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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



JOSEPH HAMILTON, a highly respected resident of Yates Township, where he formerly engaged extensively in farming, is now retired from active business, and occupies a handsome residence in the village of Weston. He has been a resident of this county since December, 1857, and has witnessed with keen interest the remarkable changes which have transpired within a period of thirty years. He has also contributed his full share toward the progress and development of his adopted county, and has presented an example of industry, enterprise and success.

Mr. Hamilton was born in Brown County, Ohio, Nov. 16, 1817. He traces his descent from excellent Irish ancestry, his grandfather, Robert Hamilton, being one of the first representatives of the family in this country. The grandfather emigrated from Ireland to the United States, prior to the Revolutionary War, in which he afterward served as a brave and courageous soldier. His son Robert, the father of our subject, after starting out in life for himself, pursued farming, and being very handy with tools frequently worked as a mechanic. He was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, and through his own efforts became fairly educated and informed. During the last years of his life he served as Justice of the Peace in Brown County, Ohio. He was taken from his earthly labors in the prime of life, his death occurring in 1829, when he was about forty-three years of age. His wife, the mother of our subject, who before her marriage was Miss Nancy Parish, was born in Pennsylvania, and died in Brown County, Ohio, about 1875, having survived her first husband nearly forty-six years, and living to the advanced age of eighty-three. The parental household included seven daughters and two sons, four of whom are deceased.

Joseph Hamilton was only twelve years old at the time of his father's death. His mother subsequently married again, and the family being in limited circumstances, our subject three years later engaged as an apprentice to learn the saddlery and harness-making trade. He remained with his first employer three and one-half years, attending school three months in each year, and worked at his trade the balance of his time. He afterward worked as a "jour" for nine months, the highest wages he received being $12 per month. Subsequently he varied his occupation by driving ox-teams, for which he received $8 or $9 per month, and when nineteen years of age taught school at $8 per month and board. On the 21st of February, 1837, he was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth J. Purdum, who was born in Brown County, Ohio, in 1817. After his marriage our subject taught school and farmed alternately, and by the aid of his faithful, industrious and economical wife, in time managed to save something from his scanty earnings. He resided in his native State until 1855, in the meantime having become the possessor of seventy acres of land. Then, believing that he could better himself in the further West, he emigrated to Illinois, first locating in Putnam County, where he resided two years. He then rented a farm of eighty acres at $4.50 an acre in advance, being obliged to borrow the money to pay the rent. For two years he raised 2,000 bushels of wheat each year, and in due time found himself on the road to prosperity. In 1857 he traded his land in Ohio for 100 acres in Lawndale Township, this county, upon which he settled and commenced to cultivate and improve. Then came the panic of 1857-58, and Mr. Hamilton in common with hundreds of others, suffered on account of poor crops and other misfortunes. He had no thought of giving up, however, but kept on in the even tenor of his way, and soon recovered himself, and once more enjoyed the smiles of fortune. In due time he was enabled to add to his original possessions, and besides his town property is now the owner of 180 acres of land, finely improved and furnished with all necessary buildings. He occupied this farm until the spring of 1880, when he purchased the property at Weston which he now occupies, and where he is living retired from active labor. His faithful companion and helpmeet departed this life Nov. 9, 1884. Of their ten children two died in infancy and one after reaching manhood. The seven living are Sarepta Ann, the wife of John Vawter; Perry; Amanda, Mrs. Peter J. Piester; Theresa, the wife of John M. White; Robert, William, and Elizabeth, the wife of William Castle.

Mr. Hamilton has been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church from boyhood. Early in life he became a strong Abolitionist, and afterward identified himself with the Republican party. Of late years he has watched the temperance movement with the deepest interest, and now ranges himself on the side of the Prohibitionists.

The publishers of this work have taken considerable pains in engraving a fine portrait of Mr. Hamilton, which may be found on another page.

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), 586. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.


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