JACOB J. HAM, a wealthy and influential farmer of Hudson Township, owns and occupies a beautiful country seat located on section 33, and which forms one of the most attractive spots in the landscape of McLean County. Mr. Ham settled where he now lives in 1862, and has been of material assistance in the development and advancement of the industrial and agricultural interests of this section.
The subject of this history is a native of Columbia County, N. Y., and was born in Kinderhook on the 28th of February, 1820. His parents, Jacob C. and Catharine (Pochman) Ham, were also natives of the Empire State, and the family circle included eleven children, of whom our subject was the fourth in order of birth. His ancestors were from Holland and several generations ago settled in Pennsylvania and subsequently moved to New York State.
Jacob J. Ham was reared on his father's farm in New York State and pursued his primary studies in the common schools. This was supplemented by attendance for a short time at college, and being a studious and ambitious boy he thus obtained sufficient education to enable him to adopt the profession of a teacher. In this he became quite successful and followed it for about fifteen years, the last six of these being spent in Padua Township.
Mr. Ham came to Illinois in October, 1856, locating at once in McLean County, and in 1862 he purchased 160 acres of land, upon which he settled and which constitutes a part of his present farm. The land was not much improved when he took possession of it, but by persevering industry he has made it one of the finest farms in that section of the State. He added to his real estate as time passed on and is now the owner of a half section, one-quarter being located on section 28 and the other on section 33, and it is all under a good state of improvement. In 1873 he erected his present handsome and commodious farm dwelling, which is built of brick, two stories in height, and cost over $8,000. It is in all respects one of the best farm residences in the county and his barns and other out-buildings correspond with the balance of the improvements. The premises at all points indicate the existence of cultivated tastes and ample means. His costly farming implements are of the most improved pattern and everything is in keeping with the appliances of a first-class agriculturist. Mr. Ham of late has been giving much attention to stock raising, dealing in high grade cattle, and at present feeds and sells large numbers of live stock of all kinds annually.
In early life our subject was a Democrat, but when the rebels fired upon Ft. Sumter he at once identified himself with the Republicans and became an ardent supporter of the Union. Since 1880 he has identified himself with the Prohibitionists, having been a strong temperance man all through life, and believing that in this manner he could more substantially cast his influence against the use and manufacture of spirituous liquors. He has been a man of strong and decided views, fearless in his expression of opinion, and bound to cast his influence toward the cause which he believed to be right, whatever might be the consequences. He has been an incumbent of the various offices of his township, although he would much prefer to give his entire attention to his own business matters.
At the age of eighteen years Mr. Ham identified himself with the German Reform Church, but in 1861, after coming West, he united with the Baptists.
The marriage of our subject with Miss Elsie M. Warner took place July 21, 1859. Mrs. Ham was born in Chenango County, N. Y., came West alone after becoming a young lady, and engaged as a teacher in McLean County until her marriage. Of this union there have been born five children, two of whom died in infancy; Henry Orlo spends his winters in Florida, where he owns an orange grove, and comes North during the summer to the home of his parents. He was married, April 7, 1887, to Ida J. Tilghman, daughter of Rev. N. J. Tilghman, their marriage taking place in Francis, Fla. Nettie, the wife of James T. Gildersleeve, resides in Hudson Township; they have one child, Elsie M. Eddie is at home with his parents.
Mr. Ham has been most essentially the architect of his own fortune, assisted by his estimable and energetic wife. He started out in life without financial assistance, but by persevering industry and the aid of superior business qualifications he has made of life a fine success and is now enjoying the reward of a competency and the profound respect of all who know him.
Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 718. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.