JAMES KIMLER. The name of this honored pioneer, who is now a resident of McLean, is familiar
throughout the greater part of this county as being a synonym of goodness, perseverance and integrity, and it is
with pleasure that we present his portrait in this volume. He came to this section when the country was wild and
uncultivated, and in common with the early settlers of that period, experienced the trials and privations incident
to life in a new country. With them he bravely and cheerfully labored, and with them will leave his footprints
where generations shall follow with far less toil and many more of the comforts and luxuries of life. The subject
of this history was born in Loudoun County, Va., Aug. 16, 1811. His father, Moses Kimler, was a native of the same
State, and his grandfather, John Kimler, a native of Germany, emigrated to America after his marriage and settled
in Virginia, where all his children were born. He was a blacksmith by occupation and followed his trade in Loudoun
County the greater part of his life.
The family consisted of eight sons and two daughters, as follows: Moses, the father of our subject, was the eldest born; Evan died in Fulton County, Ill.; Daniel spent his last years in Missouri; John died in Bloomington, Ill.; Benjamin died in Fulton County, Ill., and Israel in Tazewell County; Bailey and Caleb both died in Bloomington Township, this county; Hannah, the wife of Alexander Montgomery, died in Indiana; Eliza married Samuel Schooley, and died in De Witt County, Ill.
Moses Kimler, the father of our subject, learned the blacksmith's trade from his father and worked at it in his native county until about 1815. A few years after his marriage he removed to Kentucky by means of a large wagon and five horses. He took with him his wife and three children, and they were accompanied by his brother John, and another family. At Wheeling, they loaded their effects and their families onto a flatboat and went down the Ohio River to Maysville. Mr. K. was out of money and stopped two weeks to earn enough to take himself and family into Bourbon County. After arriving there he followed his trade until 1824. He then determined to seek a home in Indiana, and started overland with a pair of horses and a wagon, our subject being one of the members of the family. They visited the present site of Indianapolis, which was then a very small village of a few log cabins, in one of which was kept a hotel. Mr. K. then looked around for a location and concluded to settle near Crawfordsville, Montgomery Co., Ind. He purchased eighty acres of timber land and built a hewed-log house near the road which led from Crawfordsville to Indianapolis. This structure was considered quite an imposing one for those days, having four rooms, two on the ground floor and two “upstairs." Into this, when finished, he removed his family and opened a hotel. In the meantime he also worked at his trade, and remained a resident of the Hoosier State until 1834.
He then came to this county and settled in the grove about one mile south of the present site of Le Roy. There John W. Baddeley had laid out a town, and Mr. K. purchased a lot and put up a log house and a blacksmith-shop. The village, however, did not flourish, and after Le Roy was started he removed there, and established the first blacksmith-shop in the town. He continued here at his trade as long as able to work, but retired from active labor in 1847; his death occurred in 1850.
The mother of our subject, who before her marriage was Miss Mary Akers, was born in Virginia, of Welsh descent, and by her marriage with Moses Kimler became the mother of ten children, the record of whom is as follows: John died in Indiana in 1826; Richard died in Marion County, Iowa; James, our subject, was the third child; Mary A. died in Virginia when a young child; Robert died in McLean County, Ill.; Elizabeth became the wife of Thomas Buckles, and lives in Empire Township, this county; William died at Le Roy; Jefferson served as a Union soldier in the 94th Illinois Infantry and died in the service at Springfield, Mo., in 1862; Benjamin lives in Missouri, and Franklin in Farmer City, Ill.
James Kimler was but four years of age when his parents removed from Virginia to Kentucky, and fourteen when they went to Indiana. He remained with his parents until 1832, in which year he attained his majority, then came to this county, and worked for his uncle, John Kimler, for the two years following. In 1834 he went to Milwaukee, Wis., in company with three Orendorff brothers. They had one horse among them and “rode and tied," that is, one of the party would ride ahead and at some convenient place would tie the horse and walk along, and when the others caught up with the horse, another would do the same.
The northern part of the State was thinly settled at that time and houses were frequently twenty-five to thirty miles apart. Milwaukee then had but three stores and Indians were a very common sight. Alfred Orendorff had been there before and made a claim, upon which he built a log cabin on land now included within the city limits of Milwaukee. There the party kept bachelors' hall. The land had not then come into market but settlers were rapidly arriving and making claims, and our subject was employed by them to show land and build cabins, and he made and purchased claims to a tract now included in the city limits of Milwaukee.
In the fall of 1836 Mr. Kimler returned to Le Roy and spent the winter, and the spring following commenced to purchase cattle and drive them to the Milwaukee market, in which business he made money, and which he followed for two or three years. In 1839 the land came into market, and in company with Benjamin Cox, our subject entered about 800 acres, now also included in the city. They soon afterward divided the land and Mr. K. remained upon and improved a part of his possessions.
The following year he returned to Le Roy and purchased land adjoining the town on the Northwest, where he engaged in farming until 1846, then partially abandoned agriculture and engaged in mercantile business, which he carried on for about five years. He then sold his interests in merchandise and returned to farming, which he continued until 1883. He then sold his farm and removed into Le Roy, where he entered an elevator and engaged in the grain trade. Two years later the elevator was destroyed by fire, and since that time Mr. Kimler has not been engaged in any active business, having accumulated a handsome competency for himself and family.
The marriage of James Kimler and Miss Cassandra T. Clearwaters took place Jan. 28, 1838. Mrs. K. was born in Putnam County, Ind., and is the daughter of Reuben and Jane (Miller) Clearwaters, who were natives respectively of North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Of this union have been born six children: Mary J., the wife of Lewis Stout, lives at Le Roy; Harriett B., Mrs. James L. Silvers, lives in Fairmount; Martha and her husband, Joseph Neal, live in Farmer City; Cassandra became the wife of Preston Bishop, of West Township; Elizabeth, Mrs. John Love, also lives in that township; Lina became the wife of L. H. Delaplain, of Rush County, Kan.
Our subject and his wife united with the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1840, of which he has been Trustee, Steward and Class Leader almost since the beginning. He cast his first presidential vote for Andrew Jackson and his second for Gen. Harrison. He voted with the Whigs until the abandonment of the old party in 1856, and then identified himself with the new Republican party. Mr. Kimler has taken deep interest in the success of the temperance movement and has now arrayed himself in the cause of prohibition. He has in all respects fulfilled the obligations of a good citizen, and has his reward in the profound respect and esteem 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), 702. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.