Odebolt, Iowa - John A. Reynolds

Reynolds, John

Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977,
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, page 60) 


John Reynolds, born 1854, Hudson, Ohio, son of William and Rebecca (Tawn) Reynolds.  He moved to Grinnell, Iowa in 1863 and married Lottie Elliot, in 1878.  In the fall of 1878, Mr. and Mrs. John Reynolds came to Odebolt, Iowa, and John started the first blacksmith and wagon shop in town with George Parker as a partner.  Mr. Parker died in 1886, and Charles Kistler became John's partner.  John served as mayor of Odebolt for several terms and on the city council for eighteen years.

John and Rebecca Reynolds were parents of Ida (Mrs. S.L. Powell); Nellie (Mrs. N. Smith); Walter; Charles; Ben; Flora (Mrs. Hoff); and Lottie.

In 1891 Mrs. Reynolds died, leaving these seven small children.  In 1892 Mr. Reynolds married Teresa Shea, who was born in Lake County, Illinois, in 1870, daughter of Cornelius and Mary (Delany) Shea.  Cornelius Shea was born in Ireland in 1843 and came to America with his parents in 1846.  He came to Sac County in 1877 and settled on a farm in west Wheeler Township.  Mr. Shea built and operated a hotel in Odebolt after leaving the farm in 1881.

John and Teresa (Shea) Reynolds were parents of Mary (Mrs. Fred Krusen); Josephine (Mrs. S.H. Brown); Eugene; Gertrude (Mrs. Fred Ross); and Alice. Eugene Reynolds married Dorothy Longbotham.  They were parents of Tom and Jerry.




John A.  Reynolds 

by John Ross 

John A.  Reynolds, the oldest son of immigrant English parents was born Independence Day 1854 in the town of Hudson, Summit County, Ohio.  When he died 56 years later in Odebolt his close friend for 27 years and publisher of the Odebolt Chronicle Billy Hamilton, eulogized him as follows "...No man was ever more widely known in this vicinity and none had more friends...John Reynolds was a good and useful citizen.  He had a sympathetic heart which prompted him to respond to all appeals and was ever ready to contribute to the relief of the distressed; and many in this vicinity have cause to revere his memory and be grateful for his benefactions.  His rough and ready geniality, his love of sports of all kinds and his kindly disposition make him an agreeable companion and general favorite." Just who was this John Reynolds anyway?  His parents, William and Rebecca (Tawn) were married in 19 June 1850 in the Parish Church of little market town of Moulton, England.  Moulton lies among the marshes and fens bordering the North Sea and its towering church spire dominates the flat Linclonshire countryside for miles.  The town is located a scant dozen miles south of the little town of Boston, from which the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to Holland before they founded their new home in Massachusetts.  The Reynolds and Tawn families had lived in Moulton for at least two generations struggling to work the land and raising children.  In the custom of the times the families were large--Rebecca had seven brothers and sisters and William's was nearly as large.

A few months after they married, John's parents fled the poverty of England and immigrated to the little town of Hudson, on Ohio's Western Reserve.  Their first child, Mary was born 21 March 1851 and John was born on 4 July1854.  Shortly thereafter the family moved to Grinnell, Iowa where William worked as a farmer.  Here John spent his formative years.  When he was eight his older sister, Mary died on 27 November 1862.  She was not yet 12 years old and her little toy doll has been preserved under glass where it may be viewed today in the Grinnell Historical Museum.  Three years later a brother, Frank was born.  Tragedy struck the little family again when on 21 October 1868  John's mother, Rebecca died.  She was not yet 46.  John's father, William was left with two children to raise, so seven months later, on 13 May 1869, he married the widow Charlotte Elliot.  Charlotte was born Charlotte Weaver in Kent, England on 9 March 1833, married William Elliott in London when she was 25 years of age and to this union were born three daughters.  William Elliott and two of their daughters died in England.  So to save her surviving child also named Charlotte (or more commonly Lottie), she fled to Grinnell in 1865 to live with her sister who had left England some years earlier.

Little Lottie, who was eight years old when her mother and William Reynolds were married, was destined to become John Reynold's wife.  They were married 25 February 1878 in Grinnell and almost immediately moved to Odebolt, arriving on 14 March 1878 in the midst of a fierce spring snow storm.  He was 23 and she was 16.  They probably had little more than a horse and wagon but were filled with unbounded optimism and in Odebolt they firmly planted their roots.

John and Lottie were among Odebolt's first residents opening a blacksmith shop and investing in farm land.  We usually think of a blacksmith as a brawny man but from the two photos that I have John appears to be a small man--perhaps 5'-5" or 5'-6" tall with a slight wiry build.  We deduce however, that he was strong enough to manhandle horses and swing a heavy hammer all day.  John and Lottie had seven children;  Ida Agnes (1 Sep1878-18 Jul 1973), Nelly (26 May 1880-1944), Walter William (13 Mar 1882-9 Dec 1931), Charlie (10 May 1884-1952), Flora (18 Sep1885-29 Sep 1978), Benjamin Harrison (8 Nov 1888-13 Apr 1964), and Lottie (7 May 1891-7 Oct 1959).  Seven days after baby Lottie was born, mother Lottie died of "blood poisoning" on 14 May 1891 just short of her 31st birthday; and according to her obituary in the Chronicle all of Odebolt's stores were closed as 60 businessmen marched in the funeral procession from the church to Odebolt's cemetery.

John Reynolds was left with six motherless children to raise.  (The baby Lottie was taken to Grinnell to be raised by her grandparents until her grandmother died then she moved back to Odebolt to be with her father.).  There is a tradition that John hired 22 year-old Teresa Shea, the daughter of Odebolt hotel-owner, Cornelius Shea as a housekeeper.  Regardless, a year-and-a-half later John and Teresa were married on a frigid Christmas Eve in 1892 in Sioux City.  There are probably people in Odebolt who still remember Teresa (my grandmother) but I have only a shadowy recollection of her.  I have a photo taken when she was young depicting a pretty Irish girl with wide innocent eyes.  John and Teresa had five children Mary (7 Jun 1894-23 Apr 1971), Josephine (31 Mar 1897-29 Mar 1980), Eugene Edward (16 Mar 1899-19 Apr 1975), my mother Gertrude Isabelle (23 Oct 1903- ), and Alice Margaret (22 July 1909-26 Jul 1966).

By 1866 John Reynolds was in the middle of city affairs.  He first served as a member of the city council and then between 1895 and 1902 served as mayor of the city.  It seems to me that Odebolt grew and prospered during this time.  I know that he usually served on the council's finance committee, was the treasurer of the Masonic Lodge (and also the Master in 1892-1893) treasurer of the Fire Department, treasurer of the Cemetery Association, and an incorporator of the Library in 1898.  All of these positions involved a fiduciary responsibility which seems to indicate the trust and respect the residents of Odebolt had for him.  He was a deeply committed husband and father, and when his twelfth child was born in 1909 friends presented him with a top-hat circled with twelve little baby dolls pinned to the brim as a gentle joke honoring his productivity.

On 5 July 1910, the day after his 56th birthday, and after taking a holiday, John went to his blacksmith shop as usual.  About 9:30 as he was shoeing a horse, his partner, Charles Kistler noticed his left hand drop.  He had suffered what would be a fatal stroke.  Although his left side was paralyzed he remained conscious as he was gently carried home and laid on his bed.  About 11:30 he suffered a second stroke and died about 12:30.  John, along with his first wife, Lottie and his second wife, Teresa are all buried in the Odebolt Cemetery.  (His mother, Rebecca who died 21 Oct 1868, his father, William who died 19 Mar 1903, and stepmother, Charlotte who died 10 Nov 1905 are all buried in the Grinnell's Hazelwood Cemetery, as is his brother, Frank who died 23 Jul 1919 leaving a widow and eight children.)

John Reynolds left an estate valued at some $60,000--quite a tidy sum in the days when a family of six could live comfortably on $100 a month.  So his 32 years in Odebolt had been good to him, but I feel that perhaps he gave more to the town than he took from it.  He nurtured it with his sweat, muscle and mind from the raw prairie and saw it blossom into a beautiful tightly knit city.  Moreover he gave Odebolt twelve children, all of whom were quietly successful in the world.  I never knew my grandfather and my mother's recollections of her father are hazy as she was but six when he died.  So none of the above came from first-person recollections, instead it was pieced together over the years by information in public records, newspapers and with a bit of imagination and a lot of love. 

December 2001. 
Comments?  John Ross TahoJon@aol.com


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