That Crawford county offers excellent opportunities for ambitious and energetic young men has often been demonstrated but in no instance more clearly than in the career of Thomas Ahart, who is a highly respected citizen of the county and for eight years past a member of the county board of supervisors.
He was born near Lake Constance, Germany, December 10, 1863, a son of Joseph and Elizabeth (Wieland) Ahart. The father engaged in agricultural pursuits in his native land. He came to America with his family in the spring of 1866, arriving in Chicago without money nor did he possess any means of support except his brave heart and strong arms. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was at that time being built through Iowa and had been completed as far as Boone. Mr. Ahart engaged to work upon the construction of the road and received transportation for himself and family to Boone. He continued in railroad construction until the line was completed to Dunlap and for two years afterward worked as trackman. He then began farming on a tract of land near the present town of Arion and so continued until his retirement from active labor in 1906. He and his wife are still hale and hearty and are living in a comfortable home north of Dow City, near their son John.
Thomas Ahart received his education in the country schools, his studies being confined to the common branches, as his assistance was needed at home and the school period was limited to a few months each winter. In those days the country schoolhouses were small and men teachers were usually hired. Spelling bees were in vogue and the boys and girls apparently enjoyed themselves fully as much as they do today. The old schoolhouse in which Mr. Ahart pursued his studies in his boyhood still stands about two and one-half miles southwest of Dow City and is one of the interesting historic landmarks of the neighborhood.
At eighteen years of age he laid his books aside and, being the eldest child in the family, applied himself diligently to work upon the home farm. At the age of twenty-three he commenced farming, on his own account on the southeast quarter of section 25, Union township. This land was given him by his father but was incumbered with a mortgage of seven hundred dollars. The young farmer met with the usual ups and downs of life in the earlier days, but by patience and perseverance he paid off the incumbrance and purchased two hundred acres, making a total of three hundred and sixty acres in one tract which he now owns, the last land which he bought costing ninety dollars per acre.
He acquired eighty acres south of Dow City and later sold this land for thirty-four dollars per acre. He engages in general farming but has devoted a great deal of attention to stock raising and feeding. His place is well equipped and is provided with a beautiful residence, a large bam and other necessary outbuildings. He makes use of the best modern machinery and on account of his perseverance and good judgment has met with an abundant measure of success. Although he has engaged extensively in business for many years he has never been involved in a lawsuit.
Mr. Ahart ever since arriving at manhood has given his support to the democratic party and has been actively identified with political affairs, filling a number of offices of trust and responsibility. He was trustee of Union township for four years and served as school director for many years, having for the last four years been president of the school board of Union township. In the fall of 1902 he was elected a member of the county board of supervisors, taking office January 1, 1903. He has since been continuously on the board and was chairman during 1910, his present term of office extending to January, 1912.
During his incumbency the beautiful new courthouse was built at Denison and preparations are now being made to build a county home one mile east of Arion. The cost of the courthouse was one hundred and fifteen thousand dollars, and the estimated cost of the county home with outbuildings is twenty-five thousand dollars. A drainage ditch is also under construction to straighten the course of the Boyer river for eleven miles, beginning a mile east of Arion and emptying into a similar ditch at Dunlap. As a public-spirited citizen Mr. Ahart takes a lively interest in everything pertaining to the upbuilding of the county and is a stockholder in the Crawford Fair Association and the Denison Hospital.
On the 20th of December, 1886, Mr. Ahart was united in marriage at Denison to Miss Anna Honz, who was born in Baden, Germany, July 7, 1863, and came to America in the spring of 1886. Nine children have blessed this union, seven of whom are now living namely: George William, Mary Regina, Joseph Leo, Linford, Dorothy, John Theodore and Bernard Raymond. A daughter, Kate, died at the age of two years and seven months, and a son died in infancy. George William is now twenty-three years of age and continues at home. Mr. and Mrs. Ahart are giving their children every desirable advantage of education, one son Leo, now attending the high school in Dow City.
Mr. Ahart and his family are identified with the Roman Catholic church and are members of the parish at Buck Grove. He is not connected with any secret or fraternal order. He is a man of wide observation and has a mind well stored with many interesting reminiscences. He remembers as an incident of his early life that when he was two and one-half years of age his father wheeled him and all their worldly goods in a wheelbarrow from Boone to Jefferson, a distance of twenty-five miles. The trip was accomplished in one day, after the father had traveled the same distance on that day to secure the wheelbarrow. Mr. Ahart has lived to see a great transformation in Crawford county and has assisted very materially in the upbuilding of the county. He is recognized as a man of highest honor and unimpeachable integrity whose sound business judgment has been of inestimable value to Crawford county. It is doubtful whether any man in this section of the state stands higher in the confidence of the people than the gentleman whose name introduces this review.
Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.