John McMaken, who is carrying on farming in Newberry township, was born near Westchester, in Butler county, Ohio, on the 4th of November 1825, and was only about seven years of age when he came with his parents to Miami county. The family is of Scotch-Irish lineage. The ancestors many generations removed, lived in Scotland, but on account of religious persecution fled to Ireland and thence crossed the Atlantic to the new world, a settlement being made in Maryland, where the grandfather of our subject died. The father, John McMaken, was born in Maryland, and some time prior to 1825 came to Ohio, locating in Butler county, where he was reared to manhood and was married. In 1832 he brought his family to what was then known as the Palser farm, an eighty-acre tract of land in Miami county. It was mostly wild, but a small portion having been cleared and cultivated. Upon the place was a hewed-log house twenty-four feet square, which is still standing, but has been weather boarded. This, however, was not the first home of the family, for previous to the erection of the more pretentious structure they lived in a little cabin built of round logs. It contained but one room and had an immense fireplace, in which could be burned a four-foot log. The logs were rolled into the fire place on "skids." In the cabin were double doors, which swung on wooden hinges. Some years after locating in the county the father extended the boundaries of the farm by the purchase of an additional forty acres. He placed his land under a high state of cultivation, with the aid of his sons, and as the years passed became the owner of a desirable property. He owned a number of good dogs and was very fond of hunting, being an excellent shot. He killed deer, turkeys and other kind of wild game and thus frequently replenished the family larder. He died about 1863, but his wife, Mrs. Lydia McMaken, survived him several years. They were active and consistent members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and Mr. McMaken was a stanch Democrat, who enjoyed the respect and good will of all with whom he came in contact.
Amid the wild scenes of the frontier John McMaken, of this review, was reared to manhood. At the age of seven he came to Miami county and is therefore, familiar with its pioneer history as well as that of later days. The journey to this country was made in covered wagons. A few days before starting Mr. McMaken, of this review, suffered a slight accident. While on the way he got out of the wagon to walk and was left behind. Traveling alone through dense forests was not a very safe thing for a boy of seven, and the family became much alarmed; but soon he came hobbling up, much to the relief of his parents. When not at work he attended the neighboring school, but his opportunities in that direction were very limited. Schools were conducted on the subscription plan. The father said that the elder brother, James, should attend school, while John should assist in the work of the farm, and that when James had completed his studies he should remain at home to work in the fields and John should be given the privilege of attending school; but when John's turn came he found that boys of his own age had advanced so far beyond him that he would not go, and his knowledge is therefore largely self-acquired.
He helped his father clear nearly every acre of ground in the old home place, for his training at farm labor was not meager. He lived at home until his marriage and then located upon a part of his father's land, taking up his abode in a round-log house. He cultivated the land on the shares for a short time and then resided upon the Perry farm for two years, after which he rented what was then known as the Jim Clark farm, but is now the Webb McMaken farm. He afterward purchased his present farm of eighty acres and in the midst of the forest erected his home. His time and attention have been unceasingly given to the development and improvement of the place and he now has a valuable property. He began to build his home during the Christmas holidays and moved into it on the 18th of the following November. His land is under a high state of cultivation and yields a golden tribute in return for the care and labor he bestows upon it. He can relate many interesting reminiscences of pioneer times, when everything was primitive and the work of progress seemed scarcely begun in this neighborhood. He has frequently gone coon-hunting at night, when they would have to take a pack of dogs along to keep the wolves from attacking them, as well as to "tree" the coons and other animals. In one spring Mr. McMaken attended twenty-six log-rollings. When a new settler wished to build a cabin he would invite all the men and boys of the neighborhood, and a hearty response made it possible for them to construct the cabin in a single day. Mr. McMaken owned an ox team, which was generally used in hauling the logs to the place where they were wanted. He has watched with interest the marked progress which has been made in the county, as its wild lands have been transformed into beautiful homes and farms, and all the accessories and conveniences of modern civilization have been added, and he has endorsed all movements which he believed would prove of public good.
Mr. McMaken was first married to Margaret Rife, a daughter of John and Catherine (Shell) Rife. She died on their farm, leaving three children: Jane, now the wife of William Heckendorn, of Newberry township; James Henry, who married Miss Reach and lives in Covington; and John Lewis, of Logansport, Indiana, who married Annie Butt. After the death of his first wife Mr. McMaken wedded Miss Martha Ullery, a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Dale) Ullery. They also had three children: Forest Lee, of Newberry township; Charles who married Minnie Boggs; and Emma A., at home.
Many years ago Mr. McMaken united with the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and his life has ever been in harmony with his profession. He exercises his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of the Democracy, but has never been an aspirant for political honors, preferring to devote his time and attention to his business interests in which he has met with creditable success. All that he has he has acquired through his own efforts, his unfaltering industry bringing him a comfortable property.
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