Buena Vista County, IA
IAGenWeb 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. 235-37.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Richard Olney

A well improved and highly cultivated tract of one hundred and sixty acres, situated a mile and a half north of Marathon, in Poland township, is the home of Richard Olney, who is numbered among the substantial citizens of Buena Vista county.  The family was founded in the new world by Thomas Olney, who was born in Hertfordshire, England, and who arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, April 2, 1635, on the ship Planter.  He was appointed a surveyor in January, 1636, and was granted forty acres of land at Jeffrey Creek, now known as Manchester, near Salem.  He soon became associated with the followers of Roger Williams, who advocated peculiar views on political and religious matters, and for that reason was excluded from the colony March 12, 1638.  Prior to this time, however, in company with Roger Williams, Mr. Olney had visited Narragansett Bay in quest of a place of abode, where they might live outside the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts colony, and accordingly formed a new settlement at the head of the bay, which they named Providence, in grateful remembrance of their deliverance from their enemies.  They, with others, thus became the original thirteen proprietors of Providence, having purchased their rights from the Indians.  Thomas Olney became a prominent factor in the life of the colony and was one of the founders of the First Baptist church in Providence.

Richard Olney, a direct descendant of Thomas Olney, was born in Warren county, Pennsylvania, November 1, 1844, a son of Stephen and Alice (Goodrich) Olney, both of whom were natives of the Empire state.  The family came to Buena Vista county in 1869 and settled on the northwest quarter of section 10, Poland township.  Richard is the eldest of three children, the others being:  Dr. Stephen Obey, who is mentioned elsewhere in this work; and Julia G., deceased.  The mother died at the age of sixty-five years, while the father still survives at the extreme old age of ninety years, making his home with his son, Richard.

Richard Olney was a youth of fifteen years when he began learning the printer's trade at Warren; Pennsylvania.  He was engaged in this business for ten years, or until 1867, when he entered the service of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company as station agent at Struthers, Ohio.  He was later appointed postmaster and also had charge of a store at this place.  In 1877, making his way to Iowa, he invested his funds in farm land, which he bought from eastern speculators, paying for the same from a dollar and a quarter to twenty dollars per acre.  This tract comprised one hundred and sixty acres, which he improved and placed under a high state of cultivation.  After a residence of five years on the farm he removed to Marathon and entered the service of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company as telegraph operator.  He was also appointed postmaster at this place and likewise conducted a real-estate business.  In 1885 he established the first hank at this place, called the Mara­thon Bank, but now known as the First National Bank.  In 1888 be removed to the Indian Territory and was employed at Goodland by the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway Company.  In 1889, however, he returned to Marathon and after a year organized a cooperative store conducted by a stock company consisting of about three hundred families.  This concern conducted business under the name of The Farmers Supply Company and for twelve years Mr. Olney acted as its efficient manager.  Through his executive ability and careful management, the concern enjoyed unbounded success, an investment of less than nine hundred dollars bringing to the stockholders a net profit of over sixteen thousand dollars.  At the end of twelve years Mr. Olney resigned his position therewith and once more resumed farming, being thus engaged for three years, when he was elected secretary and manager of the Farmers Grain Company of Marathon.  After one and a half years he once more returned to his farm, where he has since made his home.  This tract comprises one hundred and sixty acres, situated on section 10, Poland township, and is one of the fine farms of this section of Buena Vista county.

Mr. Olney possesses considerable literary ability and in 1872 was editor and publisher of the Youngstown Weekly Courier at Youngstown, Ohio.  Whatever he undertakes is carried forward to successful completion as is indicated by the important enterprises with which he has been connected and which have met with such deserving success.

Mr. Olney was married August 1, 1868, to Miss Mary E. Henry, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Henry, natives of Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively.  Of the family of nine children born unto Mr. and Mrs. Olney, six of the number still survive, namely: William H., who resides at Poland, Ohio; Mary E., the wife of William Donaldson, a resident of Clay county, Iowa; Richard H., who is engaged in merchandising in Marathon; Leslie J., at home; Norris G., who is with his brother Richard in the store; and Florine F., at home.

Independent in his political views and affiliations, Mr. Olney is a public-spirited citizen and ever works toward high ideals, being a man of practice rather than of theory.  For several years he has served as county surveyor and in many other ways has contributed toward the general advancement and improvement of Buena Vista county.  A gentleman of culture, a fine scholar and still a student from habit; a man towering high above his fellows, all rec­ognizing his superior ability and worth of character and ever ready to pay deference to his excellent qualities, he is yet modest and retiring.  Vanity is not one of his characteristics.