First Fifty Years of Cazenovia Seminary


Madison County

Sketches of Students of Second Decade.

  HON. JAMES CALLANAN. The subject of this sketch was born in New Scotland, Albany Co., Oct. 12, 1820. His father, James Callanan, was born on the same farm where the son was born and brought up. The father died in 1874, aged eighty-seven. James farmed it till he was about eighteen years of age, at which period he attended school at Cazenovia Seminary during the winter term; he then returned to work on the farm till the ensuing winter, when he again attended school, and so on at different times, for about three and a half years. He then commenced reading law with Messrs. G. & R. W. Peckham, of Albany, N. Y. Admitted to the bar in 1846, he immediately opened an office and commenced practice in the capital of the State. His acquaintance being largely with farmers, he soon gained a good country practice. He married Martha Coonly, her parents being members of the Society of Friends. His wife inherited from her parents the frugality, careful industry, and integrity which distinguish the sect from which she descended. With a moderate supply of money, derived from his father, and a like sum from his wife's father, supplemented by the fruit of his own professional labor, he invested somewhat freely in lands located in Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. In 1856-57 he advanced money and founded a banking house in Des Moines, Iowa. The financial crisis of 1857, which carried down so many business firms, swamped one of the members of his house, which greatly complicated his business; and this, with the hard times that followed, necessitated his giving up his professional business and of his removal to Des Moines, where he has resided ever since. This removal was in 1863. He is an extensive land owner; is president of the National State Bank of Des Moines, and president of the Des Moines and Minnesota Railroad Company. He has accumulated, by strict economy, personal attention to hard work, and by maintaining an honorable and generous policy in business and politics, a fair competency, and hopes to leave a few thousand dollars to benevolent and educational institutions. Nor does he propose to leave to others--his survivors and executors--the entire satisfaction of distributing his bequests. He wisely anticipates the "blessedness" of giving by initiating the distribution of his gifts while living. Cazenovia Seminary already acknowledges herself his beneficiary in the subscribed sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, to her semi-centennial building fund.
  Mr. Callanan has been always temperate in his habits, and in favor of total prohibition of the liquor traffic. In politics he was a Democrat till the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, when he became a Republican, at the very foundation of the party. He was a thorough abolitionist, and aided with money and influence to put down the Rebellion, though he has never held any political office.

pp. 105-106.

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