Col. John J. Howard

The Cartersville Courant
Cartersville, Georgia
May 21, 1885, Page 2
Transcribed by:  

Col. John J. Howard.

The Courant was delighted to see our esteemed friend and Bartow’s sterling citizen at his accustomed place in the bank after a spell of enervating illness that had reduced his flesh and strength considerably.  His cordial greeting and a response to our question, “I feel I am much better,” were very pleasant to see and hear, and it occurred to us that a short sketch of his honored and useful life would be very interesting to the readers of the Courant, and it was an enjoyable occupation for your reporter to listen to the main facts in his history.

Self-made men are the boast of our republic, and their precepts and example should be cherished as a guide and comfort to those who may find the way to learning and wealth hedged with privation and poverty.

Col. Howard was born in Spartanburg county, S. C., in the year 1816, but removed when quite young to northwest Carolina, now known as Oconee county.  His father was a poor man, and so soon as the son was able to work, his time was divided in working a farm to make supplies for the family, and assisting his father in the carpenter’s calling.  Straitened circumstances forbade a liberal education to this bright boy, but his father, to use his own words, “did the best he could” for him by sending him to “old field schools” during the intervals of farm work.  In that way he learned to read and write and also the use of figures.  He remarked just here, “great attention was paid in those old field schools to spelling,” a merit worthy of mention, as we both agreed.  In early life he craved a literary education and training, but he soon saw it was out of his reach; his work was too much needed to spare the time if the means had been available.  When he saw it was beyond his grasp, he spared two dollars out of his meager earnings, and with it he secured one year’s subscription to the “Saturday Evening Post,” printed in Philadelphia.  This literary paper opened up, so to speak, a new life to the mind of this eager youth and lifted his imagination and desires above and beyond the confines of his frugal mountain home.  It gave him a glimpse of a busy, bustling world, for which his soul began to yearn and his resolve was taken.  He intended to know more of it.  His surroundings were only to be tolerated as a stepping stone to something more congenial and satisfying.  When he was verging on nineteen years of age, he dutifully laid his plans before his family, who judiciously approved them, gave him their blessing and bade him always to keep the fear of God before him.  He thus said good-bye to the mountain farm and its struggles forever, and turned his steps towards the lowland country.

Fifty years ago a brisk market town was located just across the river from the city of Augusta.  A bridge across the Savannah connected Hamburg with the larger city.  This town was preeminently a cotton market, and a general place of trade for fully one-half of South Carolina.  Its location made it a great place of traffic, and a fine situation in which to form acquaintances from all parts of the State.

John J. Howard did not ride on a railroad car, or in a coach, nor even ride on a scrubby mountain pony to the great trading mart of South Carolina.  He “took his foot in his hand,” to use a cracker pronunciation, and walked the one hundred and twenty-five miles that stretched their weary extent before him in that memorable journey.  When he reached his stopping place, his lean purse was nearly empty, and he was an unknown lad in a town full of strangers.  It took a brave heart to meet the difficulty.  Major Turner Goldsmith, now of Atlanta, was then in business in Hamburg, and his large and noble heart opened his hospitable dwelling to the weary, foot-sore country boy.  In three weeks Mr. Goldsmith found business for him, and he entered the large grocery warehouse of H. W. Sullivan, a leading merchant of the place, an able man and a successful dealer.  Mr. Howard remained in his employ four years, his last year’s salary being $480.

During that time an offer was made to him of a $1,200 salary, but he did not accept it.  Mr. Sullivan had taken him in, a green young man, when no one else seemed to wish his services, and Mr. Howard was grateful to that early friend and would not leave him.  By some means Mr. Sullivan became aware of the refusal, and asked his reason.  Mr. Howard made answer according to the foregoing, but remarked that the difference of $720 was a great temptation. Mr. Sullivan’s business throve while his grateful salesman remained with him, and Mr. Howard here remarked: “A word to all young men just here.  When I went into Mr. Sullivan’s store I determined to make myself useful to him.  I resolved he should be unwilling to do without me, and I intended to make his success my study and my effort was crowned with success.”

Mr. Sullivan never forgot that grateful refusal of a large salary to remain with a true friend at a low rate, and when the four years service was ended he took his faithful salesman on a trip to the large cities in which his supplies were purchased, introduced him to the wholesale merchants, saying: “Make the young man’s credit as good as my own.”  What a genuine compliment!  What a satisfaction to the faithful clerk!  This gave him the start he needed as a merchant and soon he was able to organize the firm of Howard & Garmany, which business, as our friend modestly stated, “grew to be a success.”  It was indeed a success in every point of view.  Mr. Garmany is now spending his declining days in Savannah, and the evening of his life is restful and quiet.

In the month of April, 1846, in the city of Augusta, Mr. Howard united with the Baptist church, under the ministry of Rev. W. T. Brantly, pastor of the First Baptist church, in which communion he lived until he left the city.

On July 18th, 1843, he married the daughter of Willis Benham, late of this county, at that time a resident of Laurens District, S. C. Alluding to his marriage, our friend made use of these significant words, in the language of a favorite writer: “Let no man ever say he had a better wife, for like a jewel she has hung around my neck for forty years and never lost her luster.”  What more could words express, and the writer can only echo the heartfelt tribute in the memory of a long, tried, cherished friendship!

In January, 1852, they moved to Bartow county, to their present elegant home, and like Ruth, Mr. Howard intends to rest here with his adopted people.  At that time the Baptist church was located near Nancey’s creek, just where the Burnt Hickory road crosses the road leading from Cartersville to Rich’s ferry, now owned by Col. J. W. Harris.  The church was removed to Cartersville in 1858, into a nice, new, neat brick church, upon the site of the present church building, which structure was destroyed by vandal hands during the civil war.  Col. Howard is devoted to his church, and it has prospered wonderfully, by God’s blessing it is one of the largest contributors to the mission cause in all Cherokee Georgia.

At the age of 10 years, Mr. Howard resolved by the Grace of God to live a sober boy, and for 59 years he has kept the vow, and will keep it to the end.  Nor has he ever used tobacco in any shape.  He has never held, or agreed to hold, any political office.  In early life he settled upon certain rules of conduct, and by our request he called them over: “Always tell the truth.”  “Be strictly honest and diligent.”  “Never injure a human being.”  “Never slander anyone.”  “Treat everybody frankly and kindly.”  “Never wound feelings,” and “accept the Scriptures as the true Word of God and Man of our counsels.”

With all his success, with all the esteem that is lavished on him, you can see how greatly he would cherish a classic education.  His heart leaps at learning, and his eagerness has stored his mind with standard literature until it is a marvel even to his friends.  He is a great reader of Shakespeare, Milton, Cowper, Addison, Blair, Scott, Dryden, and a host of lesser lights.

With advancing years there is, however, a steady leaning to sacred lore, and as he feelingly remarked: “I desire to finish my course faithfully in the sight of God and my fellow man, and by His Grace to find a home in Heaven, that there I may render Him that homage I have been unable to give Him here.”

Of his six children, three are left, W. H. Howard, Esq., Mrs. R. A. Clayton and Mrs. T. B. Cabaniss, of Forsyth, Ga.  The others are beyond the Jordan of death, where the weary rest.  Mr. and Mrs. Howard are singularly happy in their domestic pleasures.  Many have remarked upon the unity, the affection and dutifulness of their children.  In the days of long ago, the writer has often made one of a very happy group around their hospitable fireside, and therefore we know whereof we speak.  Of their twelve grandchildren, there are three girls and nine boys, and the best wish the writer can make for them is to copy the example, the hospitality and the noble qualities of their ancestry.


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