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. 274-79.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Isaiah T. Hollingsworth

It has been the endeavor of the publishers of this volume to collect and place in enduring form a history of the lives of those who have aided in the growth and development of this section of Iowa, and to preserve their recollections of pioneer days.  Years roll by so rapidly that time is already thinning the ranks of those who were the vanguard of civilization in the northwest, and only as the participants in the events of early days tell the tale of life here when Buena Vista county was a pioneer district, can we hope to have an authentic record.  No one is more deserving of honorable mention in the annals of the county than Isaiah T. Hollingsworth, who has been most closely connected with the early development and the later progress.  It is therefore with pleasure that we prepare his life record, knowing that it will be received with interest by many of our readers.


He was born on the 8th of March, 1842, in Grant county, Indiana.  His father, Michael Hollingsworth, was a farmer by occupation and was born in Indiana, May 2, 1812.  His wife, a native of Ohio, was born July 4, 1814, and they were married August 19, 1881.  The former was a son of Richard and Sarah Hollingsworth, both natives of South Carolina, while the mother of our subject was a daughter of Isaiah and Elizabeth (Cox) Thomas, who were likewise natives of South Carolina but came to Ohio at an early date and there spent the remainder of their lives.  The Hollingsworths came of a family noted for longevity and are of German descent.  The parents of our subject are both now deceased.  The father died February 22, 1880, at the age of seventy-seven years, and the mother passed away March 19, 1904.  Their children were as follows:  Harriett, born June 6, 1884, was the wife of Richard Ridgeway and resided for a time in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, but later removed to Kansas.  She died May 22, 1887, leaving three children:  Loretta, born in Miama county, Indiana, died in the same state, Luella died in Sioux Rapids in May, 1875; Edwin S. is living in Wichita. Kansas.  Nellis F. makes his home in Gettysburg, South Dakota.  Nettie J., twin sister of Nellis, is the wife of James Goucher and lives in McLouth, Kansas.  Joseph, who was born July 24, 1857, is a resident of Callaway, Nebraska.


Isaiah T. Hollingsworth was reared in his native state and is indebted to its public school system for the educational privileges which he enjoyed.  He assisted in the work of the home farm and at the age of twenty years took the preliminary steps toward having a home of his own in his marriage to Miss Mary E. Brown on the 7th of September, 1862.  Mrs. Hollingsworth is a daughter of Jacob and Hannah (Martin) Brown, both of whom were natives of Chester, Pennsylvania, and are of English descent.  In early life they became residents of Richmond, Indiana, and in 1856 removed to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  In a brief time, however, they went to Madison county, Iowa, where their remaining days were passed.  The mother died May 6, 1858, at the age of forty-one years and the burdens and responsibilities of caring for the family largely devolved upon Mrs. Hollingsworth, which duties she cheerfully assumed.  His father died in 1878 at the age of sixty-eight years.  Mrs. Hollingsworth was born August 27, 1844, in Wayne county, Indiana, and is the third in order of birth in the following family:  William S. and Ruth N., who are now deceased; Mrs. Hollingsworth; John M., who married Hannah See and resided in College View, Nebraska; Benjamin Franklin, who is living in Taylor county, Iowa; Sydney A., Sarah I., and Rebecca, all now deceased; and Amanda L., the wife of Lafayette Moore, a resident of Clarke county, Iowa.


Following their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth settled on a farm in Madison county, Iowa, where they remained until 1864, when, in company with Mr. Hollingsworth's parents, they came to Buena Vista county.  The Little Sioux river was then the boundary line of the white settlement toward the northwest.  Beyond were roving tribes of Indians, while the government troops were stationed at different forts along the frontier to guard the pioneers.  The Indians were then at peace but the settlers lived in a constant state of dread, not knowing when the red men would break faith.  Around stretched the boundless prairies with only two houses between Sioux Rapids and Fort Dodge, a distance of seventy-five miles.


It was a summer day in the latter part of June that the Hollingsworth families halted on the site of Sioux Rapids under the shade of a big willow tree which is still standing.  There they prepared and ate their first meal.  They lived for about a year in a double log house which had been used as a fort.  Mr. Hollingsworth secured a government claim comprising the northwest quarter of section 18, Barnes township, and in the fall of 1865 removed to that place.  It was slow work bringing the land under cultivation but each year he would break and plant a few acres.  There was no object to cultivate much more than would supply the family as the long distance from market made it impossible to dispose of farm products to advantage. Some time later, however, the railroads were built, bringing the people into closer communication with the places where sales could he made.  It was after that that the thousands of settlers came into this favorable region, selected farms and made improvements.  The rich soil yielded abundant crops and it seemed that prosperity would be the rule in the county hereafter, but the financial panic of 1873 proved a setback and this was followed by the grasshopper plague, which proved almost more disastrous than the Indian massacre.  Great swarms of grasshoppers covered the fields, destroying every vestige of the crops, and this occurred through three successive years.  Times were then very hard.  Unable to raise enough to supply their needs, thousands of the settlers left, and those who were unable or unwilling to leave and abandon their claims engaged in trading, securing muskrat skins and other furs which served as legal tender.  There was no sale for the land, but when the grasshopper plague was over conditions soon became better and from that time the county has enjoyed an unbroken period of prosperity.


As the years passed Mr. Hollingsworth brought his farm under cultivation and met with success in his undertakings.  The rich soil yielded abundant crops, for which he found a ready sale on the market.  In 1889, thinking that a change of climate might prove beneficial to his impaired health, he moved with his family to Willow Springs, Missouri, and for two years conducted a trading post at Sterling in the mountains.  He next went to Mountain Grove, Missouri, and purchased a small tract of land, on which he lived until April 16, 1894.  He devoted part of that year to study in the Bible Institute at Kansas City, and in Springfield, Arkansas.  In the autumn of 1895 lie returned to Sioux Rapids, for after much wandering, he came to the conclusion that there was no better place of residence than Iowa.  The family had resided in .Missouri for six years and during much of that time Mr. Hollingsworth had devoted his attention to missionary work.  He is now living in a comfortable residence just outside of Sioux Rapids, where he owns a good tract of land and is engaged in raising fruit, vegetables and poultry.


Mr. Hollingsworth and his family have borne their full share in the growth and development of the county.  They have seen the ox-teams and prairie schooners replaced by a net work of railroads, while the log cabin and dugout have given way before fine modern residences.  The days of want and privation have long since passed and Buena Vista comity is now the abiding place of a contented and prosperous people.  Where were once wild prairies covered with the native grasses there are today seen richly cultivated fields and orchards, while the pastures are tilled with large herds of cattle and other livestock.  Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth have done much to bring about the present prosperous condition of the county and, moreover, they have always stood for law and order, justice and righteousness.


As the years passed their home was blessed with seven children:  John G., their eldest son, born May 20, 1864, was married November 22, 1884, to Rhoda Christy and has two children, LeRoy and Ray; Charles W., born August 17, 1865, was married January 1, 1887, to Gussie V, Clark and had three children:  Effie E., Ethel, who is now deceased, and Chester, who died when he was nine years of age; Benjamin F., born April 14. 1867, was married July 29, 1887, to Fanny Mathers and has two children:  Edna and Ethel; Anne, born Sept. 22, 1870, is the wife of B. F. Christy, of Clark county, South Dakota, and their children are Leslie L., Carl, Floy, Loren, Granville and Rhoda; William, who married Bertha Patterson, is living in Gettysburg, South Dakota; Mary Edna is the wife of Andrew Brown, also of Gettysburg; Addie became the wife of William Johnson, May 5, 1904, and they reside with her parents.  Besides rearing their own family Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth have reared and educated two other children who are now happily situated in homes of their own.  Most people of their age would feel that they had done enough for others, but Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth have recently adopted a young boy from the Orphans Home at Ottumwa. Iowa.  The little fellow is indeed fortunate in coming into such a good home, where he will receive all the care, attention and love which any child has the right to expect from parents.  Mr. and Mrs. Hollingsworth are both well known for their kindly nature and generous spirit and truly the world is better for their having lived.  No one holds a more enviable position in the regard of the general public and of their friends than do these worthy people and it is with pleasure that we present their record to our readers.