JAMES A. STEPHENS, a highly respected farmer of Mt. Hope Township, is engaged successfully in agricultural operations
on section 10, where he owns and occupies a comfortable, homestead. His father was a pioneer of Illinois, and made
his location in Logan County in the early settlement of the State.
The subject of our sketch is a native of Logan County, Ill., and was born in Atlanta Township, Dec. 11, 1836. His father, Adam Stephens, of Virginia, was born in July, 1801, and his grandfather, Peter Stephens, an early farmer of the Old Dominion, emigrated from Virginia to Ohio in about 1809. He located in what is now Clinton County, and was among the earliest pioneers of that region. He purchased a tract of timber land, cleared a farm from the forest, established a comfortable home and remained there until the close of his life. His son, Adam, the father of our subject, there grew to manhood, and was united in marriage with Miss Mary Hoblit, a native of Ohio. They located in Clinton County after their marriage, remaining there until 1829, and then, accompanied by his wife and four children, Adam Stephens started for the State of Illinois. The journey was made overland with horses and wagons. They , carried their household goods with them and camped and cooked by the way. Before removing his family here, Mr. Stephens had previously visited the State, and purchased a claim in what was then township 21 north, range 1 west, and included in Tazewell County. Upon it stood a log cabin into which the family moved and set up housekeeping in the best manner possible. The town of Springfield, forty miles distant, included the nearest post-office, and Pekin, at the same distance in another direction, was the depot for supplies, and the only market for grain and pork for several years. The second winter during which Mr. Stephens was a resident of Illinois, was remarkable for its deep snows, a season which will be long remembered by the old settlers and their children. Travel was almost entirely suspended, and the pioneers suffered great privation during a long season when there was no communication with the outer world.
After the land in that vicinity was surveyed and came into market, Mr. Stephens entered 280 acres at $1.25 per acre, the greater part of which consisted of timber. He cultivated what there was of prairie, cleared the timber as rapidly as possible, established a homestead, and lived to see the country around him opened up to civilization. His death occurred in August, 1882, the wife and mother having departed from the scenes of earth three years before. They had become the parents of nine children, seven of whom grew to years of maturity, and whom they carefully trained to habits of industry and to principles of honor.
James A. Stephens was the eighth child of his parents' family, and he has a vivid remembrance of the scenes and incidents of pioneer life. The first school he attended was conducted on the subscription plan in the old log cabin which had been the home of his parents when they first came to the county. The name of his first teacher was James Mackiu, a brawny man, the quality esteemed the most highly in a teacher of those days. The popular belief then was that the wisest plan to govern a school was by the rod, and woe to the boy especially, who disputed the teacher's authority or judgment. The method of instruction too in those days, was widely different from that of the present, and a text book was never laid aside until it had become so worn that it was unfit for further use, a wide contrast to the present school system which is undergoing perpetual change, and not invariably for the better. The benches and writing desks were made of slabs, and the floor was made of puncheons. Here young Stephens attended school during the winter season, and worked upon his father's farm the remainder of the year. He was but a boy when he commenced marketing the farm produce, and the trip to and from Pekin for this purpose usually occupied three days. His wheat sold at thirty and thirty-five cents per bushel, and some qualities only ten cents, and dressed pork brought $1.25 per hundred. His father raised flax and kept sheep, and his mother and sisters spun the wool and the product of the flax plant, weaving the same into garments for the several members of the family, and for other purposes demanded in the household. " Calico" was then considered a luxury, and usually formed the " best dress" of the female members.
James Stephens remained at home with his parents until he attained his majority. He was soon afterward married and settled upon the southeast quarter of section 10, in what is now Mt. Hope Township. He put up the first buildings on the place, having broken some of the land the year previous. This he occupied for two years, and then removed upon the farm which constitutes his present homestead. This latter consists of 159 acres, all enclosed and under a good state of cultivation. He has a fine brick residence which was erected in 1877, good frame barns, and other necessary farm buildings....
The marriage of Mr. Stephens with Miss Martha E. Hatch, occurred Dec. 24, 1857. Mrs. Stephens was born in Greene County, Ohio, and was the daughter of Stephen B. Hatch, a native of Indiana, ' and a farmer by occupation. He came to Illinois in 1854, and located in Atlanta, Logan County, where he still lives. In early manhood he was married to Miss Phoebe Levally.
Mr. and Mrs. Stephens have become the parents of two children -- Edward, who was born in Mt. Hope Township, and married Lillie Atchison, and Carrie B. Mr. Stephens is Republican in politics, straightforward in his business methods, and an honest man and a good citizen.
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), 190-191. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.