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History of Madison
County, Iowa, 1915.

Biographical.  Volume 2.


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James P. Steele.

James P. Steele

James P. Steele, a well known attorney of Winterset and the president of the Citizens National Bank, belongs to that class of men whose initiative spirit and enterprise have carried them into important business and professional relations.  He was born in Adams county, Ohio, on the 13th of March, 1848.  His father, William L. Steele, was a native of Londonderry, Ireland, and when about twenty years of age came to the United States, arriving in this country in 1835.  Making his way westward, he settled in Adams county, Ohio, where he engaged in teaching school for several years.  He then purchased a small farm and continued its cultivation until his death, which occurred when he was at the comparatively early age of forty years.  He was of Scotch extraction and was descended from David Steele, who was shot in 1686 in his own dooryard by Lieutenant Creighton at Skellyhill, Scotland.  He was a Covenanter and was serving as an officer at that time.  Andrew Steele, the grandfather of James P. Steele, was born in Londonderry, Ireland, and was a foundryman.  He came to the United States and followed his trade at Blairsville, Pennsylvania.  About 1853 he removed to Adams county, Ohio, where the remainder of his life was spent and where he died when more than eighty years of age.  He married a Miss Lucas, who was also a native of Ireland, and she died in 1857 when about sixty-three years of age.  They were both members of the Covenanter church.  The mother of our subject bore the maiden name of Anna Johnson and was born in Ross county, Ohio, where she was reared and educated.  She survived her husband until 1900 and died at the age of eighty years.  Her parents were Robert and Esther (Putnam) Johnson, both natives of Nova Scotia.  They came to the United States about 1825, settling in Ross county, Ohio, where Mr. Johnson engaged in farming and milling.  He passed away in that county and was survived for some years by his wife, who died at the advanced age of ninety-four.  She was a relative of General Putnam, of Revolutionary war fame.

James P. Steele spent his boyhood days upon the home farm and is indebted to the public-school system of his native county for the early educational privileges which he enjoyed.  Later he attended the United Presbyterian College at Monmouth, Illinois, from which he was graduated with the class of 1873.  He only attended school sixty-six days between the ages of ten and twenty-one years, but, realizing his lack of education and the disadvantage to which he was put thereby, he resolved that he would make up for this, and in 1869 entered Monmouth Academy, doing six or seven years' work in four years.  The strenuous manner in which he applied himself to his studies undermined his health and he then went to the Rocky Mountains, where he spent a year in recuperating from asthma.  During that time he read law and afterward taught one term of school in Illinois.

On the 31st of December, 1874, Mr. Steele came to Winterset, Iowa, and for one term was a teacher in a country school and also read law during that period.  In September, 1875, he was admitted to the bar and entered upon active practice, later forming a partnership with Byram Leonard.  This connection was continued for about three years.  He was afterward in partnership with Judge Mott for about a year and then was alone in practice, but at a later date he took unto his office a student, C. A. Robbins, who is now assistant attorney general of Iowa.  They were together for fifteen years and since the dissolution of their partnership, in 1905, Mr. Steele has been alone in practice.  He had been a resident of Winterset for only a brief period before it was recognized that he was an able lawyer, alert and wide-awake, ready at all times to meet any emergency, while in the preparation of his cases he was most careful and painstaking.  The recognition of his ability won him growing success and he has long been regarded as a leading member of the Madison county bar.  In the early day she conducted a Quiz Club, of which W. G. Potter, now on the supreme bench of Pennsylvania, was a member.

In 1878 Mr. Steele was united in marriage to Miss Clara L. Whitmore, a native of Chicago, Illinois, who was largely educated in Washington, D. C.  She taught music in early womanhood and in 1875 came to Madison county, Iowa.  They have two children:  Anna Louise, who is now a teacher of Latin in the high school of Cheyenne, Wyoming;  and Byram Whitmore, a civil engineer, now farming in this county.

From 1880 until 1911 Mr. Steele resided upon a farm three miles from Winterset and each day made the trip to and from the city.  He has made extensive and judicious investments in property and is now the owner of between six hundred and seven hundred acres of valuable land.  He carried on farming and the breeding of shorthorn cattle and at one time was the owner of a large herd, which he shipped and sold for breeding purposes, the greater part being sold in Iowa.  In 1896 he sold his thoroughbred cattle and began feeding cattle and hogs quite extensively, but following his son's return home he turned over the management of the farm to him.  Mr. Steele has been a director and the attorney of the Citizens National Bank for several years and in 1909 was elected its president.

Mr. and Mrs. Steele are members of the Presbyterian church.  His political allegiance was formerly given to the republican party, and for four years he filled the office of county attorney.  He is now an advocate of the progressive party and was one of the electors at large in 1912.  He takes quite an active part in politics and has ever stood loyally by his honest convictions and has been a recognized leader here.  Mr. Steele occupies a prominent place as a citizen, as a lawyer and as a business man.  He came to this county empty-handed and his laudable ambition, his well directed efforts and his ability brought him to the front, gaining for him not only success but also an honored name.



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