John Dobson is a worthy representative of an honored pioneer family, whose name is inseparably connected with the settlement, growth and development of Deloit.
He was born in Tazewell county, Illinois, December 21, 1834, and traces his ancestry back to Roger Dobson, who was born in England in 1683 and died in 1767. He was married in 1756 to Elizabeth Rutherford, who was born August 27, 1725, and their eldest son, Thomas Dobson, was born in the parish of Elsdon. Northumberlandshire, England, August 27, 1757. He came to America in 1784 and was married in 1798 to Catherine Riggius, who was born in Morris River township, Cumberland county, New Jersey, May 18, 1781. His death occurred on the 30th of October, 1828.
The latter's only son was Benjamin Dobson, the father of our subject. He was born in New Jersey, November 5, 1799, and was married on the 1st of January, 1818, to Keziah Wolf, who was also a native of that state, her birth occurring December 29, 1802. To them were born the following children, Thomas, Katherine, Nancy, Elizabeth, Michael, Margaret, Benjamin, Jr., John, Joseph, William and Elihu. As far as known, our subject is now the only surviving member of this family.
His brother Thomas Dobson was born in Hanover township, Butler county, Ohio, February 8, 1819, and was married October 29, 1843, to Sarah Taylor, whose birth occurred in Warren county, Kentucky, August 24, 1823. In 1846 he came to Iowa and settled at Kanesville, now Council Bluffs, but subsequently became a resident of Crawford county and served as the first county superintendent of schools. He took a prominent part in public affairs and held other important offices at Denison, serving as recorder of deeds and as a member of the board of supervisors. He died at Deloit, July 28, 1878, and is survived by one daughter, Mrs. Ellen Horr, who resides in this county and at one time was postmistress of Deloit.
In 1804 Benjamin Dobson, the father of our subject, accompanied his parents on their removal to Ohio, where he grew to manhood and was married. In 1818, the year that Illinois was admitted to the Union, he removed to that state, becoming one of the pioneer settlers of Tazewell county, where he entered three hundred and twenty acres of timber and prairie land, which he broke and improved, erecting thereon a log cabin, in which the subject of this sketch was born. During the long journey of the family from Ohio to their new home in Illinois they endured many hardships incident to such a trip in those early days. Deer and other wild game were then very plentiful and furnished them with much of their meat. After fourteen years' residence in the Prairie state the father removed to Racine county, Wisconsin, where he made his home for four years, and in 1850 settled in Harrison county, Iowa.
In the spring of 1852, however, he came to Crawford county and located in Milford township. a part of his farm being now the town site of Deloit, to which he gave its name. His was the second family to locate in the village. He built the first sawmill on Boyer river, which was subsequently converted into a flour and grist mill, and he carried on business there for eighteen years, from 1852 until 1870. His death occurred November 17, 1876, and his wife passed away February 17, 1863.
The early mental training of John Dobson was obtained under difficulties. as in those days educational facilities were exceedingly limited. However, he managed to attend a subscription school in Illinois, the first term being in 1839, and he continued his studies until old enough to commence work in the fields on his father's farm. He assisted in breaking the land with an ox team on the site now occupied by the town of Deloit ami among his earliest recollections are many trips to Council Bluffs, hauling lumber and other merchandise with ox teams, as that city and Des Moines were their nearest trading points. He continued to follow farming as a vocation until 1900. when he embarked in the hotel business in Deloit, and has since met with merited success in that venture.
Mr. Dobson was married, February 18, 1855. to Miss Lucy Jane Winans, of Deloit, who was born near Warren, in Trumbull county, Ohio, May 22, 1836. Her father, who was a farmer by occupation, removed with his family to Illinois in 1841 and came to Iowa in 1854.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. Dobson were born the following children: Merinda, who became the wife of Jesse Mason and had three daughters and one son; Julia Ann and Mary Jane, twins, the latter of whom died February 27, 1890; Clinton M., who was born January 9, 1859, and now resides in the state of Washington; Franklin C., born May 4, 1862; Julian Elihu and Junius Elias, twins, who were born April 9, 1864, and now live in Idaho; Cora, the wife of Graham Wanless; Edith C.; and two deceased. They also have twenty-three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Mr. Dobson has always upheld the tenets of the republican party, although he has never taken a very active part in local politics, and for many years served as school director in his township. Religiously he is a faithful follower of the Latter Day Saints and both he and his wife are members of the Crawford County Old Settlers Association. It is such men as Mr. Dobson who form the bulwark of American civiliiation, whose early labors, many privations and hardships only served to spur them on to the goal which they sought, and, undaunted by all difficulties, they continued to go forward with the indomitable spirit that has characterized the hardy pioneer. He can look back over an honorable and useful life and well deserves the respect and esteem accorded him.
Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.