Friday, July 11, 2014

Apollonius Bohun Houston (1823-1902)

                           Portrait courtesy of Ronda Weber and the Audubon, Iowa Historical Society.

   The state of Iowa has yielded numerous instances of curiously named public figures featured here over the past few years, and that list of oddly named Iowans grows ever larger with the addition of Mr. A.B. Houston of Exira, Iowa, and you can probably imagine my surprise when I found that the initials "A.B."  actually stood for Apollonius Bohun! A resident of Audubon County for over four decades, Houston made his name through involvement in several business concerns in that county, as well as through political service, occupying the offices of Judge of Audubon County, Audubon County Treasurer and Mayor of Exira, Iowa. When I first located Mr. Houston's name several weeks ago I began a lengthy search for a portrait of him to include in the article that I was preparing on him, and after scouring several sources on the history of Audubon County came to the conclusion that there were none to be found! 
   Faced with this lack of a portrait, I soon began work on a message to the Audubon County Historical Society relating my interest in Mr. Houston's life, and a week or so following my message received a response from Society member Ronda Weber, who related that a copy of a picture of Apollonius Houston would soon be sent to me via e-mail. That picture adorns the top of Mr. Houston's write-up here and this author is most thankful for the efforts of Ronda and the Audubon Historical Society in managing to track down a portrait of this once prominent Audubon County resident!! 
   Although a good majority of his life was spent in the small Iowa town of Exira, Apollonius B. Houston was a native son of the South, being born in South Carolina on February 16, 1823, the eldest of ten children born to Oswald and Anna Louise Shaw Houston. Houston's truly unusual first name has two variations in spelling, being given as "Appollonias" and "Appollonius" in addition to the spelling listed here, and his middle name "Bohun" is also recorded as being spelled as "Bohon."
   Houston's early life was spent in the state of his birth and at age nine removed with his parents to Tennessee, where he would attend the "subscription schools." Houston would marry at age 18 in 1844 to Nancy Bridges (1826-1906), to whom he was wed for nearly sixty years. Their marriage would see the births of ten children, who are listed as follows: Henry Bohon (born 1848), Eudora Indiana (born 1851), Louise Blake (born 1853), Oswald James (born 1855), William Walter (born 1858), Flora Douglas (born 1860, Mary Louise (1862-1941), Charles Washington (born 1866), Robert Lonee (1868-1937) and Eliza Amanda (born 1871).
   Following the completion of his schooling Houston joined his father Oswald in a mercantile store in Atlanta, Georgia. Remaining here for several years, Houston also worked as a carpenter, and in 1853 began traveling through the "state of Texas and the pacific states", returning to Tennessee some time later. In 1856 he began preparations for a move to California, and after a journey of several weeks made it as far as Iowa. On account of Indian attacks in the vicinity, the U.S. government's actions combating the natives precluded Houston from traveling further, and he instead settled in Hamlin's Grove, located in Audubon County, Iowa.
   A few months after their removal to Iowa, Houston and his family resettled in the neighboring community of Exira, where he would reside for the remainder of his life. As one of Exira's pioneer settlers Houston is recorded by the Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties as "having built the first dwelling house in the village", and also participated in the building of Exira's first schoolhouse.
   In the years following his removal Apollonius Houston established a reputation as one of Exira's prominent public men, "purchasing a good deal of merchandise" in the early 1860s and shortly thereafter established a general store, later being described as a "shanty" in the 1915 History of Audubon County. He continued in this line of work for several years, and was noted in the aforementioned work as having done "the largest business in the county from 1865-1870" and in the latter year built the Houston House (pictured below), later to become one of Exira's popular hotels. 


The Houston House in Exira, Iowa.

   Several years after his resettlement in Exira Apollonius Houston took his first steps into public service  in his adopted home county, being elected as Audubon County Judge in 1863. He served as judge from 1864 to 1865 and in the following year began a two year stint as the deputy clerk of the district court. In 1870 he became Audubon County Treasurer, serving here until 1873. 
   In November 1884 Apollonius Houston was elected as the Mayor of Exira, Iowa, and served one term in office. He left this post in 1885 and for the remainder of his life remained active in the the affairs of Audubon County, dealing in real estate, being a member of the local Masonic chapter and was a justice of the peace. Houston died in Exira on October 21, 1902 at age 79 and was later interred at the Exira Cemetery. Nancy Bridges Houston, his wife of sixty plus years, survived him, and upon her death in 1906 at age 82 was laid to rest at the same cemetery as her husband.

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