Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb


John B. Romans

John B. Romans, who was called to his final rest on the 7th of December, 1910, was one of the pioneer settlers of Denison and for many years was widely recognized as a prominent resident of the city.

His birth occurred in Harrison county, Ohio, on the 6th of September, 1842, and he lived to reach the sixty-eighth milestone on life's journey. His parents, Elisha and Elizabeth Romans, both came from old Quaker families. In 1856 he accompanied them on their removal to Clinton county, Iowa, where his father engaged in farming with flattering prospects of success. Within a year or two, however, on account of the panic of 1857 and on account of obligations created by him which he expected to meet by payments to be made to him for property which he had sold on time, and the failure of the purchasers to make such payments, his remaining property was sacrificed and he lost practically everything he had. He then rented a farm and started anew but soon afterward, in March, 1858, his death occurred, leaving our subject, then sixteen years of age, the eldest child in the family.

The other children were as follows: Catherine, who married George F. Goudie, now living at Miller, South Dakota; Ann, who gave her hand in marriage to E. F. Councilman, now living at Seney, Iowa; Hannah. who became the wife of Charles B. Eaton, of Manchester, Iowa; Lewis, who now lives in Denison; Robert A., who recently removed from Denison to Aberdeen, South Dakota, to engage in the banking business; and Eva, who is deceased.

The entire charge of the family after the father's demise devolved upon John B. Romans and he did not for a moment shirk the responsibility of taking his father's place in providing for his widowed mother and his younger brothers and sisters. In a short time, by his industry and economy, he had saved enough capital with which to purchase an eighty-acre farm, on which the family lived for several years. His mother afterward came to Crawford county, passing away at Charter Oak on the 27th of February, 1889.

As John B. Romans grew to manhood he became imbued with ambition for an education and for a portion of four years he attended the State University at Iowa City, where he applied himself diligently to his studies, being obliged to work his way through college.

Soon after leaving Iowa City he came to Crawford county, where at the age of twenty-six he was joined in wedlock to Miss Mary Laub, a daughter of the Hon. H. C. Laub, then the leading merchant and business man of the county. The young couple spent the first year of their married life on the farm with Mrs. Romans and then returned to Denison, where for three years our subject was employed in the mercantile establishment of Mr. Laub. At the end of that time he formed a partnership with hIS employer, the business being conducted under the firm style of Laub & Romans. This relation was maintained until 1884, when Mr. Laub was succeeded by Robert A. Romans, who remained a member of the firm until 1890, after which J. B. Romans continued the business alone. Several years later the business was incorporated under the' name of J. B. Romans Company, B. J. Sibbert and others taking stock in the concern, and has been conducted as such continuously since, although Mr. Romans closed out his interest in the company four or five years prior to his demise. During his active career he was one of the most prominent factors in the business affairs of Denison.

The following is an excerpt from an obituary appearing in one of the local papers at the time of his death. "The extensive business which he conducted brought him in contact with almost every person in the county and it is safe to say that he enjoyed as wide and favorable an acquaintance as any other business man living here during all this time. Mr. Romans was a man whose counsel and advice were sought at all times by those who were interested in the development of Denison and the county. No meeting was ever called to consider improvements of a public nature that Mr. Romans was not present and his advice eagerly sought. He always stood ready to contribute his share, in a financial way, in support of any improvement of a public character.

"He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church and his labors and influence were a tower of strength in building up and maintaining the church. He was for many years, and until his death, one of the trustees and a member of the board of stewards of the church and frequently attended the Des Moines annual conference as a delegate from the church here. He was also prominent in the work of raising the money for building the normal college here and one of the best friends of the school after it was established. From the beginning he was a member of the board of directors of the institution. For several years he was a member of the board of trustees of the public schools of Denison and always diligent in the discharge of his official duties.

"Politically, until 1896, he was a supporter of the republican party and prominent in its councils, locally and in the state at large. He was not satisfied to simply be a republican but was an enthusiastic worker in aiding in carrying the party forward to victory. Each year he joined other speakers in making a canvass of the county, his voice having been heard in the schoolhouses and other places of meeting here. He was chairman of the republican county central committee up to and including the year 1895. In 1896 he was won over, as were many other republicans, to Mr. Bryan and free silver and became what was then known as a 'free silver republican.' He was nominated by the democrats and free silver republicans in that year for congress in this district and made the race against Hon. J. P. Dolliver but failed in the election.

After the election of President McKinley as president that year, Mr. Romans gradually drifted into the democratic party and for several years he was easily the leader of the party in this county, being not only prominent in county politics but a potent factor in the management of the party in the state. Of late years Mr. Romans has been practically out of business and out of politics."

Mr. Romans' first wife passed away on the 9th of July, 1900, her death being the result of the explosion of a gasoline stove. She was a woman of superior ambition and energy and a leader in all movements looking toward the uplift of her sex. By her marriage she became the mother of four children, namely: Harry, who is deceased; Lydia Maude; Ione, now Mrs. Lane H. Goodman, of Sioux City, Iowa; and Junia, now Mrs. M. J. McAhren, of Denison.

On the 29th of December, 1901, Mr. Romans was united in marriage to Mrs. Christine Snyder, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and a daughter of C. C. and Anna (Whittaker) Mason, both of whom were born in Leeds, England. The father, who was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal church, emigrated to America at an early day, settling first in the New England states. In 1860 he removed to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his demise occurred at Racine, that state, in 1864. Five years later his wife was called to her final rest. They were the parents of six children, of whom Mrs. Romans is now the only survivor. At the early age of fifteen years she had lost both of her parents and, being thus thrown upon her own resources, began teaching school. In 1870, in Janesville, Wisconsin, she gave her hand in marriage to Benjamin Snyder, who was a native of Dutchess county, New York. Their union was blessed with two sons: Albert, who is now engaged in business at Creston, Iowa; and Harry, who is also a resident of Creston. Mr. Snyder died in September, 1889, and was buried at Creston, Iowa.

Mrs. Romans now owns a third interest in the estate of John B. Romans, which is valued at over one hundred thousand dollars. She has a beautiful residence in the city of Denison. In Eastern Star Lodge, No. 207, she has filled all of the chairs from matron down and she also belongs to several clubs at Denison. She is possessed of unusual ability and tact and has filled numerous positions of responsibility to the credit of herself and friends. She held the position of state president of the Women's Relief Corps and was urged to make the race for national president but declined. Her many excellent traits of heart and mind have endeared her to all with whom she has come in contact and therefore she has a host of warm friends.

Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.