Robert L. FLEMING, b. 1811, d. 1894

Robert L. Fleming, who for many years was a respected and leading agriculturist of Mahaska county, was born in Harrison county, West Virginia, September 3, 1811, and died upon the home farm in Richland township, June 28, 1894. He started out in life on his own account when only thirteen years of age being employed as a farm hand by various farmers in the neighborhood in which his parents lived. He later served a three years' apprenticeship at the blacksmith's trade and in compensation for his services was given a suit of clothes and a sum of money. He then started started west, intending to go to Indiana, which was regarded as the "far west" in those days. On reaching Wood county, West Virginia, about eighty or one hundred miles from his home, he found a chance to teach school and, abandoning his idea of going to the Hoosier state, he there engaged in teaching and at the same time devoted all of his leisure time to study, so that he greatly improved his own education. He became a well informed man and throughout his entire life added to his knowledge through reading and investigation. I While in Wood county, Mr. Fleming met and married Miss Amy Maddox, the wedding being celebrated June 6, 1833. She was born in West Virginia, January 1, 1814, and died in Richland township, September 13, 1880. After his marriage Mr. Fleming sold his shop and bought a little farm in the hills of West Virginia, where he resided until March, 1852, when he packed up his household goads, which he loaded on a boat at Parkersburg, West Virginia, together with a horse and cow, and thus started for Iowa. After ten days spent upon the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, his effects were unloaded at Keokuk, Iowa. He was accompanied by his wife and seven children. He had tittle ready money, but he possessed strong determination, willing hands and a stout heart and thug he began life in the west. He had written to Amos Bartlett, who had settled in Mahaska county, to meet them at Keokuk, and move them to Mahaska county, and Mr. Bartlett with three teams, together with a man by the name of Raulles, who also possessed a team, went to Keokuk and in two days they traveled twelve miles over the old plank road as far as Primrose, Iowa. There they halted and Mr. Fleming and his family moved into a log shanty, which had previously been used for a stable. They cleared it out and resided there for three weeks until they could secure a better home. The following May Mr. Fleming came on to Mahaska county to see Mr. Bartlett and try to get him to help move them again. Bartlett was busy putting in crops, so Mr. Fleming returned to Primrose, where he rented fifteen acres of land and planted corn. In October of that year he gave his crop to a man to move him to Mahaska county. They reached Oskaloosa on the second day and just before dark crossed South Skunk river. That night they found the cabin of Jacob Bartlet whom they had known in Virginia, and stayed with him for two weeks while looking over the country. Mr. Fleming found a place which had been claimed by a man named Johnson and purchased this property, comprising two hundred and forty acres, for four hundred dollars. He went to Iowa City to have it entered and until Johnson moved Mr. Fleming and his family lived in an old log schoolhouse. The land was partially broken. There were few fences and a log cabin, in which the family lived until 1857, when Mr. Fleming built a rock house which is still standing, Mr. Fleming making his home therein until his death. As he prospered in his undertakings he added more land to his original purchase and afterward divided this among his children. He was a self-made man in the truest and best sense of the term. He taught school for three terms after coming to this county, and as he possessed considerable knowledge of surveying he followed that profession to some extent and did much toward bringing about changes in his township along lines of general improvement and progress. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Fleming were born thirteen children, but the first three died in West Virginia. Seven were brought by the parents to Iowa, and the remaining three were born in Mahaska county. The family record is as follows: Leander J., born March 15, 1834, died October 9, 1840; Edward Randolph, born October 27, 1835, died October 24, 1840; Robert Luther, born December 26, 1837, died in Virginia; Martha V., born January 8, 1840, is the wife of J. R. Ryan, a minister residing in Nebraska; Charles, born January 18, 1842, is living in this county; Orin, born December 17, 1843, and now residing in Prairie township, married Elizabeth Evans, now deceased; Justin, born March 13, 1846, wedded Mary E. Murdock and resides in Greenfield, Iowa; Austin, born September 23, 1847, married Janette McCutcheon and is living near Grinnell, Iowa; George, born August 6, 1849 is married an resides upon a part of the old home farm in Richland township; Fletcher, born May 8, 1851, died February 27, 1881; R. C. born November 2, 1857, is mentioned elsewhere in this work; Amy Cornelia, born November 2, 1857, is the wife of D. W. Richards, of Greenfield, Iowa. For twenty-five years Robert L. Fleming was a preacher of the Methodist Episcopal faith, after which he became a believer in Christian Union. He never had a regular charge, but promoted the interests of the gospel as a local preacher and until nearly eighty years of age conducted funeral services when called upon. In politics he was a democrat of the old school, and he often made political speeches. For twenty-eight years he acted as secretary of the district school board but advanced age finally compelled him to abandon that task. He was a man of sound judgment, whose opinions were largely considered authoritative on matters which he discussed. He was an extensive reader and his books and records, many of which are very old, are now in the home of his son, R. C. Fleming. Two volumes of history of the Revolutionary war, published in 1779 and written in Quaker style, are very interesting mementoes of those early days. He also owned a pair of scales or old-fashioned balances which are still in possession of the family and which was presented to Captain Prunty, a grandfather of our subject, by General George Washington at the close of the Revolutionary war. Mr. Fleming stood as the supporter of all that is just, right and honorable in man's relations with his fellow men. He lived to the advanced age of more than eighty-two years, enjoying the full confidence and respect of all who knew him and when he was called away the county mourned the loss of a worthy pioneer and valued citizen.


from Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa by Manoah Hedge The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1906

Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa

Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy

Iowa Genealogy

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