Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 564-66.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  James E. Carter

As the years are added to the cycle of the centuries those who may be termed the "old guard"" of Buena Vista county are passing away but their work will ever remain as the foundation upon which is builded [sic] the later prosperity and progress of this section of the state.  They endured trials and hardships in the early days that in later years they might benefit by their labors, while those who come after them will also enjoy the fruits of their toil.  The pioneers came here when this section of Iowa was a broad, windswept prairie but they believed that it offered advantages and time proved the wisdom of their faith.  Their work is of such value that their memory should be perpetuated for all time to come and if the story of their effort is adequately told it must be set down while those who were participants in the early progress of the county are still here to give the authentic narrative of the conditions which they faced and the work which they accomplished.


It is therefore a matter of pleasure to the historian to record the lives of those who have been the real builders and promoters of northwestern Iowa and in this connection James E. Carter deserves mention.  Born in Boone county, Illinois, November 17, 1844, he is a son of Lorenzo and Mary A. (Older) Carter, who were natives of Cattaraugus county, New York.  Removing westward they settled in Walworth county, Wisconsin, in the early '40s and there remained for about ten years, after which they removed to Chickasaw county, Iowa, where they resided for about eight years.  On the expiration of that period they went to McGregor, Iowa, where the father conducted a hotel.  A few years later he removed to Clermont, Fayette county, Iowa, where he was engaged in the hotel business for many years but finally sold out and came to Buena Vista county.


James E. Carter of this review, brought to Iowa in his boyhood, was reared in this state and attended the common schools to the age of seventeen years, when his patriotic spirit was aroused by the attempt of the south to overthrow the Union and in 1863, he joined Company E of the ninth Iowa Cavalry under Captain Dean and Colonel M. M. Trumbull.  His service continued throughout the remaining days of the rebellion and for some months after the close of hostilities, he being mustered out at Little Rock, Arkansas, February 2, 1866.  He had done valiant service for nearly three years, the regiment during much of this time operating in western and southern Arkansas, Texas and the Indian Territory.  He was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was recommended for a commission.  After his discharge from the government service he returned home with a creditable military record.


On the 5th of September, 1866, Mr. Carter was married to Miss Mary J. Brainard, a daughter of O. G. and Harriett (Dickinson) Brainard, both of whom were natives of Massachusetts, whence they came to Iowa at an early period in the development of this state.  Unto Mr. and Mrs. Carter were born six children, Hattie died at the age of sixteen years.  Mordeen E., a resident of Colorado Springs, Colorado, married Miss Lena Lodge, by whom he has a so, Lodge.  Wallace E., living at Windom, Minnesota, married Miss Alice Skinner, by whom he has two children, Don and Ruth.  Donna, the

fourth child of Mr. and Mrs. James E. Carter, who makes her home at Linn Grove, wedded A. L. Ebersole, by whom she has four children:  Lloyd, Mary, Dick and Robert.  Lorenzo, a resident of Fort Dodge, Iowa, married Miss Dot Hutchinson and has one son, Jennings Eugene.  Frank B., of Kennebec, South Dakota, is cashier of the State Security Bank and president of the Freelove, Carter Land Company.


It was in the year 1869 that James E. Carter first arrived in Buena Vista county, accompanied by O, G. Brainard and John R. Howe.  They left Fayette county, Iowa, with an ox-team and started for Cherokee, this state, but on arriving at Sac City they decided to change their course and go farther north.  Leaving their team at Twin Lakes, they started out on foot and walked the entire distance from there to Sioux Rapids.  Seven miles north of Sac City they passed the last house which they saw until reaching Struble's place at Sioux Rapids. Here they met James M. Hoskins and in company with him they took up a government claim, each securing a quarter section of section 2, Poland township.  Many of the dwellings in the new county at that time were sod houses and few of the advantages or comforts of the older east could be secured.  Their nearest market was at Fort Dodge and because of the lack of transportation facilities all commodities were very high.  Lumber sold at forty dollars per thousand and had to be hauled sixty-five miles over the prairie country across sloughs which were almost impassable at times.  In 1870 the first railway train that pulled into Fort Dodge brought Mr. Carter's wife.  He met her there and together they journeyed across the prairie to their new home in the northwest.  Mr. Carter, Mr. Brainard, Mr. Howe and Mr. Hoskins remained on their claims on section 2 for some years, experiencing all the trials and hardships incident to pioneer life.  Finally Mr. Hoskins removed to Sioux Rapids to engage in business and sometime later Mr. Carter sold his claim to T. M Watts and also removed to the city.  Here he began railroad contracting, which he followed for about twenty years, executing many large and important contracts on the Illinois Central and Northwestern Railroad lines.  He is now engaged in closing out an implement business in Sioux Rapids and is also engaging in the real-estate business, making a specialty of Texas lands.


Mr. Carter constructed the first telephone in Buena Vista county, running between Sioux Rapids and Storm Lake and owned by Hoskins & Toys.  During its construction he had some novel experiences as many of the farmers looked upon the poles with wires strung on them as dangerous to life of men and stock and they would pile stones in the holes dug for the poles and otherwise hindered the work.  Mr. Carter graded nearly all the streets of Sioux Rapids and in many ways assisted in beautifying the town.  He has done considerable surveying and aided K. H. Ashton, of Chicago, in surveying, grading and leveling for the Northwestern Railroad, that gentleman being general manager.


During all the years of his residence in Buena Vista county Mr. Carter has held some town offices, to which he has been called by the support of his fellow townsmen who recognize his worth, ability and fidelity in citizenship.  He has always been active in public matters and his labors have been attended with good results for the county at large.  He has always given his political allegiance to the republican party, believing that its principles have promoted the most substantial reform and progress of the country.  Fraternally he is connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and with the Grand Army of the Republic.  He has been too generous and free hearted to amass any large fortune, regarding other things more important than the attainment of wealth, especially if it must be secured at a sacrifice of the interests of others.  He has, however, borne his share in the world's work and has the good will and friendship of all who know him.  He is comfortably situated in life and feels that his lines have fallen in pleasant places, for while he has not gained millions he has enjoyed what is better yet—the confidence and good will of his fellow citizens.