present home for a time at least. Also while living at Logan, a little wee bit of a midget came whom we called Carrie Fern, she is yet but a midget in size but a full-sized woman in talent and capacity for many things that are good and noble. Her husband, who is but a pint larger than she is sells pills and apothecary’s' productions for the sick and weary and ice cream and soday water for the frail and faint as well as some others . . . There (sic) home is in Story City, a part of Norway, IA, where, they hold bazaars and successful fish dinners frequently, where they feed the people on pancakes made out of potatoes, they look flat, seem flat and are flat and taste flat to a man who is accustomed to eating good pancakes. 

In August 1893, we were transferred to Fremont County, Iowa, where we spent eleven years in Sunday School work, mostly raised and educated the little family of the seven children that still remained with us. Cora, the eldest daughter having married in Harrison County a husky young farmer. The youngest of the family was born in Fremont County at Sidney, IA, on the 8th day of September 1895. She is now 25 years old and wife of an industrious young farmer in Greene County, Iowa. Being the youngest we were loath to give her up but all our lives we have believed in the doctrine of the multiplication table, and the scriptural injunction given to Adam after he had secured for a wife the best looking woman upon the earth at that time, "to increase and replenish the earth." We feel that in this regard we have not been slow, and some of the children have started out well in this regard. By living decent and respectable lives and teaching our children to do so we have been enabled to see them all married to quite respectable men and women. Some twenty grand children have come to gladden the homes of our children, but two have passed on; two great grandchildren have come to take their places. 

In the year 1904, we started out to shape and sharpen the moral and political interests and atmosphere of Fremont County by purchasing an interest in what was then known as the Fremont County Sun. We let our light shine by soliciting subscriptions and job work throughout the county, but to our astonished amazement we found many who had had all the sunlight they desired and politely asked us to give them a receipt for back subscription and to please stop the paper, and we foolish like stopped the paper. At the end of two years and six months we found an opportunity to sell out to our partner by taking his note for all we had invested in the plant and we have his note yet and he is dead, so not knowing his location we prefer keeping his note rather than looking up his location. However, we feel sorry for him because he lost more money than we did all because he had it to lose. This experience to us was one that was worth all it cost. The Fremont County Sun perished in the hands our successors, and has never been resurrected although another publication of like character and political persuasion is now being published successfully in the same building known as the Sidney Argus. 

In April 1907, we took charge of a Methodist Church in a little town, Exira, Iowa, in Cass County; for five months we preached to a few people each Sunday morning and evening and to quite a few empty seats, and the seats were almost as responsive some of the people to our exhortations at any rate they kept still during the service. In September of the same year we took charge of the Little Sioux charge in Harrison County. This charge consisted of three appointments, Little Sioux, Pisgah, and Soldier Valley, and most of the time while there we preached at River Sioux. We were getting back into our old territory where we had served the people as Sunday School Missionary for several years and we went not among strangers but warm hearted and solicitous friends. We termed this practically our first charge as a Methodist pastor, and we served four more or less successful years, and they only owed us about $100 and they owe it yet, but according to Methodist policy they will never pay it. I suppose they paid all they could afford and all that I was worth. While living at Little Sioux two of our daughters and our only son were married, and another caught the malady and married a Little Sioux gentleman. Merle married Wayne W. Polk of Sidney, IA, and Hattie married Homer A. Fintel, now of Denver, Colo., and pastor of Barnum Church. 

Leaving Little Sioux in the fall of 1911, we were sent by the conference to Pilot Mound in Boone County, Iowa, the hardest circuit in the Des Moines Conference, and we served this charge for five years. It was a three-point charge, 20 miles long and correspondingly wide, the parsonage being located at Pilot Mound, the extreme west end of the charge west of the Des Moines River, and the other two points directly east in, almost a straight line. Although this work was hard and cumbersome we pulled through and left it with many friends, both in and out of the church, and with our minds in full swing and active operation. The man that followed us almost lost his mind but through the aid of a former pastor accomplished a good work on the charge. Here Fern met, wooed and won her present husband. Here also Lennie lassooed the young man she had larietted at Little Sioux, and they have lived quite happily ever since, though they have passed through much pain and suffering, especially while living in Waterloo. 

Leaving Pilot Mound we moved in September 1910, to Paton, a one-point charge or station, serving this charge three years. The first sermon we preached was a funeral of a little girl brought in from the west. In all these charges we received many commendations for our sermons and labors, and we feel we left each charge at least in as good a spiritual condition as we found them when we went to them. In Pilot Mound we did not know a single soul. On entering the town we prayed the Lord to give us the hearts of the people in the charge. We found them a warm-hearted people toward us and very responsive to our appeals in many ways. It is a great comfort to us to know that all these charges have had gracious revivals after we moved on. In Paton, the baby daughter was married to Mr. Earl Beaty, who is at this time erecting a beautiful cottage home for his wife and two little children, Martha Louise and Robert Earl. It will soon be ready for them to move into. 

We certainly can say that we can go back to all of these charges and receive as warm welcome from the most of the people as any one could wish. 

Feeling in the fall of 1919, that our usefulness as a pastor was about done, we loaded our goods and shipped them back to Sidney, our former home, where we also knew we had many warm friends, with the intention of spending the remaining days of our pilgrimage among some of our children and friends, and do what good that fell to our lot to accomplish. It has never been my disposition or custom to complain of our lot in life. It might have been far worse than it has been. We know many have done better and a few have done worse. We have in a measure cherished the good will of good men and sought earnestly the approval of God upon our work, and pray yet for his divine favor and smile to rest upon us in these declining days of our life. We will be disappointed if in the end of our days we do not hear the approving words of our Saviour "Well done". God has understood the motive of our lives and the desires of our heart. We will rest assured that He will bring no disappointment to us or to any of His servants. 

I have just mentioned a few of some of the interesting things that have come into our lives during the almost 48 years of our pilgrimage. There are many interesting incidents and interesting times that have occurred in my labors as a Sunday School Missionary and preacher-pastor. One thing that 1 have escaped very largely as a pastor and that is the whining complaints of those touchy people and jealous wives and husbands who sometimes seem to think a pastor can relieve them of all their troubles by pouring into his ear their tale of woe. It never was my disposition to dig into those things. I always felt the more you stirred a rotten thing the worse it would stink. 

Some day I may go into the records of my more than 75,000 miles of travel in Christian labors here and there and put in typewritten form some of the incidents that might be refreshing to my children and grandchildren, to remind them there once lived in the world such common folks capable of doing some uncommon things and bringing to pass some great and good results. May the dear Lord bless whoever may be permitted to read these lines, which have given me great joy to here transcribe.



The Rev. John A. Howard 

November 17, 1920 

John and Martha Howard celebrated their golden wedding anniversary April 30, 1922, at their home in Sidney, Iowa, all of their children and families except Hattie and Nelle being present. George and Cora Norman also celebrated their golden wedding anniversary March 9, 1942 in Farragut, Iowa. 

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