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. 648-52.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  James M. Hoskins

No history of northwestern Iowa would be complete without extended mention of James M. Hoskins, for he is classed with the leading citizens of this part of the state.  Becoming a soldier of the Civil war when yet a youth in his teens, the same spirit of loyal devotion has characterized his entire life, while in his business career he has manifested an undaunted enterprise that has enabled him to work his way steadily upward, obstacles and difficulties seeming to serve as an impetus to renewed effort rather than a bar to progress.


James M. Hoskins was born in North Fairfield, Huron county, Ohio, January 2, 1846, and was about four years of age when his parents, Amasa and Jane (Murdock) Hoskins, natives of New York, removed from Ohio to Richland county, Wisconsin.  The family home was established upon a farm and for some years the father carried on general agricultural pursuits there, while later he removed to Iowa county and eventually became a resident of Richland Center.


Remaining under the parental roof during the period of his boyhood [,] James M. Hoskins, after the removal to Richland Center, entered upon an apprenticeship at the printer’s trade in the office of the Richland County Observer, where he was employed until May, 1864.  No longer content to remain at home while his country was still engaged in Civil war, he enlisted for active service although only eighteen years of age, becoming a member of Company P, Forty-first Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry for one hundred days.  He was honorably discharged about October 1st of that year but in February, 1865, reenlisted as a member of Company H, Forty-sixth Regiment of Wisconsin Infantry.  He was at Memphis when General Forrest made his attack upon that place, but most of his service was spent in provost duty in northern Alabama.


When the war was over and the country no longer needed his aid, he returned to Wisconsin and became one of the owners of the office in which he had learned the printer's trade, continuing the publication of the paper for about two years.  He then sold out and in 1869 arrived in Buena Vista county, Iowa, for he believed that the opportunities of the new but rapidly growing west were superior to those of the older states east of the Mississippi.  Much of the land here was still in possession of the government and Mr. Hoskins secured a claim on section 2, township 93, range 35, where he made his home for two years.  He was then called to public office, being chosen county recorder in the fall of 1870, at which time he disposed of his farm and took up his abode at Sioux Rapids, which was then the county seat.  He proved a competent official during the two years of his incumbency and after his retirement he turned his attention to the drug business, continuing in that line until 1881.  In his mercantile ventures he met with well merited success, his business constantly increasing owing to his progressive spirit, his modern business methods, his reasonable prices and his earnest efforts to please his patrons.  At length, however, he disposed of his store in order to establish the Hoskins & Toy Bank, the first banking institution of the town.  He remained an active factor in its management until 1883, when he sold out.  While still engaged in the drug business he also became a real-estate and loan agent and has enjoyed a good clientage in that regard.


Mr. Hoskins' efficiency as a public officer has been demonstrated in the fact that he has been called to fill a number of positions of trust and responsibility.  In July, 1876, he was appointed postmaster and filled the position until 1886, when he was removed for "offensive partisanship."  In May, 1889, however, he was reappointed without opposition and continued to fill the position until 1895.  His administration had been thoroughly businesslike and his prominence and efficiency are matters of common knowledge.  He also served as a member of the board of county supervisors for more than a decade and in office has ever placed the public welfare before partisanship.  Following the incorporation of Sioux Rapids in 1882, he was elected its first mayor and with the exception of one term continued to fill the office for about ten years.  At some elections he had no opposing candidate, for his fellow townsmen recognize that he has been most loyal to the public welfare in the discharge of his duties and brought to his work the same spirit of determination and enterprise which has characterized his control of his private business interests.  He is a stalwart republican with firm faith in the principles of his party and is a public-spirited man whose labors have been far-reaching and effective in promoting the general welfare.  That his fellow citizens recognize his work is evidenced in the fact that he has been elected to nearly every office for which he has been nominated.  He has served on the school board and the cause of education has found in him an enthusiastic champion, the large school building and fine school grounds of Sioux Rapids indicating his energy and zeal in behalf of public construction. He also had charge of and constructed the Methodist Episcopal church at this place.


Mr. Hoskins is now giving his attention to the real-estate business and has not only negotiated many important property transfers for others but has also made judicious investments for himself and has realized handsome profits on the sale of his property.  What he undertakes he accomplishes and his spirit of determination and careful management has been the ladder on which he has climbed to success.  On the 30th of October, 1866, in Richland Center, Wisconsin, Mr. Hoskins was married to Miss Mary E. Wilson, whose parents were Alexander L. and Julia A. C. (Myers) Wilson.  Mrs. Hoskins was born in Mansfield, Ohio, March 4, 1846, and unto this marriage have been born the following sons and daughters:  Frank W. J., who wedded Miss Etta L. Stevens and resides at Beresford, South Dakota; Florence May, wife of W. L. Sumner, of Hawarden, Iowa; Charles A., who married Miss Hoffman and is living in St. Paul, Minnesota; Lulu E., at home; Oramel A., of Kingsley, Iowa; Mary E. D.; Birdie; Ernest E., who died in 1908; and Chester A.  The family is prominent socially and the hospitality of the Hoskins' home is one of its most attractive features.  Mr. Haskins belongs to the Masonic fraternity, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Grand Army Post and through his association in the latter keeps in touch with his old army comrades.  Progress and patriotism might well be termed the keynote of his life for those qualities have characterized his entire career.  While he has capably conducted his private business interests he has never been remiss in the duties of citizenship and his devotion to the public welfare is above question.