John W. Elam, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of John W. Elam


The facility with which the American soldier laid down the implements of warfare at the close of the great conflict between the Northern and Southern States, and adapted himself to the pursuits of civil life, has been the wonder of all nations, and scarcely less surprising than gratifying to the American people themselves. While not a few very profound citizens of the Republic were speculating as to what was to become of the thousands of men mustered out of the armies of the United States, the question was solved by the ex-soldiers themselves, who quietly stepped into the ordinary walks of life, to become the very flower of American citizenship and the chief promoters of a national progress which is without a parallel in history. The subject of this sketch was one who donned the blue uniform and fought bravely for the old flag, serving with distinction for over three years in the Rebellion. He is now the popular and efficient Auditor of Porter County, Indiana, and a citizen whose uprightness and honesty are above reproach. His great-grandfather, John Elam, was a native of the Old Dominion, but at an early day moved to the Buckeye State, where he was among the pioneers. Later he moved to Logan County, Ohio, where he passed the remainder of his days. John Elam, his son, and the grandfather of our subject, grew to mature years in Logan County, Ohio, and was there married. As early as 1830 he went to Fulton County, Indiana, where he was among the very first white settlers. He was Indian Agent for the Government and had charge of the Government mill and the distribution of flour and supplies to the Pottawottamie Indians. As his family had remained in Ohio he sent for them to come out, but before their arrival he sickened and died, and was buried by the Indians. He was the father of seven children: Abijah, John, James, Amanda, Sarah, Mahala and Emeline. His son John, father of our subject, was born in Logan County, Ohio, and was about eighteen years of age, when he came with the family, in an ox wagon, to Fulton County, Indiana. They came by way of Black Swamp in Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, and often were obliged to cut their way through the dense forest. When about a day's journey from Lake Manitou, in Fulton County, where the father was running the first mill in that county, a party of Pottawottamie Indians met the family with the information that the father was dead. They went on, and settled on a half section of land about a mile from the above mentioned lake. This land is still owned by a member of this family. The boys began clearing up and improving a farm, a log house having been erected by the father, and here grew to mature years. The father of our subject married in Vevay, Switzerland County, Indiana, to Miss Elizabeth Smith, of Kentucky, and about that time he became a steamboat pilot on the Ohio River, continuing the same for several years afterwards. Returning to the old homestead in Fulton County, he there resided until his death in 1874, when fifty-seven years of age. He was a substantial farmer, and held a number of local offices, township trustee, justice of the peace, etc. In politics he was formerly a Whig, but later joined the ranks of the Republican party, with which he remained the balance of his days. He was active in political matters, but did not aspire to office. His marriage resulted in the birth of the following children: Josephine, died when about thirty years of age; Job, died at the age of fourteen; John W. and Mary. Mr. Elam was a successful and prosperous business man and was one of the early merchants of Rochester, Indiana. He ran a stage line from Logansport to Plymouth, Indiana, in the fifties, and introducing the first saw mill in the county, ran it for some time. During the war he established a supply store at Nashville, Tennessee. He gave all his children good educational advantages. John W. Elam, the subject of this sketch, was born on the old Elam homestead in Fulton County, May 29, 1841, and from the time he reached that period of life when his physical strength was sufficient to enable him to wield the implements of husbandry, he was taught to work. He received his primary education in the district school, and supplemented the same by attending the high school at Rochester, Indiana, and the Valparaiso Male and Female College. In the spring of 1862 he left school, and enlisted in Company D, 87th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, as a private. His regiment was mustered into the United States service in July, 1862, and he participated in the battle of Perryville, Kentucky, and several severe skirmishes. He saw much hard service during the winter of 1862 and 1863, and in the summer of the latter year his regiment was engaged in building fortifications about Murfreesboro and in expeditions of General Rosecrans' army. Later he participated in the battles of Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge; Siege of Atlanta, which was a continuous battle from May 10 to September 1, the prominent engagements of the same being Buzzard's Roost, Snake Creek Gap, Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, Marietta, Jonesboro and the return march of Hood to Dalton, Georgia. Up to this time his regiment was in the corps of "Pap Thomas," who was assigned to take care of Hood's army, General Davis succeeding him in command of 14th Corps and went with General Sherman on his famous march to the Sea, and was in the siege of Savannah and in many skirmishes. Later he went from Bentonville, North Carolina, to Goldsboro, that State, and he was engaged in a battle at Smithfield, North Carolina, which was one of the last of the war. He attended the Grand Review at Washington. On the organization of the regiment, Mr. Elam was made Orderly Sergeant, and on the 2d of January, 1863, he was made Second Lieutenant. Still later, or in December, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of Captain, holding that position until cessation of hostilities. He was assigned to detached service, in command of 1st battalion, which was composed of ten companies, Pioneer Brigade of the Army of the Cumberland. For five months he was in this command and returned to his company as Captain. He was honorably discharged at Washington June 10, 1865. Although he saw much hard service and had several severe sick spells, he was never in other than a field hospital. When on the March to the Sea Captain Elam had a severe fever, and was put in an ambulance. When the surgeon made his rounds to place the soldiers who were likely to die during the night by themselves, he said to the driver of the ambulance in which Mr. Elam lay, "This officer will die to-night; drive him over to the death corral." The Captain overheard him, and the next morning was much better. After returning home, Captain Elam engaged in the dry goods business in Rochester, Indiana, and in 1866 married Miss Freelove White, daughter of Theron and Salina (Horton) White. To the Captain and wife have been born four living children: Marion, Salina, Warren and Ray. In 1867 Captain Elam moved to Valparaiso and embarked in the dry goods business as a clerk. In 1876 he was appointed postal mail clerk on the fast mail train by James M. Tanner, Postmaster-General, and served in that capacity eleven years, his run being from Cleveland to Chicago and all-night service. In 1886 he was elected Auditor of Porter County on the Republican ticket and so ably and satisfactorily did he fill that position that he was re-elected in 1890. Fraternally he is a Knight of Pythias, Keeper of Records and Seals, G. A. R., and has been commander of his post and officer of the day. He has also been senior vice-department commander of State and aid-de-camp on General Vezzy's staff, ex-commander-in-chief G. A. R., and held the same office on the staff of General A. G. Weisert. Captain Elam is one of the representative citizens of the county and has many warm friends.

Source: Goodspeed Brothers. 1894. Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Brothers. 569 p.
Page(s) in Source: 132-135

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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