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James W. Cone Biography


This biography appears on pages 712-713 in "History of South Dakota" by Doane Robinson, Vol. I (1904)

JAMES W. CONE claims the old Buckeye state as the place of his nativity, having been born in Conesville, Coshocton county, Ohio, on the 4th of December, 1850, and being a son of Beebe S. and Lucinda D. (Davison) Cone, the former of whom was born in Massachusetts and the latter in Ohio, while the genealogy is of Scotch and English derivation. The ancestry in the agnatic line is traced in a direct way to Daniel Cone, who came from Edinburg, Scotland, and settled in Haddam, Connecticut, in 1660. Stuart Beebe, the great-grandfather of our subject in the agnatic line, was a soldier in the war of the Revolution, and William Davison, the maternal grandfather, was a major under General William Henry Harrison in the Indian wars in the west, taking part in the memorable battle of Tippecanoe, Indiana, on the 7th of November, 1811, while the sword which he carried is now in the possession of our subject and is treasured as a valuable and interesting heirloom. The maternal ancestors came from England to America in an early day and settled in what is now West Virginia, while both families were numbered among the pioneers in Muskingum and Coshocton counties, Ohio, the town of Conesville being named in honor of the Cone family. 

In 1854, when the subject was a child of about four years, his parents removed from Ohio to Muscatine county, Iowa, being numbered among the pioneers of that section of the Hawkeye state, and there Mr. Cone was reared to maturity, receiving his preliminary educational discipline in the public schools, after which he continued his studies in the Iowa State University, at Iowa City, and being graduated in the law department of this excellent institution as a member of the class of 1873, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Laws. In the summer of 1872 and the winter of 1874 he devoted his attention to teaching in the public schools, and in March, 1874, having been duly admitted to the bar of the state, he engaged in the practice of his profession in Iowa City, where he remained until 1883, having gained marked prestige in his chosen vocation. In April of that year he came to Brule county, South Dakota, and settled upon a homestead claim which he had secured in May of the preceding year, and here instituted the reclamation and improvement of the property, while simultaneously he was engaged in practice before the United States land offices in Mitchell and Yankton, thus continuing until 1893, when he removed to Sioux Falls and here compiled a set of abstracts of titles of Minnehaha county, being still engaged in the abstract business and also identified with real estate operations to a considerable extent. 

In politics Mr. Cone has ever accorded a staunch allegiance to the Republican party, in whose ranks he has been a zealous and valued worker since coming to what is now the state of South Dakota. He cast his first vote, in Iowa City, in 1872, for General U. S. Grant for president, and his first official identification with political affairs was made in 1875, when he was elected township clerk in Iowa City, by thirty seven majority, the regular Democratic majority in the township being at the time three hundred and fifty. He was a member of the board of commissioners of Brule county, Dakota, in 1884-5-6, and in the last year served as chairman of the board. Soon after taking up his residence here Mr. Cone became a zealous advocate of the division of the territory and of securing the admission of the two states to the Union, while in 1885, under the constitution of that year, he was chosen a member of the lower house of the legislature and continued to take an active part in the work looking to statehood until the desideratum was an accomplished fact. He was a clerk in the house in the seventeenth and eighteenth general assemblies of the territorial legislature, and upon the organization of the state government, on the 15th of October, 1889, he was chosen chief clerk of the house, being reelected to his position in the second and third sessions, while up to the present time he is the only person who has thus been honored with reelection to the office. In the second session the Democratic and Populist majority in the house was six, and yet he was elected by a majority of one, a fact indicating his personal popularity and the confidence reposed in him by the members of the body, irrespective of partisan affiliations. He served with satisfaction to all during that stormy and somewhat turbulent session, and in the third session he had the further distinction of receiving the vote of every member of the house. He served one term as a member of the board of education in Sioux Falls, declining to become a candidate for a second term. He is prominently identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he is past grand, while he is also past master workman in the Ancient Order of United Workmen, which he has represented in the grand lodge of the state. He also holds membership in the Modern Brotherhood of America. 

On the 23d of October, 1873, Mr. Cone was united in marriage to Miss Emily M. Staples, who was born in Vergennes, Vermont, on the 26th of October, 1852, being a daughter of Cyrus and Sarah M. (Sedgwick) Staples. Of the children of this union we enter the following brief data: Arthur H. died in infancy; Charles C., who was a private in Company B, Forty ninth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, during the Spanish-American war, is now residing in Sioux Falls; Roscoe E., of Mitchell, South Dakota; Ralph J. remains at the parental home; William C. died in infancy; Myrtle E. is at home, and Walter S.