Miles McSurely, who resides on Section 9, Washington Township, Van Buren
County Iowa, is one of the few pioneer settlers who has lived to witness
the wonderful development of this grand state which far surpasses the most
sanguine day dreams of the pioneer, as with brave heart and sinewy arm
he entered the forests of the Des Moines Valley to hew out the logs, puncheons
and clapboards, for a house and wrest from its primitive growth of forest,
the soil which was destined to become the foundation upon which was reared
this vast commonwealth.
Mr. McSurely is a native of Ohio, born February 9, 1809, and the second in order of birth in a family of seven children, whose parents were James and Maria McSurely. His father a native of Ireland, came to this country at the close of the Revolutionary War and for a time made his home in Kentucky.
He there married and then removed with his bride to Ohio, where he followed
his trade of weaving until his death, which occurred in 1840. His wife
was a native of Kentucky and died in the Buckeye State in 1833.
The subject of this sketch grew to manhood in Ohio, and in his youth learned the trade of a ship carpenter. Having attained to man’s estate on January 24, 1833, he wedded Miss Catherine McCann, daughter of John and Elizabeth Rose McCann. The young couple started in life with a capital consisting of health, energy and mutual confidence, their aim being to secure a comfortable home. After working for three or four years at his trade on the Ohio River, they decided to try their fortune in the wild west, by which term Iowa was then known, and in March of 1837, Mr. McSurely entered one hundred and sixty acres of land from the Government in Van Buren County.
The following spring the family moved into a little log cabin which he had hastily erected and began life in true pioneer style. The dimensions of the dwelling were 14 x 16 feet and it was destitute of a floor except the earth, and several weeks elapsed before Mr. McSurely could spare the time to prepare the puncheons for a floor.
After eighteen months, he sold out and began the improvement of another quarter section. This he also disposed of and in June of 1844, bought the farm upon which he has made his home continuously since. Forty-six years have served to transform that barren tract into a region of great fertility and productiveness. A neat and commodious dwelling, tastefully furnished, and provided with all the comforts of life, furnish them a home; and this is surrounded by barns and outbuildings such as are indispensable to the model farm of the nineteenth century. Fences have divided the land into well kept fields, and the neatness and order, which there reign, give evidence to the passerby of the thrift and industry of the owner, who has labored indefatigable for the interests of his family. He has however, not been alone in his efforts, but has been ably assisted and seconded by his estimable wife, who ever bore her part of the hardships and trials of earlier days and who unremittingly cared for the household affairs while her husband was busy in the fields.
The long period of fifty-eight years has elapsed since this worthy couple, as man and wife, started out on life’s journey together. As in the common lot, they have met with reverses and discouragements, but altogether theirs has been a happy and prosperous life. Their union has been blessed with a family of ten children, seven of whom are yet living: Mary J., the eldest, is now the wife of E. Nesmith, of Davis County, whom she has six children: Dora, Minnie, Cora, Eliza, Ella and Bertha; Margaret, the second of the family is now deceased; William makes his home in California; Benjamin who was a member of Company G, Third Iowa Infantry, died in Mexico Missouri during the service; Rufus is also deceased; Anderson, who is living in Montana, enlisted in Company G, Third Iowa Cavalry in 1863, and served until the close of the war; Hannah cares for her parent in their old age and has charge of the household duties; James is a resident of Keosauqua; Kate is the wife of J.W. McManaman, of Decatur County Iowa and the mother of six children—Rufus, Mary roscoe, I.W., Kate, and Robert. John, who is now in the west, completes the family.
At one time Mr. McSurely owned four hundred and sixty-three acres of land. Of this he retains one hundred and sixty acres as a home for himself and wife, and the balance he has given to his children. As they leave the parental roof for homes of their own, he has given to each enough money or property for which they may make a good start in life and in return received the care and love of dutiful children. Their daughter, Hannah, still remains with them, caring for them in their declining years with a filial devotion that is sure of a blessed reward. But as you talk with the worthy couple of bygone days, they will tell you that the happiest moments of their lives were spent in the log cabin of long ago with their children all about them; when neighbors were few, but as they met to exchange the hospitalities of their humble homes it was with the true hearty friendship characteristic of this sturdy generation which is now slowly but surely passing away. Mr. McSurely has always been an active Republican in politics. He enjoys the confidence and high esteem of his friends and neighbors, and is well deserving, a place among the representative citizens of Van Buren County.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those
who might find this person in their family.