Luke James, who carries on general farming on section 25, Union township, was born near Richmond, Kentucky, January 29, 1842. He is a son of John James, a native of the Keystone state, who died during the early childhood of his son Luke. The mother, who bore the maiden name of Martha West, was also a native of Kentucky and died in that state before the removal of the family to Iowa. After losing his first wife the father married again and in 1853 brought his family to Iowa, settling near Montezuma in Poweshiek county. He purchased a farm in that portion of the state but died before taking possession of it. Luke James is now the only surviving member of a family of five children. At his father's death the family was broken up and he was bound out to a farmer, with whom he remained until twenty-one years of age. Thus he was reared to agricultural pursuits. In 1861 he came to Mahaska county and through the following year was employed on a farm by Dr. Fry. He afterward went to live near Fremont in this county, where he rented a farm, continuing to cultivate rented land in that neighborhood and elsewhere in the county for about fifteen years. Thirty years ago he purchased eighty acres of land, where he now resides in Union township. The land was partially broken with few fences and few improvements upon the place save a small frame house. Here Mr. James has resided continuously since. The farm is now well fenced and divided into fields of convenient size. He has enlarged and remodeled the house, and built a good barn and has added other modern equipments. He has also purchased eighty acres more in the township a half mile east of his present home, upon which was a good residence and he has also built a large barn. He now rents this eighty-acre tract. In November, 1862, Mr. James was married to Miss Sarah Cummins, a native of Illinois, who died upon the old homestead farm in Union township, August 12, 1904, at the age of sixty-five years. She had been to her husband a faithful companion and helpmate on life's journey but for several years prior to her demise was in poor health. Four children had been born of this marriage: Frank, who died at the age of twelve years; Florence, now the wife of John Marion, a resident of Pleasant Grove township, Mahaska county; William, who is employed in Nebraska; and Leona, who became the wife of Ed Rhine and died in New Sharon at the age of twenty-eight years. Mrs. James was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, to which Mr. James also belongs. He is independent in politics with tendencies toward the republican party. He has served as school director for two terms and is interested in the welfare and progress of the county but does not care for political office. He recalls many interesting experiences of the early days. He started out in life empty-handed and for many years he and his wife ate from a home made table and kept their food supplies in a home made cupboard. In 1861 he took coal in a wheelbarrow from the mines. Many men of family did the same thing in order to get fuel and keep their family from freezing, for times were hard and the winter was a severe one. In those days wild game was plentiful and it was about that period that a gray wolf was killed in the neighborhood that had given much trouble to the settlers by inroads upon their farmyards. The animal was a large timber wolf but was so old that the fur had become gray. Wolves frequently killed the sheep and calves and on a few occasions were known to take two-year-old cattle. Mr. James well remembers the old-time grease lamps that were in use and the steel and flint and piece of punk that were used to make the fire. His educational privileges were limited, for he attended school in an old log building with puncheon floor and slab seats, where the teaching was primitive, instruction being given in only a few of the minor branches of study. He never had a ready made suit of clothes until he was eighteen years of age, all being home made up to this time. As the years have passed by, however, he has worked earnestly and persistently and is now in possession of a valuable farm property and a comfortable competence. He now rents his farm, having a family on the place where he lives and occupies a part of the house.


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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