James A. Underwood. Though he is now a resident of Redbluff, Tehama County, California, Mr. Underwood still retains real estate interests in Woods County, Oklahoma, and as one of the pioneers who here settled at the time when the Cherokee Outlet was thrown open to settlement, in 1893, he is fully entitled to specific recognition in this history of the state in which he contributed his quota to civic and material development and upbuilding. He further has the distinction of having been likewise a pioneer of Kansas and his also is the honor of having been a valiant soldier of the Union in the Civil war.
Mr. Underwood was born in Knox County, Illinois, on the 18th of February, 1846, and is a son of James W. and Minerva (McDonald) Underwood, the former of whom was born in the City of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1823, and the latter of whom was born in Kentucky, in 1824, their marriage having been solemnized in Ohio and they having become pioneer settlers in Illinois, where the devoted wife and mother died, at Peoria, in 1866. They became the parents of three sons and four daughters, of whom the subject of this sketch was the fourth in order of birth: Adaline and Mary Catherine are deceased; William J. is a sterling pioneer citizen of Dewey County, Oklahoma; Columbus and Clara are deceased; and Alice A., the widow of Henry C. Young, resides with her brother, James A., at Redbluff, California, in which locality the two are associated in the ownership of a fine cattle ranch of 512 acres. The father, James W. Underwood, was a millwright and carpenter and became a successful contractor. He attained to the-venerable age of eighty-two years and passed the gracious evening of his long and useful life in the home of his son, James A., at Alva, Oklahoma, where his death occurred in 1905.
In the schools of the present beautiful little City of Peoria, Illinois, James A. Underwood acquired his early education and in his youth he there learned the trade of carpenter, under the effective direction of his father. When the Civil war was precipitated upon a divided nation he promptly tendered his aid in defense of the Union, by enlisting in Company A, Second Independent Illinois Cavalry. With this gallant command he participated in many engagements, including a number of important battles, but during the long period of his service he escaped injury save in the reception of two flesh wounds. He received his honorable discharge at the close of the war and he vitalizes his more gracious memories of the days of his military career by his identification with the Grand Army of the Republic, in which noble and patriotic organization he is still affiliated with Post No. 8 at Alva, Oklahoma.
After the close of the war Mr. Underwood continued in the work of his trade in Illinois until 1873, when he established his residence at Wichita, Kansas, where he became a pioneer contractor and builder and erected a number of the early houses of the now metropolitan city. He built up a profitable business and later continued to be engaged in the same line of enterprise for a number of years at Leavenworth, that state, and in Kansas City, Missouri, besides which he was for a time a leading contractor at Medicine Lodge, Kansas.
In 1893, assured of the value of the opportunities presented at the opening to settlement of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma Territory, Mr. Underwood participated in the historic “run” into the newly opened district and located a homestead claim six miles distant from the present thriving City of Alva, judicial center of Woods County. He remained on this claim ten years, made excellent improvements on the same and brought it into effective cultivation, in the meanwhile having duly perfected his title to the property. After leaving the farm, which he later sold, he engaged in the grocery business at Alva, where he still owns valuable property. He developed a substantial business, and became known as one of the representative citizens and honored pioneers of this section of the state. In 1913 he disposed of his business and removed to Redbluff, California, where he has since lived virtually retired, though he maintains a general supervision of the extensive and valuable cattle ranch in the ownership of which he and his sister are there associated. Mr. Underwood has distinctive inventive talent along mechanical lines and has patents on a farm gate and also a hay press, both of which were devised by him, and both of which have met with approval and practical demand. He has ever been known as a man of much business ability and civic loyalty, and his progressiveness and energy have been the dominating factors in his career of successful achievement.
At Medicine Lodge, Kansas, in 1888, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Underwood to Miss Vina Evens, and of their five children the first three died in infancy. The surviving children, Edward H. and Iris Alice, remain at the parental home, in one of the beautiful sections of Northern California.