John M. Dawson of Colfax township, Iowa

John M. Dawson is a successful farmer living on section 14, Colfax township. He displays excellent business qualities, is resolute and determined, active and energetic, and carries forward to successful completion whatever he undertakes. He is now the owner of two hundred and forty acres of rich and valuable land, constituting one of the fine farms of his part of the county, and so widely and favorably is he known that no history of this locality would be complete without mention of his life.

Mr. Dawson is a native son of the middle west, his birth having occurred in Milo, Bureau county, Illinois, on the 20th of January, 1860. His father, Elias H. Dawson, was born June 25, 1829, in the state of Pennsylvania. He married Sidonia Maple, who was born May 27, 1832. They became early settlers of Illinois, where they resided until 1878, when they removed to Greene county, Iowa. The father secured two hundred acres of wild prairie land and at once began to till the soil and bring the fields under a high state of cultivation. He is still living upon that farm but the mother of our subject was not long permitted to enjoy her new home, for her death occurred in January, 1879.

There were four children of that marriage: Clark V., who is living in Kennedy, Iowa; John M., of this review; Adam B., who resides in Owensville, Indiana; and William H., whose home is in Greene county, Iowa. Since losing his first wife Mr. Dawson has been married again, his second union being with Jane Thaler. Two children have been born of this marriage, Marion and Mabel, both at home. Throughout his entire life the father has carried on general agricultural pursuits and yet gives supervision to his farm although he has passed the age of seventy-eight years. His life has been useful, active and honorable, and he commands the good-will and confidence of all with whom he has been associated.

John M. Dawson was reared in the usual manner of farm lads. He worked in the fields when not busy with his text-books and early became familiar with the best methods of tilling the soil and caring for the crops. He continued with his father until twenty-one years of age, when he started out in life on his own account. He first earned his living by working as a farm hand by the month, but one year spent in that way was enough for him and he determined that his labors should more directly benefit himself, so he began cultivating rented land and thus carried on agricultural pursuits until he had earned a sum sufficient to enable him to purchase forty acres in partnership with his brother. Afterward he sold his Illinois property and came to Iowa in the spring of 1886. Here he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of prairie land, on which not a furrow had been turned or an improvement made, save that a small house and a little barn had been built.

In the meantime Mr. Dawson was married on Christmas day of 1884 to Miss Ellen Stever, who was born March 7, 1866, in Milo, Bureau county, Illinoi. She has been to him a faithful companion and helpmate on life’s journey and while he has carried on the work of the fields, she has carefully managed the household affairs. Her father, Henry Stever, was born September 6, 1828, in Northampton county, Pennsylvania. Her mother, who bore the maiden name of Mariette Libenguth, was born March 17, 1832, and was also a native of the Keystone state. They went to Illinois in 1863 and Mr. Stever purchased one hundred and forty acres of land in Bureau county, which he at once began to cultivate and improve, placing the farm under a high state of development. He lived upon that property until 1883, when he sold his interest in Illinois and came to Iowa, casting in his lot with the settlers of Dallas county. Here he purchased land in Colfax township. He was quite successful and by hard work, capable management and judicious investment, he became the owner of large land holdings in Dallas county. In 1896 he gave up active work and removed to Adel, Iowa, where he and his wife are now living retired. His intense and well directed activity in former years brought to him a handsome competence, so that he is now enabled to enjoy the comforts and some of the luxuries of life without recourse to further labor. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Stever were born seven children: Sarah, the wife of George Britton, now living in Oklahoma.; Katherine, the wife of Orlando Dickson, who lives in Dallas Center, Iowa; Marietta the wife of I. Lombard, who is located in Cripple Creek, Colorado; Henry, Jr., who is married and lives in Lawrenceville, Iowa; Nathaniel, who married Minnie Bates, and died when twenty-seven years of age; Mrs. Dawson; Melinda, the wife of I. M. Kennedy, who is living in Colfax township.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Dawson have been born five children and the family circle yet remains unbroken by the hand of death: Clarence married Edith Snyder, by whom he has one son, Harold, and they reside with his father. Ivan is at home. Sylvia is the wife of Hammond Deform, a resident of Dallas county, Iowa, and they have one daughter, Vera. Cora and Ruby, the younger members of the family, are at home.

Mr. and Mrs. Dawson had been married only about two years when they came to Dallas county and settled upon a quarter section of land in Colfax township, of which not an acre had been placed under the plow. There were many trials and hardships to be borne in developing the farm and Mr. Dawson says, “there were many blue days,” but he persevered, although in the early years he would gladly have sold out and returned to Illinois if he could have found a purchaser. By hard work, honesty and good business ability, he has transformed that wild land into a beautiful Iowa farm and as his financial resources have increased, he has added to the property until he now owns two hundred and forty acres on which he lives and three hundred and twenty acres in Oklahoma. He certainly deserves much credit for his success as he started out in life empty-handed. Earnest toil has been his lot but this has been guided by sound business judgment and supplemented by keen sagacity until he is now numbered among the substantial agriculturists of the community, and his life record proves what may be accomplished when one has the will to do and dare. Mr. Dawson has served as a school director for a number of years and the cause of education finds in him a warm friend. In politics he is a republican and although he has never sought nor desired office he has always been true and loyal in matters of citizenship. Of genial manner and social disposition, it is a pleasure to meet and know him, and his life record should serve as a source of encouragement and inspiration to others for it proves that success is ambition’s answer.

J M Dawson and Family
J M Dawson and Family


Wood, Robert F., Past and Present of Dallas County, Iowa, Chicago, IL: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1907.

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