A Narrative History
The People of Iowa
SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN
EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY,
EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M.
Curator of the
Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa
THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc.
Chicago and New York
JAMES CLARK DUNCAN had a place among the citizens of Davenport with a rich
portion of esteem due not only to his work, but to his personal character and
his interesting social qualities. He was for many years proprietor of the
Duncan Davenport Business College, and the splendid reputation of the capability
of James Clark Duncan as an educator.
He was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, December 14, 1840, and was
about fifteen years of age when his parents, James and Jane (Wilson) Duncan,
moved out to Iowa and settled on a farm in Scott County. His grandfather James
Duncan, came from Scotland.
James Clark Duncan was the oldest son of a large family of eleven children,
and from early youth he realized a sense of responsibility and shared in the
heavy work of developing an Iowa homestead. He attended country schools, at
the age of nineteen went out to Kansas, and spent two years in that territory
just before the outbreak of the Civil war. Not long after his return to Iowa he enlisted for the stern duties of a soldier, becoming a private in Company G of the Twentieth Iowa Infantry on August 15, 1862. He saw service in the
border states of Missouri, Arkansas and Indian Territory, was at the siege of Vicksburg and finally at Fort Morgan, Alabama, toward the end of the war.
After the war he engaged in farming, left the farm to attend Bryant and Stratton Business College at Davenport, and after graduating was kept in the institution as a teacher. In 1883 he became a part owner and in 1886 bought the school, changing the name to the Duncan Davenport Business College. He was the actual head of that institution forty years, until his death on May 13, 1923. Many of the prominent business men and bankers of Davenport and throughout Iowa gave a high degree of credit to this institution and the personal instruction of James C. Duncan. He was unexcelled as a lightning calculator. He trained his students thoroughly in an art which was valuable to every accountant in the days before adding machines. He had practically retired from the active management of the school in 1911. He was a resident of Davenport from 1876.
James Clark Duncan was associated with the late John B. Fidlar in the
organization of the Register Life Insurance Company in 1888, and he became the
first secretary of the company. He was a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite
Mason and Shriner, member of the Modern Woodmen of America, and the Grand Army of the Republic.
James Clark Duncan married, May 28, 1862, Miss Nancy J. McConnell, who was
also born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. She died February 24, 1913. Of
their eight children a daughter, Mabel died in childhood. The living children
are: E. H. Duncan, of Eldorado, Kansas; J. D. Duncan, of Davenport;
Charles; Mrs. Edward H. Hartz, of Port Byron, Illinois; Mrs. Philip Freytag, of
Reynolds, Illinois; Miss Ella and Miss Violet, both of Davenport.
Charles Duncan has had a notable business career and for many years has been
closely associated with the widespread activities of Herman J. Zeuch.
Mr. Duncan grew up in Davenport, attended high school and business college
there, and as a young man entered the employ of the Van Patten & Marks
Wholesale Grocery Company, one of the pioneer firms of that city. When this
partnership was dissolved, in 1903, he became the first secretary of the Morton L. Marks Company, and treasurer of this outstanding wholesale grocery house. The president of the company is Mr. Herman J. Zeuch.
Mr. Duncan is an official in several of the companies representing the far
flung enterprises of Mr. Zeuch, extending from Florida to Northwestern Canada.
He and Mr. Zeuch in 1912 acquired a large acreage in Florida, and after an
enormous expenditure of labor and capital in draining and development laid out the town of Vero Beach. They were pioneers in putting down driven wells and bringing in a supply of pure water, which insured the community against the repeated visitations of typhoid fever. Mr. Duncan is a director of the Indian River Farms Company, and is also a director of the Register Life Insurance Company, the Davenport Morris Plan Bank, the Crossett Western Company and Gales Creek Logging Company, the last two being located in the State of Oregon, is a director of the Northern Warehouse Corporation of Davenport, of the Northwestern Loan & Insurance Company, and is secretary of the Indian River Farms in Florida. Mr. Duncan is unmarried. He is a popular member of several social and business organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, Outing Club, Davenport Country Club, Rock Island Arsenal Golf Club and is a Methodist.
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