John Grove Honeywell




Since writing the article on John G. Honeywell for our last Antique City Roots, I have found very many interesting additions to his family history.  The most rewarding was discovering a photo of him in the Harlan G.A.R. Post 197 photo included in Past and Present of Shelby County, Iowa, 1915, Vol. I on page 528.  Another veteran from the 86th Illinois Infantry Lewis Franklin Kellogg is also in the photo.  There are 69 veterans of the Illinois 86th who Baxter Fite has found to have been buried in Iowa; three are in Pottawattamie County and three are in Shelby County.


The Harlan G.A.R. Post photo also appeared in the Harlan Tribune on Nov. 11, 1960 on the front page to honor the men on Veterans’ Day.  Barb Butcher and I found it there while searching for Honeywell in the newspaper collection on  It said that the picture was taken on Sept. 5, 1914 and the original belonged to John Baker, 79, of Harlan.  In the 50 years ago column on Feb. 20, 1953 was the following, taken from the Harlan Tribune of Feb. 25, 1903:  “King Honeywell (John’s brother) went to Galland’s Grove last week, where he has a job of wood chopping.”


My search of WGS’s CD of the 1915 Shelby County History found more matches.  In the article on Monroe Township, J. G. Honeywell was a voter at the election in 1875 in Monroe, so was one of the earliest settlers of the township.  W. R. Honeywell, John’s brother, of Harlan Township [should be Harlan], exhibited horses at the 1888 fair.  W. R. and Mary Honeywell were charter members of Zenobia Lodge No. 286, Daughters of Rebekah, when it organized on Oct. 16, 1895 at Harlan.  John Honeywell, of Harlan, won second place in “a race for the old soldiers” that was held on Aug. 4, 1892, when the corner stone of the court house was laid.


The story of the murder of James and Jasper Robertson is 4 pages long in the 1915 Shelby County History.  They had disappeared in the fall of 1889, but had been planning to move to Wyoming, so no one was suspicious until the attorney for James wondered why he had not written about notes and money left at Harlan.  The murderer was arrested at Springfield, Missouri and wrote a long confession to protect his wife and child.  John’s brothers, King and  W. R., were the only names listed as being particularly active in searching for the bodies.  King discovered the bodies under a high bank of the Nishnabotna River in a spot that was near the highway and used for a dumping place to prevent the creek from encroaching further upon the highway.  It was just north of the Shelby County fairgrounds, where the Robertsons had owned 40 acres of land.


I found the following interesting articles at the Harlan Library:  “Happily Wedded.  Saturday evening last, at the home of the groom in this city, occurred the marriage of Mr. J. G. Honeywell and Mrs. A. K. Davis, Elder Brewster of the L. D. S. church officiating.


This wedding, if we understand the facts aright, was somewhat different in details from the ordinary marriage.  The parties to the contract never met until Friday evening prior to their union, when the bride arrived in Harlan, having come all the way from classic Boston to wed the man whom she had learned to love through the medium of correspondence and an exchange of pictures.  The bride is a sister of Mrs. James McGinness of this city, through whom, it may be presumed, the attention of the parties was called one to the other.


Owing to the unusual character of the circumstances attending the marriage, the people of the city have bestowed upon it more than ordinary attention, not to say levity.  Notwithstanding which, we know of no reason why the union should not be a happy one.  We sincerely hope it may.”  [Shelby County Republican, February 9, 1899]


“Elder D. Brewster performed the ceremony Saturday afternoon that united John Honeywell of this city to Mrs. A. K. Davis late of Boston.  The bride is a sister of Mrs. James McGinnis. They went to housekeeping at once in the groom’s home on Court street.”  [Harlan Tribune, February 8, 1899]


Since John G. Honeywell’s obituary said that he was a member of the G.A.R. at Oakland, California, I tried to find when he had lived in California.  When he died, both of his daughters Mrs. A. A. Brooks and Mrs. Fanny Goetchell [should be Gotchett] were in Oakland, California.  We finally found John G. Honeywell on a California Voter Registration in 1918 in Alameda County, Oakland Precinct No. 249.  It said that he was a mason and was living with his daughter Mrs. Frances Gotchett and her husband, Leonidas, at 918 107th Ave.  I was then able to find Frances and Leonidas in censuses of 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930.  I had thought that John was surely living with them in 1920, but I have not been able to find where he was in the 1920 or 1900 Censuses.  I found John’s daughter Athaliah A. Brooks, her husband, William B., and family in 1920 in Fremont, Nebraska; John was not with them either.


The Atlantic, Iowa Library has a wonderful research tool available.  Through their website, you can search the Atlantic newspapers.  When I searched for Honeywell, I was surprised to find 3 articles on John’s son William R. and his attempts at suicide.  The first was in Dec., 1908 in Harlan when, “Shortly before supper last evening ‘Billy’ Honeywell a young man residing in the Overholt addition, attempted suicide by drinking a quantity of indelible ink.”  [His grandmother Athaliah M. Honeywell had died from “taking indelible ink through a mistake.”]


The Atlantic News-Telegraph on Feb. 28 & 29, 1912 told that W. R. Honeywell, son of J. G. of Harlan, was dying at a Fort Dodge hotel from drinking 2 vials of chloride of zinc and 2 bottles of indelible ink.  “Honeywell has had a rather peculiar career.  He was married three years ago, but it is understood was not living with his wife, they having separated last summer.  He spent the winter in Harlan. . . .  About two years ago he caused a sensation when a card was found on a box car in Council Bluffs telling the person who first read it to notify his father in Harlan that his body would be found in the Missouri river.  He left a pair of old shoes near the river bank and the river was dragged by the Council Bluffs and Omaha police, but to no avail, and Honeywell turned up alive and well in Harlan about three weeks later.  He never offered any explanation of his strange act.  He left Harlan last Wednesday to go to Fort Dodge; it was supposed to see his wife.  He is 24 years of age and a brick mason by trade.”


At, I found William R. Honeywell married Elda M. Law, daughter of Thomas Law and Metta May Bowers on Jan. 29, 1910 at Fort Dodge, Iowa.  In the 1910 census, he was listed as W. Robert; they were living with her family in Fort Dodge.  In Council Bluffs, Iowa on Nov. 11, 1914, Wm. R. Honeywell married Theodora Edlund, who was born in Sweden and the daughter of Peter Edlund.


Although the doctors had given William R. Honeywell little or no chance of surviving in 1912, he was listed as a survivor in his father, John’s obit in 1925.  We found a photo of Bill at the Shelby County Museum in Harlan and on the back it says that he is buried at Walnut, Iowa.  It appears that he is buried in an unmarked grave near his father.


After learning that John G. lived in Monroe Township, Jim and I headed to the Shelby County Courthouse to see if we could find a record of John owning land.  We were lucky enough to find that he got the northwest quarter section 31 on Nov. 25, 1872, which was 143.49 acres.  On the same date, King S. Honeywell got 99 acres in section 19 of Monroe Township.


According to Andreas’ History of Nebraska, 1882, John “came to Nebraska in January, 1876, homesteading 160 acres in Hall County; was engaged in farming the same until October, 1881, when he came to Hansen and purchased his present hotel building, etc.”


On Sept. 16, 1876, John and Frances sold their Iowa land to John’s brother William R.  He sold it very soon, on Dec. 18, 1876 to E. R. Hinckley.


Since “Billy” Honeywell was living in the Overholt addition in Harlan in 1908, I searched for John G. Honeywell and found that he purchased lots 5, 6, 7, & 8 in Block 122 Overholts & Tinsleys Addition on April 8, 1901 for $350.  He and his wife, Abbie K., sold the property on June 7, 1915 for $1900.  They were in Harlan when the 1915 Census was taken, but apparently moved to Nebraska later that year.  Abbie K. died on Nov. 22, 1915 and was buried at Brewster, Nebraska.


Since we really wanted to find an original photo of the Harlan G.A.R. Post 197 so that we would have a better photo of John G. Honeywell, Jim visited the museum at Harlan.  He did not find the photo there, but found a 1918 Hudson automobile donated by Viron and Marie Honeywell.  On a second trip to the museum, we found many photos and items relating to John G. Honeywell, Viron’s grandfather.  Some artifacts were John’s G.A.R. medal, his revolver and billy club from when he was a marshal, his shotgun and his pocket watch.