Biography - James Slater

JAMES SLATER. Pioneer life in the Prairie State was not, perhaps, so full of hardships as in some of the more densely wooded sections of our country, but those who came to this State in the early days can recount many tales of deprivation which sound strangely to the ears of the younger generation. In the days when the subject of this sketch first lived in Illinois, there was no Justice of the Peace nearer than Shelbyville, and for four years after his coming here no property was assessed for taxation.

Mr. Slater was born near the city of Indianapolis, Ind., May 2, 1824. His parents were William and Jane (Wilson) Slater, the father being a native of Yorkshire, England, and the mother being born in Kentucky. They were married in Indiana and resided there until 1832, when they came to Lawrence County, Ill., and afterward to Montgomery County where they settled in 1844.

The subject of this biographical sketch came to Shelby County in the year 1848 and for four years previous had lived just across the line and within sight of the village of Oconee. Farming was his occupation and he did much pioneer work in Montgomery and Shelby Counties. His first marriage which took place in Montgomery County, Ill., prior to his coming to Shelby County, united him with a young lady of great loveliness of character, Miss Ann Morrell. Her married life was brief but full of cares and responsibilities, as was that of all early pioneer women. She died in 1853 after having become the mother of five children, one of whom died in early childhood; Jennie died in 1889. The two who survive are Horatio and Sidney, both of whom are energetic young farmers of character and enterprise, the eldest living in Fayette County and the younger in Oconee Township.

In 1863 our subject assumed a second matrimonial alliance with Avy J. (Turner) Ishmael. Seven children were born of this marriage, five of whom were gathered to the arms of the Heavenly Shepherd in early childhood, and the two who are living are Otis, who resides at home and Alta, now Mrs. Ed. Morgan who lives on a farm in this township.

Mr. Slater retired from the farm about nine years ago, and engaged in the business of merchandising. He owned and operated a store in Oconee, and there carried a full line of groceries, provisions, queensware, tinware, notions, etc., and enjoyed a lucrative trade. He always took an active interest in political affairs and worked with the Democratic party, believing that the principles announced by the author of the Declaration of Independence are good enough for the guidance of the country in these modern days. He was Justice of the Peace for eighteen years, in Montgomery County. He was elected Supervisor from his township when he lived in Audubon, Montgomery County, and had served as School Director, having always taken a deep and abiding inti in the public school system. During his forty-seven years' residence in this vicinity he witnessed the development of this county from a wilderness to its present state of high cultivation.

The Oconee Lodge No. 392 A. F. & A. M., is the social body with which Mr. Slater was formerly connected, but at the time of his death he was nonaffiliated. He held no church membership but was interested in the progress of churches and schools and all institutions looking to the progress of Oconee. He was distinctively a pioneer of this region and a man who had the confidence and respect of all with whom he is acquainted. Mr. Slater died August 28, 1891, aged sixty-seven years eight months and six days.

Extracted 17 Aug 2020 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 688-689.

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