Biography - James W. Scott

JAMES W. SCOTT, a veteran of the late war, in which he fought bravely in defense of the stars and stripes, has since done as good service as a thrifty, intelligent farmer in aiding the development of the agricultural resources of this country, and is now living in honorable retirement at Shelbyville, Shelby County. He was born March 11, 1826, in one of the early pioneer homes of Licking County, Ohio, his birthplace being eleven miles northeast of the town of Newark. His father. Peter P. Scott, a native of New Jersey, was one of the early settlers of Illinois, locating not far from Peoria, and he was widely known throughout that region as a pioneer blacksmith and farmer of that section of the State. The paternal grandfather of subject, whose given name was Joseph, was born, according to the best information at hand, in County Tyrone, Ireland, and was of Scotch antecedents. On coming to America, he settled in New Jersey, and there reared a family, two of the sons serving in the War of 1812. He was an iron worker, and his last days were spent near Newark, N. J. His wife, a native of Germany, whose maiden name was Mary Himyon, also spent her last years near Newark.

Peter P. Scott was reared in the State of his nativity, and in his youth became a practical blacksmith, learning his trade at Newark, and following it there until about 1820. In that year he went to Ohio, going thither with teams, and located in Licking County. He carried on his calling there until 1828, when he made another move. Starting for the wilds of Illinois with his wife and four children, making the journey with two pairs of oxen to a wagon, in which were conveyed all their earthly belongings, including Mr. Scott's anvil, that he had taken with him from New Jersey, and which is now in the possession of the son of the subject, who bears the name of his grandsire, and is a resident of Marshall, Oklahoma. Mr. Scott located one mile west of Washington and ten miles from Peoria, which was then known as Ft. Clark. Indians had full sway in the northern part of the State at that time, there were but very few settlement of whites, and Chicago was but a hamlet.

The father of the subject traded one pair of oxen and the wagon for a squatter's claim, and entered the land at the general land office at Springfield. Six acres of the land cleared and fenced, and a log house, stable and smoke house, constituted the improvements on the place. Mr. Scott carried on his trade as a blacksmith for some years, and people came for many miles to get work done. He was a very skillful mechanic, and besides making all his horse-shoes and nails by hand, was of an inventive turn of mind, and the first steel scouring plow ever used was from a patent made by him. In his last years he devoted himself to the management of his farm until he passed away in April, 1870 at a ripe age, in the home that he had built thereon. His wife, a native of New York City, whose maiden name was Catherine Murphy, went to Galesburg after his death, and there resided until her death, when full of years in May, 1884. She was the mother of eleven children.

The subject of this biography, although but five years of age when his parents brought him to Illinois, clearly remembers the incidents of that momentous journey of the pioneer life that ensued in the wild, sparsely settled region now known as Tazewell County. Indians still lived there and deer, wild turkeys and other game were abundant. Our subject's education was obtained in the primitive pioneer schools of the early days of the settlement of Illinois. The first one that he attended was taught in his father's house. The seats, which had no backs and no desks in front, were made of slabs or puncheons, and were supported by wooden pins. A log was taken out of the length of the building and a row of glass inserted in its place to admit the light. In 1832, the year of the Black Hawk war, the inhabitants were constantly on the alert for fear of being surprised and massacred by the Indians, and it took but very little to create a scare. Our subject relates a rather amusing episode of this time. A man living near the school house was out hunting squirrels. He shot one near the building and the ball, glancing, went through the glass and hit a girl on the side of the head, making an ugly scalp wound. The scholars, supposing the Indians to be upon them, were very much frightened. The teacher, a young man from the East, started with the wounded girl to assist her home, but he soon fainted and his pupil had to make her way home alone. The frightened scholars circulated the report that Indians fired into the schoolhouse, and the neighbors, all armed, gathered together there, and excitement ran high until it was found out who did the shooting.

Mr. Scott lived with his parents until he grew to manhood, in the meantime assisting in the farm work, and he then commenced to learn the trade of a cooper, which he followed in Tazewell County until 1850. In the spring of that year he started with others for the gold fields of California, leaving Pekin on the 14th of April, and making an overland journey across the plains and mountains. At that time, there were but very few white settlers between the Missouri River and California, except the Mormons at Salt Lake. Indians reigned supreme on the plains, and innumerable buffaloes were encountered on the way. The little party arrived at Weaverville, July 27, and our subject devoted his time to mining until the spring of 1851. He then gathered together his gains and returned home, traveling by way of the Isthmus of Panama to New York, from that city by rail to Dunkirk, thence by the Lakes to Chicago, and from there by the canal and the Illinois River to Peoria.

The following year Mr. Scott bought a team with the intention of returning to California, but realizing that gold was to be obtained by tilling the rich soil of this state as well as by getting it more directly from the mines of the Pacific Slope, he changed his mind and came instead to Shelby County to try farming here. He bought a tract of land in what is now Okaw Township, a few acres of which were improved and a log cabin stood on the place. He lived there until 1861, when he settled on a tract of land in Todd's Point Township, which he had bought from the Government.

In August 1862, our subject threw aside his work to take part in the great war that was then being waged between the North and South, inscribing his name on the roll of Company G, One Hundred and Fifteenth Illinois Infantry. In 1863 he received injuries which incapacitated him for active duties, and he was ordered to the hospital by the surgeon, but this did not please him, and he induced the colonel to countermand the order and he remained with his regiment until June, 1863. After that he was a short time in Franklin, Tenn., whence he was ordered to Nashville, where was transferred to the invalid corps. When the Veteran Reserve Corps was organized, he was transferred to Company G, Fifth Regiment, and was transferred at Camp Merton, Minneapolis. On the night before the election at Chicago, he was one of the five hundred soldiers sent to that city to guard the rebel prisoners confined there who had made their plans to escape. He was kept on duty forty-eight hours without relief, and returning to Indianapolis ten days later, was soon after taken sick. He had to go to the hospital for treatment, and was discharged from that institution in February, 1865, and from the army, thus closing an honorable career as a soldier, wherein he had borne the hardships and privations incident in such a life with fortitude and true courage that he might serve his country in the time of her greatest peril. In commemoration of those trying years, he is now connected with the Cyrus Hall Post, No. 138, G. A. R.

Returning home after he left the army, Mr. Scott superintended the improvement of his farm, and made his home thereon until his retirement from active business to Shelbyville in 1882. Death had deprived him of his good wife in April, 1879, after a wedded life of more than thirty years, they having been married June 17, 1847. Her maiden name was Louisa Tucker, and she was a native of Mead County, Ky., a daughter of Truman Tucker. Her marriage with our subject was productive to them of these seven children, James W., Esther C., Elizabeth A., Ida L., Emma D., Peter P. and Mary A.

Extracted 13 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 451-453.

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