Lee County Biography

J.A. Roper


Among the more recently established business enterprises of importance in Dixon is the manufacturing plant of the Roper Furniture Company, which was opened in 1910. It is today one of the leading productive industries of the city, contributing in large measure to the material growth and substantial development of Dixon. At its head is J.A. Roper and associated with him are two of his sons. The Roper family has long been established in the middle west. The parents of J. A. Roper removed from New York to Michigan in the early '40s. The father was a molder by trade and was a fellow workman on the molding floor with the late James Oliver of South Bend, the multi-millionaire plow manufacturer. J. A. Roper was born in Michigan in 1846 and the same year the family removed from that state to Indiana. His youthful days were devoted to the acquirement of a public school education before the war which was supplemented by a course of study in Asbury University after the war. He was but a lad of fourteen years when he joined the army, enlisting the fall of 1861 as a member of Company P, Forty-eighth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, with which he served until the close of the war, being first sergeant when mustered out. For a year previous to his discharge he had command of General William T. Clark's body guards, numbering thirty men. He was the youngest member of his company to serve throughout the period of hostilities. He participated in many hotly contested engagements which led up to the final victory that crowned the union arms, and he never faltered in the face of danger nor hesitated to respond to the call of duty.

After the close of the war Mr. Roper continued a resident of Indiana for a number of years and in 1868 was married to Miss Ella M. Bowling of that state. Unto them were born five sons: H. D., who is secretary and treasurer of the Roper Furniture Company ; C.A., residing at Mishawaka, Indiana, where he is engaged in the lumber business; H.C. connected with the Dixon plant; L.E. and J. Gordon, who are Residing in Chicago and are engaged in the furniture business there.

During the period of his residence of Mishawaka, Indiana, J.A. Roper established a furniture manufacturing plant, which was conducted by the family for twenty-two years.

Throughout that period the business grew and prospered and it was not until 1910 that it was sold and the family removed to Dixon. Here was established the present plant of the Roper Furniture Company which today has a floor space of thirty-four thousand, four hundred and forty feet. It is a three story fireproof building with sprinkler equipment, an engine of one hundred and twenty-five horse power, with a steam plant and also full electrical equipment. They manufacture high-grade dining room furniture, employ seventy-five people at the factory and three traveling salesmen upon the road. Their product is widely sold and they have salesrooms, warerooms and offices at No. 815 Wabash Avenue, Chicago. The present officers of the company are J.A. Roper, President; H.C. Roper, vice president and H.D. Roper, secretary and treasurer. The business was a valuable addition to the manufacturing interests of Dixon and the partners in the enterprise are all progressive business men who have no patience with underhand methods, but base their success upon determination, perseverance and talent. The simple processes are those which win results--not the intricate involved plans--and thus it is that analysis brings to light the fact that the successful men are those whose rules of business are simple in plan, even though there be a multiplicity of detail. In the conduct of the Roper Furniture Company the efforts of the sons ably supplement and round out those of the father and trained through years of painstaking work, they are in every way adequate to assume the discharge of comprehensive duties and guide the interests of one of the most important business concerns in the city.

The family are members of the Episcopal church and in politics father and sons are progressive republicans, believing that in politics as in business, advancement should be continuously made with changes to meet the changing conditions of the times.

Transcribed by Karen Holt - 1914 History of Lee County Illinois Vol 2 by Frank E. Stevens.

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