Senator James B. Harsh View All Years
JAMES BIRNEY HARSH was born in Clinton County, Ohio, September 8, 1845, and died at Creston, Iowa, June 19, 1923. His parents were Daniel and Nancy (McKay) Harsh. His father died in 1849 and his mother with her family removed to Bureau County, Illinois. He attended common school and at sixteen years of age began teaching in winters, working at farm labor in summers. He enlisted in Company K One Hundred and Forty-ninth Illinois Infantry, and became a sergeant. Returning from the war he taught school, attended Lombard College, Galesburg, for a time, and in 1867 established Western Business College at Galesburg and conducted it two years. He removed to Creston, Iowa, in 1870, and engaged in real estate and brokerage business. He also practiced law, being a member of the firm of Harsh & Stafford, and later of Harsh & Higbee. In 1872 he established the Creston Gazette and was in active control several years. From the brokerage business he drifted into banking, being in turn president of J. B. Harsh & Co., Bankers, the Creston National Bank, the Creston Loan & Trust Co., and the Land Credit Bank which he established in 1905. For a time he was also proprietor of a general store, and of a hardware store, and managed several farm properties. He gave his time and energy freely to public enterprises, such as president of the Creston District Fair, the Blue Grass League of Southwestern Iowa, the Blue Grass Palace, etc. He served at one time as justice of the peace, was mayor of Creston at two different times, and in 1887 was elected senator and was re-elected in 1891, serving with distinction in the Twenty-second, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-fifth general assemblies. In 1894 he was permanent chairman of the Republican State Convention. He was at different times prominently spoken of for the Republican nomination for Congress from his district, and also for governor of the state. He served as department commander, Department of Iowa, Grand Army of the Republic, for the year 1921-1922. During the World War he wrote and published in the local papers a series of articles on “Will We Win the War?” which were followed later by another series on “Gains by the War.” He also wrote for the local papers many character sketches of old residents of his town and county, which constituted a unique and valuable contribution to local history. In 1921 he issued for a year Harsh’s Monthly, a paper of much interest and value in which he discussed current financial questions, and included reminiscences of local history. He was a man of great versatility, activity, and usefulness to his town, county, and state.