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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

Biographies - 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa

Page Twenty One

J Reel | Fensler | Becker | Neeley | Palmer | McKenney | Prior |

REEL - John A. REEL - a highly respected farmer of St. John's Township came to Harrison County in 1854 with the vanguard of civilization. He came overland in a covered wagon from Putnam County, Indiana, making the journey in twenty-three days. His first location was on section 15, where he claimed one hundred and twenty acres, which is now included within the corporation of Missouri Valley, and at one time he owned the land where now stands the depot and switch yards. Our subject made some improvements on this land and in 1857 sold it to T. H. COOK, and purchased a quarter section of land on section 28, the site of his present home, and forty acres of timber land in Pottawattamie County, Iowa.

When he bought his place the plowshare of modern civilization had never turned a furrow and in many places the grass was two feet higher than a man's head. He paid $4 per acre for his land, built a small frame house upon the place in 1857, building his present (1891) farmhouse in 1879. He now owns two hundred acres in the county, all enclosed with a good fence, and one hundred and sixty acres under cultivation.

At the time of his coming there were but two trees to be seen on the bottomlands where he now lives, the groves which adorn that locality having all been planted by pioneer hands. There were but two houses between the Willow and Boyer Rivers. The nearest milling point was "over the Pigeon," and all marketing had to be done at Council Bluffs. Our subject lived where Missouri Valley now stands during the winter of 1856-57, in a log cabin, with a clapboard roof through which the snow would drift, half filling their humble home. His stable was only sixty yards from the cabin, but the snow was drifted in such mountain-like piles that he could not get to his stock to attend them, and as a result lost three head of cattle which at that time were highly prized by our subject.

Our subject traces his ancestry back to Henry REEL, a native of Germany, who came to Muskingham County, Ohio, in 1803, where he followed farming. He married a German lady, and had eight children, among whom was the father of our subject, John REEL Sr., who was born in Virginia in 1793, and spent his early life in the Old Dominion State, coming to Ohio with his parents when he was ten years of age. John married Miss Sarah BEESON, of North Carolina, the daughter of Joseph BEESON. By this union eight children were born -- Mary, Martha, William, Jane, Daniel, Elizabeth, John (our subject) and Joseph, in Kansas City.

Our subject was born April 22, 1833. His early life was spent in Putnam County, Ind., where he attended the common schools. His father (John Sr.) was a miller and John assisted him in the mill, remaining at home until he was of age. He was united in marriage March 12, 1853, in Putnam County, Ind., to Miss Amanda JONES, the daughter of Hardin and Asenath (DEWEESE) JONES, of German descent, but from Kentucky. Eleven children have been born to our subject and his wife, ten of whom still survive -- Dorphas M., born June 22, 1854 and died February 17, 1866; Sarah A., Mrs. MATTOX, born September 3, 1856, now living in Pottawattamie County; Viola C., Mrs. JONES, born October 5, 1858, now living in Pott. County; John H., born February 11, 1861, also living in that county; Henry M., at home, born December 8, 1862; he married Laura WEST, September 25, 1884, a native of Harrison County, born June 5, 1864 - they had two children, Lena and Jesse; Mary A., - Mrs. JONES, now of Missouri Valley, born June 4, 1866; Martha J., now Mrs MOSS, of Missouri Valley, born February 27, 1868; William L., born March 13, 1870, now in Missouri Valley; George D., at home, born December 17, 1871; Daniel C., at home, born April 17, 1874; and Florence A., at home, born January 10, 1878.

Since coming to Harrison County, Mr. REEL has taken an active part in education matters, and has been President of the School Board and School Treasurer of his township for several years. Politically he affiliates with the Republican party. His wife belongs to the Baptist Church at Loveland.
Source: 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa.
Family Researcher: Don Harrold
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FENSLER - John Henry FENSLER - an industrious farmer of LaGrange Township, came to Harrison County September, 1870, and settled in Missouri Valley, where he worked at the blacksmith trade for a year, and then bought one hundred and twenty acres of wild prairie land on the bottom of St. John's Township, which he improved. His sons ran the farm and he continued to work in Missouri Valley until 1882, during which year his dwelling house on the farm was destroyed by fire, as well as its contents. He then sold his farm and purchased a quarter section where he now (1891) lives. The improvements on this place consisted of eighty acres of plow land, and an old frame house which was one of the first built in this part of the county. This building served them for two years, when our subject erected a new one, 16x22 feet, two stories high, and an addition fourteen feet square. Mr. FENSLER has sold a half interest in this farm to his son, John F., and they have since bought eighty acres more land. In 1889 he built another house on the place 22x24 feet. The farm is kept well stocked with high grade Short-horn cattle. After coming to this farm Mr. FENSLER put up a blacksmith shop and worked at his trade for some time, but now only does occasional jobs for his neighbors.

He was born in Lebanon County, PA, September 22, 1826, and about 1834 his parents moved to Wayne County, Ohio, remained six years, then moved to Richland County, Ohio, where our subject helped his father clear up the farm from the big woods, and remained there until 1844, at which time he left home and learned the blacksmithing trade. He worked at this until 1850, and then moved to Allen County, Ohio, and worked at his trade in the village of Bluffton until the autumn of 1870, when he came to Harrison County, Iowa. He brought his family and tools with him, and gave $100 for a shop, and went to Council Bluffs, where he purchased a small stock of iron, after which he had only fifteen cents left.

He was united in marriage in Putnam County, Ohio, May 16, 1851, to Miss Christina KOLEY (or KOHLI), of Allen County, Ohio. They are the parents of nine children -- William H., Catherine A., John F., Orillia, Anna M., Francis M., Wilson C., Albert S., and Charles N. Christina (KOLEY) FENSLER was born in Medina County, Ohio, December 16, 1832, and when a child her parents moved to Holmes County, Ohio, where they remained until 1844, then moved to Putnam County, and in 1850 to Allen County.

Emanuel FENSLER, father of our subject, as born in Virginia in 1803, his forefathers being piooneers in the Old Dominion State. He remained in Virginia until he had reached the estate of man, and then went to Pennsylvania, and died in Putnam County, Ohio, in 1874. His wife, Catherine (STALEY) FENSLER, was born in Berlin, Germany in 1808. Her parents came to Reading, Penn., when she was a small girl, and where she grew to womanhood. She died in Allen County, Ohio, in August, 1869.

Christian KOLEY (or KOHLI), the father of Mrs. Christina FENSLER, was born in Switzerland in 1808, and in 1824, with his parents, emigrated to America, locating in Holmes County, Ohio. They also lived in Wayne and Allen Counties, coming to latter in 1844, and died there four years later. His wife, whose maiden name was Peggy BARKEY, was born in Pennsylvania, her parents coming to Wayne County, Ohio, where she remained until the date of her marriage.

John Franklin FENSLER, the son of our subject, and his wife were born in Allen County, Ohio, March 4, 1855. He remained with his father's family until 1879, when he rented a farm for two years, and at the end of that period engaged in the grocery business in partnership with his brother, William H., which co-partnership existed until 1886, when he purchased an interest in his father's farm. He was married in 1879 to Miss Amelia WEST, and they are the parents of five children -- Etha, Edna, Ertha, Bula and a boy baby.

Source: 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa.

Postscript: John H. was the eldest of nine children born to Emanuel and Catherine (Staley) Fensler. John H. died and was buried in Missouri Valley, Iowa, April 21, 1905. Christina (Kohli) Fensler died and was buried in Missouri Valley, Iowa, January 8, 1895. Records indicate that John married Christina Kohli on Sunday, May 23, 1852 in Pendleton, Putnam County, Ohio; H. Killheffer, Esq, presiding. As genealogical research continues in June of 1998, John Henry and Christina Fensler's descendants can be traced to Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and the country of Japan. Ironically, there are no records of Fenslers still living in Iowa.
Family Researcher: Frank Fensler.
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BECKER - Fred BECKER, a farmer living in section 13, of Cincinnati Township, came to Harrison County in the autumn of 1877, and worked out by the month on a farm until the spring of 1882, when he moved on the farm he now lives upon, which he bought in the fall of 1881. It consisted of eighty acres that had twenty acres of breaking on. In the spring of 1882 he built a frame house 16x24 feet, with a kitchen 12x14 feet, and broke out forty acres more of his land. In the spring of 1883 he bought eighty acres more land, upon which forty acres were broken. He now (in 1891) has forty acres of tame pasture land and fourteen acres of wild meadow, while the balance is under the plow. In the spring of 1882 he erected a barn 16x24 feet, and is now making preparations the present year to build a barn 58x60 feet.

Our subject was born in Rock County, Wisconsin, January 31, 1852, and remained with his parents until he was sixteen years of age, and then went to the big woods lumber region of Michigan and remained there until the spring of 1873. We next find him working on a farm by the month in Fayette County, Iowa, where he remained until the spring of 1875, and then went to Sedgwick County, Kansas, and bought eighty acres of land and remained until the spring of 1877, when he came to Harrison County. Since that time he has sold his land in Kansas.

Our subject was united in marriage in Harrison County, Iowa, February 26, 1879, to Miss Margaret J. RICHARDSON, and they are the parents of three children -- George R., born April 8, 1880; Ora B., Mach 12, 1882; and Robert W., October 20, 1884.

Margaret J. (RICHARDSON) BECKER, was born in Middlesex County, Canada, July 19, 1856, and in the spring of 1857 came with her parents to Harrison County, Iowa, and remained with them until she was married. Both our subject and his wife received their education at the district schools. Politically, Mr. BECKER is a Republican.

The father of our subject, who is George W. BECKER, was born in the State of New York in 1821, and remained there until after his marriage, and then moved to Rock County, Wisconsin. He was a ship-carpenter for about ten years prior to his death. He was also in the grain business at Footville, and died there in the sping of 1865. His wife, Lucretia (JOHNSON) BECKER, was born in New York, near Syracuse, in 1831, and remained there until her marriage. They are the parents of eight children -- two daughters and six sons, our subject being the fifth child. There are four living at this time, two brothers in Bremer County, Iowa; a sister, now Mrs. Charles VINEY, living in Harrison County. After the death of our subject's father, the mother married again in Rock County, to Abraham PEAK, who was a farmer, and they came to Fayette County, Iowa, in the spring of 1874. By this marriage union one child was born -- Sarah M., now deceased. The father and mother of our subject were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Mr. PEAK had in his employ, during haying, a young German, by the name of Schmidt, who was in the habit of getting drunk. Schmidt went to town one day and came back the next, under the influence of liquor. Mr. PEAK was away from home, and Schmidt wanted Mrs. PEAK to pay him off; but she wanted him to go over and see her husband. But he would not, and he went away angry, and stopped with a man named Smith who was living with Mr. Leonard, a neighbor of the PEAKs. They had trouble some nights after Schmidt left Mr. PEAKs, and it happened that Mr. Leonard was at Mr. PEAKs place over night, and the man Smith told Schmidt that he would give him $500 if he would go over and kill Mr. Leonard. And, according to Schmidts confession, they both went over to Peaks. Schmidt crawled in at the window, went to the bed of Mr. Leonard, and shot him through the body, but the ball glanced around a rib, so he was not killed. Mr. PEAK rushed out to where Leonard was, and Schmidt left the room. Schmidt then went and got a bundle of hay and set fire to it in the next room, calculating to burn the house. Mrs. PEAK then saw him and recognized that it was Schmidt, and she tried to get out of a window and go arouse the neighbors, but as she stuck her head out the window, she was shot, the ball entering her head just below the eye. As soon as this had occured, Mr. PEAK went out of the house after the murderer, and was killed outside, and beat over the head with a club until his brains were knocked out. The young German was arrested the next day at church, and was hung in Fayette County, after having made a full confession upon the trial, which implicated Smith, against whom no positive proof could be found, so he was not convicted. Our subject's mother died as above related, on September 20, 1886 -- two weeks and one day after she was shot. A half sister of our subject -- Sarah M. -- was away from home during the evening of this tragedy. Subsequently she went to California, and at Santa Anna married a Mr. SHARP, and about eighteen months later she died, having a boy baby by the name of Archie.
Source: 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa.
Family Researcher: Dave Anderson.
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NEELEY - Nathaniel NEELEY, (deceased), was one of the early pioneers in Harrison County, coming in 1852, and located in Little Sioux Township. He was a native of Kentucky, born in Fayette County, October 1794, the son of James and Margaret NEELEY. He spent his early life and obtained his education in Kentucky and moved to Green County, Ohio in 1835, and in 1850 to Des Moines, Iowa, and from there to Harrison County. The sons, Thomas and Robert, came in 1850, owned several farms, and helped plat the village of Little Sioux. Thomas was the first Representative the county had in the General Assembly. Mr. NEELEY first located on section 18, where he bought a claim of Sission A. CHASE, who went to Salt Lake with Brigham YOUNG.

Our subject was married in 1821 to Melinda BUTLER, a native of Scott County, Kentucky. They reared a family of nine children -- Sarah A., (Mrs. SHARPE); James (deceased); Robert H., (deceased); Thomas B., in the State of Washington; Louisa, (Mrs. MCEVERS), (deceased), who was the first person married in Harrison County; Mary J., (Mrs. MCCOLLOUGH); Martha E., (Mrs. PORTER), (deceased); Hugh, lives at Mapleton, Iowa.

The subject of this sketch, who will be remembered by the early settlers of Harrison County, passed from the scenes of this life, March, 1875. His wife died in 1861. Mrs. Malinda (BUTLER) NEELEY belonged to the Presbyterian Church, while he held to the Universalist faith. They were both buried in the Murray Cemetery.
Source: 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa.
Family Researcher: Jerri Fosmire.
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PALMER - Seth PALMER, a farmer living in Little Sioux Township, is a native of Ohio, and came to this county in 1852, being among the earliest pioneer band. He was born in Medina County in 1824, the son of Ambrose PALMER, of Richfield, Conn., and of Scotch-Welsh extraction.

Our subject accompanied his parents to Missouri in 1836, and received his education in Ohio and Missouri. The family removed in 1839 to Nauvoo, Ill., lived ten years and in 1846, came to Council Bluffs. Our subject returned to Nauvoo the same fall, and followed steamboating for three years. We next find him in Montrose, Lee County, Iowa, and in 1852, made a claim in Harrison County, on section 36, of Little Sioux Township, where he still lives. He owns three hundred acres of land in Harrison County.

He was married March 16, 1844, to Daphin ROBERTS, who died November 21, 1845, and March 8, 1847, he was united in marriage to Harriet NEWBERRY, who was mother of two children. She died July 29, 1849, and October 11, 1860, our subject was again married to Miss Sylvia GOLDSMITH, and by this union two children were born -- Edmund A., and Valens A. Our subject is a Republican in his political belief.
Source: 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa.
Family Researcher: N/A.
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MCKENNEY - Claudius Townsend MCKENNEY, son of Michael I. MCKENNEY, who was of Scotch descent and was born in Cayuga County, N.Y., March 13, 1808, and was the son of Thomas MCKENNEY, who followed farming for a living in New York. When a boy in 1818, the family removed to Ohio and later to Indiana, and from there to Cass County, Michigan, where he lived until 1851. In his early life he (Michael) was crippled by having a knife stuck into his spine, which happened in this way: He shot a deer, when his companion undertook to cut its throat, while he held the animal, which, in its struggle for life, struck his arm, causing the knife to glance and strike our subject's father, inflicting a wound which crippled him for life. In his early life he followed shoemaking, and later followed farming, but was unable to do heavy manual labor. In November, 1851, he came from Michigan to Harrison County, Iowa, and settled on the site of the present home of J. D. MCKENNEY, where he took a claim of five hundred acres, about forty acres of which had been plowed. There was a double log house upon this place in which they lived until the death of the father, July 18, 1858. The mother still (1891) lives and makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. A. E. PARKER, of Jefferson Township.

When our subject came to Harrison County, he was but five years of age, hence his history is identical with that of the county, and great has been the change since he can recollect. Here he has received his education, and while he was never hungry, yet he knows something of the days when cornbread was the chief article of diet. He remained at the old homestead with his mother until twenty-one years of age, having worked out prior to that time, however, by the month. After he became of age he farmed part of the old place, and a few years later purchased the interest of the other heirs on two hundred acres of land, and to this he has added until he has three hundred and ten acres, of which eighty acres is plow land and eighty acres is timber, the balance in pasture and meadow land.

Our subject was born in Cass County, Michigan, August 23, 1846. He is the son of Michael and Anna Eliza (TOWNSEND) MCKENNEY, and is the seventh child of a family of eight children. He was married December 19, 1875, to Alice CULTON, a native of Illinois, born December 12, 1858, and the second child of Thomas and Jane CULTON, who had a family of seven children. They moved to Harrison County, in February, 1871, and settled in Jefferson Township, and later moved to Logan, but are now living in Nebraska.

Our subject and his wife have been blessed with four children -- George T., Jessie R., Michael Ira, Claude T., all at home.

Politically our subject is Republican, and owing to the uprightness of his character, stands high in the community in which he lives.

Concerning the ancestry of this family it may be said that John MCKINNEY, the father of Thomas MCKINNEY, came from Edinburgh, Scotland, with a brother named Amos. His wife was Lydia (SHERWOOD) MCKENNEY. Thomas MCKENNEY's wife was Dorcas (INMAN) MCKENNEY. Thomas was born January 3, 1781, and died June 12, 1852. Dorcas, his wife, was born February 24, 1779, and died June 4, 1845. Thomas and his family removed from New York State to Ohio in 1817, and to Indiana two years later. In 1828 he went to Michigan and built the first house on what is called McKenney's Prairie, LaGrange Township. There was a family of three sons and five daughters. Michael, the eldest son, and our subject's father, married Anna Eliza TOWNSEND, November 1, 1832, who was born in Canada, July 6, 1814. She and her mother were the first white women to set foot in LaGrange Township, Cass County, Michigan. Her father built the first house there in 1828. Michael, with his six children, and his father, Thomas MCKENNEY, started for Iowa, October 7, 1851, and arrived at Kanesville (Council Bluffs), November 3. They rented a log cabin at $4 a month. The 19th of November they removed to Harris Grove, Harrison County, the site of the present homestead of James D. MCKENNEY.
Source: 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa.
Family Researcher: N/A.
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PRIOR - Harry H. PRIOR, who has been a resident of Iowa, since 1867, and of Harrison County, since 1869, and is now (1891) resident of section 33, of Harrison Township, will form the subject of this notice.

Mr. PRIOR is a native of Chittenden County, Vermont, where he was born January 1, 1821. Here he passed his early life and received his education, in common with other Green Mountain boys. He is a son of Robert and Laura (HARD) PRIOR, both natives of Vermont, and is a grand-son of Heman PRIOR, and Stpehen HARD. The latter was one of the leading men of his county, and was a member of the State Assembly for many years. Our subject remained in his native State, until 1867, when like many other New England inhabitants, he was tired of the "everlasting hills," and believed that the great West, with its roling prairies, and unclaimed lands, would give him a more profitable field in which to operate, than among the stumps and stones of Vermont, so he came to Marshall County, where he purchased a farm, erected a good residence, and made other substantial improvements, but at the end of two years, sold his place, and removed to Harrison County, Iowa, where he purchased a quarter section of wild prairie land, on section 33, of Harrison Township, with no improvements of any importance, to be seen in any direction.

Here he located in the midst of tall prairie grass, rolling like the waves of an ocean, with the determination to build for himself and family a home. Deer and prairie chickens, were seen on every hand, and every thing looked new and wild. He has made many valuable improvements, keeping pace with those around him in the march of cultivation and development, and though laboring under adverse circumstances for several years, he now is in possession of one of the best farms of its size in the county. Owing to sickness in the family he was kept in and around the house a greater portion of seven years. When our subject and his wife started in life they embarked with nothing but their own hands and goodwill to cary them through, and how well they succeeded is shown by their suroundings to-day.

They live in the original house which they erected in 1869, which is a frame structure 18x26 feet with an addition 12x14 feet. The upright is two stories high, and was the best building in the county for some time after it was built. It is surrounded by a fine artificial grove, each tree of which is living, growing monument to the good sense of the pioneer whose hands planted it out. There is also an excellent young orchard on the premises, together with everything that goes toward making up a valuable farm.

He was married Jauary 16, 1843, to Lucretia Day, who was born in Vermont February 9, 1823. She is the daughter of Edward and Susanna (RANSOM) DAY, and the grand-daughter of Samuel DAY and Moses RANSOM, who were among the earlier settlers of New England. Mr. and Mrs. PRIOR, as has been related came West in 1867, with their family consisting of seven children -- Laura Endora, wife of George MOORE, a resident of Harrison Township; John M., a resident of Monona County; Alson C., a resident of Douglas Township; Hoyt H., a resident of Omaha, NE; Fred J., residing at home; Ellen, wife of Joseph LANE, of Pottawattamie County; and Lettie, wife of Henry HOAG, a resident of Lincoln Township.

Politically, our subject is a stanch supporter of the Republican party, and he and his wife are members of the Univeralist Church at Marshalltown.
Source: 1891 History of Harrison County Iowa.
Family Researcher: Richard Smith.
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