This information is part of the Champaign County ILGenWeb Project. If you have reached this site by means other than The USGenWeb Project, The ILGenWeb Project, or directly, please visit the main Champaign Co, ILGenWeb site for more information regarding Champaign County, IL ancestors. Information contained here was transcribed by Celia Snyder. Please do not repost this information without the express written permission of Celia Snyder.

Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of William J. and Joseph Alexander

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


WILLIAM J. and JOSEPH ALEXANDER, farmers and goodly land-owners of Ayers Township, of excellent Scottish parentage, are natives of County Tyrone, Ireland. They came to this country in 1858 or 1859, and after leaving New York City, proceeded directly westward to this State, locating near the town of Brimfield, twenty-five miles west of Peoria. Three months later they repaired to Jacksonville, where they engaged as farm laborers two years, and then embarked in agriculture on their own hook. Unlike many of their brethren they were provided with some means, and now purchased 480 acres of land and tried the experiment of stock-growing, which they continued with fair success until 1870. They then disposed of their interest in that section and purchased two farms in Locan County, which they disposed of in 1872. Their next venture was in Ayers Township, where they purchased 1,000 acres of land, which is esteemed as of the choicest quality to be found in this region.

The Alexander brothers possessed remarkable energy, and in a comparatively short time had erected a fine act of buildings, including a handsome two-story dwelling and a barn, which for beauty of architecture and quality of material will compare favorably with anything of the kind in this part of Champaign County. The buildings occupy a slight elevation, and command a fine view of the surrounding country. They also attract the attention of the passing traveler, and the admiration of all who behold them. Alexander brothers are now tacitly acknowledged to be the largest individual farmers in Ayers Township. They feed and ship annually about 800 head of cattle, chartering each year a number of trains to transport their animals to the markets of Chicago and other points East. In addition to their real estate in Ayers Township they own a large tract of land in Washington and Nuckolls Counties, Neb., and also land in Colorado.

Upon starting out in life William and Joseph Alexander had nothing to depend upon but their own resources and a small case capital of perhaps $100. They are probably now the largest tax payers in Ayers Township. For the last four years Joseph has made his home principally in Nebraska, but in 1887 returned to Illinois, and will probably be content to settle down permanently in the Prairie State. Notwithstanding the rich land west of the Father of Waters he admits that there are advantages to be enjoyed in this State not possessed by the territory west.

The parents of the Alexander brothers were James and Letitia (MARSHALL) ALEXANDER, both born in Scotland. The father was a farmer and wheelwright, and removed to Ireland early in life. He was successful financially, and left a fine farm to his widow. She was married again, to Mr. H. STEEN, a Scotchman by birth. Of her first marriage there were born five children: Mary became the wife of Michael CLARNEN, and lives in Ireland; Sarah married J. M. CATCHART, a Scotchman, and lives in Ayers Township; John married Miss ERKHART, a lady of Scottish birth; the brothers, William and Joseph, complete the children of James Alexander. Of the second marriage of the mother there were born Henry, Thomas, James and Eliza. William J. Alexander was born Feb. 13, 1847. Since coming to this country he has fulfilled creditably all the duties of a citizen, with one exception, and that is that he remains a bachelor, when he might become the head of a family and increase even his present high standing in social and financial circles.

Joseph Alexander was born May 12, 1849. On the 15th of November, 1883, he married a most worthy and highly respected lady, Miss Emma B. SIX. She was born in 1862, and only remained the companion of her husband a few short months, her death taking place in August, 1884. She was a lady possessed of a fine education, and had taught school for some time before her marriage. She was greatly missed in social circles, and in the Presbyterian Church, of which she had been a devoted and consistent member for several years.

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