JOHNSON H. NEEDLES, ATLANTIC.
In January, 1869, Johnson H. Needles and J. A. McWaid opened the first blacksmith and wagon shop in Atlantic, their establishment standing on the corner of Third and Walnut streets. Although their shop was only twenty by thirty feet, they commenced the sale of agricultural implements, which latter branch of their business, in after years, reached very large proportions. Surely cramped for room, they remained in this small building until 1871, when they erected a much larger structure on the corner of Third and Chestnut streets.
J. H. Needles was reared on an Ohio farm until he was nineteen years of age, when he learned the carriage maker's trade, and engaged in that line of work both in the Buckeye State and Indiana. In 1857 he located near Cedar Rapids, Iowa, still working at his trade, and remained thus employed until he settled at Atlantic in January, 1869. Mr. McWaid retired from the business in January, 1870, and three years afterward Mr. Needles built the substantial brick structure, noticed above, and in which he firmly established the large manufactory by J. H. Needles & Son (Charles W. Needles).
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pg. 234.
Himself a pioneer in this county and the city of Atlantic, and belonging to a race of pioneers, Johnson H. Needles, probably the oldest business man in the community both in years of actual life and continuous activity in mercantile pursuits, has been long a soldier in the great army of industrial progress which has made this country powerful, rich and populous, as his forefathers bore conquering arms in the same mighty muster. He was born in Franklin county, Ohio, near the city of Columbus, on September 20, 1829. His parents, Jon J. and Ann (Hatfield) Needles, were natives of the little State of Delaware, where the paternal grandfather, Thomas Needles, settled in Colonial days. He was a soldier in the Revolution and the War of 1812, early after his arrival in this country casting off all allegiance to his mother country, and espousing with ardor the cause of her oppressed colonies. He died in Delaware, after a long life of usefulness and creditable manhood.
The father and mother of Johnson H. Needles moved from Delaware to Ohio while that State was still largely an uncultivated wilderness, and bought a wild tract of land which they cleared and improved, and then sold in 1841, when they changed their residence to another waste tract lying near the present city of Findlay, Hancock county. This they also cleared and improved, living on it until 1856, when they sold it and came to this State, locating in Linn county. They made the trip of some 500 miles with teams and wagons, hauling their household goods and the youngest members of the family. On their arrival in this State they bought an improved farm in that county, on which the parents passed the remainder of their lives, the father dying on the farm in 1869, and the mother, in 1873. Their family comprised ten children, six of whom grew to maturity. They are all dead now but the venerable subject of this brief memoir, who remains like a landmark of time to mark the progress of events and the mighty march of American development, for he saw this country when it was still glorified in all the luxuriance of unpruned nature, and sees it now when it is filled with happy homes and gladdened with all the factors of an advanced civilization and improvement.
Johnson H. Needles was reared to manhood in his native State, and obtained his education in its public schools. In 1857, when he was twenty-eight years old, he joined his father in Linn county, this State, where he remained until 1869, when he moved to Atlantic and organized the firm of Needles and McWaid, which for nine years carried on an extensive business in general blacksmithing, the manufacture of wagons, buggies, and other vehicles, and the handling of farming implements. At the dissolution of the partnership Mr. Needles became the sole owner of the business, which he is still actively conducting.
In 1853 Mr. Needles was united in marriage with Caroline Feustermaker, a native of Ohio. They have seven children living and two dead. Those living are: Ira M. of Hamburg, Iowa, who is engaged in the canning business; George M. of Oregon; Alice M., living at home; Anna M., widow of Wm. R. Simmons, late of Jefferson, Iowa; Charles W., associated in business with his father; Edward G. of the State of Washington; and Nelly, wife of M. R. McCauley, of Colorado. Mrs. Needles died in June, 1905.
Mr. Needles was a stockholder and director of the old Packing House Company, and a member and director of the County Agricultural Society for many years. He has never taken an active part in politics, but has long been a Freemason of the Knights Templar degree and a member of the M. E. Church. By reason of his strength and the excellent care he has taken of his health, although in early life subjected to many hardships and privations, he is now approaching the age of four-score years, and among the people who have known him so long, there is none that does not do him reverence.
From "Compendium and History of Cass County, Iowa." Chicago: Henry and Taylor & Co., 1906, pp. 448-449.