CONAWAY, Dr. H. OLIVER—Deep River Twp—pg 715-17. P.O. Deep River, and resides in the village of Dresden. In Harrison county, Ohio, on the 27th day of January, 1848, he began a most remarkable life. Raised on a farm, during the winter terms he attended a district school until he was fifteen years old. In the winter of 1864, he left home and went to Louisville, Kentucky, where he enlisted in the Sixth Independent battalion. This disbanded, and in 1865 he went to Virginia, where, feeling that his education was exceedingly limited, he attended the institution known as Rural Seminary, in Wood county, working for his board and tuition, night and morning, besides walking three miles daily to and from school. Although his studies were pursued under these disadvantages, besides being compelled, in most part, to study in the night by the uncertain light of an ignited pine knot in the woods, where he would often fall asleep until morning, at the expiration of three months he passed a searching examination before the County Superintendent, and received a teacher’s certificate equal in grade with that of his preceptor. This procured him employment as a teacher in a district school known as Oak Grove. He had taught but two terms when his father, learning of his whereabouts, went after him and took him home. He then attended New Market College one term, after which he went to Hopedale College. Determined to educate himself by his own unaided efforts, he refused all proffered assistance from his father, and with the money he had earned in Virginia rented a small room and boarded himself, while he rung the college bell in payment for his tuition, for which he was derisively called by the more fortunate students, the "bell-boy." His means being exhausted, he left this institution in the winter of 1868, and went to Cincinnati. He arrived at that city an entire stranger, with but seventy-five cents in his pocket. The next morning he obtained employment in a chemical laboratory. The proprietors of this establishment, H.M. Merrill & Co., soon resolved to put him upon the road as traveling salesman. He accordingly spent the next six months driving a team through Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois, over a distance of 4,850 miles, canvassing the route thoroughly for the sale of drugs and medicines, besides advertising four articles of patent medicine with a paint brush on all the fences, trees, bridges, etc. While in Indiana, he continually shook with ague, and during the spring and summer of 1869 he was in the rain for thirty-one consecutive days. Many times he was compelled to lay all night on the prairie, unable to reach village, settlement or private house, and he, sometimes, would become mired in the bogs, where he would have to remain until accidental assistance reached him. On such occasions he would improve the time and entertain himself and team by playing upon his violin. In October, 1869, he returned to Cincinnati, resigned his position and after a short visit to his home, started for Oskaloosa, Iowa, to visit some friends, including a young lady with whom he had been corresponding. While here he was employed in an art gallery, retouching negatives and sketching landscapes, a business for which he was instinctively adapted, and in which he soon attained remarkable proficiency. In the spring of 1870 he went to Sioux City, Iowa, where he remained but a few days, when he shipped on board the steamer, North Alabama, for Virginia City, working his passage as pantryman. Upon making application to the clerk for a berth, the question was asked if he ever had steamboated before, which he answered affirmatively. The next morning, after the boat had left the dock, he inadvertently exposed his unfamiliarity with his new situation, when the clerk turned toward him and sharply said: "I thought you said you had steam-boated before!" To which he replied: "I did, sir." "Where?" inquired the clerk. "In Ohio." "On what boat?" "A canal-boat." "What position did you fill?" "I curried the mules, sir," was the unhesitating reply. The clerk simply remarked "you’ll do," and turned away to smile. No further objections were ever offered, and he was, thereafter, evidently considered a first-class steamboat-man. After an absence of about six weeks, during which he traveled 1,380 miles, visiting Yankton, Forts Randall, Sulley, Rice, Buford and Grand River Agency, he returned to Sioux City. Prompted by a spirit of romance and adventure, he started, in company with a young man from Boston and a half-breed boy, for the Rocky Mountains on foot. They slept, during the night of the 3d of July, 1870, on a high bluff, in sight of Yankton, and on the morning of the 4th were awakened by the cannonading of the citizens of that city in the celebration of the nation’s birthday. Realizing that it would be unsafe to travel in daylight, on account of the hostile Indians, they decided to confine their future traveling to night-time. Their nocturnal journey, in about ten days, brought them to Fort Randall. Here the Boston boy enlisted in the regular army, and the half-breed somehow disappeared. After purchasing a small amount of rations and a revolver, on the 18th of July young Conaway again started upon his journey, alone. He had traveled about 150 miles, when he accidentally came upon an Indian village. He was immediately discovered and captured, and compelled to submit to the most revolting indignities for the next three days. On the night of the third day he effected his escape by some shrewd strategy. He succeeded in convincing the Indians that he had voluntarily left the whites, and come to be adopted into their tribe. They, consequently, initiated him by performances around his person as disgusting in some respects as they were amusing in others, after which the vigilance of their watch was relaxed, and he made good his escape about eleven o’clock in the night. He continued a hurried march for the next three days, and was almost exhausted by excited exertion, and famished for food, when, on the morning of the fourth day, he was taken up by the Twenty-second United States regular infantry more dead than alive and scarcely sane. Upon recovering his strength, he enlisted in the Fourteenth regular infantry for five years. He served but one year and twelve days, when he was discharged by the Secretary of War, who had been influenced to the act by the earnest intercessions of a good sister. Upon reaching home, he resumed the study of medicine, which had occupied much of his time in the army. In about one year after leaving the army, he went to Virginia, and returned home with one of his former pupils as his bride. He continued his studies—laboring by day and studying by night—until he had acquired means sufficient to enable him to attend the Electic Medical Institute. He entered in 1874, and graduated in 1875, and immediately afterward commenced the practice of his profession in Jefferson county, Ohio, and on November 29, 1878, emigrated with his family to his present field. He married, on the 16th day of May, 1872, Miss Frances S. Hoover of Parkersburg, West Virginia, who was born April 25, 1852. Three children have been born to them, as follows: Nannie B. (born April 19, 1873, and died December 12, 1873), Josie (born October 20, 1874) and Clement A. (born April 23, 1879). Dr. Conaway entered his practice at Dresden, two years ago, a poor man. By his moderate charges and successful treatment, he soon won the esteem and confidence of the people, and now owns, besides his dwelling, ten horses and forty acres of good farming land near Dresden, and enjoys an extensive practice and popularity not inferior to that of any physician in the county.
The History of Poweshiek County, Iowa
Des Moines: Union Hist. Co., 1880.