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1907 Past and Present Biographies

James W. Huntington

James W. Huntington
Click photo to enlarge

James W. Huntington figures prominently in financial circles in Greene county, as the cashier of the Jefferson Savings Bank, of which he was one of the organizers, and an unassailable business record well entitles him to mention as a representative citizen of this part of the state. He was born in Canada, on the 11th of May, 1843. His father, Samuel Huntington, was a farmer by occupation and was also born in Canada, to which country his father had removed from Connecticut shortly after the Revolutionary war. He had served as a soldier in one of the colonial regiments and his accounts of the struggle for independence fired the youthful heart of his grandson on many an occasion. Samuel Huntington was united in marriage to Polly Brown, who lived on the shore of Lake Champlain and never forgot the terrors of the battle of Plattsburgh, though but a child when it occurred. In the year 1853, Samuel Huntington removed with his family from Canada to Dane county, Wisoonsin, settling near Madison. His last days, however, were spent in Iowa and he met death in a tornado, which occurred on the18th of
June, 1871.

His son, James W. Huntington, acquired his early education in the subscription schools of Canada and when a youth of about ten years accompanied his parents on their removal to Wisconsin. He continued his studies in the public schools of that state and also spent a term or two in a village high school in Wisconsin. His school privileges were thus somewhat limited but he made good use of his opportunities and through reading, experience and observation has since greatly broadened his knowledge, becoming a well informed man of practical ideas and wide views. He came to Greene county, Iowa, in the spring of 1869. He had been engaged in teaching school in Minnesota and later in the season he accompanied his parents on their removal to Iowa. The following summer was spent in breaking prairie and in opening up a new farm. The nearest neighbor on the north was three miles away and the first house or settlement to the south was ten miles distant. Mr. Huntington lived in a rude tent, doing his own cooking.while the breaking team grazed at their leisure until hitched up to resume the monotonous plodding incident to the turning of the first furrows in hitherto undeveloped fields. The first crop was swept away in the tornado which caused the loss of his father, but with resolute spirit Mr. Huntington set to work to repair the damages of the storm upon his farm.

The first dollar which he ever earned came to him by reason of his service in the United States army. Up to that time he had been at work in his father’s fields, but the spirit of patriotism within him was aroused by the attempt of the south to overthrow the Union and on the 15th of August, 1862, he enlisted as a private in the Twenty-third Wisconsin Volunteer lnfantry, serving with that command until honorably discharged at Madison, Wisconsin, on the 26th of July, 1865. He participated in the siege of Vicksburg and witnessed the surrender of the city, having been under fire from the 22d of May until the 3d of July. He also took part in many skirmishes and battles and at the siege of Mobile witnessed the final fight ing of the war.

When the country no longer needed his aid Mr. Huntington returned home and, as stated, came to Iowa in 1869. He has been connected with the development and growth of the county in many ways. In 1873, while teaching school in one of the villages of the county, he was elected to the position of county superintendent of schools and as such he held the first normal school. He was for one year principal of the schools of Jefferson and when he severed his connection with active educational work he entered the Greene County Bank, in which he was employed for seven years. On the expiration of that period he went into the City Bank of Jefferson, where he remained for two years as assistant cashier. Later he removed to Council Bluffs, where he became teller in the Citizens State Bank, filling that position for two years. In 1888, having returned to Greene county, Iowa, Mr. Huntington was elected clerk of the courts and by re-election was continued in the office for two terms. By reason of his exertions and experiences as a business man he was largely instrumental in securing sufficient capital to found the Jefferson Savings Bank, which was organized under the state law of Iowa, with Mr. Huntington as cashier. This bank is an institution of phenomenal growth and prosperity, having met with success from the beginning. The safe, conservative policy inaugurated has always been maintained and
it is regarded as one of the sound moneyed institutions of this part of the state.

Mr. Huntington was united in marriage in 1879, to Miss Ella K. Harding. who was born in Dane county, Wisconsin, and is a daughter of Eli Harding, who was a farmer and member of the Wisconsin legislature, being thus active in business and in political circles. He was distinctively a man of affairs and one who wielded a wide influence. He held a number of county oflices and was prominent in the public life of the community, where he won many honors and was held in the highest esteem. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Huntington have been born two children: Dow G., who died in 1890, at the age of ten years; and M. Bert, who died March 1, 1907. The latter was a young man, popular and well liked in the city of Jefferson, where almost his entire life had been passed. He was born November 14, 1882, and had, therefore, attained the age of twenty four years. He was a graduate of Jefferson high school and the Capital City Commercial College of Des Moines, Iowa, and with the exception of a year spent in a position in the wholesale house of Osborne & Co., in Chicago, had always continued a resident of Jefferson. After his return from the western metropolis he became associated with Dr. A. L. Sarchet in the abstract business, being a part owner of the stock of the Greene County Abstract Company. In all his commercial work he was painstaking and accurate, having for his motto, “Not how much but how well.” He was converted and baptized in the Church of Christ and lived a quiet life, being a deep thinker and a student of many of the problems of the age. His parents and acquaintannces always found him kind and loving and his genial companionship has been greatly missed. All who knew him were glad to claim him as a friend, for his many excellent traits of character endeared him to those with whom he came in contact. Especially is his loss felt in the home, for he was a devoted and faithful son. [See also: Newspaper article on death of Bert Huntington.]

M. Bert Huntington
M. Bert Huntington
son of James W. Huntington
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Mr. [James] Huntington is well known in fraternal circles. He belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Jefferson encampment and to the Grand Army of the Republic. Of the latter he served as commander and is now quartermaster, while in the Odd Fellows lodge and encampment he is treasurer. He is also a member of the Soldiers’ Relief Commission and is treasurer of the Chautauqua Association. Coming from abolition parentage he could be nothing but a republican, his sympathies being with the party even before his first vote was cast for Abraham Lincoln with the soldiers in the field. Nothing has ever occurred to influence him to leave the ranks of the grand old party to the present time, and he is classed with its most stalwart champions in Greene county. He has served four terms as city treasurer of Jefferson and in public office his duties have been discharged with the utmost fidelity and promptness. Mrs. Huntington has likewise been honored with public oflice, being the only lady notary public in Greene county and, with one exception, the only lady to fill the position of deputy clerk of the district court, serving as such for four years. For six years she has owned a half interest in the Greene County Abstract Company. Mr. Huntington is also treasurer of the Methodist Episcopal church and Sunday school and is one of the faithful representatives of that denomination in Jefferson. He is a man whom to know is to trust and honor. He has never betrayed a confidence or been known to overreach another in a business transaction. The uprightness of his intention none have questioned and the result of his actions has been such as to win him commendation and good will.

Transcribed from "Past and Present of Greene County, Iowa Together With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Prominent and Leading Citizens and Illustrious Dead,"
by E. B. Stillman assisted by an Advisory Board consisting of Paul E. Stillman, Gillum S. Toliver, Benjamin F. Osborn, Mahlon Head, P. A. Smith and Lee B. Kinsey,
Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1907.

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