John Duer’s business thrived in Monticello

Letter to the Editor

     I wish to share information about three former residents of Monticello, Iowa, that have helped to make our town what it is today.

     This is the second former resident Corbin researched.

     John O. Duer was an early resident of Monticello, Iowa. He was born on Feb. 12, 1838 in Baltimore, Md., and grew up there. Little is known of his younger years.

     In 1861, John was living in Galena, Ill., when our Civil War broke out. He was ready to fight for the Union. On Sept. 3, 1861, John enlisted in the 45th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteers. He was given the rank of Second Lieutenant, Company D and put in charge of his company.

     He showed leadership and determination in his work, which impressed the other officers, and his rank was soon raised to Captain. Later he was promoted to the rank of Colonel of the 45th Illinois Volunteers.

     John O. Duer was living a charmed life. When the war ended, he was Col. John O. Duer. At the end of the war, Duer was offered the rank of Brigadier General if he re-enlisted. Duer refused the offer and retained the rank of Colonel. He returned to Galena, Ill., after the war and stayed briefly.

     In 1867, he went west across the Mississippi River into Iowa and continued on to Monticello, Iowa, Jones County, where he was welcomed. The Monticello National Bank hired him for two years. In 1868 he married Jennie Wonderly from Galena, Ill. They made their home in Monticello, Iowa. They had four children: Bessie B., John O., Lee W., and Eugene V.

     Col. John O. Duer was the town treasurer from 1869-72. He was on the town council from 1872-74. In 1874, he was a member and stockholder of the Monticello Union Park Association.

     The Monticello Cemetery Association was formed in 1863. New members were voted on in 1874. Col. John O. Duer was appointed a trustee and stockholder.

     Monticello School Directors in 1879 appointed Col. John O. Duer president of the School Board. He was also accepted in the Burns Lodge as treasurer.

     During all these years, Col. John O. Duer also had plans drawn up for a new two-story building on First Street and N. Cedar Street. When this building was completed, it was said to have done more business than any other store in Jones County.

     Col. John Duer always wanted to open a Mercantile store, and he felt Monticello, Iowa would be a good location to build one. He bought two lots on the corner of N. Cedar Street and First Street. The architect is unknown. It was to be a two-story brick building. The doctor and dentist offices would be on the second floor. The ground floor would have items that people would want to buy–like kerosene lamps, boots and shoes, clocks, dishes, jars, matches, writing paper, etc. Today this business would be called a variety store.

     This store was opened in 1878. It was said that John O. Duer did more business than any other store in Jones County. John Duer hired his brother to work in his store.

     In 1880, Col. John O. Duer suffered a heart attack, died and was buried in Monticello, Iowa, at Oakwood Cemetery.

William E. Corbin

Monticello, Iowa


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