Biographical Sketch of John T. Alexander

Alexander, John T., (deceased), stock-raiser, was born September 15, 1820, in Western Virginia, and when but six years old removed to Ohio with his father, who engaged in agricultural pursuits. John T. enjoyed in his youth but few opportunities for securing an education, and was engaged in roughing it through the continuous labors incidental to farm life in a newly opened country. When thirteen years of age he began to assist his father, then an extensive drover, in sending cattle to the Eastern market, and from that period until reaching his twentieth year, he passed his time in driving his father’s herds from Ohio, over the Alleghenies, to Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, and Boston. His father then suffering severe financial reverses, he determined to go West and commence life upon his own account. He traveled to St. Louis, where he was soon employed, at a moderate salary, by a firm which at that time transacted the largest livestock business in that section of the country. He was employed for a time by this firm in purchasing cattle throughout the country, but later engaged with limited means and on a small scale in fattening cattle on his own account for the market. After having been engaged in this line for three years, he took 250 head of cattle to Boston, occupying the entire summer in driving them to that market, and sold them at a price that yielded him a handsome profit.

After continuing in this business for three years, in 1843 he made his first investment in land for a stock farm on the Wabash Railroad ten miles east of Jacksonville, which finally grew to 6,000 acres, including what is now the site of the village of Alexander. The original cost of a portion of this land was $3 per acre, its present value amounting to $125 to $150 per acre. He met with some reverses, but in 1856 the scale was turned, his ventures that year bringing him a return of $60,000. In 1859 he fattened 15,000 head of choice cattle, for which he obtained a ready sale in the large Eastern cities.

The decline in prices in Missouri in consequence of the breaking out of the Civil War, and the large demand by the Government for the use of the army, gave him the opportunity for profitable investments, and, at the close of that period he was a millionaire. He subsequently bought the “Sullivant” farm, of 20,000 acres, afterwards called “Broad Lands,” situated in Champaign County, Illinois He soon experienced many reverses, losing many cattle by Spanish Fever, and large sums of money by the repudiation of certain railroad contracts for shipments, his losses in one year aggregating $350,000. These misfortunes produced a crisis in his affairs, and by a failure to sell his “Broad Lands,” for which the agreements had been partially drawn up, he was compelled to assign his entire estate for the benefit of his creditors, the late Marshall P. Ayers, of Jacksonville, becoming the assignee and manager. Notwithstanding the fact that his liabilities exceeded $1,200,000, his estate paid his creditors dollar for dollar. He retained a considerable portion of his large estate at Alexander, in Morgan County, where he continued to reside up to the date of his death, which occurred August 22, 1876.

Mr. Alexander was married at the age of twenty-four years to Miss Mary DeWeese, and they reared a family of eight children.

Source

Bateman, Newton; Selby, Paul; and Short, William; Historical encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Morgan County; Chicago: Munsell Publishing Co. 1906.

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