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History of Madison
County, Iowa, 1915.

Biographical.  Volume 2.

  
 

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Challen Danforth.

Challen Danforth, a capitalist of Winterset, has been a resident of Madison county from pioneer times and is well known throughout this section of the state as "Chal" Danforth --- a term which indicates his approachableness, his friendly spirit and unfeigned cordiality.  For an extended period he has been actively identified with the material development and progress of this section and long figured as one of the leading merchants of Winterset, from which line of business activity he has now retired to spend his remaining days in the enjoyment of the fruits of his former toil, his attention being given only to the supervision of his invested interests.

Mr. Danforth was born in Henderson county, Illinois, on the 30th of January, 1844, a son of Cyrus and Mary Ann (Jones) Danforth.  The father, a native of Boston, Massachusetts, was a millwright by trade and when a young man removed to the west, settling first in Indiana, where he met and married Miss Jones.  He continued to follow his trade in Indiana until the early '40s, when he removed to Illinois and purchased land near Oquawka.  His death occurred upon his farm there when his son Challen was about three years of age.  The father was born in 1802 and passed away on July 20, 1847.  The mother was a native of Virginia, born May 2, 1806, in which state her father operated a tannery.  He afterward sold his plant, disposed of his slaves and removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, that his children might enjoy the better advantages offered by that city.  Still later he went to Laporte, Indiana, where he operated a mill and conducted a grain business, continuing actively in those lines of trade up to the time of his death.  His daughter, Mrs. Danforth, being early left a widow with two small children, came to Iowa in 1849 with one of her brothers, A. D. Jones, the journey being made with ox teams.  Her brother was a surveyor and wished to start in a new country which would provide good opportunities for one in his line of business.  At that time Madison county had not been surveyed and Mr. Jones was one of the men who located the town site of Winterset.  He and his associates built a double log house, which was used as a courthouse and also for school and church purposes, and Mrs. Danforth conducted school in that building upon the subscription plan.  She was the first school-teacher of the city and taught for two years.  She afterward taught the Rogers school, on Hoosier prairie, and continued her work in educational fields until her sons were old enough to provide for their own support and also care for their mother.  Her son William is four years older than Challen Danforth and is mentioned elsewhere in this volume.  Mrs. Danforth continued to reside in Madison county until called to her final rest, March 3, 1878, when she was about seventy-two years of age.  She was one of the honored pioneer women of the county and was closely connected with many early events which have had to do with the substantial development of Winterset.  Among her pupils were many who have since made for themselves a creditable name and place in the business world.  Mrs. Danforth made the first ice cream that was ever sold in Winterset, her little boys acting as salesmen, peddling the ice cream from a wheelbarrow.  Mrs. Danforth was ever a most devoted mother, counting no personal sacrifice on her part too great if it would promote the welfare and advance the interests of her sons.  She was a loyal member of the Methodist Episcopal church and took an active and helpful part in its work.

Challen Danforth was but five years of age when brought by his mother to Madison county in 1849.  He can remember when there was no established town at Winterset and when there were but few settlers in this section of the state.  He was still quite a small boy when he began working in a grocery store in the employ of a Mr. Snyder.  Later he engaged in clerking for E. J. Ayers in a general store and was thus engaged until he joined the army at the age of twenty years, enlisting on the 16th of May, 1864, as a member of Company E, Forty-seventh Iowa Infantry.  He had desired to go when he was a youth of eighteen but his mother objected and accordingly he remained at home.  He was mustered in at Davenport, Iowa, and served for five months, being mostly engaged in guard duty at Helena and other points in Arkansas, participating, however, in some skirmishes.  He was honorably discharged at Davenport, Iowa, on the 18th of September, 1864, and upon his return to Winterset engaged in the hardware business with his brother William, who was a practical tinner and made and repaired tinware, while Challen Danforth acted as salesman in their establishment.  They conducted the business for many years and success attended the enterprise from the beginning.  They ranked with the leading merchants of the county and they also extended the scope of their activities to the purchase and sale of real estate.  Not all of the days in their career were equally bright.  At times they confronted serious obstacles and difficulties but altogether the trend of their career was upward, leading to the goal of success.  After a number of years William Danforth purchased the interest of his brother, who then concentrated his energies upon the operation of his farms, upon loaning money and also upon the cattle business.  His operations in those fields were quite successful.  He was also one of the organizers of the Madison County Bank and has served as a director thereof from the beginning.  He is likewise a stockholder in the Citizens' National Bank.  His business affairs have been most carefully managed and intelligently directed and as the years have passed his investments have brought to him a most gratifying income.  He is  now the owner of a tract of land of two hundred acres, the greater part of which is within the city limits.  He likewise owns one hundred and sixty acres, know as the Cedar Stock Farm, and is the owner of the Madison County Bank building and several other valuable business blocks in Winterset.  He has considerable money loaned out at a fair rate of interest and he now concentrates his energies upon the supervision of his investments, which in extent and importance place him among the men of affluence in Madison county.

On the 24th of July, 1872, Mr. Danforth was united in marriage to Miss Lida Sturman, who was born in  Clay county, Missouri, March 19, 1845, a daughter of John B. and Margaret (Wamsley) Sturman, both of whom were natives of Ohio, where they were reared and married.  They went to Missouri about 1843 or 1844 and the father there followed the occupation of farming.  In 1848 he brought his family to this county, settling on North river among the pioneer residents of this part of the state.  He assisted in laying out the town of Winterset and was otherwise connected with the important events which have left their impress upon the history of the city and county.  About 1863 he left the farm and removed to Winterset, where he engaged in the drug business for two or three years.  He then embarked in the hardware trade, in which he continued for several years, after which he retired, having won a substantial measure of success that enabled him to enjoy throughout his remaining days not only the comforts but also many of the luxuries of life.  He was born November 17, 1813, and passed away on the 24th of December, 1890.  He held membership in the Methodist Episcopal church and guided his life according to its teachings.  His wife, who was born March 18, 1825, passed away in the faith of the Methodist church, of which she also had been a most loyal member.  In their family were eight children:  Lida;  Mrs. Cecilia Osborn, of Kansas;  James V., living in Cameron, Missouri;  Sabina, whose home is in Seattle, Washington;  Benjamin N., a resident of Arkansas;  Marion, living in Perry, Iowa;  Thomas, a resident of Grove City, Kansas;  and Lester, deceased.

Mrs. Danforth was but three years of age when the family made the journey to Madison county with ox teams and here she was reared and educated.  To Mr. and Mrs. Danforth were born seven children.  Beulah is the widow of Dr. E. W. Foster and now lives in Wyoming.  She first married Robert Vance, who died, leaving a son, Goerge C.  Harry, the second of the family, died September 15, 1882.  Fay, born October 30, 1880, passed away September 21, 1882.  Fred Eugene is a cattle dealer of Winterset.  Alfred D. is engaged in the real-estate business in Winterset.  Lucile is the wife of Ray Hake, of Worland, Wyoming.  Jay B. is engaged in the grocery business in Winterset.

Mrs. Danforth is a member of the Methodist church and has taken quite an active and helpful interest in its work.  Mr. Danforth holds membership in Winterset Lodge, No. 43, F. & A. M., and he became one of the charter members of Pitzer Post, No. 55, G. A. R.  His political allegiance is given to the democratic party.  He has passed the Psalmist's alloted span of three score years and ten but is still a hale and hearty man, possessing much of the vigor and energy of a man of much younger years.  He devotes his time to the management of his large interests and he occupies a fine residence in Winterset.  His condition is in marked contrast to that of his youth, when his mother was struggling to support her little family.  He is truly a self-made man, advancing step by step through his own efforts, depending entirely upon his own resources and winning his prosperity as the direct and merited reward of his labor, perseverance and capability.  He has a very wide acquaintance throughout the county, where he has lived since pioneer times, and everywhere he is spoken of in terms of high regard and friendship.

 

 

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