Lee County Biography

Walter Frank Preston
South Dixon Township


Assistant United States Attorney at Chicago and Specia1 Agent of the Inter-State Commerce Commission, is a talented and distinguished member of the bar of Lee County. A leader in local politics, he has been the recipient of many honors poth public and professional. His aptitude for business is by no means restricted to the romance of legal and official duties, but he has also acquired prominence as a practical farmer and successful breeder of Hereford stock. He carries on his agricultural operations in connection with his father and for several years has had control of the latter's farm on which he makes his home, which is finely located on sections l4 and 15, South Dixon Township.

Of New England birth, the blood of some of the first families of the Colonial and Revolutionary period runs in the veins of our subject, and some of his ancestors figured extensively in the history of the early settlement of that part of tbe country. Tbe Preston family originated in England, their ancestral home being in the village of Preston, and since 1640 they have been represented in America. Samuel Preston, born in Lexington, Mass., had a son James, whose son Isaac was the granddfather of our subject. Mr. Preston was a Minute Man and came from his home in New Hampshire to aid in driving away the red-coats from Lexington, where that first shot was fired, heard round the world, in the opening of battle of that great and glorious struggle for freedom from the oppression of British rule, and he served honorably throughout the Revolution under Gen. Washington. The family were among the early settlers of New Hampshire and were active in its public life.

Jeremiah Preston, Sr., grandfather of our subject, was born in New Ipswich,N. H., and grew to manhood in his native place. He became prominently identified with the city of Manchester as one of its leading business men and numufacturers and was potent in making it a wealthy manufacturing center. He retired in 1868 from tbe successful business that had conducted for so many years, and removing to Cambridgeport, Mass., passed the remaining years of his life quietly in tbe home of his daugbter, Mrs. Jobn S. Verity, dying in 1879, at the venerable age of eighty-eight.

The maiden name of the grandmother of our subject was Ann Proctor, her family being prominent in New England during its early settlement. She was born and reared in Hollis N.H. and survived her husband only one year, dying at the age of eigbty-six years. Both husband and wife were liberal in their religious views and were identified with the Unitarian Church. In politics he was an old-line Whig, but after the formation of the Republican Party became one of its stanch supporters and remained true to his allegiance to the day of his death.

In New Ipswich N.H. where he was born, Jeremiah Preston, Jr. father of our subject, passed his boybood, though he was still quite young when he removed to Mason Vi11age and thence to Manchester. Very early in life he manifested a genius for mechanics and when only ten years of age began his training as a macbinist. ln his youth he helped to build the first steam fire engine made in this country,and, also the first power loom made in the United States. He was identified with the political history of New Hampshire and during the war engaged in the manufacture of guns for the government. He has since been connected with various railroads in the country in the mechanical department and was master mechanic for the Northwestern Railway Company. An expert in his line, his wide experience and thorough knowledge of the principles of mechanics make his services of inestimable value, and they are held in high appreciation by tbe officials of the company.

Mr. Preston resides on his homestead in South Dixon Township, Where, in company with his son, be devotes his leisure to raising high graded stock. He purchased that place in 1868 when it wae in a wild condition, it being the last piece of prairie land to be bought in this county, and with characteristic patience he saw its possibilities. His investment proved a wise one and today he is the owner of one of the choicest farms of its size in this section of Illinois. Aided by his son, be has brought it to a fine state, supplying it with the best modern improvements, including a handsome set of buildings of a pleasing style of architecture and conveniently arranged for its various purposes. Its one hundred and twenty acres of land are situated on section 15, and are under excellent cultivation.

The marriage of Jeremiah Preston in Manchester, N. H., united him with Miss Lucretia M. Hannaford, who was born at Alton Bay, on the shores of that beautiful lake, which, lying amid the rock-ribbed and everlastngg hills, is one of the picturesque features of the scenery for which the old Granite State is noted. Mrs. Preston is of English extraction and a descendant of some of the old Colonial stock of New England, numberling among her ancestors the Tilton family that came to America in 1640. She inherited fine mental endowments and is a woman of superior character and intelligenc.

Every advantage for a liberal education was afforded Walter F. Preston in his native city of Manchester, and he afterward pursued his studies in Chicago. To a young man of his astute, logical and comphrehensive mind the legal profession presented many attractions, and he devoted his whole energies to fitting himself for the bar, to which he was admitted in due time, with promise of a brilliant career before him, which has been more than fulfilled. He was for some time in the law office of Judge Farrand, County Judge of Lee County, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume.

After his admission to the bar Mr. Preston easily worked his way to the front. He has been Official Reporter of the Circuit Court for several terms and has often been honored by high positions. He is now Assistant United States Attorney at Chicago as well as one of the special agents of of the Inter-State Commerce Commission, with headquarters at Room 40, Government Building, having been connected with the commission since 1890. During the last session of the Fiftieth Congress he was private secretary to Senator Cullom. He is a prominent politician of the best type, who while working bard for his party is guided by patriotic motives and has the dearest interest of his country at heart. He takes an active part in local and State politics, is prominently identified with the progress of the Republican party in this section and has been delegate to State Conventions.

The marriage of our subject to Miss Ettie Smith was solemnized in South Dixon Township and their pleasant wedded life has been passed on the paternal homestead on section 15, Mr. Preston having had control of the farm since 1875. The three children born unto them complete their household, namely: Lelia F., Clarence G. and Ethel M., Mrs. Preston is a bright and prepossessing lady and was born in South Dixon township, being a daughter of one of its early pioneers, Joseph E. Smith, a native of Germany. Her mother was born in Frostburg, Md., whence after her marriage she removed with her husband to Lee County in 1838, coming among the first settlers of South Dixon Township. They are now living in retirement in the village of Nachusa, where they are serenely passmg the twilight of useful and honorable lives.

Source: Portraits & Biographical Lee County 1892 Pg 360

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