Biography - Abram Middlesworth

ABRAM MIDDLESWORTH, President of the First National Bank, Shelbyville, Shelby County, is a representative of the men of energy, ability and enterprise who have had the making of Shelby County. Not only is he prominent as the head of its leading financial institutions, but his name is indissolubly associated with the rise and progress of its agriculture as one of its most extensive farmers and stockmen for many years, he still retains his farming interests, and has one of the largest and best managed farms in this section of the State.

Our subject was born, November 10, 1821, on a farm ten miles southwest of Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio. His father was Abraham Middlesworth, a pioneer of this county, who was born in New Jersey, and was a son of John and Martha Middlesworth. The former died May 14, 1815, aged seventy years, and the latter departed this life Octobers, 1824, at the age of seventy-four years, and both were buried near Beavertown, Pa. Ner, an uncle of our subject, became a prominent citizen in the public life of the Commonwealth, and for eighteen years was a member of the State Legislature of Pennsylvania and served as Speaker of the House, he was born December 12, 1783 and died January 2, 1865. The grandfather, according to the best information at hand, was a native of England, who on coming to America at some time during the last century located first in New Jersey. Later he removed to Pennsylvania, and settled in that part of Union now included in Snyder County, where he engaged in farming until death closed his mortal career.

The father of our subject resided with his parents until he attained his majority, when he started westward to seek his fortunes, taking with him all his worldly possessions, which comprised his clothing and rifle. He walked to Fairfield County, Ohio, and locating there in the early days of its settlement, established himself at the trade of a cooper. He applied himself closely to his calling, and in due time, with close economy, had enough money to purchase a tract of timber land southwest of Lancaster. During the early years of his married life he lived in the log cabin which became the birthplace of his son of whom we write. He was a man of more than ordinary enterprise, and was withal a successful speculator, buying wild land or partly developed farms, taking up his residence thereon, and after making improvements selling at an advanced price. He continued to live in Fairfield County until 1840, when he ambitiously sought "greener fields and pastures new" in this county, bringing with him his family on that ever memorable journey, he and his wife traveling in a carriage and Abram with a five horse team, riding one and driving the others with a single line.

Abraham Middlesworth had previously visited Illinois before coming here to settle permanently, and he had bought a large tract of land in this county, including the farm then owned by Benjamin Waldron, Sr. Two hewed log houses and twenty acres of cleared land constituted the improvements, the twenty acres referred to being known at that time as "Waldron's Big Field". Mr. Middlesworth continued to be a resident of the county, devoting himself to the improvement of his realty until his death deprived this part of the state of a valuable citizen, who while he lived was actively identified with its agriculture. The maiden name of his wife, the mother of our subject, was Barbara Leathers, she was a native of Pennsylvania or Maryland, and of German antecedents. She died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Sally Galligher. These are the names of the seven children of the parents of our subject; Mary, Sally, John, Abram, William, Ner and Isabella.

Abram Middlesworth was nineteen years of age when the family removed to this county, which was then but sparsely settled, and the greater part of the land was owned by the Government. Deer and other wild game were quite plentiful, and often furnished an agreeable addition to the fare of the settlers, who were mostly home-livers, subsisting as far as possible on what they raised on their farms. There were no railways for some years after the family settled here, and St. Louis was the principal market and depot for supplies. Our subject embraced every opportunity to obtain an education in the schools of his early home in Ohio, which were taught in log school-houses, which he attended a few months each winter, devoting the remainder of the year to working on his father's farm. After coming to this county he and his brother managed their father's farm in 1841, and sold their whole crop of wheat at the rate of thirty-seven and a half cents a bushel. For a time they went to Springfield to get their grain ground.

Mr. Middlesworth's father gave him a tract of land, which was located in Tower Hill Township, and after his marriage he settled on it, and actively entered upon the pioneer task of reclaiming it from the wilderness. After the Mexican War he purchased land warrants of the soldiers to whom they had been given by the Government, and he entered land in Ridge Township, at a cost of eighty cents an acre. In addition to farming he engaged extensively in buying hogs and cattle, shipping the former to St. Louis and the latter to the New York markets, he continued to live on his farm until 1871, when he took up his residence in Shelbyville. He did not abandon his extensive agricultural operations, however, but superintended the cultivation of his farm and his large stock business as heretofore. He had acquired a handsome property by his operations, and twenty-five hundred acres of choice land are numbered among his possessions. In 1877 he was elected President of the First, National Bank of Shelbyville, Ill., which position he still holds, and it is through his efficient and able administration of its finances that it has risen to be one of the safest as well as one of the most important monetary institutions in the county.

Forty-four years ago, on the 28th of January, 1847, Mr. Middlesworth took an important step in life that has contributed greatly to his happiness and well-being, as on that date he was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth J. T. Goodwin. Mrs. Middlesworth is a native of this county and a daughter of James and Sarah (Donnel) Goodwin, pioneers of this part of the State. Mr. and Mrs. Middlesworth have three sons and two daughters living, namely; Sarah B., widow of John W. Ward, her residence being on a farm five miles northeast of Shelbyville; Isabella, wife of Hiram Scarborough; James; John and William S.

In early life our subject was a Whig, but he subsequently joined the Republican party, and has ever since been a stanch advocate of its policy. Ibis a man of strong character and firm principles, who has always exerted a good influence over the community, and he is in no respect behind his fellow-citizens in public spirit and an earliest desire to help forward all enterprises that will in any way advance the best interests of the city and county, giving the benefit of his experience, business talent and money to all feasible plans to promote the public weal. He and his estimable wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, and their liberality and helpfulness have contributed largely to its usefulness as an active religious organization.

Extracted 26 May 2018 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 553-554.

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