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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 1227~


James Alexander Iliff


No name in the county of Fayette is better known than that of the subject of this review. The family to which he belongs has been connected with this part of Iowa ever since the country was opened for settlement and for over a half century its representatives have been actively identified with the development and prosperity of the respective localities honored by their residence. The first of the family of this name to migrate to Iowa was Valentine Iliff, who moved his family from Ohio in 1848 and settled near the present site of Eldorado, where his death occurred four years later. Benjamin Iliff, son of Valentine, accompanied his father west, although married at the time, his wife, also a native of Ohio, having formerly been Alvina Morrison.

Benjamin and Alvina Iliff had three children, the oldest of whom, Jasper N. Iliff, is the present county surveyor of Hamilton county, Iowa, and official engineer of Webster City. James Alexander, of this review is the second of the family, the youngest being Mrs. Susan Paulson, of Los Angeles, California. Mrs. Iliff dying in November, 1852, Mr. Iliff married a second time the following year, the latter union resulting in the birth of ten children, only three of whom are living, namely, Ira, George and Iva; the father departed this life in 1869. James Alexander Iliff, whose birth occurred on April 13, 1850, claims to be the first white child born within the present limits of Fayette county, although others are inclined to doubt the claim, but sufficient proofs have never been adduced to invalidate the honor to which the subject is undeniably entitled. Be this as it may, he is without doubt one of the oldest, if not the oldest, native resident of the county, and has seen the country developed from a wilderness into one of the finest and most prosperous sections of a state which in all that constitutes an advanced civilization is not exceeded by any other commonwealth in the union. Mr. Iliff was reared on the family homestead, which he helped clear and reduce to cultivation and as opportunities afforded attended the district schools until acquiring a knowledge of such branches as were then taught. On attaining his majority, he severed home ties and took a homestead at Spirit Lake, but the meanwhile (1868) went to Kansas, where he remained about one year attending Lane University.Mr. Iliff's experience on his claim at Spirit Lake was by no means encouraging, the destruction of two successive crops by grasshoppers rendering the land practically worthless and inducing him to dispose of it in 1876 for what he could get. Returning to West Union that year, he has made this city his home ever since, but in the meantime he has given his attention to various lines of enterprise and met with success in his business affairs. For about sixteen years he operated a well-drilling outfit, in connection with which he also sold pumps and wind-mills and did a very extensive business in Fayette and adjoining counties. During the last fifteen years be has been engaged in farming and working insurance, building up a large and lucrative patronage in the latter and achieving a wide reputation as an enterprising and honorable business man. Each spring season for a number of years he has given his attention to the manufacture of maple sugar, which he makes and sells in large quantities and in the fall does a very successful business in the manufacture of sorghum molasses.

Mr. Iliff has a fine home in the southern part of West Union and is well situated to enjoy the many material comforts and blessings which he has provided for himself and family. He was married on the 28th of October, 1873, to Sarah Ellen Clark, daughter of Lookings and Mary (Kinney) Clark, who in an early day settled in Dover township, Fayette county, where they spent the remainder of their days, both dying a number of years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Iliff have eight living children and three dead; of the former, Royal C., who is the oldest, is in the rural mail service with headquarters at West Union. He is married and the father of two children, Eugene Royal and Frances Ellen, the latter deceased; the wife and mother, previous to her marriage, was Glenn M. Wolfe, of Fayette county. Benjamin Clark, the second in order of birth, is deputy state dairy commissioner and lives at Des Moines; he married Lila Strauss, of this county, the union being without issue. Ray R., the third of the family, married Mrs. Clara (Fitch) Howe, daughter of G. W. and R. A. Fitch, a union blessed with one child, George James. There is also a son by the wife's previous union with Mr. Howe, Fitch Lyle Howe, now a student in the West Union high school; Jennette, the next in succession, is the wife of James C. Hayes, of Dubuque, and the mother of two offspring. Roscoe Allison, the fifth of the subject's children, is employed in the city of Des- Moines; Earl A. is studying civil engineering with his uncle, J. N. Iliff; Myrtle Marie and Harry J., the youngest members of the family circle, are still under the parental roof and students of the city schools. The children deceased were Hazel, aged three years, Lyle, ten months, and one that died in infancy unnamed.

In his political faith Mr. Iliff is a Prohibitionist and an influential worker in the cause of temperance. He considers the saloon the plague spot upon the national escutcheon and believes the only true way to get rid of it is by prohibiting the manufacture and sale of all kinds of intoxicants. The family are members of the Wesleyan Methodist church and among the active workers of the local society to which they belong.

~transcribed for the Fayette County IAGenWeb Project by Cheryl Walker



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