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Delaware County, Iowa

 Biography Directory

Aaron B. Holbert

Horse Breeder

Elk Township


       A. B. Holbert, of Elk township, is perhaps the most extensive importer, breeder and seller of registered horses in the United States and has a reputation which is international in its scope. The signal success which he has attained in this line is all the more remarkable when we consider that he started out in life for himself not only without any capital, but sixteen and a half dollars in debt. He was born in Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, September 29, 1853, a son of Joseph and Margaret (Foster) Holbert. The father was a mechanical engineer by profession and helped build the first lines into the coal region of Pennsylvania. In 1854 he removed to Colesburg, Iowa, and purchased timber land and also one hundred and sixty acres of government prairie land near Petersburg, this county. In 1858 he moved upon this farm and turned his attention to agriculture until 1879, when he retired. He sold this farm for eighty five dollars per acre and received twenty-five dollars per acre for his timber land in the year 1879. In that year he removed to Hopkinton as he desired to give his children better educational advantages than could be secured upon the farm.

     He passed away in 1890, but his widow survives and makes her home with a daughter in California at the advanced age of eighty eight years. To their union were born six children: Warren F., deceased; Adeline, the

wife of Wesley Carpenter, of Fayette county; A. B., of this review; Thomas R., deceased; Mary C., the wife of Charles C. Sawyer, of Pomona, California; and Margaret L., the wife of Dr. H. A. Dittmer, of Manchester, this state.
      A. B. Holbert received his educational training in a log schoolhouse and later attended school at Hopkinton and Epworth. In the winter of 1875-76 he was a student at Lenox College at Hopkinton and at the close of the June term found that he owed Mrs. Amos Smith sixteen dollars for board. Upon writing his father of his difficulty he received just sixteen dollars, which left him no money for car fare home. As he lived twenty-five miles from Hopkinton and as he had a trunk which he must take with him walking was altogether out of the question and as he knew that his father could not afford to send him any more money he decided to find some way of earning the needed amount. A fellow student was agent for an Iowa state map which cost fifty cents wholesale and retailed for one dollar and a quarter each. The other student had failed to make a success of the agency and was very much pleased when Mr. Holbert desired to become the firm's representative. However, he did not even have the fifty cents necessary to purchase from the former agent a prospectus and so the arrangement was made that in case he succeeded he should then pay him the fifty cents and if he did not he should return the prospectus. He also arranged with Mrs. Smith to keep the sixteen dollars which was due as board in order to pay the company for the maps which he sold. He then started upon his first independent business venture with a debt of sixteen and one-half dollars. At the end of four or five days he had sold fifty maps and of course made sufficient profit to pay his obligations. The resourcefulness and energy which manifested themselves in this incident early in his life have characterized him in all of the intervening years and are largely responsible for his noteworthy success.
      After returning home Mr. Holbert engaged in general farming for some time but in 1878 began the business of horse breeding and selling upon a small scale. He found this undertaking both remunerative and congenial and gradually devoted more and more of his time and energy thereto until he now concentrates his activities upon that business. He imports animals from England, France, Belgium and Germany, handling all of the important breeds and shipping all over the United States and Canada and even into Mexico. During the last two years he has imported twice as many horses as any other one firm in the business in the United States. Since 1884 he has crossed the Atlantic many times, doing personally a great deal of the buying of the horses which he imports. He also is a breeder of note and has raised many registered animals. He also owns twenty thousand acres of land in the United States and Canada and is one of the most prosperous business men of Iowa and has done much to make known the advantages which this state offers to those dealing in high grade horses.

      On the 2d of February, 1881, Mr. Holbert was united in marriage with Miss Elma D. Baker, a daughter of Jerome and Sarah (Witter) Baker. Mrs. Holbert is a woman of much refinement and culture, the painter of many pictures of horse life and designer of the pedigree certificate of the German Coach Horse Association of America, a work notable for its dignity and beauty. Her affectionate companionship and intelligent counsel have been invaluable to her husband. By her marriage she has become the mother of six children, namely: Thomas R., a graduate of the Harvard law school; Fred B.; Benjamin, Jr.; Charmion; Warren Louis; and Marjorie Madeline. Mr. Holbert is a republican and in November, 1914, was elected to the thirty sixth general assembly by an overwhelming majority. He has in the fullest measure the confidence and respect of the community and all who know him are proud that one who has spent the greater part of his life in this county should have such noteworthy success and are especially gratified because his prosperity has been attained without recourse to questionable methods and solely by the exercise of sound judgment and by means of great enterprise and industry.


~ source: History of Delaware County, Iowa and its People, Illustrated, Volume II. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914, Chicago. Page 5-6.  Call Number 977.7385 H2m; LDS microfilm #934937.

~transcribed and contributed by Constance Diamond for Delaware County IAGenWeb


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