Transcribed by Teresa Kesterke 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.


To trace the genealogy of Mr. Hanna, and tell the story of his immediate and remote ancestors in their struggle with the hard conditions of life in the New World, would be in large measure to write the history of the American people. The story of the hardy and fearless pioneers, who in the early days followed the westward-moving frontier of civilization, is an inspiring one, and the record of their achievements reveals the causes of our national greatness and power. On the paternal side, the first American ancestor of our subject was the grandfather, who emigrated from Ireland at a very early date, in company with his two brothers, and settled in the Carolinas. Thence he afterward removed to Indiana, and the original homestead which he purchased in Union county, that State, is now owned by his grandson, the farm being operated at the present time by a great-grandson. His son, James Craig Hanna, father of Caswell Hanna, was born in the State of North Carolina, Oct. 19, 1793, removed to Union county, Indiana, at about eighteen years of age, and there remained until 1837, when he decided to try his fortune in the more remote West. In Indiana he did farming to some extent, but also conducted a grocery store, and was a stock-buyer, buying hogs and shipping to the Cincinnati market. On coming to Iowa, however, he purchased, in Augusta township, Des Moines county, the farm on which our subject now resides, and devoted his time exclusively to agriculture. He placed a portion of the land under cultivation, began the work of clearing away the forests, and erected a commodious log house, in which he established himself and family in circumstances of comparative comfort. There he resided until his death, which occurred at his home on Sept. 1, 1839, after a short illness of one week, which was the result of an injury accidentally received. He was a man of progressive tendencies, and in his political affiliations was a lifelong member of the Democracy.

While residing in Indiana, James Craig Hanna wedded Miss Eleanor Crawford, a member of one of the well-known old families of Virginia. She was born about fifteen miles from the city of Richmond, Va., on July 25, 1793, and resided at the place of birth until about fifteen years of age, at which time she removed with her parents to Indiana. It was in that State that she received her education, and there also she was married to Mr. Hanna. They were the parents of eight children, of whom our subject is the only one now living, as follows: Elizabeth A., born July 16, 1814; William C, born March 1, 1816; Phoebe, born Oct. 16, 1818; James L., born May 5, 1822; Mary Jane, born Nov. 13, 1824; Rebecca, born June 19, 1827; Sylvester, born Nov. 29, 1829; and Caswell, who is the youngest of the family. Eleanor Crawford Hanna was, during her early life, a member of the Presbyterian church, but there being no organization of that persuasion in Danville, she joined the Congregational society on her removal to Iowa. She died Nov. 11, 1856, and both she and her husband are buried in Blakeway cemetery, Augusta township. Mr. Hanna chose this place, and was the third man to be buried there.

Caswell Hanna, whose name lends title to the present review, was born Oct. 24, 1832, in Union county, Indiana, where he resided until his fifth year. He then removed with his parents to Iowa, arriving in Des Moines county in the month of November, 1837, and located on the farm which he still occupies. He received his first knowledge of books in the rural district school near his home, the school being conducted in a log schoolhouse which his father had furnished the money to build. He was ambitious of still farther advancement along the paths of educational progress, however, and afterward pursued courses of study both at Davenport and at Mount Pleasant, thus acquiring an excellent preparation for the duties of active life. On the completion of his education he returned home and took charge of the farm, where he has ever since continued, with the exception of a brief period spent in Nebraska. His mother acted as his housekeeper until her demise, which occurred when he was twenty-four years of age. He engaged very successfully in general farming, and also to some extent in stock-raising. In fact, such was his success that he was enabled to erect a large and substantial dwelling-house, a large barn, and other necessary buildings, and moreover added one hundred and twenty acres to the farm. He himself purchased the home farm from the heirs, and with what he has added to this his holdings now aggregate two hundred and sixty-two acres of rich and productive agricultural lands located in Augusta and Danville townships.

On May 30, 1860. Mr. Hanna was united in marriage to Miss Frances Ellen Ainsworth, a daughter of Elijah and Electa (Fox) Ainsworth. The father of Mrs. Hanna was born in Minden, N. Y., whence he removed to Watertown, in the same State. In the latter place he resided for a number of years, but came West in the fall of 1846, and located at West Point, Lee county. In 1848 he removed to a farm near Augusta, Des Moines county, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits until the time of his death, which occurred Aug. 30, 1864. His widow, who was born in Vermont, Dec. 11, 1812, survived him many years, and died March 6, 1891.

Mrs. Hanna is, like our subject, descended from old colonial ancestry, and her great-grandfather, Daniel Ainsworth, who was born at Woodstock, Conn., Oct. 21, 1724, served in the French and Indian War in 1758, under Col. John Murray, and later as a soldier of the Revolutionary War. He married, first, Sarah Bugbee, and for his second wife, Elizabeth Corbin, of Dudley, Mass. His death occurred in the year 1810, at Cherry Valley, N. Y. In the maternal line the great-grandfather of Mrs. Hanna was William Fox, who was born June 28, 1760, probably at Newburg, N. Y. When he was but two years of age his father died, and his mother returned with her two small boys to her native place, Woodstock, Conn. Although he was but little more than sixteen years old at the time of the revolt of the colonies from British rule, he enlisted in the Continental army, and bore a man's part as a soldier of the Revolutionary War. To Mr. and Mrs. Hanna have been born three children, as follows: Charles Henry, now engaged in the coal and ice business at Garden City, Kans., married Miss Minnie Roberts, of Missouri, and they have two children, Ross Elmo and Lola Helen; Emily, who is at home with her parents: and Willis Ross, who also resides at the parental home, and operates his father's large farm.

Mr. Hanna is eminently fitted by natural ability and educational advantages for leadership, and affairs of practical politics have always absorbed a large proportion of his thought and activity. He is well known as a prominent and influential worker for the success of the Democratic party in Des Moines county; and such is the popularity he enjoys, and such the trust reposed in him by his fellow-citizens, that he has held public office continuously for more than half a century, or since he was twenty-one years of age, and it may be said in explanation of this remarkable record, that he has at all times justified the confidence of the people. For a long term of years he held the office of justice of the peace, and during that time it was universally recognized by his constituents that his rulings were dictated by a sense of absolute justice between man and man without regard to wealth or station. Since 1872, or for a period of thirty-three years, he has been district and township treasurer of the school board of Augusta township schools, as well as being elected to a number of other offices of trust, and has done much for the cause of education, in which he is a firm believer, regarding it as the basis of free institutions. He is a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, in which for many years he held the office of trustee, and has ever been active in religious and humanitarian work. In politics he has always been on the side of protecting the purity of the ballot and safeguarding the popular liberties, and in religion his name is identified with liberal and charitable ideas and views. By reason of his long residence here, his well-known and varied abilities, his success in whatever he has attempted, his honorable share in advancing the moral, material, and spiritual welfare of his community, his steadfast devotion to the cause of right and justice, and his admirable Christian character, he has become known, by reputation, at least, throughout Des Moines county, and enjoys amicable intercourse with a large number of friends, and is esteemed and respected wherever known.

James Lewis Hanna was born near Dunlapsville, Union county, Ind., May 5, 1822, and died at his home in Des Moines county, Iowa, Sept. 27, 1895, aged seventy-three years, four months, and twenty-two days. He removed to Iowa with his father's family in September of 1837, and was united in marriage to Elizabeth Moore, Jan. 8, 1846. To this union were born five daughters and three sons, as follows: Mrs. Rebecca Phillips, who now resides at the old family home; Mrs. Frances Rhodes, of New London, Iowa; Mrs. Mary E. Alexander, now deceased; Mrs. Sadie Melcher, of Burlington; Dr. Harry Zaiser; J. M. Hanna, of Des Moines, Iowa; Mrs. Bettie Cleaver, of Keokuk, Iowa; and Dr. W. B. Hanna, of Chicago, Ill.

It was forty-five years prior to his demise that he located on the farm which was the scene of that sad event. Had he lived until Jan. 8, 1896, he would have celebrated his fiftieth wedding anniversary. He was converted to the faith of Christianity at the watch-night meeting at Long Creek Methodist Episcopal church, and united with that church on Jan. 1, 1859, under the pastorate of Rev. J. G. Thompson, ever after continuing one of the faithful members until his death. He was always ready to advance the true interests of the church by every means in his power, counted no self-sacrifice too great which contributed to that end. He was among the early pioneers of Danville township, and bore his part manfully and courageously in enduring the hardships incident to the settlement of a new country. He was a public-spirited man, with advanced ideas as to culture and education, earnestly seconding all early ambition in his children.

During the latter years of his life he was severely afflicted, and fully realized the uncertainty of life, always expressing his willingness to die when the time should come. Truly hath God taken home unto himself a good man. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. George Filmer, on Sept. 29, 1895, at Long Creek Methodist Episcopal church. A very large number of old acquaintances, relatives and friends attended the funeral of Mrs. Elizabeth Hanna at Long Creek church, at eleven o'clock, Thursday morning, Jan. 15, 1903. The services were conducted by Reverend Crull. Elizabeth Moore was born near Moundsville, W. Va., the eldest child of Francis and Anna Moore. She came to Iowa in 1839, and was married to James Lewis Hanna Jan. 8, 1846. On the farm on which she died she lived for fifty-two years, dying Jan. 12, 1903, aged eighty-four years, two months, and twenty-six days. She was the mother of five daughters and three sons, and there were twenty grandchildren, sixteen of whom are still living, and three great-grandchildren. One brother, W. R. Moore, and two sisters, Mrs. Sarah Jester and Mrs. Maggie Parriott, survive her.

She was converted and united with the Methodist Episcopal church when fourteen years of age, and was a loyal, consistent member for seventy years. Until incapacitated by the infirmities of age, she was ever faithful in the discharge of her formal religious duties, considering it no sacrifice to deny herself that she might assist in advancing the mission of the church. She was a devoted mother, and always enjoyed the society of young people. As a neighbor she was most kind and helpful. She longed to go to her heavenly home, having the full assurance of a blessed entrance.

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