Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 474 & 474-a
submitted by Jo Ann Carlson, January 7, 2008

Nov. 24, 1899 (hand written)

One of Muscatine’s Most Respected Citizens Suddenly Dies.
Widely known in the city.
Was President of the Old Settler’s Society, Contractor, Architect, Builders, Scientist-
His death a severe shock to many.

For several days past many residents of Muscatine, as well as friends abroad, have watched with anxiety the illness of J.P. Walton, but it was with the greatest surprise and sorrow the they learned of his death yesterday. At about 4:30 last evening he passed away at Evergreen Nook, his picturesque home on East Eighth street. As one of the most notable characters in the city, a pioneer of pioneers, his death is a sincere regret to the entire community.

Mr. Walton had been ill barely a week and his death came as a sudden shock. He himself had at times expressed a doubt as to his recovery, but yesterday seemed brighter and better than usual. He was able to be up in the afternoon and occupied a couch in his favorite nook in the front room, where he could have a view outside. In the afternoon shortly before the sad event he was walking about the room while his wife and daughter were rearranging his couch. Passing near them at one time he suddenly without a word fell over upon the couch; the light of life had very nearly been whiffed out. For about twenty minutes after that he lived, conscious and peaceful up to the last few moments and then sank into the everlasting sleep.

On the 17th Mr. Walton first took cold and this gradually developed into pneumonia, to which his death is attributed. His last act was the laying of a memorial stone on Front street at the point where stood the first house in Muscatine. The matter was planned and worked up by Mr. Walton, although he himself was unable to be present at the ceremony, which took place last Saturday, his illness coming upon him the day before.

As a living encyclopedia of Muscatine events from its earliest history, there were but one or two, if any to equal, none to surpass. Mr. Walton, his word was sufficient to settle any dispute referring to events of the last forty-four years, for it is known that his memory was stored with all the necessary corroborative testimony. He stood however with those intimately appreciating his career, most distinguished for the extraordinary and almost inexplicable manner in which as a man wholly self-educated he had attained to his wonderfully exact information in mechanics, mathematics and natural science, in the mastery of which knowledge the advantages of school education have been held absolutely indispensable and then most difficult of acquirement.


J.P. Walton was born in the town of New Ipswich. New Hampshire, February 26, 1826. He left his native place at so early an age that it is scarcely to be mentioned, except as a birth spot, but it is well to remember that from out among those granite hills of New Hampshire has come as peculiar and stalwart a type of American character as any of the thirteen original colonies has produced.

On the 10th of June, 1838, when Josiah was twelve years of age, he landed with his parents on the west bank of the Mississippi, in this county, at Geneva, a promising settlement three miles above Muscatine, and whose site is now only marked by the Col. Hare school house. This territory was then a part of Wisconsin. After the Waltons had built their cabin. Geneva boasted of four dwellings, a store and a mill, and in regard to the latter industry was ahead of Muscatine. Indeed, so formidable a rival was this up-river settlement, that the Wisconsin Legislature of the year of the Waltons’ arrival, passed a bill making Geneva the county seat, and the capitolian future of the city of the Great Bend was only saved by the friendly veto of Governor Lucas. How deeply young Josiah was engaged in that plot cannot be ascentained, but it is believed to have been his first politicial manoever in Iowa.

Mr. Walton, senior, was appointed postmaster of Geneva and when he died, a few years later, the responsibilities of the office fell upon his son, when he could not have been more than 16, for he moved with his widowed mother to Muscatine in 1842. At this precocious age, while still living at Geneva, young Josiah ran the first vegetable and milk wagon into Muscatine, the first faint intiatory movement which has led up to the Island commission business, the Royal canning factory and the famous creameries of the county.

One day when coming down with his milk and vegetables, the boy must have brought his furniture along, for he didn’t go back, and since 1842 he has been a continuous resident of this city.

His genious for adaptability soon taught him that what a new country needed most was carpenters, and he became one, offhand, and went to work, just as he would have opened a lawyer or doctor’s office, or gone to preaching. If the inclination had struck him that way. So he spent this last part of his boyhood building houses here and there as he could find a job. It was at the age of 22, in 1848, that he was working at his “trade” for J.J. Hoopes at $13.00 a month, and took half his pay in store orders, and the other half in the lot now so well known as Evergreen Nook, his late residence.

There are a good many trade unions now contending that eight hours constitute the only reasonable time for a day’s work, at from $2.00 to $3.50 cash per day’s wages; but young Walton was only too glad to take his $13 goods ...

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... and an Eighth street only kind of currency of that and work fifteen hours a day cost him $55, or little months’ hard service. The later, in 1851, his New Hampshire “caught on” to the special vocation which had led to his competency and given him celebrity throughout the State. In this year a gentleman from Cincinnati brought his apparatus here for raising the bridge over Cedar river, mainly built by the enterprise of Joseph Bennett, Esq., and over which fate decreed that gentleman should be the only passenger to cross. Young Walton saw the possiblities to tackle…purchased it, and in this…got possession of that magic lever which houses and blocks of masonry all over the State have been moved to new sites or lifted to new foundations and which has also its possessor to an eminence as a mechanic second to none in Iowa. In 1851, too, he built the house, which with some additions, has been his home for 35 years.

In 1856 he gave to Muscatine the first conservatory in the city and to which so many homes have owed their floral taste and beauty and so many public occasions, joyous and their fairest ornaments and sweetest memorials. The following year he journeyed to Clayville, New York, where, on the 2d of June, he celebrated his nuptials with Miss Mary Elizabeth Barrows, whose bridal welcome was one of the notable social events in Muscatine. To his business as carpenter and housemover, he early added the profession of architect. The elegant Gothic cottage of Dr. James Weed and the capacious farm-house (largest in the State at the time) of Mr. Benj. Hershey, are sample of his architecture. But it was to his special attention to the raising, moving and under-building of large buildings of both brick and wood that he owed his principal reputation.

Another and most important pursuit followed by him, more as a gratification to his partiality for natural science than for its emoluments, have been his meteorological observations and record as volunteed correspondent of the U.S. Signal Service bureau. This weather record involves the most careful observations for the pasty forty seven years, the first twenty-one of which were made and recorded by Hon. T.S. Parvin, now of Cedar Rapids, since continued by Mr. Walton and which, beyond dispute, constitutes the oldest and most extensive weather record in the valley of the Mississippi.

Mr. Walton has won corresponding distinction in other walks of life. He has served in nearly all the offices of the different Masonic bodies of which he has been a member for thirty-five years. He was one of the charter members of the Muscatine Academy of Science, of which society he is an expresident and present trustee. He is a director of the Muscatine Board of Trade. He has the supervision of the Muscatine Island levee. He is the thrice elected popular President of the Muscatine County Old Settlers’ Society.

Somewhere along the line of that Puritan ancestry, there must have been an infusion of Cavalier blood to account for Mr. Walton’s membership of Trinity Episcopal church. But there he is, and has been since 1854, having been a novitiate of the first class confirmed by Bishop Lee in Iowa. For many years the Superintendent of Trinity Sunday school and as vestryman of the church, no other member of the Society has labored with more untiring zeal for its prosperity.

In politics Mr. Walton was bred a Whig and blossomed naturally into a Republican and there are few to rank him in his enthusiastic and steadfast devotion to the honor and success of his party.

In the same public spirited fashion he has expressed his interest in the success of our public school system, none laboring with more, watchful attention to promote its welfare in all its relations to the public. He has just cause fo this interest and pride in our schools. His three surviving children are graduates of the High school. These duaghters, now married, are Mrs. James Q. Beatty, Mrs. Amos Hopkinson, and Mrs. J.E. Hoopes.

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