Transcribed by Pamela Wagler from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


John Arnold, a retired farmer and stock-dealer of Burlington, was born in Lebanon, Pa., Oct. 13, 1822, and his has been a long, busy, useful, and honorable career. He first opened his eyes to the light of day in the house in which his father, John Arnold, and his grandfather, who also bore the name of John Arnold, were born. They were of Pennsylvania Dutch lineage. The father was a farmer by occupation, following that pursuit throughout his entire business career, and he died in Pennsylvania at the age of eighty-eight years, while his wife, who bore the maiden name of Catherine Ritter, passed away at the age of fourscore years. In his family were six children, of whom John Arnold was the second. He has three brothers and two sisters yet living in Pennsylvania.

In his youth John Arnold, of this review, learned to speak the Pennsylvania Dutch language, which is still used by the members of his family. He began his education in his native State, and entered upon a successful business career in Pennsylvania; but hoping to make money more rapidly in the West he came to Iowa when twenty-two years of age, and has for forty years been a resident of Burlington. Before leaving Pennsylvania he was engaged in the furniture trade, and in 1852 he went to California, where he remained for about a year, working as carpenter for a mining company on the construction of waterways, long-toms and rockers. He, too, did a little prospecting, and eventually returned to the East. He made the trip to California by way of the water route from New York, crossing the isthmus at Nicaragua, and he returned by way of the Panama route to New York, and thence to Lebanon, Pa. Ere starting for the Pacific Coast he had leased his furniture store and stock for three years, and as he could not obtain his store until that time was passed, he eventually sold the stock and started West. He made his way first to Decatur, Ill., where he purchased an interest in a furniture business; and about 1850 he came to Burlington, where he turned his attention to the live-stock business, purchasing stock and making shipments to Chicago. He bought stock along the Missouri River for two years, drove to Ottumwa, and thence shipped by rail to Chicago. During this period his family remained in Burlington. He engaged in the stock business for about four or five years, and while thus engaged he invested in land in Henderson county, Ill. Following the Civil War he removed to his farm, and carried on general agricultural pursuits for about six or seven years, also raising and shipping stock to some extent. He owned about three hundred acres of land there. While on the farm he was gored by a bull at three different times. On the third occasion it seemed that he would be killed; but the bull threw him about fifteen feet, and he rolled under a wagon load of hay, from which position he was rescued by his family. On one occasion he paid three hundred dollars for a calf and two hundred and fifty dollars for a bull of the Hereford breed.

Mr. Arnold has had altogether a prosperous career, and yet there have been reverses and difficulties in his business life. He lost quite heavily during the financial panic which followed the Civil War. However, strenuous effort and careful management enabled him to overcome his difficulties and to continue in a prosperous business career. In 1866 Mr. Arnold crossed the plains in a prairie schooner to Denver, taking with him a load of flour, meat, and provisions from Burlington. Again he secured a stock of provisions at Platsmouth, Nebr., and went on to Denver, where he remained for about a year, selling his goods in that place. He had four wagons to which he drove oxen, and he sold his provisions to miners. He knew what was needed in the mining country, and made some money on the venture. He also sold his on-teams and wagons, and returned in a light wagon with two horses that he had driven. He saw many Indians in Colorado, but they occasioned him no trouble, and there were large herds of buffalo on the plains in the West.

Following his return to Burlington he purchased a lot and built a house at 300 South Fourth Street in 1884, and he has property on South Hill, which he rents. His home was erected at a cost of about four thousand dollars, and is a brick structure two stories in height with basement. For two years after leaving the farm he continued in the stock business, but for eight or ten years has lived retired. He sold his farm to his son, John H. Arnold who still operates it, and Mr. Arnold invested his money in Burlington property, being now quite an extensive realty holder in the city.

John Arnold was married in Lebanon, Pa., ere his removal to the West, to Miss Rebecca Arnold, a third cousin. She is still living, but for about a year has been an invalid, her ill health having been occasioned by falling down the cellar steps. Mr. and Mrs. Arnold became the parents of four children: John H., of Burlington, who married Cora Gidding, and has two children: John and Mary; Charlie, a practicing physician of Pittsburg, Pa., who married Maggie McGraw; Mrs. Mary Kennedy, who with her son, Nicholas, resides with her parents; Emma who is living in Chicago.

Mr. and Mrs. Arnold are members of St. Paul’s Catholic church, and in his political views he is a Democrat. He has now passed the eighty-second milestone on life’s journey, and is remarkably well preserved for a man of his years. His life’s history, if written in detail, would present many interesting incidents, especially in the pioneer experiences which he had in the far West when he made his trips to California and to Denver. He has been, indeed, a soldier of fortune, and he kept a diary of his journeyings, but unfortunately this was destroyed by fire. From memory, however, he gives many interesting incidents of the happenings of the early days. As the years have gone by he has, through the careful husbanding of his resources and his business capacity, acquired a comfortable competence that now enables him to live in honorable retirement from further labor.

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