John M. Downer, Freeman, South Dakota, made an outstanding contribution to agriculture as a political leader. His name will always be associated with state and national movements for the betterment of the farming industry.
For 14 consecutive times, Mr. Downer was a delegate from South Dakota to the National Farm Congress; and at the time of his Eminent Farmer citation, was treasurer of that organization. In his home community, Turkey Ridge, he served as member of the local school board, justice of the peace, and was a leader in all civic club activities.
He was seated in the state legislature for one session and for 42 years was crop reporter for the United States government. In connection with his work as crop reporter, Mr. Downer built up a unique library containing every agricultural crop report since 1868.
Mr. Downer was also recognized as a breeder of pure bred livestock, including cattle, hogs, and poultry.
He was born on a farm near Norway, New York, in 1849. When he was a small boy, his parents moved to Trenton Falls, New York, where Mr. Downer worked on his father’s farm until he was 22. In 1873 he married Allie Simpson of Trenton Falls. For four years he and his wife lived on a rented farm in New York, then decided to come west.
In March 1878, the Downers moved to Erie, O’Brian County, Iowa, where they rented a farm of 140 acres. In 1882 they again started west and on July 5, filed a claim on the present Downer farm near Freeman, South Dakota. By 1927 the 140 acres of the original homestead had been increased to 232 acres.
The Downers had a family of nine children.