IAGenWeb.org Iowa in the Great War

John F. Porterfield


JOHN F. PORTERFIELD. However prodigal in her gifts, nature seldom confers upon a single individual superior talents in more than one line of endeavor.  However there are exceptions to this rule and a notable one is found in the case of Hon. John F. Porterfield, mayor of Hamburg, a leading member of the Fremont County bar, and a talented and eloquent minister of the Baptist faith. For many years he has been before the public as a preacher and an attorney, and the people have learned to place implicit faith and confidence in him. In the meanwhile he has contributed in no small degree to the betterment and development of the communities in which he has lived and labored.

Mr. Porterfield was born at Sharon, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1871, and is a son of Rev. Samuel B. and Anges (Percy) Porterfield. His father, a native of Ohio, was given excellent educational advantages in his youth, including a course in a college of the United Brethren Church, and was still a young man at the outbreak of the war between the states, in which he served three years as a private in Company A, Twenty-Fifth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. At the close of the war he returned to Ohio and preached for many years, but after the death of his wife there he went to Michigan, where he spent the remainder of his life. They were the parents of four children, of whom three are living: Rev. David, a Baptist preacher of Jefferson, Ohio; Agnes, the wife of John Reid, a master mechanic in the truck works at Alma, Michigan; and John F., of this review. Samuel B. Porterfield was a Republican in politics and active in his party but not as an office seeker. He belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The public schools of St. Louis, Michigan, furnished John F. Porterfield with his early education training, following which he took a correspondence course of four years in theology and law and was ordained minister of the Congregational Church at Mattison, Michigan, in 1896. He had commenced preaching at the age of nineteen years, at Mattison, Michigan, where he remained one year. Later he changed to the Methodist Protestant faith and continued as a preacher thereof for four years, but eventually became a Baptist preacher at Flint, Michigan, and has continued with that denomination to the present. From Flint he went to Pennsylvania, where he held several charges, and while there commenced to read law in a law office at Linesville. Subsequently he removed to Columbia City, Indiana, where he read law under J. Blooms, and after an examination in open court in Indiana was admitted to practice December 11, 1910. He was immediately appointed county attorney of Whitley County, Indiana, but after about a year came to Page County, Iowa, to supply a church at Essex, and was admitted to practice in Iowa in September, 1912, and to practice before the Federal courts in December, 1920. In 1913 Mr. Porterfield was appointed deputy revenue collector and held office at Council Bluffs and Des Moines. He was next transferred to the department of justice and held office at Des Moines and Chicago. Mr. Porterfield has been a resident of Fremont County since 1920, and during all these years has divided his time between preaching and practicing his profession. He has a large and prominent clientele as a lawyer and is a member of the Fremont County Bar Association, the Iowa State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. A Democrat in politics, he has always been a leader in his party and has been chairman of the Page and Fremont Democratic county committees and chairman of the Eighth District committee for seven years, being at present chairman of the Fremont County committee. On a number of occasions he has been his party's candidate for high offices, being defeated only because of the preponderance of Republican voters in this locality. In March, 1929, he was elected mayor of Hamburg, and is giving his fellow-citizens a splendid administration. During the Spanish-American war Mr. Porterfield enlisted in the army, but was not called upon for active service. He served for a number of years as vice commander of the Sons of Veterans. Fraternally he is a Scottish Rite Mason.

On May 27, 1891, Mr. Porterfield was united in marriage with Miss Hattie M. Hill, who was born at Missouri Valley, Iowa, and is a graduate of the high school of Coldwater, Michigan, and to this union there have been born the following children: Harold B., a graduate in liberal arts and law of the University of Nebraska, who spent six months at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, received a diploma, and was an ensign in the United States navy for fifteen months during the World war, engaged in convoy service, has been admitted to practice law in Iowa, but is employed as district manager for the Aetna Life Insurance Company, of Lincoln, Nebraska; Zada, the wife of R. G. Richner, connected with the Goodrich Tire Company at Rockford, Illinois; Jean, a graduate of Des Moines University and the University of Nebraska, who resides at home; Ruth, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, who is employed in the office of the county engineer at Sidney, Iowa; John, a graduate of Hamburg High School, who entered the University of Nebraska in the fall of 1929; and Russell, a graduate of the local high school.

~ source: A Narrative History of The People of Iowa, Edgar Rubey Harlan, LL. B., A. M., Chicago and New York, 1931

~ transcribed and contributed by:  Debbie  Clough Gerischer, Iowa History Project