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. 405-06.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  B. A. Colby

B. A. Colby, who has done more perhaps than any one man to promote musical taste and culture in northwestern Iowa, is now engaged in dealing in musical instruments and musical merchandise in Alta, where he has conducted his store for a quarter of a century.  Almost thirty-six years have passed since he came to the county and throughout this period his labors and influence have been a factor in promoting a love of music among the people of this section of the state.


His birth occurred in Plainfield, Washington county, Vermont, September 7, 1849, and he was there reared to the age of nineteen years, pursuing his education in the public schools.  In 1868 he made his way westward to Chicago, where he engaged in teaching vocal and instrumental music, having much natural talent in musical lines, which had been developed through study in New England.  He afterward removed to Dixon, Illinois, where he again engaged in teaching both vocal and instrumental music, and in 1873 he became a resident of Storm Lake, Iowa.  Subsequently he took up his abode in Maple Valley township, where he opened up a new farm, breaking the sod, cultivating the prairie and erecting thereon the necessary buildings for the shelter of his family and his stock.


After three years devoted to agricultural pursuits Mr. Colby became a resident of Alta, devoting his time to instruction of' both vocal and instrumental music, while later he began to handle musical instruments.  In the fall of 1883, he established his music store and he now sells pianos, organs and other musical instruments and musical merchandise throughout Buena Vista and Cherokee counties.  He continued to teach vocal music for a number of years and has been a prominent figure in musical circles in this part of the state since his arrival here, more than a third of a century ago.  In addition to the conducting of his store he makes a specialty of tuning and repairing musical instruments and rebuilding organs.  Mr. Colby is the inventor of several tools used by musicians and tuner and also other musical appliances, including a folding trunk organ with transportation keyboard, and the tunette—an instrument for setting temperaments on pianos.  None of his inventions, however, have been patented.


On the 18th of April, 1871, in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, he was married to Miss Lucretia Brace, a native of Illinois, who died October 13, 1905, leaving two daughters:  Josie, now the wife of H. B. Nelson, of Spokane, Washington, by whom she has two children, Dorothy and Helen Nelson; and Bessie, the wife of Buren Burt, also of Spokane, and the mother of two children, Mildred and Marion.


On the 10th of April, 1908, in Cherokee, Iowa, Mr. Colby was again married, his second union being with Emma Chesley, who was born and reared in Story county, this state.  Both are members of the Methodist Episcopal church, in which Mr. Colby is serving as chorister and has been identified with the church music for a number of years.  He has held various musical conventions and has been largely connected with the development of musical interests in this part of the state.  His political allegiance is given the prohibition party.  His wife is an active worker in church and Sunday school and their influence is always found on the side of justice, truth and right.  Mr. Colby belongs to the Knights of Pythias fraternity and also the Ancient Order of the United Workmen.  He is one of the best known men in this part of the county and one of the most popular, for while his musical talent has called him into prominence in musical circles his social qualities have made him a favorite throughout the entire community.