Biography - James Drew

James Drew, one of the earliest pioneers in the western part of Douglas county, and also one of the largest land owners, is a native of the state, having been born in Hamilton county, Illinois, on the 14th of June, 1819. He came to the territory now embraced in Douglas county in 1839, and continued to reside on the place of his first location until his death in 1894.
The Drew family, from which Mr. Drew has his descent, formerly resided in South Carolina, where John Drew, the father of James Drew, was born. The maiden name of his mother was Tempy Farmer, and she was also a resident of South Carolina. The family afterward removed to Indiana, and then to Illinois, settling in Hamilton county. Here James Drew was born on the date given above. When about four years old the family moved north to Shelby county. The children were nine in number, five boys and four girls, only two of whom are now dead. After the family had lived in Shelby county about eight years, then moved to Coles county, south of Charleston. The principal part of his education Mr. Drew received in this county. He attended a common country school, held in an old shanty, with a fire-place occupying nearly all of one end. The most of the children were without hats and went barefoot in winter. Mr. Drew's father was a farmer, and kept the boys at home a great deal of the time to work on the farm. After a residence in Coles county of some years the family moved back to Shelby, this time making their home in the territory afterward embraced in Moultrie county on its formation. Mr. Drew was now about eighteen years of age. He stayed at home part of two years, one summer going to Galena, and working in the lead mines there. No money could be obtained at this period for farm labor, and the lead mines offered the only opportunity for obtaining ready cash. While employed here he received twenty dollars a month and board. In the year 1839 his father took a job of making rails for one Jacob Taylor, probably the first settler in what is now Garrett township, and James agreed to give his assistance. He was now old enough to do for himself, and with the same foresight and business tact which has marked his subsequent he was on the lookout to secure land for himself. Land could be obtained in that part of Coles county where Taylor lived, and young Drew embraced the first opportunity of settling. He entered eighty acres of land at the government price of one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre, borrowing one hundred dollars of Taylor to make the purchase, and agreeing to discharge the debt partly in day's labor. Mr. Drew's present house stands on the original land entered. His brother and brother-in-law each entered eighty acres at the same time, and the whole amount came into the possession of Mr. Drew. It was the close of the year 1839 when Mr. Drew first came into the county, and the next spring he bought his land. He put up a split log cabin on the premises and lived with his brother-in-law. All the time he could spare for improving the property he devoted in paying off the debt of one hundred dollars, which was finally accomplished in three years. A good portion was worked out by labor, at fifty cents a day. There were only four families in the neighborhood at the time of Mr. Drew's settlement. For thirty miles to the west, in the direction of Decatur, there was not a single house. The prairies were all unoccupied, covered with tall grass and resin weeds, over which roamed deer and prairie wolves.
After living with his brother-in-law for a couple of years, Mr. Drew concluded to go to keeping house for himself, and married Angeline Waller, a native of Hamilton county, but who at the time of marriage lived in Shelby. Mr. Drew was then twenty-three and his wife about twenty. Mr. Drew had early learned industrious habits, and from his childhood knew the meaning of hard work. By his industry and frugality, he won success, investing his surplus capital in land and adding from time to time as opportunity offered. Farming was the pursuit to which he directed his whole energies and ever since his residence in the county he has given considerable attention to raising and feeding stock.
Mr. Drew's first wife died in 1855, and he subsequently married, on the 13th of October, 1857, Miss Martha L. Baker.

Extracted by Linda Lang from the Historical and Biographical Record of Douglas County, Illinois, pages204-206

Templates in Time