|Missouri Division of Mine Inspection , Missouri Bureau of Mines Annual Report, 1908|
April 25, 2016
1867 John L. DesCombes born in Post Oak township, Johnson County MO
John L. DesCombes, engineer and superintendent of the buildings and grounds of the Warrensburg State Normal School, was born in 1867 in Post Oak township, Johnson county, Missouri. He is a son of Thomas L. DesCombes, the oldest child born to his parents, Charles L. and Martha (Wash) DesCombes. a native of St. Louis county, Missouri, and Sallie V. (Bell) DesCombes. a native of Cooper county, Mis- souri. Charles L. DesCombes was born January 6, 1806, in the canton of Neuchatel. Switzerland. He was of French lineage, son of David L. DesCombes, who emigrated from Switzerland and came to America, and he with his family settled in St. Louis county, Missouri. The death of David L. DesCombes occurred in St. Louis county. In 1820, the DesCombes family left the Alpine country and set sail from Holland for the land across the Atlantic. The vessel upon which they came to America passed the shores of Greenland, through the Hudson Bay, and anchored at the mouth of the Nelson river. They had been three months on the ocean voyage. In Canada, the settlers landed and the family of David L. DesCombes followed the river until they arrived at Winnipeg and from that place went on up the Red river of the North to the wilderness of northern Minnesota. Slowly and patiently they had worked their way against the current of streams, across lakes, and over portages, when they were obliged to pull their boat across a "carry." Trials and difficulties grew thick about them. In the dense forest, they had reached the next body of water, but had not accomplished their full purpose, when they decided to remain where they were for three months and for two bitterly cold winters and one summer the DesCombes family merely existed. From the savages, dried buffalo meat was procured and in the winter time fish were obtained from the river after the ice was cut to a depth of from six to eight feet. Wild herbs were found in abundance in the summer. Discontented, they determined to risk the journey farther into the country in the hope of bettering their now destitute condition. Brave, undaunted, hopeful, David DesCombes started with his family again in 1823 upon the dangerous way through the forest, traveling often by land and seldom by water, when they reached St. Peter's river, where the father built a canoe from a large tree, which he cut'down, and in this frail bark they at last arrived, tired, desolate, and in a starving condition, at Fort Snelling. A loaf of bread was given young Charles and at the sight of the food he clapped his hands with delight and cried happily, "Thank the Lord! Here is bread once more!" After remaining at the fort until they had fully recuperated, the DesCombes family came to St. Louis county, Missouri, where they settled. April 6, 1837, Charles L. DesCombes was united in marriage witii Martha Wash and to them were born the following children: Thomas L., who was reared to maturity in St. Louis county and was married to Sallie V. Bell and to them was born John L., the subject of this review; Mary L. ; Adelia A. ; Charles E., who enlisted in the Civil War and served in the Confederate army under General Francis M. Cockrell; William F., Virginia E. ; Rachel R. ; Martha Day : John N. : Susan Rand ; and Eugene. Charles L. DesCombes was a devout member of the Presbyterian church, becoming a member in Switzerland, and always remained true to his belief. Martha (Wash) DesCombes had been reared in a household that firmly stood for the belief of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, of which she became a member in Virginia in 1832. In 1850, Mr. DesCombes made an overland trip to California. This was the time of the excitement over the discovery of gold in the millrace on Captain Sutter's land about one hundred miles northeast of San Francisco, when people rushed to the gold region from all settled parts of the United States, when farmers, carpenters, storekeepers, professional men left their work to seek the golden treasure. The difficulties and dangers in crossing the plains and the desert region were many and the bones of human beings, horses, oxen, were strewn along the entire route. Charles L. DesCombes reached his journey's end safely and after a short time spent in California returned home by way of the Isthmus of Panama and New York City. In 1856, he moved with his family to Post Oak township in Johnson county, where he owned five hundred acres of land. On this farm, both he and his estimable wife died. Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. DesCombes were honest, industrious, highly esteemed citizens, pioneers worthy of the greatest honor and respect. Thomas L. DesCombes. who at the present time is residing in Leeton, Missouri, and Sallie V. (Bell) DesCombes were the parents of the following children: John L., the subject of this review; Mrs. Annie E. Holt, of Warrensburg, Missouri; Mrs. Mary Ellen Swigert, of Leeton, Missouri; William T.. who resides in Leeton, Missouri; Henry C, of Warrensburg, Missouri ; Eugene F., Leeton. Missouri ; and Mrs. Sallie E. Katherman, Warrensburg, Missouri. In the district schools of Johnson county, John L. DesCombes received his education. His boyhood days were spent as are the days of the average lad on the farm. At the age of twenty years, he learned the blacksmith's trade, working as an apprentice with Ellert & Clark, of Shawnee Mound in Henry county, Missouri. Until 1898, John L. DesCombes was engaged in blacksmithing. At that time he began to study the machinist's trade and from 1901 until 1907 was employed by the Bowen Coal Company of Windsor, Missouri, as master mechanic. Mr. DesCombes moved from Windsor to Warrensburg in 1909 and for several years conducted a machine shop in this city until 1915 he was appointed engineer and superintendent of the buildings and grounds of the Warrensburg State Normal School, a position which he is filling at the time of this writing, in 1917. His work requires that he attend to the needs of the buildings of the normal school, to the heating, lighting, cleaning, and to care for the grounds. Mr. DesCombes is "on the job" every day in the year — and many of the nights. He is an excel- lent, careful conscientious workman and a mechanic of marked ability. September 5, 1888, John L. DesCombes was united in marriage with Nora Elliott, daughter of Samuel H. and Carrie Y. Elliott, both deceased. Mrs. DesCombes was born in Calhoun, Henry county, Mis- souri. To John L. and Nora (Elliott) DesCombes have been born ten children, who are now living, and one, who died in infancy. Lonna L., the proprietor of "The Auto Shop" of Warrensburg, Missouri, a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this volume; Lloyd E., Springfield, Ohio; Mrs. Virginia C. Thompson, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Russell D., Springfield, Ohio; John Herbert, who died at the age of two years; Donald Ray and Doris May, twins, at home with their parents; Arlie Ines, at home ; Eugene George, at home ; Ruth and Ruby, twins, at home.
The Bowen Coal Company of Windsor and Henry County, Missouri, composed of Richard Bowen and his sons, John, Thomas R. and William S. Bowen, is one of the most important mining concerns in western Missouri. For several years since the organization of this company they have been mining coal in this section of Missouri and have been active developers of this important mining field. Richard Bowen, founder of the Bowen Coal Company, was born at Thornley, Durham County, England, May 17, 1839. He is the son of James and Elizabeth (Tulip) Bowen, the former of whom was a soldier in the British Armies, having fought in America during the War of 1812 and was a soldier in Wellington's army, which defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Richard Bowen was reared to young manhood in England and became a coal miner. He immigrated to America in 1863 and arrived here on May 9. He first settled in the coal mining country near Steubenville, Ohio, later going to the mining section of Allegheny County, Maryland, where he was employed in the mines for a year. He then went to Clarksburg, West Virginia, and was there employed for three years. From Clarksburg he went to Ritchie County, West Virginia, and had charge of coal mines at that place for four years as mine boss and superintendent. In 1876 he came to Henry County, Missouri, and took charge of the Bancroft and Company's mines. Later he was manager of the Osage mines. In 1882 he embarked in mining on his own account and became a member of the Tebo Mining Company. For twenty years thereafter he was interested actively in coal mining and organized the Bowen Mining Company of which he was the head until his retirement to a home in Clinton, Missouri.