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J. B. J. LOHNER.
(Full name, John Bjorn Johnsen Lohner.)

Comparatively speaking, there are very few native-born Norsemen living in Audubon county, Iowa; but, wherever the Norsemen have settled in the United States, they have proved themselves good citizens from every point of view.

J. B. J. Lohner, a well-known real estate dealer of Exira, Audubon county, is one of the few members of the Lohner family who settled in America. His brother, Klaus, and sister, Aaste, came to this county later and stayed some years, but returned to Norway in the spring of 1914. Mr. Lohner also has two cousins living in this country, namely, John T. Lohner, now of Kirkman, Iowa, and Thomas Lohner, now of Manchester, South Dakota. Those two men were brothers, and were formerly in the mercantile business in Exira at different times.


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J. B. J. Lohner has been engaged in the real estate business in Exira since June, 1902, and has made a remarkable success of his business. He had to start in a very small way, as he had but little money with which to pay the expenses connected with the business. Mr. Lohner was born on a farm named Lohner, in Tordal county, near Kragero City on the southern coast of Norway. Lohner is a group of farms from which the family takes its last name and is about forty-two English miles inland from Kragero. Mr. Lohner was born on December 19, 1873. His parents. John Thomasen and Anne Lohner were both natives of Norway and lived there all their lives. John Thomasen Lohner was a farmer, who owned considerable timber and grazing land, and had twenty-eight acres under cultivation. He died in 1895. Mr. Lohner's mother died in 1875. They were the parents of six children, one of whom died in infancy. Those who grew to maturity were, Thomas, Halvor, Klaus, Aaste and John. After the death of his first wife, the father married again and five additional children were born, as follow: Anne, Gunhild, Nils, Olav and Andrea. All of the children are living in Norway at the present time except the subject of this sketch.

Having received a very limited education in the common schools of Norway, consisting of three months each year from the age of seven till fourteen, Mr. Lohner came to America in the month of April, 1893, when nineteen years old. He immediately went to work on the farm for O. P. Tyler, one mile south of Hamlin. He worked on the farm several summers, and went to country schools during the winters; he also went to school five months in the grammar room in the Exira public schools. He then moved to Audubon and worked his way through the Audubon high school, from which he graduated in 1900, at which time he ranked No. 1 in his class, with an average scholarship percentage of ninety-nine. After leaving school, he went to Des Moines and worked at the painter's and paperhanger's trade for two years. After that, he returned to Audubon county and, in June, 1902, located permanently in Exira, where he engaged in the real estate business. He had a hard time to get started, partly because of his inexperience in business; but mainly because of the lull in the real estate business which followed the boom that was on during 1901 and the first half of 1902. Twice he failed to get a start, and had to return to the painter's and paper hanger's trade in order that he might earn some expense money. Undaunted by failure, he pushed onward, economizing as best he could. Once, he set out to walk nearly forty miles to see a prospective land buyer living in Shelby county; but the prospective buyer quickly informed Mr. Lohner that he was not in the market for a farm at that time. Mr. Lohner then returned by railroad, having enough cash to pay his expenses one way. This little incident throws a good deal of light upon the patience, perseverance and "wood-sawing" abilities of Mr. Lohner, qualities which are so essentially necessary in the making of success.

Mr. Lohner gained the confidence of those with whom he had business dealings and several men offered to furnish him money with which to buy farms in partnership, Lohner to pay interest on one-half of the actual investment. From then on, Mr. Lohner has been buying and selling farms and has succeeded far beyond his greatest hopes, being now recognized as one of the most successful real estate dealers in Audubon county.

Mr. Lohner is a genuine booster for the upbuilding and betterment of his community and country; indeed, he is not only a booster, but is an actual builder. He is almost continually putting up buildings and otherwise improving the different farms which he buys and sells. In 1913, he built a large and splendid-looking garage on Washington street north of Exira Park, the equal of which cannot be found in this state in any town of the size of Exira.

Mr. Lohner was married on December 3, 1911, to Ida Larson, whose parents, Marten J. and Laura (Nelson) Larson, are living four miles north of Avoca, Iowa. Mr. and Mrs. Lohner have one child, John Julius. Mrs. Lohner was born in Shelby county, Iowa, but her parents were natives of Denmark. Her father clerked in a store before he came to America. He located in Shelby county, Iowa, after coming to this country, and subsequently purchased the farm on which he is still living. He and his wife were the parents of twelve children as follow: Louise, Minnie, Nels (deceased), Ida, Sena, Lawrence, JMary, Edna, Olga, Clarence, Lillie and Harry (deceased).

The Lohner family are members of the Norwegian Lutheran church. Mr. Lohner is not only a member of the blue lodge of the Masonic fraternity, but he is a member of the chapter and commandery at Audubon, and the Shrine at Des Moines. He served as worshipful master of Exodus Lodge No. 342 for the year 1914 and was re-elected to serve in the same capacity for this year (1915). This lodge is located at Exira. He is a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and has been secretary of the local chapter since 1909. He is also a member of the Knights of Pythias. He was a member of the first board of directors of the Exira Co-operative Company (a farmers' company) and is the present secretary of the same.

Mr. Lohner has been Republican committeeman from Exira township since 1908, and, in this capacity, has able and efficiently served the Republican party with which he has been identified ever since his arrival in America. He is known as a wise and judicious political leader and his counsel is much sought by the people of this congressional district.



Transcribed from History of Audubon County, Iowa Its People, Industries and Institutions With Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families, by H. F. Andrews, editor, Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1915, pp. 712-715.
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