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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of James H. Flatt

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

SURNAMES: BAKER, BARLOW, BOYLE, BROWN, CAMPBELL, EARL, EDGAR, FEATHERSTONE, FLATT, FLAWELLING, FOWLER, HALL, HEROD, LONG, MORDEN, ROCK, ROY


JAMES H. FLATT, who is located on section 17, Somer Township, is a native of the Province of Ontario, Canada, and was born near the city of Hamilton, June 20, 1831. When fifteen years of age he started out in life to battle for himself, and coming to the States proceeded westward to Lee County, Ill., where he was engaged as a farm laborer for a period of seven years, with exception of time when was lying ill. The balance of the time was principally spent in working hard to pay the doctor's bill, which amounted to at least $100 per year. Notwithstanding this outlay and the low price for labor in those days, he managed to save something from his wages. In 1858 he returned to his old home in Canada, where he leased the farm for seven years, spending that time, however, for naught, as the venture did not prove successful.

In the midst of his difficulties, however, Mr. Flatt found one true friend and sympathizer who was willing to share his fortunes for better or for worse. This was Miss Lovila Matilda CAMPBELL, who became his wife on the 25th of November, 1858. She was the daughter of Louis CAMPBELL, of Hamilton Ontario, and was born not far from the birthplace of her husband. Resolving to again make his home in the West, Mr. Flatt, with his wife, came to Sadorus Township, this county, where he rented a tract of land, which he cultivated five years with fair success, and from the proceeds of which he was enabled to purchase 160 acre of raw prairie on section 22, in Sadorus Township. He at once commenced the improvement of this property, and labored thereon for fifteen years following, until 1883. His fortunes had greatly mended, and he now disposed of his farm in order to purchase 357 acres, lying along the Illinois Central Railroad, in Somer Township, five miles northeast of Champaign.

Robert FLATT, the father of our subject, was a Scotchman by birth, and died in the prime of life, when James H., of our sketch, was but a lad. He was possessed of moderate means, his estate including seventy-five acres of land, which is now owned by his son, William. The maiden name of the mother was Mary BAKER. She was born in Pennsylvania, and is still living, making her home with Jennett Flatt, at Waterville, Canada, and having arrived at the advanced age of eighty-six years. The parental household include twelve children, seven sons and five daughters, of whom five sons and four daughters are still living. Margaret became the wife of Samuel MORDEN, and resides in the Province of Ontario; Abram married Miss Betsey LONG, and is now a resident of Fairbury, Ill.; William married Miss Eleanor BOYLE, and they are living on the homestead in Ontario; Fannie is the wife of Ed. BROWN; Sarah, Samuel, Jennett and John, are all residents of Ontario, and all, with one exception, have families of their own.

The early education of our subject, with that of his brothers and sisters, was obtained in the old log school-house, with its seats and desks rudely fashioned out of slabs, and other primitive furnishings of the pioneer days. Notwithstanding his limited advantages, Mr. Flatt is a gentleman of more than ordinary intelligence; one who has kept his eyes open to what was going on around him, and made the most of his opportunities. Since coming to this county he has been quite prominent in local affairs, the excellent character of the man and his value as a citizen receiving ready recognition. He is a believer in the Christain religion, and socially belongs to the Masonic fraternity, whose principles he learned to admire many years ago, being made a Mason in about 1875. He now belongs to Lodge No. 537, at Sadorus. Politically he exerts his influence in support of Republican principles.

At the time of coming to this vicinity, much of the land adjacent was considered absolutely worthless. After the advent, however, of a few intelligent men, who understood drainage and the benefits arising from it, the Beaver Lake Drainage Association was formed, and Mr. Flatt became prominently identified with this, the result being that through the efforts of himself and others as persevering, a tract of territory was redeemed from the swamps and brought to a tillable condition.

The record of the seven living children of Mr. and Mrs. Flatt is as follows; Ormand married Miss Harriet Ann ROCK, and lives in Sadorus Township; James Alvah married Miss Mary EARL, and located in Somer Township; Lovila Annis became the wife of George M. FOWLER; those unmarried are Sarah, Carrie, George and Edward. Ira W. and Charlotte EDGAR are now deceased. Mrs. James H. Flatt is the daughter of Lewis and Jemima (ROY) CAMPBELL, both natives of New Jersey. The father was born in 1799, and died July 3, 1877, being buried on the following day. He was a good man in every sense of the word, and a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mrs. Campbell was born Sept. 16, 1805, and is still living, making her home in Ft. Dodge, Iowa.

The children of the parental household are recorded as follows; The eldest son, Daniel R., died when thirty years of age; Samuel S. upon leaving the parental roof located in St. Joseph, Mich., and was afterward elected to the office of Road Commissioner. One day he sent his men to work informing them he would soon follow. He has never been seen by his friends since that day, although supposed to be still living; he was unmarried. Elizabeth T. died when twelve years of age; Lovila M. is the wife of our subject; Joseph R. married Miss Hannah FEATHERSTONE, and is carring on a farm near Ft. Dodge, Iowa; Jemima A. became the wife of James BARLOW, who is engaged in handling agricultural implements in Wise County, Tex.; Mary L., the wife of Charles F. FLAWELING, is living in this county; Carrie S., Mrs. J. HEROD, is a resident of Texas; David L. married Miss Eleanor HALL, and is living in Sadorus Township; Margaret A. died in 1870, when about twenty-two years of age.

No man is held in higher respect in Champaign County than James H. Flatt. As a man, citizen and farmer he is filling his niche in life most worthily, and presents in his daily walk an example worthy of imitation as a Christian gentleman of the noblest impulses, having a good influence upon all with whom he associates. His intelligence has led him to keenly appreciate the westward march of civilization, and he has taken great satisfaction in the prosperity of his adopted State, identifying himself with its interests, and jealous of its reputation as a commonwealth. No man feeling thus can fail being of great value to a county and a community. There is no truer saying than "that the works of men live after them," and Mr. Flatt will leave to his descendants a life history which they will be proud to peruse and to teach their children when he shall have passed from the scenes of his earthly labor.

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