Judge John W. Harvey was not only a recognized leader of the bar of Decatur county but for eight years served
as judge of the third judicial district, proving able and impartial in the administration of justice. He was also
an important factor in the development of banking in his county and his life was one of great usefulness to his
community. His birth occurred in Wells county, Indiana, on the 16th of September, 1840, and his parents were John
and Annie ( Guthrie ) Harvey. The father died when our subject was but five years of age and the following year
the mother and her six children removed to Jasper county, Iowa, where John W. Harvey grew to manhood.
In his youth he recognized the advantages of a good education and through his own efforts was able to attend Iowa
Central University at Pella. He had previously taken a preparatory course at Indianola and was willing to make
any sacrifice in order to achieve his purpose, that of securing a college education. While still a student at the
university he enlisted as a private in Company G, Eighteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, joining the army on the 7th
of July, 1862. After serving as a private and as a noncommissioned officer he was made first lieutenant of the
Eleventh United States Infantry and in the fall of 1865 he received a captain's commission. For some time after
the close of the war he served in the commissary department of the army but in 1866 was discharged from the service.
He led his company in many important battles and his record as a soldier was a most commendable one. Upon his return
from the army he continned his interrupted education at Iowa Central University and after a year of further study
was graduated from that institution. He then matriculated in the law department of the State University of Iowa
and in June, 1868, received his professional degree.
Not long afterward, at the request of the late Major J. L. Young, Mr. Harvey located in Leon and formed a partnership
with Major Young, which was continued for two years, at the end of which time the major withdrew from the firm
to enter another line of business. For some time Mr. Harvey continued alone in the practice of law but later was
again associated with Major Young, the partnership being maintained until Mr. Harvey was chosen judge of the third
judicial district. He served upon the bench for two terms, or eight years, and gained an enviable reputation for
fairness and integrity. He not only possessed a detailed and exact knowledge of law but also had that attitude
of mind that enabled him to consider only the merits of a case and to rise above all prejudices and predilections.
He insisted on the members of the bar respecting the dignity of the court but in his rulings was invariably fair
and he held in full measure the respect of the attorneys who practiced in the third judicial district. Following
the expiration of his second term as judge he formed a law partnership with R. L. Parrish and for eleven years
the firm of Harvey & Parrish continued in existence. They represented many important interests and the court
records show that they won a large percentage of their cases. When Mr. Parrish was elevated to the district bench
Judge Harvey continued alone in practice until he admitted his son, James F. Harvey, to a partnership. The firm
of John W. Harvey & Son was formed in 1901 and it continued until the demise of the father in 1913. For fifty
years Judge Harvey was a resident of Leon and in that time was connected as counsel or as judge with most of the
important cases tried in the local courts. He won a wide reputation for his success in the settling of estates,
as he was generally able to adjust matters between the heirs and avoid taking the disputes into court. For many
years he was prominently connected with the banking interests of his county and from 1894 until his demise was
president of the Farmers & Traders State Bank of Leon. He was also for a number of years interested in banks
at Lamoni and Mount Ayr.
In 1868 occurred the marriage of Judge Harvey and Miss Emma Eaton and to them three children were born: Charles,
who passed away in 1892, when nineteen years of age; James, a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this, work; and
Raymond, who died in 1891 when an infant. Mrs. Haney is still living and is highly esteemed by all who know her.
In 1914 she presented to the city a tract of land on South Main street consisting of three full blocks, to be used
as a park. This has been named Harvey Park and a landscape gardener is now at work transforming it into a beautiful
spot. The city has been liberal in its appropriations to make the park come up to the anticipations of the generous
donor. A brother of Judge Harvey, Jerome L. Harvey, of Leon, a sister, Mrs. Clara Phifer, of Manitou, Colorado,
a half brother, Taylor Fry, of Montana, and a half sister, Mrs. Mary Coldren, of Oberlin, Kansas, also survive
Judge Harvey gave his political allegiance to the republican party but always placed the public good above partisanship.
He was always ready to do all within his power to promote the advancement of the community along material, moral
or civic lines, giving generously both of his time and money. His kindness and the attractiveness of his personality
bound many to him by strong ties of affection and he ever considered friendship inviolable. A lover of good literature,
he found much enjoyment in the fine library which he owned and his happiest hours were those spent at home with
his family. He was a loyal member of the Grand Army of the Republic and took much interest in everything relating
to the order and to the veterans of the Civil war. At the time of his death the Decatur County Bar passed resolutions,
in which, among other things, it was said: "By his removal the state has lost a learned jurist; the county
in which he lived an honorable and noble citizen; the bar (of which he was the senior member) a courteous and obliging
brother and his family a loving, faithful and devoted husband and father."
History of Decatur County, Iowa
And its People
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Decatur County, IA
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