IAGenWeb logo

Delaware County, Iowa

 Biography Directory


John B. Frentress


Honey Creek Township




      JOHN B FRENTRESS.  Delaware county has many enterprising and successful farmers of whom she is justly proud, but there are none of all her excellent citizenship, whose efforts, in an unpretentious way, have added more to the substantial wealth of the county, or who are more highly esteemed, as a citizen, than the gentleman whose name heads this biographical notice.    John B. Frentress is a native of Jo Daviess county, Ill. He comes of pioneer stock and blends the blood of the Puritan with that of the cavalier in his veins. His father, Eleazer Frentress, was a native of North Carolina, and a descendant of one of the early settled families of the old Palmetto State. He was a pioneer, filled with the spirit of adventure, of a sturdy, independent character, industrious and successful, far beyond the average man. Father Eleazer Frentress was a Quaker and old line Whig in politics. He married in December, 1823, and started West shortly afterwards in search of his fortunes, settling in Jo Daviess county, Ill., in 1824.  He worked for some years in the lead mines about Galena, served in the Black Hawk war, of 1832-3, began farming soon after that date and followed mining and farming in the vicinity of Galena till his death, which occurred in December, 1853, he being then in his fifty-third year, having been born April 18, 1800. At the time of his death he owned an estate of one thousand one hundred acres of land in Jo Daviess county, Ill., nine hundred acres in Iowa and one hundred and sixty acres in Wisconsin, besides a large amount of personal property, all of which represented the labor of his own hands and brains, he having been quite as fortunate in his investments as he was energetic in  disposition.  He always lived in Jo Daviess county, after settling there, and he gave to that county the labor of the best years of his life.  He built the first house that was ever built between Galena and Dunlieth, which is now East Dubuque, and drove the first team that ever passed between the two places, and ran the first ferry boat from Dunlieth, now East Dubuque, to the mouth of Catfish creek.

     The mother of the subject of this notice bore the maiden name of Diadama Bowles, being   a daughter of John and Lucy (Dunham) Bowles and a native of Vermont. Her parents immigrated   to Monroe county, Ill., and still later to Jo Daviess county, that state, where they became first settlers and identified  with the early growth and development of that county.  The father was a prominent man of his locality, possessing that strong, progressive disposition and bold and independent way that marked him everywhere as a natural leader.  He served in the Black Hawk war of 1832-3, as chief of transportation.  He crossed the plains in 1846, with an ox team and made his way to the Pacific coast, being one of the first who ever accomplished that difficult undertaking. He was in California when gold was discovered there and there died in 1849, when the gold fever was at its height. Mr. Frentress' mother continued to reside on the old home place after the death of her husband, keeping together the large estate which he left. She was born October 22, 1807, and died December 13, 1887. There were thirteen children born to Eleazer and Diadama Frentress, of whom the subject hereof is the second living, the others being: Thomas W., born 1824; Ensley H., the first white male child who was born in Jo Daviess county, Ill., born 1833, died 1876. Frederick N., born 1835; William M., born 1837; Henry N., born 1842; Mary, born 1844, married T. J. Prouse; Lucy, Caroline and Charles, each of whom died at about the age of two, and Eleazer and two others who died in infancy.

      The subject of this notice was born February 18, 1829. He was reared on his father's farm and was trained to the habits of industry and usefulness common to farm life.  He resided on the old homestead in Jo Daviess county, Ill., till he was of age. He then started, in 1850, for the Pacific coast, crossing the plains by team and meeting with all the adventure and hardships which   an overland trip by team meant in those days.  He remained in California for four years engaged in mining and ranching. In 1854 he returned to his native place where the following year he married and settled down to farming. He farmed on the old home place till 1860, when his mind turned again to the West and he came that year to Iowa, settling in Delaware county, where he has since lived. He settled on a tract of land which his father had taken up years before while in this county with the government surveyors who laid out the public lands of the county.   The place consisted of one hundred and twenty acres which, when he settled on it, was in an unimproved condition. He has added to this by purchase and now owns in one body two hundred and eighty acres. He also owns a fine farm in Jo Daviess county, Ill., consisting of one hundred and thirty acres. His Delaware county farm is one of the handsomest places in this part of the state. It lies in Honey Creek township about six miles north of the county seat, Manchester; a large part of it is under plow, has a good orchard, a large artificial grove of evergreen interspersed with natural trees, a handsome two story brick residence and substantial, commodious and well-kept barns and out-buildings. The land lies well and the buildings occupy a pleasant site, everything on the place bearing a neat and thrifty appearance makes it a sight worth seeing. Mr. Frentress has a splendid silver service which was presented to him by the Delaware county Agricultural Society for the finest farm in the county, a valuable souvenir and one well bestowed. His place is know as Evergreen farm, and strangers passing in that vicinity never miss an opportunity to see it. Mr. Frentress has given his whole time to agricultural pursuits since coming to the county, and to stock-raising, being one of the most successful farmers and stock-growers in the county. He has a large number of graded stock on his place, and he is giving more attention each year to the raising of his grades and improvement of their strains.

     Mr. Frentress has a most pleasant home, and an interesting family. He was married September 2, 1855, taking to share his fortunes Miss Laura Mead, then of Lafayette county, Wis., but a native of St. Clair county, Mo., having been born May 14, 1834. She is a daughter of Philander and Amy Mead, who were born, reared and married in Chautauqua county, N. Y. The father died in his native state about the year 1836, and the mother subsequently moved to Wisconsin with her children, where she died in 1878. Mr. and Mrs. Frentress have had born to them a family of seven children, five of whom are now living, the full list being: Eleazer P. and Oscar F., now of Portland, Ore.; Jennie, widow of Victor Esty, of Mitchell, Dak.; Josephine, wife of William Raus, of Honey Creek township, Delaware county, and John E., still residing with his father. The two deceased ones are Lenora, who died in Jo Daviess county, Ill., in 1858, and Charles T., who died in this county, in 1870, both infants.

      Mr. Frentress has never aspired to any public positions, but has filled the usual number of township offices and has discharged his duties in these offices with credit to himself and satisfaction to his neighbors. He is a republican in politics and a man well informed on the general political issues of the day and possesses also a large fund of information on other topics of general interest. He is a pleasant, genial gentleman, and possesses that greatest of all domestic virtues, genuine, unstinted hospitality.


~ source: Biographical souvenir of the counties of Delaware and Buchanan, Iowa; Chicago : F. A. Battey, 1890. Page 476-490; LDS microfilm #985424

~ contributed by Thom Carlson