Samuel Dysart, an eminent Lee County citizen, is celebrated for his contributions to agriculture and public service in Illinois. Born in 1834, he excelled as an agriculturist and stockman, notably introducing thoroughbred livestock to the area. His efforts in breeding horses, cattle, and swine have significantly raised local livestock standards. Dysart’s roles as World’s Fair Commissioner and Vice-President of the Illinois State Board of Agriculture highlight his commitment to agricultural advancement and his community’s interests. His work has left a lasting impact on Lee County’s progress and the broader agricultural community.
Samuel Dysart, World’s Fair Commissioner, representing the Seventh Congressional District of Illinois, and Vice-President of the Illinois State Board of Agriculture, is one of Lee County’s most eminent citizens, whom she delights to honor. For many years he has done conspicuous service in promoting her progress, and is a well-known figure in her public, political, and social life, as well as one of her foremost agriculturists and stockmen. He was one of the first to introduce thoroughbred stock in Lee County, and is conducting an extensive business as a breeder of horses, cattle, and swine of the highest standards on his finely appointed stock farm on section 14, China Township.
A native of Huntingdon County, Pa., our subject was born September 14, 1834. His father, James Dysart, was also a Pennsylvanian by birth, and was born in Lancaster County, in 1788. He was married to Elizabeth Roller in Huntingdon County, of which she was a native, and they passed many years of their wedded life there. In 1855 they came to Illinois and settled among the pioneers of Lee County in the vicinity of Franklin Grove, where they lived greatly respected until they passed from life. They were the parents of ten children, eight sons and two daughters; our subject was their seventh child in order of birth. The father was a man of forceful character, who had decided opinions of his own, strongly imbued with the principles of truthfulness and honesty. His face was set against oppression of any kind; he championed righteous causes, and was one of the pioneer abolitionists of his day. With other leaders in the anti-slavery movement, he organized the Free-Soil convention at Buffalo, N.Y., in 1848, and nominated Martin Van Buren for the Presidency.
Our subject is of mingled German and Irish ancestry, and comes from a long-lived, vigorous stock from whom he inherits a strong constitution and fine physique. He passed the first twenty years of his life in his native State, whence he came to Lee County in the spring of 1855, and has ever since been closely identified with its highest interests. He has made farming and stock-raising his life-long occupation. Always a great admirer of fine stock, he early learned to distinguish the good points of a horse and to judge of the merits of cattle and swine, and even in boyhood had a keen desire to raise thoroughbred stock. In 1855 he settled on section 14, China Township, where he has developed a farm of four hundred acres, widely known as the “Pines Stock Farm.” The improvements that he has made are of a high order and include a well-arranged set of buildings, of an appropriate and handsome style of architecture.
Mr. Dysart has had a wide experience in raising stock of all kinds, has made a careful study of the subject, and perhaps no man in this section is more thoroughly posted in regard to stock matters than he. To him and other leading stockmen, Lee County is indebted for raising the standard of horses, cattle, and hogs now grown within its limits, as he was among the first to introduce thoroughbreds here. He has given much attention to the breeding of Berkshire and Poland China swine and Shorthorn cattle, and has a fine herd of Shorthorns, from which he derives a neat income. From one cow and her descendants of that breed, which cost him $250, he sold $11,000 worth of stock in fifteen years. Mr. Dysart has always been very much interested in forestry, and is an enthusiastic advocate of preserving the forests now standing as far as possible, and of extending the area of growing timber by constantly planting trees. He has carried out that idea in his own domains, and beautiful ornamental, shade, and fruit trees, singly, in groups, or in groves, adorn his farm, and furnish more wood and timber than he can use.
The first two or three years after Mr. Dysart came to this county he lived in single blessedness, but at the end of that time he returned to his native State to claim his promised bride, Miss Margaret J. Henderson, and on the 24th of February, 1858, they were wedded. They were friends of long standing, their parents being neighbors. In babyhood they had often been rocked in the same cradle, had played together as boy and girl, and as they grew up side by side had learned the old, old story which resulted for them in a true marriage. Among its blessings are the nine children born to them as follows: Harry W., who married Miss Etta Girton; Lilly V., who died when twelve years old; Lola W., who died at the age of three years; U. Grant, who married Miss Eliza Nelles; Drusilla D.; Horace H.; Jesse R.; Birdie B.; and Mary Jeanette. Mrs. Dysart was born in Huntingdon County, Pa., September 11, 1834, the seventh of the nine children, five sons and four daughters of David and Margaret (Conrad) Henderson. Her father was born in Centre County, Pa., June 30, 1797, and died October 7, 1882. Her mother was born in Huntingdon County, Pa., in 1800, and died in April, 1878.
His frank and genial manner and courteous treatment of all with whom he comes in contact render Mr. Dysart very popular, and he numbers among his friends men in all walks of life. He is a man of progressive spirit, practical mind, keen and critical knowledge of men and affairs, and his business tact, administrative and executive ability have gained him prominence both as a civic official and as a private citizen. Although from time to time he has accepted important public positions, he is not an office seeker, and has refused legislative honors, as well as nominations to various other offices. From the first he identified himself with the educational interests of China Township, and during thirty-five of the thirty-seven years that he has lived here has held some school office, as that of director or trustee.
We have referred to Mr. Dysart’s activity in advancing the farming interests of Lee County, and we find that he was one of the first members of the Lee County Agricultural Association, which he has also served as President. In 1874 he was elected Vice-President of the State Board of Agriculture, and has been a continuous member of the Board since that date. In the fall of 1886, he was elected President of the Board, acted in that capacity for two years, 1889 and 1890 served as ex-President, and in the fall of 1890, he was again made its Vice-President, which position he still holds. His influence and zeal have been potent in making this organization useful in advancing the interests of the farmers of Illinois by diffusing a more scientific knowledge of agriculture among the people and encouraging the adoption of the most approved modern methods of tilling the soil and raising stock. In the summer of 1888, as President of the Board of Agriculture, he visited Europe in its interest, and was absent about four months, his time being spent mostly in France investigating the breeding of French draft horses. He had previously gone thither as Livestock Commissioner to the Paris Exposition of 1878, having been appointed by President Hayes in February of that year, and sailing in the month of May, spent six months very profitably in various European countries.
Besides attending to his numerous interests, public and private, Mr. Dysart has been Secretary of the Bradford Mutual Fire Insurance Company, for twenty years, and has enhanced the prosperity of the company by his connection with it. He has a thorough knowledge of the political issues of the day and has followed the fortunes of the Republican party since its organization, steadfastly supporting its principles by voice and vote. He is a leading member of the Masonic fraternity, having joined that order July 2, 1858. He has served as Master Mason, has been a Chapter Mason for twenty years, and High Priest of Franklin Grove Chapter and has belonged to the Scottish Rite Consistory since February 22, 1867. He has been a member of the Dixon Commandery, Knight Templars, since 1878.
July 1, 1891, Governor Fifer appointed Mr. Dysart one of the Illinois World’s Fair Commissioners for the Seventh Congressional District. His friends and constituents are highly gratified at his selection for this important office, for which they deem him eminently fitted, and they know that he will devote his whole energies to the work before him, sparing neither time nor labor to ensure a successful representation of the varied interests of this section at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Since receiving his commission, he has been made Chairman of the Committee on Architecture, Drawings, Topographical Surveys, Maps, etc. He is also one of the Committee on Grounds and Exterior Ornamentation, the Printing Committee, and the Committee for Collecting Exhibits for the Seventh Congressional District.