Biography of John Wallace Howe

John Wallace Howe. Few men are able to comprehend within a period of less than seventy years such a variety of experience and achievement as John Wallace Howe of Independence. He is one of the youngest vsterans of the Union army in the war between the states. Besides the part played by him as a faithful soldier in that struggle, he had been a farmer, a carpenter, had lived in a number of different localities, and was one of the pioneer settlers in Montgomery County, Kansas, having established his home there on the frontier more than forty-five years ago. Public honors have come to him and he had discharged his responsibilities with the same care and fidelity which he displayed while following the flag on southern battlefields. He had been a merchant, a homesteader, a traveling salesman, and is still in the harness as one of the leading insurance and real estate men of Independence.

His ancestors, the Howes, were originally English people, emigrated to the North of Ireland, and from there came to America. John Wallace Howe was born in Bartholomew County, Indiana, July 5, 1848. His father, Isaac Howe, was born in the North of Ireland in 1800, came to this country as a young man and located in Cincinnati, where he married Miss Rosanna Dunlap, who was from Scotland. She was born in 1806, also in the North of Ireland, and came to this country with her parents, who lived in Cincinnati. Isaac Howe soon after his marriage moved to Bartholomew County, Indiana. He was a ship carpenter by trade, having worked at that occupation in Belfast, Ireland. In America he followed farming, and from Bartholomew County, Indiana, he moved to Breckenridge in Missouri in 1867, and was one of the capable farmers and early settlers of that locality, where he died in 1896, when in very advanced years. He was a republican in politics, and a member of the Presbyterian Church. His wife died in Breckenridge in 1893. Their Children were: James, Mary Elizabeth, Nancy Jane, all deceased; Rebecca, who lives at Grand Junction, Colorado, the widow of Charles May, who was a carpenter and died at Breckenridge, Missouri; John Wallace, who is the fifth in age; Robert, a carpenter and builder and owner of a ranch at Grand Junction, Colorado; William, a harness maker living near Kansas City, Missouri; James, who died in childhood; and Charles, a painter and decorator, who died at Independence, Kansas.

John Wallace Howe had a limited education in the public schools of Bartholomew County, Indiana. He was only fifteen when on October 3, 1863, he enlisted in Company A of the 120th Indiana Infantry. Though a boy, he served through some of the hottest campaigns of the war. He was honorably discharged and mustared out at Indianapolis February 13, 1866. He went to the front in time to participate in the great movement through the heart of the Confederacy beginning in Eastern Tennessee and continuing until the Confederate forces were crushed and seattered. He participated in the following noted battles: Buzzard Roost, Resaca, New Hope Church, Peach Tree Creek, Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee, and wound up at Kingston, North Carolina. He was first a member of the Army of the Ohio, commanded by General Schofield, and was under Sherman during the Atlanta campaign and then under Schofield in the campaign against Hood around Franklin and Nashville. After the Battle of Franklin he was advanced to the grade of first sergeant.

After the war he spent a year in Indiana working in the engine room of a grist mill. Then one year was passed as a farmer at Breckenridge, Missouri. He then went to Southern Missouri and in the Iron Mountains spent a year running his uncle’s mills. On returning to Breckenridge he followed the trade of carpenter until he came to Kansas.

In April, 1870, Mr. Howe arrived in Montgomery County, locating at Old Liberty. His work there during the first year was as a carpenter. Then going to the old Government strip southwest of Arkansas City, he took up a claim of 160 acres, and remained there trying to cultivate it during the discouraging conditions prevailing at that time. After two years he sold out and returning to Liberty spent about two years in a store, and in 1874 identified himself with Independence. Here he was employed in the New York Store, and going to Winfield, Kansas, started a store for J. P. Baden, which he conducted a year, and then had charge of Henry Baden’s dry goods business in Independence five years. From local business he was led to the road as a traveling salesman for a millinery house and then for a dry goods firm, and acquired an extensive acquaintance among retail merchants all over Southern Kansas during a number of years of traveling life. For about two years Mr. Howe conducted a store at Independence, handling novelty goods. Retiring from mercantile lines, he engaged in the real estate and insurance business. Then in 1904 he was chosen by the people of Montgomery county as their county treasurer, and two terms, from 1905 to 1909. Since leaving office he had applied all his time and energies to building up a real estate and insurance business, which is one of the most reliable firms of the kind in Southern Kansas. He represents many of the leading companies in the insurance field, including the New York Life, the Commercial Union, Assurance Company of London, the Palatine of London, the American Central of St. Louis, the Mercantile Fire and Marine Underwriters of St. Louis, the New Hampshire. Fire Insurance Company, the Casualty Company of America, the Employers Liability Insurance Company of London, the Rochester German-American Insurance Company for Automobiles, the Chicago Bonding Company and a number of others. His offices are st the corner of Sixth and Myrtle strests.

In the meantime Mr. Howe had managed his own affairs judiciously and enjoys a comfortable competence. Besides his residence at 601 Myrtle Street, he owned a house a few doors away on the same street, fifteen city lots, 120 acres of farming land in Montgomery County, and 40 acres in Ozark County, Missouri. While living in Independence he had served as a member of the city council and is treasurer of the Independence Building and Loan Association. He was the first senior counsel of Independence Lodge No. 45 of the United Commercial Travelers, and for the past nineteen years had been secretary and treasurer of the Independence Council, United Commercial Travelers. He is also affiliated with Fortitude Lodge, No. 107, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Keystone Chapter No. 22, Royal Arch Masons; St. Bernard Commandery No. 10, Knights Templar; Lodge No. 780, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He is a republican and attends the Presbyterian Church.

In May, 1871, at Liberty, Kansas, soon after he came to Montgomery County, Mr. Howe married Miss Lillian Watts, a daughter of D. C. and Mary Watts. Her father, now deceased, was a merchant, while her mother resided in Ottawa, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Howe have two children: James, who died at the age of two years, and Byrdie, who lives at home with her parents, the widow of the late Captain Howard Scott, who was captain of Company G in the 20th Kansas Infantry and afterwards was a successful attorney.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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