Among the women of O'Brien county, Iowa, who have witnessed the growth of this county from the time when it was largely a broad expanse of prairie to its present condition of finely cultivated farms, is Mrs. Evelyn (Pease) Sterns, who was the third woman to live in the town of Sheldon. She and her husband, who has now been dead many years, were important factors in the material advancement of this county, and her husband will long be remembered as a man who stood for the rights of the settlers who were struggling to secure homes in this county.
John Tyler Stearns, the friend of the settler, and the husband of Mrs.Evelyn (Pease) Stearns, was born at Castleton, Rensselaer county. New York, April 12, 1841. and died after a long and useful career at Primghar, O'Brien county, Iowa, in 1906. He was the son of John E. and Elizabeth (Proseus) Stearns. John E. Stearns was born February 5. 1810. in Lee, Massachusetts.
The Stearns ancestry has been traced back to the colonial days, and has been worked out from generation to generation to the great-great-grandfather of Evelyn P. Stearns. The first Stearns whose history is on record was living at the time when Governor Bradford, of Massachusetts, was in office. He moved to Waltham, ten miles west of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and there reared a family of ten children, and the names of four of the sons have been preserved. David, Jonathan, Daniel and John. Jonathan,the second in line and the direct ancestor of John T. Stearns, of this narrative, married Beulah Chadwick, and moved to Milford, Massachusetts, where they reared a large family of children, Jonathan, Beulah, George, Ebenezer, Lydia, Abigail, David, John, Mary, Abraham, Hannah and Jonathan. John, the eighth child born to this marriage, became the direct ancestor of the branch with which we are interested. This John settled in Berkshire county, Massachusetts, and was a soldier in the War of the Revolution. At the close of that war he was married to Lucy Merrill, and to this union were born eleven children, Polly, Sally, John, Abigail, Fanny, Thomas, Betsy, James, Beulah. Dumby and Betsy. Of these eleven children. John, the first son born and the third child, became the progenitor of the Iowa family of Stearns. This John married Nancy Esleeck, at Castleton, New York, August 28, 1808, and two years later John E., the father of John T. whose history is here presented, was born.
John E. Stearns moved from New York state to Iowa in 1856. settling in East Waterloo township. Black Hawk county. His wife, Elizabeth Proseus, was born in Castleton, New York, and died at Primghar in 1905. The familv remained but a short time in East Waterloo township, afterwards removing to Cedar Falls, where they lived for a short period, then went to Mr. Stearns' farm, where his death occurred. The following children were born to Mr. and Mrs.John E. Stearns: John Tyler, the husband of Mrs. Evelyn Stearns, and Esleeck. The latter was born at Castleton. New York, in 1833, and was one of the early settlers of Waterloo, Iowa, and was one of the first engineers on the Iowa Central railroad and died in Waterloo. Iowa, in 1908.
John Tyler Stearns was educated in Castleton, New York, and came to this state with his parents when he was about fifteen years of age. After reaching manhood he became engaged in the hardware business at Hampton, Franklin county, Iowa, and was postmaster of that town when he was married to Evelyn Pease.While in Hampton he took up the study of law and engaged in partnership with Attorney Davidson. Later he was admitted to the bar at Des Moines, and still later was admitted to the practice of law at Chamberlain, after which he was known as a land lawyer and eligible to participate in land litigation. He first came to Sheldon in 1873, and the following year came to Primghar. where he opened a real estate and abstract office. Two years later, however, we find him back in Franklin conntv. the grasshopper plague practically driving out the settlers of O'Brien county. In 1880 he went to Chamberlain, where he remained for the next seventeen years. In 1897 he went to Primghar and took full charge of all the litigation which was connected with the "Squatters' Association," and carried their causes to a successful conclusion, winning many. famous cases, some of the more celebrated ones being given elsewhere in this volume and are only briefly mentioned here. It is sufficient to say here that Mr. Stearns was looked upon as a friend of the settlers in every sense of the word. He became the County surveyor of O'Brien county and a city councilman of Primghar.
Mr. Stearns was married on October 13, 1869. to Evelyn Pease, the daughter of Jesse Thompson and Laura Ann (Mallett) Pease, and who was born March 14, 1848, at Hazel Green, Grant county, Wisconsin. Jesse T. Pease was born February 9, 1808. in Ohio, and was a descendant of an old Massachusetts family. One ancestor of the family served throughout the War of the Revolution. Jesse Pease moved from Ohio to Wisconsin, settling in Grant county before that state was admitted to the Union. He worked in the lead mines in Wisconsin in the early forties and in the later forties he went to California, being one of the many "Forty-niners" who made the overland trip to the Pacific in search of gold. Later the Pease family moved to Iowa and settled in Franklin county, that state, where thev bought a farm, and Mr. Pease died in this state March 15, 1882. Mrs. Pease was born April 23, 1815, in Medina county, Ohio, and died in Franklin county, Iowa. September 8, 1901. Mr. Pease and wife were married October 4, 1833, and to their union were born six children: Harriet A., born July 4, 1836, died March 16, 1839; George W., born October 25, 1838; Margaret A., born May 23, 1841 ; Esther, born February 20, 1844; Evelyn, of whom this chronicle speaks, born March 14, 1848; Charles H., born June 10, 1855.
Mr. Stearns was a prominent member of the Masonic order and was a life-long Republican in politics. They were the parents of three children : John Jesse, who died in infancy; Mrs. Laura Elizabeth Gregg, of Estherville, Iowa: and she has two children, John Ebenezer and Mary Evelyn: Mrs. Glow Esleeck Brooks, of Linton, North Dakota. Mrs. Stearns is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution at Estherville, Iowa, and holds membership in the Order of the Eastern Star at Primghar. Mr. and Mrs. Stearns took up a claim in South Dakota and homesteaded it in 1881. In 1909 Mrs. Stearns went to North Dakota and for sixteen months homesteaded on a claim of one hundred and seventy-two acres, which she still owns and which is now worth in the neighborhood of three thousand dollars. The claim is well improved with a stone house, well, and forty acres under cultivation.
Mr. Stearns was a plain, simple, dignified man, who despised sham and pretense of all kinds. Although his life was a busy one, his private affairs and his home making heavy demands on his time, he never allowed it to interfere with his Christian obligations or the faithful performance of all his duties to the public. He had the greatest sympathy for his fellow men and was always ready to aid and encourage those who were willing to aid themselves. He commanded the respect of all classes by his exemplary life and his memory will long be revered by his many friends and acquaintances.
From Past and Present of O'Brien and Osceola Counties 1914