The Hunter: John Howard, b. 22 Dec 1817
From "In Olden Days", Elgin Echo Centennial issue: (Iowa)
"In the 1850's John Howard a man of English and Dutch descent, came from Pennsylvania to find land for a new home in Iowa. He swam the Mississippi with his small pack on his back. He rested on the islands in order to have good strength to make it across the mighty waters. he walked from McGregor and arrived in the Pleasant Valley, Fayette County area where he came to the Francis Bobbin's home. There he stayed the first night. For his farm John selected 300 acres of all woods and on this land there was a spring which abounded with water for both man and animals. John quickly made plans to go to West Union to have the land recorded and to pay the price of $1.25/acre. During the first months on his newly acquired farm John lived in a dugout in the hillside. He proceeded to cut enough logs to build a cabin, because he wanted to have a good home for his family before he began clearing land for fields. He was a man of many capabilities and he soon had built a good one-room log cabin with dirt floor. On the day John came back from Pennsylvania with his family a kind neighbor lady, Mrs. Hoyblett, was at the Howard cabin with hot soup. She also had built a fire in the crude fireplace. An extra log was out on the floor: this extra buring log helped dry out the room All of this was very much appreciated because one of the cildren was sick. This new home in Iowa lacked fine equipment but with what little they had brought with them and what John had made sufficed until more could be made or purchased. Mary had the first washboard in the community and was the envy of the women in the neighborhood. Her husband made it out of a log that was chopped into a thick board with ridges hollowed out of it. He made her a rolling pin which was again as long as an ordinary one. Its color was black and was mostly made from walnut. Mary's John was inventive. Some of the food of the family was meat from wild game. The largest game hunted was deer, and occasionally a moose was shot. Some of the deer meat was hung up under the rafters to dry. John was a great hunter. Mary was afraid when her husband went out hunting and she kept the large watchdog in the house near the door. Sometimes Indians danced by the door singing and whooping but they never molested her. Mary wove all the goods used in making their clothing. These goods both woolen and linen were naturally of a coarse texture. Years later, Enos related that he remembered how his mother's hands bled after she had done the family washing."
Family Stories: Later John built a brick house using clay from the farm and his own brick kiln. The house was situated on the west side of the road at the crest of the hill. Stories say his kiln was set back in the field down the ravine in the woods. The house was a two-story structure. The front door opened into a large center hall. On one side was a large living room or parlor. On the other side of the hall was the dining room with the kitchen behind the dining room. There was a large stairway to the upstairs with four bedrooms. This house was torn down about 1968 and no buildings are left standing from John's farm. That brick house was something for those days and it was told that the fireplace could hold a very large log. His wife and family stayed alone during the winter while he was north hunting. The trees were notched so the way could be easily found to Elgin.
On one trip out hunting in Nebraska John noticed a man following him and he followed for 2 or 3 days. John took a shot at him but didn't know if he killed him. But he never saw him again. He also hunted Sterns County, MN, and during the last time out John hung his traps up in a tree in Minnesota and never went back. Archie said, "Dad (Thomas) said that his father, Enos, would tell of John taking off in the middle of harvest and saying "we wouldn't know where he went or whether he was OK." The description of John in the 1910 Fayette County History says that John was a nimrod hunter wanderer. His monument has a deer carved on the front and this monument comes from Scotland.
Grandpa John told his sons, "The reason people miss deer is because they're lower to the ground than you think."