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. 264-68.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Joseph R. Noel

From pioneer times until 1905 Joseph R. Noel was actively identified with the agricultural life of Buena Vista county but he is now living retired in a comfortable home in Sioux Rapids, enjoying in well earned ease the fruits of a long active career.  He was born in Putnam county, Indiana, March 15, 1845, a son of George W. and Dulcena (Thornton) Noel, both of whom were natives of Kentucky, whence they removed to Indiana in early life and were there married.  In 1850 they made their way to Dallas county, Iowa, when the country was still in a wild and unsettled condition, the nearest market being at Oskaloosa, eighty miles distant, while there were many other inconveniences and hardships to be met.  The father was a lawyer and for several years was engaged in practice at Redfield, Dallas county, but when the Civil war broke out he felt that his first duty was to his country and accordingly in the fall of l862 he enlisted as a member of Company II, Thirty-ninth Iowa Regiment.  His first engagement was at Parker Cross Roads in Tennessee and he was subsequently in a number of minor engagements.  He was captured at Corinth just prior to the battle at that place.  On the night of the third day after the surrender of Vicksburg, anxious to convey the news of the surrender to his company, he and a comrade named Roop started on the perilous journey but on the way were captured by Quantelle's forces and as nothing was ever after heard of them it is supposed they were shot by the rebel commander.


In the family of Mr. and Mrs. George Noel were ten children, of whom but four survive, namely:  Joseph R., of this review; F. W., who wedded a Miss Fink and resides in Redfield, Iowa; V. N., who wedded a Miss Spillers and resides in Rockwell City; and Martha A., the wife of Jonathan A. Bailey, a resident of Redfield.  One son, William T. Noel, enlisted for service in the Civil war, enlisting as a member of the Seventeenth Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry.  Becoming ill, he was taken to a hospital in Keokuk, Iowa, and after several months of suffering passed away, being then a youth of eighteen years.


Joseph R. Noel of this review was a youth of seventeen years when the father was taken away, and upon himself and his sister Martha rested much responsibility and the support of the family.  He was the second in order of birth in a family of ten children, so that it naturally followed there was much arduous labor to be performed in the support of the younger members.  Provisions were very high, flour being eight dollars per hundred weight, and other commodities sold in proportion, while the products which were for sale commanded very low prices.  Mr. Noel raised sheep and traded the wool for flannel, from which to make clothing, and for a pair of boots he had to give from fourteen to sixteen pounds of wool. By hard work and careful management the younger children were kept in school until they were provided with such education as was to be had at that early period.  Mr. Noel remained in charge of the home farm until he attained his majority and at that time some of his younger brothers were able to assume the management of the homestead.


Joseph R. Noel then felt justified in providing a home for himself and to this end he was married to Miss Rose Puffer, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Davis, but who was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. John Puffer, of Redfield, Iowa.  Following their marriage the young couple took up their abode in a little town which is now a suburb of Redfield and Mr. Noel engaged in farming on a small scale and also conducted a cabinet repair shop.  In 1869, believing he might enjoy better advantages in a new but rapidly developing country, he located on section 84, Lee township, Buena Vista county.  This was all wild and unimproved but he at once began to cultivate the soil and in due course of time the land was in a very productive state.  He likewise improved the property with a house and substantial outbuildings for the shelter of grain and stock, and as time passed and the sale of his crops added to his financial resources he invested in more land until his place embraced a half section in Lee township.  He made his home thereon for thirty-five years, or until 1905, when he retired to private life, taking up his abode in Sioux Rapids, where he purchased a comfortable home.


The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Noel was blessed with the following named children:  Archie E., who wedded Miss Jennie Freeman and resides on a farm in South Dakota; Cora J., the wife of Martin Van Buren Leeper, residing near Redfield, Iowa; George P., who resides in Oakland, California; Hattie E., the wife of C. T. Likins, a resident of Fort Dodge, Iowa; William, who died when nine years of age; Mary B. S., the wife of Elmer Stewart, who lives at Vallejo, California; Leota D., who makes her home in Monterey, California; and Frank D., of Oakland, that state.  The mother who was born on February 4th, 1845, departed this life April 18, 1887. at the comparatively early age of forty-three years.


Mr. Noel has been a life-long republican, while his religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Methodist Episcopal church.  In early life, deprived of many of the advantages and privileges which most youths enjoy, and with heavy responsibilities resting upon his young shoulders, Mr. Noel worked his way, and in later life, foreseeing the advantages to be enjoyed in the pioneer district of Buena Vista county, he journeyed thither and as the years passed by, through his careful management and close application he accumulated the competency that now enables him to spend the evening of his days in honorable retirement.  His strongest characteristic has been his resolute, determined spirit, for many a youth would have grown discouraged at what seemed almost insurmountable difficulties but not so with Mr. Noel.  He worked on uncomplainingly and he is now able to look back over a life well spent, feeling that he has done his full duty to his younger brothers and sisters and to the members of his own household and enjoy in comfort and ease his remaining years.