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John Kenower

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John Kenower

Posted: 6 Jan 2007 7:32PM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Kenower, Wise, Betts, Binager, Purviance, Sprowl
From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, Ind., Chicago: B. F. Bowen, Publisher, 1901, pages 272-274

Among the purely self-made men of Huntington who have distinguished themselves for their ability to master the opposing conditions of life and wrest from fate a large measure of success and an honorable name is John Kenower, who, for many years, has been prominently connected with the lumber trade of northeastern Indiana. He has resided in Huntington since January 23, 1841, and his development of lumber interests in this section has been of material benefit to the county, leaving an impress upon business affairs that has been strongly and beneficially felt.

The record of this gentleman cannot fail to prove of interest, as does that of every man who faithfully performed his duty to his country, his neighbor and himself. John Kenower was born in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, March 2, 1820, and was the third child and second son of Jacob and Sarah (Wise) Kenower. From Dutch ancestry he is descended. His parents were both natives of Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, the former born October 6, 1791, and the latter July 15, 1792. In the Keystone state they lived until 1834, when they became residents of Clark county, Ohio, locating at New Carlisle, which was their place of abode until January, 1845, when they arrived in Huntington. The present thriving western city, with its manufactories, industries, commercial establishments, churches, schools and beautiful homes, then contained a small population, and the Kenowers may therefore be justly numbered among the honored pioneers. In the family were nine children, several of whom were destined to become prominent in the business, social and public life of the new city. They were George, born January 29, 1816; Mary Ann, March 7, 1818; John, March 2, 1820; David, September 13, 1822; died in childhood; Catherine, December 9, 1824; Sarah, May 27, 1827; Adam Q., July 18, 1829; Ann Elizabeth, November 16, 1831; and Jacob, November 19, 1834. The last named was a native of Ohio, the others of the Keystone state. The father of this family died on the 6th of August, 1866, and the mother August 27, 1854.

Our subject was a youth of fifteen when he went with his parents to Clark county, Ohio. The duties of farm life early became familiar to him, and he aided in the labors of the field on his father's place until January, 1841, when he left the parental roof and came to Huntington. It was then a village containing but fourteen families: John Roche, David Osborn, William G. Johnson, Patrick McCarty, John McClellan, J. E. Taylor, William Belvin, Captain Elias Murray, Sr., F. W. Sawyer, Chelsea Crandall, Thomas Doyle, James Gillespie, Mrs. Daniel Johnson, a widow, and Julia Murray. Mr. Kenower came here in company with the families of H. J. Betts, Hugh Montgomery, Charles Taylor and William Taylor, the party traveling from New Carlisle, Ohio, to this place overland in a wagon.

Mr. Kenower had received but limited educational privileges, and accordingly was obliged to do manual labor when he arrived in Huntington, for he had no capital. He engaged to H. J. Betts, working for four months for $25 per month, his board, washing and mending, and then took a town lot in payment for his services. It is the site on which the American House now stands. Mr. Kenower next engaged in carpentering, which he followed until about 1852, having been engaged in same from 1836 to 1841 with his father. In 1846 he purchased a cabinet shop and conducted business in that line until 1863.

Mr. Kenower was married in the meantime. He lived in Huntington only fourteen months when he chose as a companion and helpmeet on life's journey Miss Lucy H. Montgomery, daughter of Hugh and Sally (Betts) Montgomery. They were married on the 18th of March, 1842, and on the 18th of November following the lady's death occurred. On the 14th of April, 1847, Mr. Kenower married Miss Florence M., daughter of John Binager. She died at the expiration of fifteen months, leaving a young child, who survived the mother only a few weeks. On the 15th of April, 1850, was celebrated the marriage of our subject and Sarah Purviance, daughter of James L. and Elizabeth (Sprowl) Purviance. They became the parents of four children--Clara Isabella, William W., Elizabeth J., and John P.

Mr. Kenower began his connection with the lumber trade in 1850, and has been the leader in the development of this industry in Huntington county. Such was his energy that during the first year his business amounted to more than 150,000 feet of lumber manufactured and in the first ten years more than 2,000,000 feet of lumber were sold. As all the raw material could not at that time be obtained in Huntington county, the beneficial influences of this enterprise therefore extended to other counties by purchasing the timber there. This region supplied an excellent quality of black walnut timber, which was in much demand in the markets, and the manufactured lumber was extensively shipped to Toledo, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. No other enterprise ever established in Huntington county had more to do with the rapid settling up of the community than that of which Mr. Kenower was the founder. In 1865 he erected a saw mill, which he yet operates, though now as a planing mill. He possesses marked business ability and executive powers. A man of enterprise, positive character, indomitable energy, strict integrity and liberal views, he is, and has ever been, fully identified with the growth and prosperity of the city of his adoption.

Mr. Kenower has served in official positions, having been county commissioner at the time of the building of the present court house, and a member of the town council at the time of the incorporation of Huntington. For a number of years he served in that office and gave his support to all measures calculated to prove of public benefit. He has been identified with the educational interests of Huntington, and in 1869 built a school-house known as the Rural Home. He has also been largely instrumental in developing the splendid gravel road system of the county, and was president and director of the Mount Etna Gravel Road Company, and a director of the Maple Grove Gravel Road. He is never deterred by obstacles which would utterly discourage many another man, but steadily works his way to success, demonstrating the truth of the proverb that where there is a will there is a way. The moral welfare of the community also largely owes its advancement to him. For many years he has been a consistent member of the Baptist church, contributed largely to the building of the first house of worship as well as the present fine church edifice, and has been superintendent of the Sunday-school for nearly forty years.

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