Biography of John C. Curfman

One of the most conspicuous figures in the history of Nodaway county, Missouri, is ex-County Judge John C. Curfman, for an enumeration of local citizens who have won honor and public recognition for themselves and at the same time have honored the community in w T hich they live would be incomplete without reference to him as a citizen, political advisor and business man, now living retired in his cozy home in Maryville after a long and eminently worthy career.

Mr. Curfman is a native of the old Keystone state, having been born in Huntington county, Pennsylvania, February 20, 1843, the son of Christian Curfman, a native of the same county and state, where the Curfmans had long been prominent. Christian Curfman, w 7 ho devoted his life to agricultural pursuits, moved to Jefferson county, Iowa, in 1850, and about 1875 he removed to Maryville. Missouri, where he lived until his death, in 1900, at the advanced age of eighty-two years. He worked at the carpenter’s trade awhile after coming here, and he was a man who had the good will of all his neighbors as a result of his plain, kindly and honorable methods of living. As the name indicates, the Curfman (originally spelled Kurfman) family is of German origin. Grandfather Curfman was a farmer and spent his entire life in Pennsylvania.

Margaret Garrett, the maiden name of the Judge’s mother, was born in Huntington county, Pennsylvania, where she grew to maturity, received a limited education in the common schools, like her husband, and there married. Five children were born to this union, named as follows: John C., of this review; Dr. George W.. of Denver, Colorado, one of the examining physicians of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company; Anion A. is engaged in the hardware business at Tarkio, Missouri; Anna A. is the widow of James Todd, late editor of the Nodaway Democrat. One child died in infancy.

When seven years of age Judge Curfman removed from his native hills in Pennsylvania with his parents to Iowa and there he received a common school education; applying himself with assiduity to his text-books, he was enabled to begin teaching when a young man and for three winters he taught in Jefferson county, Iowa. The Civil war being in progress, he left the school room to enlist in the Union army, becoming a member of Company E, Forty-fifth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Infantry, in which he served seven months, doing guard duty on railway lines. On May i. 1865, he came to Missouri, stopping first at Savannah, where he clerked in the hardware store of his uncle, Samuel F. Garrett, until March, 1867, when he came to Nodaway county, bringing five wagon loads of hardware and implements to Maryville, where he started a hardware store which his uncle stocked and he soon built up a very fair business in this line. After spending one year back in Savannah, he returned to Maryville in 1869, and continued to conduct his hardware business until 1887, when he sold out and moved to a farm a few miles south of Maryville. He proved to be as good a manager of a farm as he had been of a store and continued to prosper, developing an excellent place which he kept improved and well stocked.

When a young man. Mr. Curfman left home on a trip to New Mexico, which in those early days was fraught with no little hardship and dangers. His mother, remonstrating against this trip, told him that her chief reason for objecting was her fear of her boy having to pass through Missouri, little dreaming that he would eventually make his home and become prosperous in this state. He came to Maryville when it was a small village, and he could stand in his store door and see cattle roaming the fields and farms at will.

He recalls riding the first train from Maryville to St. Joseph about 1870. Mr. Curfman’s uncle, Samuel F. Garrett, spoken of above, afterwards moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he died in J909 at an advanced age.

When Mr. Curfman opened his store in Maryville the second time (in 1869) the firm was Garrett, Robinson & Company. In 1871 Mr. Robinson bought out Mr. Bariteau and Mr. Curfman bought out Mr. Garrett, the firm then being known as Curfman & Robinson, and about one year later Mr. Robinson sold out to B. F. Shaum, of Atchison county, Missouri, and Mr. Shaum managed the business until 1887, when the firm sold out and Mr. Curfman moved to his farm, where he lived until Christmas, 1894, when he moved his family to Maryville, where he has continued to reside, his pleasant home being a frequent gathering place for the many loyal friends of himself and family.

Judge Curfman has always taken an abiding interest in the affairs of Nodaway county, aiding in any way he could in its development. In 1894 he was honored by the Republican party, whose interests he had long had at heart and sought to promulgate, by being elected presiding judge of the county court, his term lasting for a period of four years, after the expiration of which he has lived in retirement. As a judge he proved to be fair and his decisions unbiased, showing a deep knowledge of the basic principles of the law and of the intricate workings of jurisprudence; he was popular among attorneys and litigants as well and his term of office was satisfactory to all concerned, irrespective of party alignment.

The Judge was married on September 30, 1871, to Lenora A. Alexander, daughter of Joseph E. Alexander, an honored citizen of Nodaway county, where Mrs. Curfman was born, reared and educated. This union was blessed by the birth of the following children: Edwin C.; Frederick L. lives northeast of Maryville; Roy J. C.; Mary A. is deceased; Dr. George lives in Salida, Colorado, being head physician of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company’s hospital.

The Judge and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which the former is a trustee and a liberal supporter. He is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and fraternally holds membership with the Masons.

In his daily affairs Judge Curfman always manifested a generous regard for his fellows and as a large-hearted, whole-souled, companionable gentleman, actuated by principles of honesty and integrity, no man in Nodaway county more fully merits and commands the good will of the people.

Source: B. F. Bowen & Company. Past and present of Nodaway County, Missouri. Indianapolis, Indiana: B. F. Bowen & Company. 1910.

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