from Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa by Manoah Hedge The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1906
H. J. Vail, postmaster of New Sharon and editor of the New Sharon Star, was born in Belmont county, Ohio, November 22, 1845, a son of John and Abigail (Edgerton) Vail, both of whom were natives of Belmont county, Ohio. The father was always a farmer and lived upon a farm in Ohio until 1864, when he removed to Keokuk county, Iowa, where he purchased a tract of land of one hundred and sixty acres, devoting a number of years to its care and cultivation. He made his home thereon until his death, which occurred in 1891, when he was seventy-eight years of age. He was a Friend, or Quaker, in his religious faith, and in antebellum days was a strong abolitionist, his home being a station on the famous "underground railroad." In his family were fourteen children, of whom three died in infancy, while eleven reached years of maturity and lived to attend the golden wedding of their parents in 1887. Eight of the number are now living. H. J. Vail of this review is the only one who resides in Mahaska county. His parents were in limited financial circumstances and because of the large number of children dependent upon them for support H. J. Vail left home and at the age of twelve years began earning his own living by working as a farm hand. He never attended school for more than three months after that time but in the school of experience has learned many valuable lessons and in the printing office, which has been termed the "poor man's college," he has greatly broadened his knowledge. In 1862 he went to Philadelphia; where for two years he operated a stationary engine. In 1864 he came to Iowa and purchased seventy acres of land in Keokuk county on which some improvements had been made. He further improved this property and eventually he improved and sold four farms, making his first real start in business life in this way. In September, 1891, he went to Wilton Junction, Iowa, and purchased the Wilton Chronicle. He had always wanted to engage in newspaper business but had never seen any type or been in a newspaper office, but he purchased the paper and conducted it for two years. In January, 1873, he sold out for double what he paid for the plant and paper and at that time came to New Sharon, where he established the New Sharon Star, the first issue appearing on the 22d of January, 1873. He continued this until April 22, 1885, when he sold out to his brother David and went to live in California for the benefit of his daughters health. In 1886 he established the Pasadena Star and the following year began the publication of the Pasadena Daily Star, which he conducted until 1890, when he sold both papers and afterward gave his attention to the publicaton of the Daily Press at Santa Anna for one year. In 1896 he returned to New Sharon and in 1901 he purchased the New Sharon Star from R. A. Nicholson, who had owned the office about two years, and has since conducted the paper. Mr. Vail served as pastmaster under Presidents Grant and Hayes, and in 1903 was appointed to the same office by President Roosevelt and is now acting in that capacity. He filled the office of mayor in 1874, but did not like the irksome duties and retired from the office on the expiration of his term. He was nominated for representative from this district but declined the honor, and has been prominently spoken of as a senatorial candidate, and yet he has never been a politician in the sense of office seeking, practically aspiring to no office save that of postmaster. In 1880 he purchased the first imported horses brought to this section, buying Percheron, Norman and Clydesdale horses, and conducted breeding stables for three or four years. Mr. Vail is prominent and well known in fraternal circles. He became a Mason in Keokuk county in 1868 and organized the Masonic lodge here in 1874, serving as master for several terms of what is now known as Mahaska lodge, No. 376, A. F. & A. M. He is again filling the position of master, having been elected in December, 1905. He is also a Royal Arch Mason and Knight Templar, becoming a member of the lodge and chapter in Oskaloosa, but now holding membership with the order in Los Angeles, California. He became a member of the Odd Fellows lodge in 1874 and holds membership relations with the Iowa Legion of Honor and the American Brotherhood. In 1866 Mr. Vail wedded Miss Sarah T. Oblinger, a native of Ohio, and unto them have been born two children, W. L. and Lillian, but the latter died in California at the age of eleven years. The former, now a resident of the American Colony in the city of Mexico, was for twelve years in the newspaper business there, but is now engaged in the land and mining business. He married a wealthy Mexican lady and they have one daughter, Lucretia. In 1897 Mr. Vail of this review was again married, his second union being with Miss Estella E. Younkin, a native of Washington county, Iowa. In 1879 Mr. Vail gathered material and published a history of Prairie township, Mahaska county, a pamphlet of over one hundred pages, which does credit to the author. He has made the New Sharon Star an interesting journal, typical of the best newspaper work of the present day and as a public officer he has likewise made a creditable record.
Past and Present of Mahaska County, Iowa
Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy