One of the conspicuous farmers and stock men in central Indiana, also one of the leading citizens of the county in which he lives, is the well-known and highly respected gentleman whose name appears at the head of this biographical review. Distinctively one of the largest and most successful agriculturists of the state and a man whom to know is to honor for his strong mentality, invincible courage and ability to take advantage of opportunities and mould them to his purposes he has long exercised a powerful influence in shaping the farming interests of the county of Hancock and his prestige as a leader in this important vocation is cheerfully conceded by his neighbors and fellow citizens.

Paternally Franklin Steele is the scion of an old and prominent Scotch-Irish family, several members of which figured conspicuously in the gallant but futile struggle which the loyal sons of the Emerald Isle inaugurated in the latter part of the eighteenth century for the purpose of freeing their beloved land from the oppressive measures of the English government. Among the intrepid leaders of that rebellion was one Samuel Steele, who became a general in the patriotic army and distinguished himself by many acts of heroism and valor. The outbreak failing to accomplish its object, terminated in utter defeat, after which many of the instigators were arrested, especially the leaders, a number of whom were summarily executed, while others were either transported or sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. To escape the fate which he knew awaited him if apprehended, General Steele evaded the officers of the law and escaped to America, reaching this country about the year 1798. He married in his native land a Miss Elizabeth Stevenson and was the father of several children when he found a home in the new world. From an old family record in possession of one of his descendants the following facts concerning the Steele family were obtained. The above Samuel Steele was born in the month of May, 1854, his wife Elizabeth was born in the year 1760. Their children were Peggy, born in December, 1781; Sarah, born in July, 1784; Hans, grandfather of the direct subject of this sketch, was born in March, 1786, and died in the year 1845; James, born May 12, 1789; Samuel, May 20, 1790; John, September 26, 1792, and Eliza, in May, 1795. All the above sons and daughters were natives of Ireland. One son, James, was born after the family came to the United States, his birth occurring on the 18th of July, 1799, and he died December 2 of the year following.

Hans Steele, third child and oldest son of Gen. Samuel Steele, was born in the city of Belfast, Ireland, and was twelve years old when he accompanied his parents to America. He combined in his mental make-up the characteristics of his Irish and Scotch ancestors, his mother being of the latter nationality, and when a young man he married a widow by the name of Ann Mc Ilwaine, by whom he had four sons and one daughter, namely: Samuel born November 21, 1811, died May 11, 1882; Thomas, born February 12, 1814; John, father of Franklin Steele, was born Jun 15, 1816, died February 2, 1887; Jane, born September 10, 1818, married Shadrach Arnett and departed this life some years ago at a good old age, and Hans. Some time after the death of the mother of the above children Mr. Steele married Miss Mary Smith, who bore him sons and daughters as follows: Ebenezer, born February 13, 1830; Ann, August 19, 1831; James, May 9, 1833; William, November 17, 1834; Margaret, November 20, 1836; Elizabeth, December 17, 1838; Mary A., October 15, 1841, and W. S. July 37, 1843; the second wife died in 1867 in her sixty-sixth year.

In an early day Hans Steele moved his family to Fayette county, Indiana, and settled on the White Water; subsequently, about 1832, he changed his residence to Buck Creek township, Hancock county, where he located the old homestead which his grandson, Franklin Steele, now owns. Two of his sons, Thomas and John, became business partners in farming and other vocations and met with great financial success, accumulating between them over forty thousand dollars worth of property. Samuel was a blacksmith and worked at his trade in various states, finally migrating to California, where he made considerable money, which he sent to his brother John, by whom it was judiciously invested in Indiana real estate. Subsequently he returned to this state, erected a shop on his brother’s land and made his home with the latter until his death, at the age of seventy. Of the other children, Hans married Jane Kitley, a sister of the subject’s mother, and later in life moved to Kansas where he spent the remainder of his days. Ebenezer went to California about 1850, remained there four years and then returned to Indiana. Later he went back to California and still lives in that state; James resides in Buck Creek township, Hancock county; Washington, who is unmarried, lives with James, and William S. died while fighting for his country in the war of the Rebellion.

John Steele, the third son of Hans and Ann Steele, grew to maturity in Indiana and married Isabelle Kitley, who bore him three sons, viz: Hans, Marion and Franklin. Hans married Lida Millard and lived for some time thereafter in this county. By reason of failing health he subsequently went to California, but the dread disease of consumption had mad such headway that the move proved of no permanent benefit. He died in the west on the 28th of April, 1876, in his thirty-first year, leaving a widow and two daughters, Daisy Dell, wife of Prof. George A. Wilson, of Indianapolis, and Ida, who married Harvey Barrett, of Greenfield. Mrs. Steele afterwards became the wife of Albert G. Jackson and now lives in Greenfield. Marion studied law and after his admission to the bar practiced for some years with Judge Hough, of this county. He was also associated with Will Cook and became one of the successful member of the Greenfield bar. Subsequently he retired from the practice of his profession to engage in agricultural pursuits, but about five years ago gave up farming and removed to Indianapolis, where he is now carrying on a large and lucrative real estate business. He married Maggie Brice and is the father of four children, Edward B., John F., George and Ruth.

Franklin Steele was born in Hancock county, Indiana, on the 27th day of December, 1852. When eight years old he lost the best of all earthly friends, his mother, from which event until a step-mother came into the home he remained under his father’s immediate care and control. Reared on a farm, he early became acquainted with its varied duties and there learned the lessons of industry and thrift which proved so valuable to him ins subsequent life. His educational discipline was such as the common schools supplied and he pursued his studies at intervals during his minority until acquiring a practical knowledge of the fundamental branches. His father, one of the most successful farmers and largest land owners in Hancock county, gave him a good start in life and at the age of twenty-one he found himself the fortunate possessor of five hundred and nineteen acres of valuable land, about one hundred acres in excess of his share of the restate, the extra amount being left him in consideration of his agreement to care for his step-mother, which duty he has since most conscientiously performed. Since his father’s death, which took place in February, 1888, he has paid her at the rate of three hundred dollars per year, besides looking after her interests in many other ways, although she is now for the second time a widow, her last husband, a Mr. James, dying a few years ago. The tract of land referred to includes the old family homestead, which has long been considered one of the most fertile and valuable farms in the township of Buck Creek. Unlike the majority of young men who inherit large interests, Mr. Steele added to his possessions instead of spending his patrimony by rapid living or injudicious speculation. Inheriting the sterling qualities of head and heart for which his ancestors had long been noted, and exercising the sound judgment and keen discriminating business sense with which nature endowed him, he at once entered upon a course which in the end resulted greatly to his financial advantage. He began farming upon an extensive scale, and in connection therewith engaged largely in the cattle business, which his father had previously carried on with remarkable success. It is a fact worthy of note that the first shorthorns ever seen in this part of the state were brought to Hancock county by John Steele and with a large herd left him as a basis for future operations, the subjects soon became the leading raiser of fine high-grade cattle in this section of the country.

When Mr. Steele’s uncle, Ebenezer Steele, went to California the subject purchased his large estate of five hundred and twenty acres, paying for the same sixty-one dollars per acre, and going in debt for a considerable part of the thirty-three thousand dollars representing the total cost. In less than fifteen years every cent of this indebtedness was cancelled, after which Mr. Steele purchased of his brother Marion a farm of two hundred and ninety acres, which cost him the sum of nineteen thousand and fifty dollars. This rapid increase of his landed property attests the business ability with which the subject carries on all his transactions. Additional to the above, he has made other purchases at intervals, owning in Hancock county alone nineteen hundred and forty acres of as find land as this part of the state can boast, all but seventy acres of which was formerly held by various members of the Steele family. This large and fertile tract is divided into nine farms of about five hundred acres each, all of which is operated by tenants whose ability as agriculturists and managers has been tested to the satisfaction of the owner. Mr. Steele had paid as high as sixty-five dollars per acres for his lands and there is none of it that cost him less than sixty dollars per acre, which fact attests the nature and quality of the soil and its adaptability to general agricultural and stock purposes. He is convinced, by practical experience, that money put into land is a safe and judicious investment; consequently he hesitates not to add to his real estate wherever opportunity presents itself. He has assumed an indebtedness of as high as fifteen thousand dollars at a time, but never failed to realize handsome margins by such transactions.

Mr. Steele is a man of strong character, practical mind and possesses the rare ability of foreseeing the end from the beginning, and calculated with remarkable accuracy the outcome of business transactions. His success has been far in excess of that achieved by the majority of men and he stands today without a superior as an enterprising farmer, far-seeing financier and all-round business man. As a citizen he is all that any community could desire, being public-spirited in the sense of contribution to all worthy objects, at the same time lending his influence and liberally expending his means for the social, moral and intellectual improvement of his township and county.

On Mr. Steele’s home place is one of the model rural residences of Hancock county, the building, a large two-story brick structure, having been erected in 1880. He has beautified and made attractive the premises which, with its orchards of fine fruit, beautiful shade trees, interspersed with shrubbery, bespeaks the home of a man of good taste as well of enterprise and thrift. His home farm, which is thoroughly under-drained and cultivated according to the most advanced ideas of modern agriculture, is one of the finest places in the central part of Indiana, representing a value of at least eighty dollars per acre.

On the 20th day of March, 1880, Mr. Steele was united in marriage to Miss May Guild, daughter of Horace and Amanda (Cory) Guild. Mr. Guild, a native of Connecticut, went to Ohio in his youth, where he was bound out until his twenty-first year to learn the trade of wagonmaking. With his brother, Charles, he afterwards ran a shop at Oxford, that state, and still later, in partnership with Elias McCord, operated for some years a flouring-mill at McCordsville, Indiana. He was a gentleman of varied attainments and of the strictest integrity, his name being a synonym for honesty and honor wherever he lived. He taught music for many years and was especially talented in that art. Mr. and Mrs. Guild were the parents of six children, of whom the following are living: Laura, wife of A. J. Gale; Jessie, wife of G. D. Prevo, and Mrs. Steele, who was the third in order of birth; the names of the deceased are Mary E., wife of George Condor; Mrs. Anna Rapp and Cora, who died in childhood. Mr. Guild departed this life in 1884, his wife dying previous to that date.

The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Steele has been blessed with three children, Samuel, John and Paul. The oldest of these sons married Miss Jewel Tyner and is the father of one child, Erwin Tyner Steele; he owns a valuable farm, presented him by his bachelor great-uncle, Samuel Steele, and is one of the enterprising and progressive young men of his township. The other sons live with their parents and assist their father in the management of his large farming and stock interests.

Transcribed from Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 410-414.

Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI Sept. 22, 2003.

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Tom & Carolyn Ward / Columbus, Kansas /

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