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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of Hamilton Jefferson

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

SURNAMES: ALLEN, FISHER, GAY, GOUCH, HIZY, JEFFERSON, KEITHER, LANDERS, NELSON, NICHOLS, PATTEN, STALEY, THOMPSON


HAMILTON JEFFERSON, who has been a resident of the Prairie State for thirty-five years, is now living in retirement in Champaign, and with his family occupies one of the most handsome and substantial residences. His has been a busy life, in which for years he was actively engaged in farming, but afterward went into the livery business, and followed it successfully in Champaign from 1860 until 1880. Since becoming a resident of this county he has taken a genuine interest in its welfare and progress and has contributed his full share toward bringing it to its present condition. He has now arrived at the advanced age of seventy-nine years, during which time he has built up for himself a record as an honest man and a good citizen, and has fully established himself in the esteem and confidence of all who know him.

Mr. Jefferson was born in Frederick County, Md., Jan. 23, 1808, and is the son of Leonard and Barbara (NICHOLS) JEFFERSON, natives of the same State as their son, and descended from excellent English and German ancestry. The father of our subject, who was a tanner by trade, removed from Maryland with his wife and son Hamilton, to Ohio, in 1812. They located in Chillicothe, Ross County, but soon afterward rented a hotel and farm about four miles from the city, where they remained eight years. Mr. Jefferson then purchased 300 acres of land in Fayette County, which was unimproved and consisted mostly of timber. This he improved and lived upon the remainder of his days, his death occurring in 1852. The mother had died some years before. Of the six children comprising the parental household, three are now living: Hamilton of our sketch; Elizabeth, Mrs. FISHER, of London, Madison Co., Ohio, and John, who is engaged in farming in Fayette County.

The primary studies of Hamilton Jefferson were conducted in the pioneer log school-house among the Buckeye hills. This was furnished with the puncheon floor of those days, and light was admitted through greased paper in place of window-panes. The teacher used a birch gad freely, and in other respects the system of education was widely different from that of the present day. Young Jefferson remained at home until reaching his majority, then farmed on rented land in his own county for five years. During this time he had saved sufficient means to purchase 150 acres of land in Madison County, upon which he took up his abode until 1851, in the meantime having added 200 acres to his first possession. He was now desirous of seeing something of the great West, and coming to Illinois purchased 1,050 acres of land in Vermilion County where he farmed extensively for three years. At the expiration of this time he purchased five acres in the city of Champaign, upon which he removed and which he has since occupied.

After abandoning the farm Mr. Jefferson engaged in mercantile pursuits for two years, then returned to his former occupation, to which he added the buying and selling of land, and also engaged in the livery business. He has assisted materially in the building up of Champaign, which at the time of his locating there consisted of only two stores and about a dozen houses. He assisted in the organization of the First National Bank of the city, being one of the first stockholders, and there are few enterprises to which he has not contributed by his means and influence.

The marriage of Mr. Jefferson took place in Fayette County, Ohio, in 1829, the lady of his choice being Miss Mary ALLEN, a native of that county. Of this union there were born six children, three now living. Their eldest son, James Willis, married Miss Armilda LANDERS, and they have four children—Sophia, James, Thomas and George. Elizabeth J., who became the wife of Jackson THOMPSON, is a resident of Champaign, and has three children—Martha, Ellen and Clara. William I. Married Miss Lydia PATTEN, and they have three children—William, Mabel and Earnest. Mrs. Mary Jefferson departed this life in Denver, Col., in 1880.

The present wife of our subject, to whom he was married in 1882, was Miss Susan STALEY, who was born in Virginia and was the daughter of Joseph and Margaret (HIZY) STALEY, natives of West Virginia, where Mr. S. was engaged in farming, and whence he removed, in 1854, to Illinois, and located in this county, on land between the cities of Champaign and Urbana. Mr. Staley was born in 1802, and departed this life May 20, 1863. His wife is still living and a resident of Champaign. Their family of eight children were, Susan, Mrs. Jefferson; Mary, Mrs. NELSON; Louisa, Mrs. GOUCH; Henrietta, Mrs. GAY; George A., Calvin C., Ella, Mrs. KEITHER, and Peter B. Mr. Jefferson is Republican in politics and has always fearlessly advocated the principles of his party. As a citizen and business man he has been an important factor in the interests of his section and is valued accordingly.

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