Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa - 1896 - N

1896 Index

A Memorial and Biographical Record of Iowa
Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1896


Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.


There is nothing so demonstrative of the progressive and enterprising spirit of the West as the work of such a man as our subject, who, thrown upon his own resources at an early age, has worked his way steadily upward to a position of wealth and affluence, pushing aside the barriers that obstruct his path, surmounting all obstacles, and utilizing the difficulties that checker the lives of all merely as stepping-stones to something higher. He may well be termed the leading farmer of Dallas county, Iowa, and the work that he has accomplished should serve as a source of encouragement and inspiration to others. He was born September 27, 1845, in Indiana, and is the youngest of a family of seven children. His father, Allen Nelson, was twice married, and by the first union had a family of two children. The mother having died, he later wedded Elizabeth Davis, and to them were born five children.

When William was but six months old they removed to Illinois, where the father's death occurred a year later. At the early age of twelve years he began to work for neighboring farmers, but boarded at home. A few years later he and his brother began farming for themselves on thirteen acres of land. The proverbial "unlucky number" did not seem to have a disastrous effect upon them. On the contrary prosperity attended their enterprising efforts, and they steadily increased their possessions until they were operating 200 acres of land. When our subject was twenty-one years of age he came to Dallas county, Iowa, and has since been identified with this region. He had previously saved enough to enable him to purchase ten head of oxen, for which he paid $125 per yoke. He then had remaining a cash capital of $200. He had purchased his oxen and wagon in Cambridge, Illinois, and drove across the country to his new home.

Mr. Nelson at once began breaking prairie upon a quarter-section of land, which he purchased with his capital of $200 immediately after his arrival. The work of improvement and development he has carried continuously forward, until to-day he has the finest farm in Dallas county. His residence is unequaled in the county, being a large structure built in modern style of architecture, heated by steam and supplied with water throughout. It stands on a natural building site, and is one of the chief attractions in the landscape. It is surrounded by a beautiful and well kept lawn, and the interior is in keeping with the exterior, being tastefully and richly furnished, and indicating the refined and cultured sentiments of its inmates. In the rear stand large barns and other outbuildings and it indeed may be termed a model farm. The first season after Mr. Nelson located in Iowa the grasshoppers ate up all the crops. He spent the winter in traveling over Missouri, but could find no more desirable location, so undaunted returned to his new home, planted his crops and at length gathered an abundant harvest. Success is not the result of a combination of fortuitous circumstances, but is the legitimate outgrowth of earnest labor, perseverance and capable management, and it is these qualities that have won Mr. Nelson prosperity. He now owns 610 acres of valuable land, all improved and under cultivation. He himself broke the sod on three quarter-sections. The remainder of his land he now rents. In addition to its cultivation he is also extensively and successfully engaged in stock-raising.

On the 30th of May, 1869, Mr. Nelson wedded Miss Emily Frisby, who was born and reared in McLean county, Illinois, being of Scotch-Irish lineage. Her father was a stockman of that locality. They now have four living children and have lost one. George Bandy, born March 16, 1870, is a graduate of the Dexter Normal School; Jennie Frances, born July 14, 1871, died January 27, 1872; Dora Anner, born December 5, 1872; Pearl Cerretta, born January 7, 1877; and Mark Hoyt, born August 14, 1882, complete the family.

Since casting his first presidential vote for Tilden, Mr. Nelson has been a supporter of the Democracy. He has held a number of township offices, and his fellow townsmen would gladly place him in almost any political position within their power, but he prefers to devote his time and energies to his business. Both he and his wife are adherents of the Christian Church, and he holds membership with West Cotta Lodge, No. 158, A. F. & A. M. of Redfield, and Tyrian Chapter, No. 37, R. A. M., of Adel, Iowa, with which his son George is also connected. He is a warm friend of education, believing it one of the best preparations for life's responsible duties, and as there was no school near his home during the early life of his children, he erected one near by at his own expense. He is known by all as a straightforward, thoroughly reliable business man, whose integrity is unimpeachable and the history of Dallas county would be incomplete without the record of his life.

FRANCIS NEWELL, one of the noted stock-raisers and farmers of this great State, is a descendant of sturdy old New England stock, the family tracing their ancestral line to the early Colonial days in the old Bay State. Francis was born in Palmer, Massachusetts, December 17, 1834, a son of Jacob and Thankful (Fuller) Newell. Of their six children only two are now living, - Milton, of Montana, and our subject. Jacob Newell, the father, was born in Palmer, Massachusetts, July 4, 1796, and his entire life was spent there, his death occurring in 1869, at the age of seventy-three years. He was a typical New Englander, shrewd, enterprising and public-spirited, and was recognized as one of the influential men of his day. Grandfather Newell was also a native of Massachusetts, born near Boston in the Colonial times. His father was born in England, and emigrated to this country in an early day, making one of the old Massachusetts Bay Colony, long before the days of the Revolution. The mother of our subject, nee Thankful Fuller, was a native of old Connecticut, descended from one of the early families of that State, and she lived to a great age, dying upon her ninetieth birthday.

Francis Newell, the subject of this sketch, attended the schools of his native State during his boyhood days, and worked on the farm until twenty-five years of age, when he started out in life for himself. Coming West he located for a time in Dallas county, Iowa, but soon afterward, being imbued with the spirit of adventure, he went to Colorado, and for four years was a miner in that State, meeting with fair success. In 1865, however, Mr. Newell returned to Iowa, settling in Warren county, which has since been his home. In 1870 he purchased a farm of 105 acres of unbroken prairie land, and he at once set energetically to work to subdue an develop this tract, and, successful from the first, he from time to time added to his original purchase until at the present he owns a splendid farm of 430 acres. The homestead and a portion of the farm is located in Jefferson township, and the remainder lies across the road in Jackson township.

For many years Mr. Newell has been recognized as one of the leading stock-raisers and feeders of this region. He keeps about 100 head of cattle, his steers of 1895 being a remarkably fine and thrifty lot, and at the present he has about 300 Poland-China hogs. An intelligent man, enterprising and experienced, he adopts the best methods in the care of his stock, the result being a marked success in the business year by year. Mr. Newell raises about 125 acres of corn and other crops in proportion, being assisted by his sons in the carrying on of the diversified work.

March 13, 1871, he was united in marriage to Catherine Haberer, a native of the province of Wurtemberg, Germany. Her father died before her birth, and when a child she came to this country with her mother and the remainder of the family, consisting of seven children, five of whom are now living, namely: Andrew, of Sterling, Illinois; John, of Boone county, Iowa; Christina, wife of Jacob Arnold, also of that county; and Mary, wife of Andrew Dauble, of Omaha. The mother died in 1881. Mr. and Mrs. Newell have seven children: Ira J., John W., Austin F., George L., Asa L., Stella M. and Thankful S. Mr. Newell is in the prime of life, energetic and capable, and one of the substantial, successful and popular citizens of Warren county.

William Henry Notdorf

There are in every community a few progressive, wide-awake citizens  whose abilities make them leaders in business and public affairs and to  whom the locality is indebted for its advancement and prosperity.  To  this class belongs our subject, who is engaged in the lumber, brick and  grain business in Tripoli, Iowa, and with pleasure we present to our  readers the record of his career. 

His father, Harry Notdorf, was born near Hanover, Germany, and about  1850 married Marguerite Verseman, also a native of that neighborhood.   He engaged in the lumber business in his native land until 1866, when he  came with his family to America.  Locating in Will county, Illinois, he  then turned his attention to farming.  He had a family of six children,  of whom William H. was the third.  He was born in the village of  Benigen, near Soltau, Germany, November 18, 1856, and began his  education in the public schools of his native town.  After coming to  America he continued his studies in a German school in Washington  township, Will county, where he remained for four years, and the only  English educational training he acquired was obtained in the public  schools during one winter's attendance.  During vacations he aided in  the work of the home farm and afterward entered upon his business  career as a farm hand near Kankakee.  He worked for one man two years  and for another man one year, and during that time learned to speak the  English language, with which he was not familiar when he left home.   Desirous of becoming acquainted with the French tongue, he entered the  employ of a Frenchman in that neighborhood, but after two months spent  with him returned to Will county and for two and a half years worked at  the carpenter's trade in Crete.  On the expiration of that period he  removed to Beecher, where he also worked at the carpenter's trade and at  putting up lightning rods. 

Three years later Mr. Notdorf brought a carload of horses and farming  implements to Tripoli.  On arriving here he met an old friend who  persuaded him to take up his residence in this place.  He then returned  home, secured his carpenter's tools and personal property and soon after  made a permanent settlement here.  For two years he followed  carpentering in the employ of another, and then began contracting on his  own account.  Subsequently he entered the employ of C. D. Haven, of  Minneapolis, who owned a lumberyard in Tripoli, and for eleven months he  served as bookkeeper.  He then purchased a third interest in the yard,  on the 8th of March, 1884, and the firm of Haven & Notdorf continued  business for seventeen months, when our subject purchased his partner's  interest and has since been alone.  He is the leading lumber dealer of  the town.  His success seems remarkable, for he began life without a  dollar that he could call his own.  He has, however, watched the  indications of trade, brought to bear upon his business interests a  sound judgment, unfaltering determination and great energy and has  steadily worked his way upward until he has become the owner of a  handsome property.  He now has his yard, his place of business and his  own home all unencumbered. 

On the 24th of May, 1883, Mr. Notdorf was united in marriage with Miss  Emma Hilderbrant, a native of Cook county, Illinois, and they have two  daughters:  Hulda, born October 3, 1884; and Viola, born November 26,  1895.  In his political views Mr. Notdorf is a Republican, but in non- partisan at local elections.  For ten years he has served as treasurer  of the Fremont School Board, and both he and his wife are active members  of the United Lutheran Church, in which he has served as Treasurer for  four years.  In all that appertains to the welfare of the community he  is found as a helpful factor, and is a very popular gentleman, having a  host of warm friends who esteem him highly for his sterling worth.