By Sue Ellen Kennedy
John Henry Carter was born in Monck County, Ontario, Canada on July 19, 1856. In 1876, he came to the United States and settled in Dallas County, Iowa, securing employment as a brick mason in Dallas Center. In 1877, he bought a farm in Dallas County and worked the farm while continuing to build homes for eight years. He eventually purchased the farm next to his, for a combined total of 240 acres. John went home to Ontario in 1883, and returned to Iowa with his bride Susan Wills.
In 1888, he rented out his working farm and moved his family to Waukee, where he built, by written accounts, a grand home of that time. John and Susan had eight children: A.B. “Burt”; Kathyrne; John W.; George; and Gordon; with three children passing—Roy, Letha and Henry. Susan passed away on December 7, 1904.
Following is a quote from the Memorial and Biographical Record Iowa, Vol. 2:
“He who makes a visit to the town of Waukee, Iowa and has the pleasure of a drive through its streets, is sure to have pointed out the handsome and commodious residence of John Henry Carter, one of the most enterprising and influential men of the place.”
If you live on Ashworth Drive in Waukee, check your deed abstracts. You may be living in the home built sometime between 1888 and 1890, referred to in this written account.
John was well-known as the manager of the grain elevator. He established J.H. Carter Grain & Stock located on the north side of our downtown Triangle around 1890. The business sold coal, grain and stock. The original building burned in 1901 and was replaced. As Waukee grew, so did the business. Various hardware and farm implements were added to the inventory. By the 1920’s, John’s sons John W. and Burt joined the business, renaming it J. H. Carter and Sons.
John passed away in March of 1939, and his two sons ran the business until the 1950’s, making it one of the longest-running family businesses in Waukee.
John was interested in politics and was very involved in our community. He was a member of the Methodist Church, IOOF (Independent Order of the Odd Fellows) and the Order of Knights of Pythias. The IOOF was created to improve and elevate the character of mankind by promoting the principles of friendship, love, truth, faith, charity and universal justice. The Order of Knights of Pythias is an international, non-sectarian fraternal order that was established in 1864.
This year, I will be focusing on men and women that were business and civic leaders in our community. If you have any photos, documents or other information of historical significance on John Henry (“J.H.”) Carter or anyone we feature in this section, please contact The Waukee Area Historical Society at (515) 782-0025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Waukee Area Historical Society will hold an indoor golf fundraiser on February 24 at Broheim’s Indoor Golf and Pub. Please register on our website at waukeehistory.org. Be sure to check out our Facebook page for information on all of our upcoming events.
May you have a happy and prosperous New Year!