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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of Joseph M. Harnit

SOURCE: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Champaign County, Illinois," Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1887


JOSEPH M. HARNIT. The people of Ludlow Township made the acquaintance of this gentleman in the fall of 1864, when he came to this county with his father and settled on the northwest quarter of section 7. Of this forty-five acres were broken, which constituted its only improvement. The land to-day with its appurtenances presents one of the finest country estates in this section. The fields are enclosed with neat hedges and supplied with a fine set of frame buildings, the whole constituting a monument of what may be accomplished by the energy and ingenuity of one man alone. Our subject occupied this fine farm until 1876, and after living upon an adjoining one for a year, removed to Ludlow Village where he has since been engaged in the practice of law. He became a member of the legal profession in 1877, and since that time has devoted the greater part of his efforts to his law business and official duties. He has been Supervisor of Ludlow Township for a period of fifteen years and also held the office of Assessor and Collector, while at the same time serving as a member of the School Board, and giving his time to every worthy enterprise calculated to advance the moral and intellectual welfare of his community. He cast his first vote on Culpeper Plains on the march in Virginia, for Governor and other officers of Ohio, and supported the principles of the Republican party until the nomination of Peter Cooper as Presidential candidate of the Greenback party, since which time he has given his support to that political organization.

The subject of our sketch was born near Enon Station, Beaver co., Pa., May 20, 1842. His father, Samuel HARNIT, a native of the same county, was born Feb. 9, 1804. His grandfather, a native of Wales, emigrated to the United States when a young man and located in Pennsylvania, where he soon afterward took to himself a wife in the person of Miss Anna B. LUTZENHEIZER, who was a native of Westmoreland County, Pa. Grandfather Harnit was a blacksmith by trade, and built a shop upon a small tract of land which he had purchased and which he cleared from the timber, carrying on farming and his trade, and also mining the coal which he used as fuel in his shop and house. He met his death in the coal mine, which caved in upon him with fatal results before he could be extricated. This occured in December, 1803, two months before the birth of his son, Samuel, the father of our subject. The family then consisted of five children, who were all obliged to assist their mother in the maintenance of the family as soon as old enough to work. Young Samuel learned the trade of a wheelwright, which he followed until about 1852, then purchased a flouring-mill in Lawrence county, to which he devoted his time for ten years following. He was quite successful in his business and mill operations, and sent the last years of his life retired from active labor and in the enjoyment of a competency. His last residence was in Youngstown, Mahoning Co., Ohio, where he yielded up his life on the 4th of February, 1886, after reaching the advanced age of eighty-two years. The mother of our subject in her girlhood was Miss Sarah COREY, who was born in Beaver County, pa., and after becoming the mother of ten children, died there in 1848.

Mr. Harnit of our sketch, who was the eighth child and youngest son of the household, was ten years old when his father moved to Lawrence County. Four years later he went to Columbiana County, Ohio, where he remained two years, and from there to Marion County, of which he remained a resident until 1861. That year will long be remembered by every patriot as the time when both young and middle-aged men were called from home and the bosoms of their families to fight for the protection of those homes and families. Young Harnit was one of the first to respond to the call for troops, and on the 17th of april became a member of Co. K, 4th Ohio Vol. Inf., which was organized under the call for three-months' men. Six weeks later he re-enlisted for the three years' service in the same company and regiment, with which he remained until finally mustered out, June 23, 1864. He was present at the battle of Rich Mountain, Petersburg, Winchester, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness and Spottsylvania, being under fire for a period of thirty days, from the Wilderness to Cold harbor, in May and June, 1864. During the weary marches and all other hardships incident to a soldier's life, he never evaded his duty, and at the close received his honorable discharge and the commendation of his superiors. After becoming a citizen he proceeded to Marion County, Ohio, and worked in the harvest field on his uncle's farm the following summer, and in the fall of 1864 made his first advent into Champaign County. His subsequent course we have already detailed.

The wife of our subject, to whom he was married on the 10th of January, 1871, was Miss Libby, daughter of John NEWLIN, who was born in Montgomery County, Ind., May 24, 1852. Her father was a native of Hamilton County, Ohio, to which State her grandfather Newlin removed at an early period in its history. His son John was reared in his native county, whence he removed to Indiana, and was there married to Miss Cynthia FLEMING, who was born near Middletown, Ohio, and is the daughter of Thomas FLEMING, of Pennsylvania. The parents of Mrs. H. removed from the keystone State to Putnam County, Ill., in about 1854, where the father died three years later. Mrs. Newlin is still living, and makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. H.

Our subject and his wife became the parents of four interesting children, namely, William, Claude E., Jessie L. and Joseph M. Mr. Harnit socially belongs to Pera Lodge No. 574, A. F. & A. M., of which he became a memger in December, 1866, and served eight years as W. M. He was the first commander of Ord Post No. 372, G. A. R.

The maternal grandfather of Mr. Harnit, who was a native of Switzerland, located in Eastern Pennsylvania when a young man, whence he removed later across the mountains to Westmoreland County. After marriage he removed to Beaver County during the early settlement of that region, where he spent the remainder of his life.

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