Biography of James Needham

Twenty-five years of the useful life of this excellent citizen, prosperous ranchman, helpful promoter and strong civic force have been passed in Colorado, and in that period he has met almost every form of adversity and contended with almost every species of difficulty and danger, but he has triumphed over them all, and now, when approaching the evening of life, and suffering from an accident which disabled him from active pursuits, he has a competency for all his needs, a substantial estate for his heirs, and a well fixed hold on the esteem and confidence of his fellow men. Although a Canadian by birth, he was reared in Pennsylvania, and is thoroughly imbued with the spirit of American institutions and ardently devoted to every element and manifestation of the greatness, power, uprightness and glory of his country. His life began on April 4, 1839, at Kingston, in the province of Ontario, where his parents, Isaac and Ann Needham, located on their arrival from their native England early in their married life. Not long after his birth they moved to Erie county, Pennsylvania, where they passed the remainder of their days engaged in the peaceful vocation of farming. They were members of the Methodist church and the father supported the Republican party in politics from the time of its formation. Both have long been dead, and eight of their nine children survive them. These are William, John, Hiram K., James, living in Chicago; Isaac, at Cattle Creek, Colorado; Silas, in Kansas City, Missouri; Elizabeth, the wife of Hiram Weckerly, and Armantha, the wife of Frank Heald, both also in Kansas City. James had but little opportunity for schooling, being obliged to assist his parents on the farm from an early age. He remained with them until he was eighteen and worked very hard in their interest. He then began to learn the trade of a tinsmith at Erie, Pennsylvania, and after completing his apprenticeship moved to Oregon, but after a short residence in that state went east again to St. Louis, Missouri, where he followed his trade until 1866. In that year he changed to Wyandotte, Kansas, then went to Texas. In the places named he was engaged in selling implements, and losing heavily in Texas, the general result of his operations was poor success. On June 12, 1879, he located at Leadville in this state, and at once began mining, first purchasing a boarding house which he exchanged for a saloon, and then traded that for mining property. He had a partner from Texas named Harry Bussick, of whom he thought well enough to give him a one-half interest in this property. It was a bad case of misplaced confidence, for Bussick sold the property for seven thousand dollars, and immediately disappeared, and the money went with him. Mr. Needham then sold the greater part of some property he had at Red Cliff, and soon after pre-empted a portion of his present ranch. To this he added other land until he owned four hundred and eighty acres, but he has since disposed of all his land. On this he secured excellent returns for the labor expended in hay, grain, potatoes and other vegetables, and in connection with his farming raised cattle and horses. In 1886 he met with an accident that so disabled him that he was obliged to give up active work, and he rented his farm. Since then he has resided at Carbondale. Mr. Needham has been an Odd Fellow since 1873, and a firm and unwavering Democrat since the dawn of his manhood. He was married on November 27, 1876, to Miss Cyrene Underwood, who was born at St. Louis, Missouri, on January 25, 1845, the daughter of Jesse B. and Nancy (Walton) Underwood, the former a native of North Carolina and the latter of Missouri. The maternal ancestors were Virginians, Mrs. Underwood’s father removing to Missouri at the age of nineteen, and passing the rest of his life with that state as his home. He made two trips across the plains in 1849 with Colonel Sublett, and on one return was obliged to go by way of the isthmus of Panama on account of the hostility of the Indians. He had previously been engaged in trading in the western counties of Missouri, and after his second trip turned his attention to farming and raising stock extensively and with good profits. He and his wife were Methodists and he was a faithful and active Democrat. The mother died in 1867, and the father on April 20, 1876. They were the parents of twelve children, of whom but five are living: James W.; Eliza, now Mrs. William Maunder, of Kansas City; Mrs. Needham; and Charles and Joseph, also residents of Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. and Mrs. Needham have had three children. Annie died on May 31, 1894, and Jesse and Guy are living.

Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.

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