Joseph W. Zea, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Joseph W. Zea

JOSEPH W. ZEA. A resident of Porter county for upwards of seventy years, one of the men who in the prime of youth and strength went from here to service on the battlegrounds of the south during the Civil war, a citizen who has been prosperous during his career as farmer and stockman, Mr. Zea has accumulated along with a goodly share of material things a deep and abiding esteem from the hundreds of fellow citizens who have known and been associated with him during his long and honorable career.

A native of New York state, Joseph W. Zea was born in Onondaga county on the 30th of July, 1842, a son of Joseph and Dorcas (Young) Zea, both of whom were likewise natives of New York state. The ancestors of the Zea family originally came from Germany. Four years after the birth of this son, the father brought his family over the long distances then intervening between the east and middle west and in 1846 made settlement on the old Starr farm east of Valparaiso. Two years later they moved to Union township, where the father bought one hundred and sixty acres of land with a very few improvements, and there began to provide for the future. Three children comprised the family, David F., Salome and Joseph W., Jr.

The last named acquired his education in the old Union Center school, and up to the time he was twenty remained at home and assisted in much of the pioneer work then required to develop a farm. In 1862 he was united in marriage with Miss Sarah A. Shoup, who was born in Malvern, Carroll county, Ohio, July 7, 1841, a daughter of John and Eliza (Crisman) Shoup. The Shoup family came to Indiana in 1849 and a year or so later settled near Deep river in Porter county, where they likewise were identified with the pioneer development. After their marriage Mr. Zea and wife lived on his father's farm in Union township, but in a short time he was called from the quiet activities of agriculture into the exciting scenes of war.

During the California gold discoveries and the great exodus from the eastern states toward the Pacific, Joseph Zea, the father, had made two trips to the coast, each time having charge of an emigrant train such as traversed the vast distances of the west in those days. On the second trip his son David F. accompanied him, and remained in California. While there, during the latter '50s, William Walker was organizing his noted filibuster expedition against Nicaragua. Ostensibly its purposes were for colonization and each recruit was promised one hundred and sixty acres of land. David F. Zea was one of those induced to join this filibuster. After the company got into Mexico they were surprised one night by the Mexicans and taken prisoners, and then marched handcuffed in pairs a distance of two hundred miles into the City of Mexico, where Walker himself was executed and the rest were sentenced to be shot, but the order was countermanded. However, all were kept, prisoners in the famous dungeon of the capital city. Finally D. F. Zea was given the privilege of walking in the open, wearing ball and chain for fifteen minutes each day. As he always reported at the prison gates, his time of liberty was extended first to half an hour and then to an hour, and one day he succeeded in making his escape. Day after day he wandered, ever in fear of recapture, and after traversing several hundred miles of the wilderness came at last to a river, where, weary and emaciated with hunger and hardships, he gave himself up to the captain of a boat, at the same time conveying the Masonic signal of distress to the captain, who was himself a member of the order. The captain stowed away his fraternity brother and carried him back to California, where he arrived in distressed circumstances. His fellow Masons gave him liberal assistance and enabled him to start in life again. But his round of adventure was not yet complete, for soon after the breaking out of the Civil war, on August 20, 1861, he enlisted in Company A of the First California regiment, and was in the service of the western department until 1864. On March 31st of that year he re-enlisted for three years, and was in the army until he received his honorable discharge at Fort Union, New Mexico, in September, 1866. He then returned to Porter county, and after a brief but very eventful career died at the home of his brother Joseph in October, 1867.

In the first year of the war Joseph W. Zea had enlisted for the three months' service, being mustered in at Indianapolis with Company H of the Ninth Indiana, which regiment saw a brief service in the occupation of West Virginia. He then returned home, was married and in December, 1863, again entered the army of the Union, in the same company and regiment, and from that time participated in some of the most arduous campaigns of the war until its close. As a soldier he was in the states of Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and various other localities of the south, and was in the great Atlanta campaign. He fought at Kenesaw Mountain and on July 4th when near Marietta, Georgia, a minie ball penetrated his eye and permanently deprived him of its sight. For six days he was kept in a dark room in the hospital at Marietta, was sent to Chattanooga, thence to the Cumberland field hospital at Nashville, where he was furloughed and returned home for two weeks. The wound became worse and the furlough was extended thirty days, at the end of which time he reported for service at Indianapolis. Governor Morton retained all the Indiana soldiers in the state until after the presidential election of 1864, giving them a fifteen-day furlough, and Mr. Zea, having voted, was the first to report at headquarters. His commander gave him one glance and then wrote an order remanding him to the invalid quarters. But he was not the kind of a soldier to wait inactive while others were fighting, and as he met some of his comrades on the street who had transportation papers back to the regiment he induced them to change the number on the paper from four to five, and in this way was able to get out to the front. There he was reproached by his officers for returning in a wounded condition, but three days later was ordered into the crucial and sanguinary battle of Franklin and then Nashville, where Hood's army was completely crushed and the last hope of the Confederate army in the Mississippi valley was blighted. In June he was ordered with his regiment into Texas, going down the Mississippi to New Orleans and there taking ocean steamers to Indianola and Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast. Two night marches were made to Green Lake and he was with the army in Texas until September. The war having closed, he received an honorable discharge, and came back home as one of the bravest soldiers furnished by Porter county.

Mr. and Mrs. Zea became the parents of four children, two of whom died in infancy, and the other two were John and Olive Christena. They were educated in the Union Center school, and at home were trained in the principles of industry and honesty which prepared them for useful work in life. John, who is one of the progressive farmers of this county, married Miss Lulu Belzhoover, and they are the parents of three sons, Earl, Harry and William. Olive, the daughter, married Douglas Maxwell, and their two children were Virda and Ollie. The death of Mrs. Olive Maxwell, on January 19, 1912, was a sad loss to her family and the community where she had been loved throughout her lifetime.

For nearly a quarter of a century after returning from the war Mr. Zea was an active and prosperous agriculturist. In 1892, having acquired a competence for later years, he relieved himself of the duties of the farm and removed to Valparaiso, where he and his wife have resided in comfort and amidst a large circle of friends. He has served two terms in the city council, and both in the country and the city has been public-spirited with regard to all that promotes the general welfare. He and his wife are members of the Baptist church of Valparaiso. On January 19, 1912, at their pleasant home on Morgan street, was quietly celebrated one of the notable events of domestic happiness, their golden wedding anniversary. For half a century they have lived together, have known joy and sorrow, but in all have experienced the deep satisfaction of duty performed and conscientious conduct in the varied relations of long life.

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 681-684

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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