Biography of Joseph Tait

Joseph Tait’s story is a vivid testament to the power of perseverance and the pursuit of excellence. Born into modest circumstances in County Durham, England, on December 15, 1820, Tait’s journey from a self-reliant youth to a respected figure in Amboy, Illinois, is nothing short of inspirational. His transition from a millwright in England to a key figure in the American industrial scene, including his contributions to the building of locomotives and a significant tenure with the Illinois Central Railroad, underscores a life dedicated to industriousness and innovation. Beyond his professional achievements, Tait’s successful ventures into real estate and livestock dealing highlight a man of diverse talents and relentless drive. This introduction explores the life and legacy of Joseph Tait, whose endeavors not only enriched his community but also left an indelible mark on the agricultural and industrial landscapes of his adopted homeland.

Joseph Tait. Following the maxim that “whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well,” in the truth of which he has always believed, Mr. Tait has been remarkably successful in life and is a man of note in Amboy and the surrounding country. Besides the considerable amount of real estate which he holds in the city, he is the owner of five hundred acres of valuable farming land and is an extensive dealer in livestock. His solid reputation has been gained by strenuous application and continuous labor, and he has always been most conscientious in the faithful discharge of every duty which faces him.

Mr. Tait was born in County Durham, England, December 15, 1820, and is the son of John and Mary (Gibson) Tait. The following is noted of the remaining members of the family of eight sons and two daughters, of which he was a member: Mary married Robert Kirk and died in 1890 at Buffalo, N. Y.; John remained in England and died in 1881 in the house in which he was born; Thomas came to the United States and returning to his native land, now resides in Northumberland; Margaret married and remained in England until her death in 1854; William resides in Bismarck, Iowa; James and Ralph are located in Denver, Colo., while George lives in Akron, Ohio.

The son of poor parents, our subject was early in life thrown upon his own resources and commenced to learn a trade. He became a millwright and engaged at his trade until he emigrated in 1841 to the United States. In this country he traveled over several of the States and worked on the building of the college at Iowa City, Iowa. After spending one year on this side of the Atlantic, he returned to England, where he learned the trade of pattern-maker with Jonathan Robinson and the trade of a machinist with George Stephenson, the originator of the locomotive. In 1849, he again came to the United States and on the Hudson River, opposite Newbury, built two locomotives, the “Erie” and the “Mohawk,” both of which were in use for many years.

Next, Mr. Tait removed to Schenectady, N. Y., where he worked at his trade of a machinist for a few months but he was never paid for the work he did, and thus without money, he went to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked for the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railway Company. In 1855, he came to Amboy and was the first machinist in the employ of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, with whom he continued for twenty-one years as foreman of the roundhouse or gang foreman. Later, he proceeded westward to Laramie, Wyo., from which place after a sojourn of four years, he returned to Amboy and again entered the employ of the Illinois Central Railroad. After continuing with the company eight years, he began to engage in the livestock business and still operates in this way with considerable success.

The marriage of Mr. Tait to Miss Caroline Gascoigne took place December 31, 1840, and brought them mutual happiness until death removed the loving wife, September 27, 1880. Seven children were born of the union: Mary, who married W. Coleman and died in 1873, leaving one daughter, Carrie, now the wife of Frank Calkins; John, a machinist on the Pacific Slope; Thomas G., a machinist and locomotive engineer on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad; Joseph R., who has charge of his father’s large farm in this county; Ann, who is the wife of Samuel Adams; Carrie, now Mrs. William Gascoigne; and Sarah, the wife of Asa Dresbach, of New Louisville, Ark. In political belief, Mr. Tait is not a strict partisan but is a friend of protective tariff, and socially belongs to the Masonic fraternity.


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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