Biography of Col. Alex. P. Dysart

Col. Alex. P. Dysart, a respected military officer and legislator, has made significant contributions to his community in Illinois. Born in Pennsylvania in 1826 to a family with noteworthy ancestors, Dysart relocated to Illinois in 1845 and became an accomplished agriculturist and stock-raiser. Holding various local offices, he was also a Civil War volunteer and was honorably discharged as a Colonel. Dysart served two terms in the General Assembly, where he was influential in agricultural policy. Widely known for his integrity in both public and private life, he had a distinguished military career and is recognized for his leadership and service. Dysart, a widower with six living children, resides in Nachusa Township, where he has created a beautiful home noted for its lush grove.

Col. Alex. P. Dysart, who resides on the outskirts of the village of Nachusa, is one of the most widely and favorably known men of this part of the State. His public life as a military officer and a legislator has gained him a wide acquaintance among some of the best and most prominent men of our country. We therefore append his sketch and present his portrait, knowing they will be received with interest by our readers.

The Colonel was born in Huntingdon County, Pa., February 3, 1826, and there resided until his removal to Illinois in 1845. His paternal grandfather, Joseph Dysart, was born in Londonderry, Ireland, of Scotch-Irish parentage, and came of a family that figured prominently in public affairs. Members of which are yet associated with the politics of that country. His ancestors belonged to the nobility of France and Scotland. When a young man, Joseph Dysart came to America, locating in Lancaster County, Pa., where he married. A few years later he went to Mifflin County and improved a farm at Newton Hamilton, where he and his wife spent their last days. They were Presbyterians in religious belief.

Of the four children left to mourn their loss, James, the father of our subject, was the eldest. A native of Lancaster County, he was reared in Mifflin County, Pa. When a young man he went to Huntingdon County, where he wooed and won Elizabeth Roler, a native of the Keystone State, and a daughter of Philip Roler, who was born in Berks County, of German descent. He married a Scotch lady and they settled in Huntingdon County in an early day, ere the Indians had left that region. In fact, two of the brothers of Philip Roler were killed by the red men. He and his wife continued to reside in Huntingdon County until called to their final home. They too, were Presbyterians.

During the residence of James Dysart and his wife in that county, seven sons and two daughters were born unto them and were there reared to mature years. In 1858, the parents followed their children to Illinois and spent their last days in Franklin Grove, Lee County, where Mr. Dysart died at the age of eighty-four years and his wife in her seventy-ninth year. She was a Presbyterian in religious belief and Mr. Dysart was a staunch Whig in politics. He entertained strong abolition principles, and when the Republican party sprang into existence to prevent the further extension of slavery, joined its ranks. He had an uncle who served as colonel in the War of 1812, and three of his sons were numbered among the boys in blue, namely: our subject; Lieut. B. F., who is now Postmaster at Franklin Grove; and Corporal James, who died from disease contracted in the service. Another brother, Joseph, now living in Dysart, Tama County, Iowa, is ex-Lieutenant Governor of that State. Samuel, ex-Commissioner to Paris, is a member of the State Board of Agriculture and resides in China Township.

Col. Dysart was nineteen years of age when he came to Illinois. Farming he has made his life work and has been most successful as an agriculturist and stock-raiser. His first land he purchased from the Government on section 7, Nachusa Township, and thirty acres of this was platted into the village of that name in 1852. He had entered the north half and the southwest quarter of section 6, upon which his home is also located, he having there resided since 1847. Mr. Dysart has also been prominent in official life. He has held all the local offices and for some years prior to the war was Supervisor of China Township, before the town of Nachusa was set off from it. Since the division, he has been Supervisor of the latter for about ten years. He was also Justice of the Peace for some years and for two years has been Assessor of his town.

In 1879, he was nominated and elected on the Republican ticket as Representative from the Twelfth District to the Thirty-First General Assembly, and in 1881, was re-elected at which time Lee and Ogle Counties comprised the district. During the former term, he was made Chairman of the committee on agriculture, and during the latter was Chairman of the committee on continued expenses, also serving on several other important committees. The drainage law was passed during his first term. So well did he demonstrate his ability as a legislator that the people returned him to office where he faithfully served his constituents and labored earnestly for the best interests of the people in general.

Of his war record Col. Dysart may be justly proud. He had watched with interest the progress of events in the South, and when the blow was struck against the Government in 1861, he raised a company of volunteers, which was mustered into service September 7, 1861, as Company C, of the Thirty-Fourth Illinois Infantry. He was commissioned Captain by the War Governor, Dick Yates, and went at once to the front, joining the command of Gen. Buell, of the Army of the Cumberland. With his troops he participated in the battle of Pittsburg Landing, April 7, 1862, and when the Major was killed early in the day he filled the place of that officer. After the engagement, he was commissioned to that rank and as the result of his efficient service and courage displayed at the battle of Stone River in January 1863, was promoted to the rank of Colonel, serving as such until the ninth of August following. A special order had been issued requiring a reduction of some of the commissioned officers and it fell upon Col. Dysart to change his place. He was offered a cavalry regiment by Gov. Yates, but not wishing to be stationed where no active interests were looked for, he declined and was honorably discharged. Returning home, he then aided all he could in a local way to further the progress of the war and bring it to a successful termination. He had won for himself much honor and credit as a brave soldier, prompt and fearless in the discharge of duty.

In Huntingdon County, Pa., Col. Dysart married Catherine Grazier, who was born and reared in county, her birth occurring in July 1826. Her parents were Henry and Margaret (Beck) Grazier, who spent their entire lives in Huntingdon County as farming people. They were members of the German Baptist Church and her brother was a preacher of that society. In the family were four sons and six daughters, five of whom are yet living and are married.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Dysart were born seven children, one of whom is now deceased — Dr. Joseph W., who died in the prime of life in Omaha, Neb., where he had gained a position in the front ranks of the medical profession. James H., who wedded Emma Bender, is a well-known passenger engineer on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad and resides in Chicago; Allison A., married Amanda Miller and their home is in Belvidere, Ill.; he is an engineer on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad; Ida M., is the wife of Jesse R. Whitney, a real-estate dealer of Carroll County, Iowa; Carrie J., is the wife of Frank Miller, of Chicago, an engineer on the Northwestern Railroad; Frank E., who wedded Carrie Thorp, is also employed as an engineer on that road, and himself and wife make their home in Chicago; Emma C., the youngest, presides over her father’s home.

The Colonel was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife in 1877, her death occurring at her home in Nachusa Township. He still resides on section 6, where he located so long ago and where he has one of the finest homes in the county. A commodious and substantial residence, supplied with all the comforts and many of the luxuries of life, is situated in the midst of a beautiful evergreen grove, containing more than one thousand trees, all of which were planted by Mr. Dysart. The effect is most beautiful and renders the home one of the most attractive places in this part of the State. In summing up the life of our subject we would say that it has been an honorable one of which he may well be proud. His public and private records are alike above reproach, and in his military career he displayed many of the best qualities of his character. Wherever known he is held in high regard. His intelligence and ability well fit him to be a leader of the people, yet he never assumes that arbitrary power which so often rests upon those who have command of others.


Biographical Publishing Company, Portrait and biographical record of Lee County, Illinois, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens, together with biographies of all the governors of the state, and of the presidents of the United States, Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892.

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