Pages 281-283, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.




JOSIAH F. and IOLA COLBORN.—The venerable and revered pioneers whose names introduce this review possess a history so closely and peculiarly identified with the county seat of Allen county that it is of interest and importance to enter at some length into the circumstances of their settlement, the incidents following, and the substantial facts of their family history. While many other pioneers were intimately connected with the founding of and early history of Iola, and rested their hopes upon its future, we are warranted in asserting that there was not that peculiar, sincere and burning attachment existing as really possessed Mr. and Mrs. Colborn, from the very circumstances of the case.

J. F. and Iola Colborn left Lewisville, Illinois, about the 20th of September, 1857, for Allen county, Kansas. An ox team was hitched to their effects and it "polled" its way across Missouri and into Kansas, reaching Iola October 24h,[sic] following. In June prior Mr. Colborn had made a trip of exploration and discovery in Kansas and had purchased a claim on the Neosho river, embracing the land occupied by the Otten country home, the fair grounds and a large portion of the city of Iola. His cabin rested in the wood (on the site of the Otten residence) by the river and to this our settlers proceeded upon their arrival at their destination. To prepare the cabin for the proper comfort of his family Mr. Colborn put in a floor, "battened" the door, etc., and when all was done about the house began the task of making the rails with which to fence forty acres of his farm. This tract included about half of what is now the public square and was enclosed eight rails high. He broke it out the next spring, planted it to corn and soon after returned with his family to Illinois


for a visit. He expected to find a good crop of sod corn on his return but his experience with Kansas was too brief to take into account the probability of a drouth (which ensued) and the sod corn was without ears or fodder.

In 1858 the question of a town for the Neosho River and Rock Creek colony became to be agitated. The old (and first) county seat below the mouth of Elm Creek was not advantageously situated for a town and now that Humboldt had secured legislation which deprived the former of the county seat it was not thought wise to try to revive the old Indian town. An inspection of the country round about Elm Creek and the Neosho disclosed the fact that the Colborn claim was the ideal one for a townsite and in due time it was selected and purchased for the purpose.

The movement in favor of a town on Elm Creek took substantial form in the organization of a town company, composed of fifty pioneers, of which Dr. John W. Scott was chosen president. The latter resided in Carlyle at that time but became interested in the town proposition and became one of its chief and most powerful promoters. Weekly meetings of the company were held in a little school house out near where the "Horville" school house now stands and, at one of these meetings and when the business of the company had proceeded to the point of choosing a name for the town, an assortment of half a dozen or more were proposed. Noah Lee proposed Caledonia, as he was from Caledonia, Ohio; Mr. Colborn proposed Elgin and other favorite names, none of which seemed to "catch the ear" of the company. Finally Lyman E. Rhoads in a short and complimentary speech proposed the name of "Iola" in honor of the wife of the former owner of the site of the town. This suggestion prevailed as "a motion before the house", adopted January 1859.

It may interest some student of history to learn the origin of the name "Iola" and while the information is accessible, sufficient for our purpose, it is here asserted that the name is of French origin. George Collins, a great uncle of Mrs. Colborn, married a French lady whose Christian name was Iola. Thomas Friend, Mrs. Colborn's father, married Emily Collins, a neice of George Collins, and their first child was christened "Iola."

Returning to the personal history of Mr. Colborn—he was a farmer but one year in Allen county. After selling his ciaim[sic] he opened a shop and followed blacksmithing until some time in 1862 when he began a clerkship with Brinkerhoff Brewster. He continued with him and with Scott Brothers, his successor, till 1865 when, in company with Nimrod Hankins, he opened a general store in Iola. His was a popular place—the corner where Coutant's hardware now stands—and he carried on his business with profit so long as he remained there. Early in the eighties he sold his business corner and conceived the idea of introducing life into the "north side of the squre."[sic] He erected the first store-room on that side (the Shannon block) and opened a dry goods business. This venture was disappointing in its results. Trade could not be induced "to leave town," as crossing the square seemed to be doing, but spent its surplus with merchants about their "old haunts" and left the "north side" to


dwindle and decay. Mr. Colborn continued business till 1896 when he closed his doors and retired.

From his earliest advent to the county and for more than thirty-five years Josiah F. Colborn was a conspicuous figure in the affairs of Iola. When the county was first organized it was done under the "township plan." Each township chairman was, by virtue of his office, a member of the Board of County Commissioners. Mr. Colborn was chairman of Iola township and took part in the business of the first board of County Commissioners. Down through the years he filled township and town offices, as called upon to do so by the voters at their annual elections, and all his official acts were performed with that painstaking care and consideration for the public good which characterized his personal intercourse and business relations with human kind. Quiet, and without show or fuss, he has passed almost across the stage of acticn[sic] in Iola and has maintained, for forty-five years, an unblemished, spotless reputation. In Masonic work he has been a part of the Allen county structure from the beginning. His first work was done in Kansas with Pacific Lodge at Humboldt when there were only eight Masons in the county. The lodge at Iola was instituted in 1863 and he was appointed its first master. By election he served till 1865, and was called to the chair again in 1870. In this, as in other things, he has done his duty conscientiously and is held in the highest esteem by the brethren of the craft. In politics, while his forefathers and many of his brothers were Democrats, he became a charter member of the Republican party, and is well known as such now.

Josiah F. Colborn was born near Noblesville, Hamilton county, Indiana, February 7, 1829. His father, Robert Colborn, went into that section about 1825, settled a farm and remained till the latter part of the thirties when he removrd[sic] to LaFayette, Indiana, to execute a contract for a piece of work on the Illinois and Michigan canal. This work completed he settled in Clay county, Illinois, where he "took up" land, prospered as a farmer and died in 1855. He was born in Perry, county, Ohio, in 1801 and, in 1821, married Rosanna West who died in Clay county, Illinois, in 1872. Robert Colborn, the 1st, was our subject's paternal grandfather. He emigrated from Somerset county, Pennsylvania, to Perry county, Ohio, soon after the close of the war of the Revolution and removed from Ohio to Hamilton county, Indiana, in 1823 and there died. He was the father of five sons, viz: Johathan, Robert, Jesse, Perry and Harrison.

Robert and Rosanna Colborn's children were: Levi, who died in Clay county, Illinois, in 1899; Samuel, who died in Richland county, Illinois, in 1885. George W., of Clay county, Illinois; Mary Jane, who married Crawford Lewis, died in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in 1898; Josiah Francis; Elizabeth, who married Jonathan Lewis, died in Texas; Robert, of Richland county, Illinois; Martha, who married Mr. Hadden, is believed to reside in Arkansas, and John W., who was one of the early residents of Iola, served on General Logan's staff in the Rebellion, as first lieutenant, went into the southwest from Iola and was never heard of again.

J. F. Colborn was married to Iola Friend on the 12th of September,


1857. The latter's father was Thomas Friend whose ancestors were Dutch and whose wife's antecedents were Scotch. He married Emily Collins, as elsewhere stated, and their four children to reach maturity were: Iola, born January 13, 1832; Mary B., of Iola; Marshall D., of Chicago, Illinois, and Wellington M., deceased. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Colborn are: Mrs. Alice Scott; Luella, the first child born in Iola, is the wife of William P. Northrup, of Murray, Idaho; Effie J., wife of Edward Moffit, of Wallace, Idaho; Madaline Jo., wife of David M. McKissick, of Wallace, Idaho; Nellie Colborn, of Iola, and George M., of Spokanne, Washington.

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