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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 1361~




This well known and popular business man is an honored resident of West Union and for a number of years has been one of the leading citizens of Fayette county. He springs from and old and highly esteemed family of Shelby county, Indiana, where his birth occurred on the 4th day of February, 1844, and where his parents, James N. And Elizabeth (Porter) Lisher, settled while the foot of the red man still pressed the soil. The father, a native of Providence, Rhode Island, was a typical pioneer of the early times, took an active part in the development of the section of country in which he located and was long an influential man among his neighbors and fellow citizens. Leaving the Hoosier state a number of years ago, he emigrated to Illinois, thence to Allamakee county, Iowa, of which he was also a pioneer resident, and there finished his earthly sojourn, dying at the town of Waukon in 1871, aged seventy-five years. Mrs. Lisher, who was born July 8, 1817, in Tennessee, departed this life, June, 1907, at Carthage, South Dakota.


These parents moved from McHenry county, Illinois, in 1853 and located in Allamakee county, where Mr. Lisher purchased a tract of government land at one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, the same being in what is now Hanover township, which at that time was not organized. He cleared up a farm of one hundred twenty acres, but the loss of four hundred dollars on account of defective mail service embarrassed him considerably and caused much delay in the payment on his land. Mr. Lisher resided on the farm in Allamakee county, which he cleared and improved, until 1868, when he sold out and took up his residence in Waukon, where he spent the remainder of his life. He served about one year in the late Civil war with “The Iowa Gray Breads.” He was three times married, Elizabeth Porter being his last wife, and by her he had eight children; by his previous marriages there were ten offspring, making his family of eighteen children the largest in the community where he lived. Of the seven full brothers and sisters of the subject, only two survive, two having died in infancy and the other three in childhood. Those now living are Mrs. Elizabeth M. Madso, of Carthage, South Dakota, and Madford G. Lisher, of Vancouver, Washington, a civil engineer by profession, but at the present time engaged in the real estate business in the city of his residence.


James M. Lisher was quite young when his parents left Indiana and at the age of nine was taken by them to Allamakee county, Iowa, where in a rude log school house he received a limited educational training. Reared amid the stirring scenes and actives duties of the pioneer period, he early became a valuable assistant in clearing and developing the farm, but at the age of seventeen he severed home ties and tendered his services to his country, enlisting in 1862 in Company B, Second Battalion Sixteenth United States Infantry, which was assigned to duty in the Army of the Cumberland. Later his command was transferred to the Army of the Tennessee, with which he saw much active service, including a number of battles and skirmishes, the first important engagement in which he took part being at Stone River. At the bloody battle of Chickamauga, September 19, 1863, he, with a number of his comrades, fell into the hands of the enemy and was held a prisoner eighteen months and nineteen days, during which time he was in several prisons, including Libby, Danville and Andersonville, having been incarcerated in the one last named for a period of eleven months.


Mr. Lisher entered the army with a vigorous constitution, robust health and buoyant, happy nature which enabled him to meet the duties of military life with comparative ease and it was to these that he was largely indebted for coming safely through his long and trying experiences in the foul prison pens where he saw many of his comrades die like sheep from want, privation and the inhuman cruelty of heartless and unfeeling guards. Endowed by nature with a strong will, he determined not to succumb and from day to day he endeavored to impart to his fellow prisoners some of his own cheerful spirit, with the result that he not only encouraged them but strengthened himself for the further trying ordeals through which he was obliged to pass. Owning to his strong constitution and determination to make the most of circumstances, he was finally detailed to act as nurse and cook, in which capacities he continued until liberated, at which time his former splendid physique had been reduced to barely ninety pounds.


Mr. Lisher obtained his freedom at Black River Bridge, Mississippi, and as soon as possible returned to the parental home, where in due time he regained his health and strength, and where he remained until 1868, working about one and a half years the meanwhile for Judge Burdick, of Decorah, and devoting the remainder of the interval to the livery business at Waukon. On April 5, 1867, he married to Mary A. Adams, a native of Ireland, and later took charge of a hotel in Lansing, Iowa, which he ran with encouraging success until the destruction of the building by fire in 1876. He then rented the Key City House at Postville, changing the name to the Burlington House, and operated the same for a period of two years, when he gave up the property to become the proprietor of the Commercial House in that town. Subsequently he purchased the latter hotel, which he conducted for five years and then took charge of the Descent House at West Union, which he ran in conjunction with the former for a period of one year. Disposing of the Postville property at the end of that time, he devoted his attention to the Descent House until 1890, but two years prior to that date he bought the Commercial Hotel in West Union, better known as “Jim’s House,” which he conducted until 1907. On February 23d of the latter year he sold the Commercial House, but in June, 1909, repurchased the house and has since conducted it to the satisfaction of the traveling public, making it one of the most popular hostelries in the city and gaining a wide reputation for himself as a very capable, painstaking and obliging host.


Mr. Lisher has led quite a strenuous life and exercised a strong influence for good in the various places where he has resided. Eminently social and a hale fellow well met, he possesses the happy faculty of winning and retaining warm personal friendships and his popularity has always extended to the limits of his acquaintance. He is held in high esteem by his fellow citizens of West Union and in addition to contributing to the city’s welfare through the medium of his business interests, he is always ready to lend his aid and influence to other enterprises for its general prosperity and growth. In politics he is a Prohibitionist, but does not take a very active part in public affairs, although well informed on the questions of the times and always ready to give solid reasons for the opinions to which he holds.

Mr. and Mrs. Lisher are the parents of four children, the first two being twins that died in infancy; Floyd Clifton, the next in order of birth, married Ida Hoyer, and lives in West Union, where he has been engaged in merchandising and various other lines of business; Myrtle M., the youngest of the family, is the wife of E. P. Rowen, of Chicago, her husband being manager of the Goodrich Rubber Company of that city.



~transcribed for the Fayette Co IAGenWeb Project by Kathy Moore


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