Putnam County


Newton H. Colby, a capitalist deriving considerable of his income from real estate as well as from agricultural interests, is a typical representative of the spirit that is dominant in the business world today the spirit which recognizes and utilizes opportunities, bringing the utmost measure of accomplishment possible at any given point in a period of progress. Without special advantages at the outset of his career save for the gift of sixty acres of land received from his father, he started out, and by judicious management, keen sagacity and unfaltering diligence has arisen to a prominent place in business circles in Putnam county.

He was born December 20, 1852, in New York, a son of Hiram and Sophia E. (Clark) Colby. The parents were both natives of the Empire state, the former born June 23, 1825, and the latter on the 15th of October, 1834. Mr. Colby was a carpenter and millwright, and followed those trades in New York until 1852, when he sought a home in the middle west, locating in Granville after making a prospecting tour in the west and southern states. He realized the natural resources of this part of the country, and, bringing with him to his new home a considerable capital, he found it profitable to loan money, for which he received twenty-five per cent interest. He later bought land and became actively connected with farming operations in this part of the state, though he made his home in the village. In 1885 he removed to Chicago and a few years later took up his abode at Covert, Michigan, where his death occurred. Following the demise of his first wife he had married again and is yet survived by his second wife. Mrs. Sophia Colby passed away in Granville, March 27, 1877, while the death of Hiram Colby occurred at Covert, Michigan, August 12, 1905. He was a member of the Presbyterian church, and in his political affiliations was a republican, on which ticket he was elected to various township offices, including that of supervisor, in which capacity he served for several years. The only surviving members of the family are: Newton H., of this review ; a brother, Archie L., living in Detroit, Michigan; and a half-brother, Arthur.

Newton H. Colby attended the common schools in his youth, but his educational privileges were somewhat limited, but he is qualified for the responsible duties of a business career through study in a correspondence school and by experience. When twenty-six years of age his father gave him sixty acres of land and he began farming on his own account. He had previously become familiar with the work of field and meadow through the assistance which he had rendered in the operation of his father's farms. In the same year he was married and began the improvement of his property. He built his present residence and other buildings on the place, all of which are large and substantial, while everything about the farm is in first-class condition. Utilizing the opportunity for judicious investment, he has added to his landed possessions until he now owns three hundred and fifty acres in Granville township. Though still living on his farm, his agricultural pursuits are now only a side issue with him, for in company with A. W. Hopkins he is extensively engaged in handling real estate. They located land near Granville, upon which coal mines have since been developed, and they have platted and sold lots in various parts of the village, contributing more largely perhaps to the substantial development and progress of the growing town of Granville than any other two men in Putnam county. Mr. Colby is also engaged in prospecting and in locating coal lands for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. For seven or eight years he conducted a semi-portable sawmill, getting out hardwood timber for the coal mines. He bought up pieces of timber in Putnam and La Salle counties, coin inning in the work until the coal company began using steel in construction work. Mr. Colby found that business very profitable, and, in fact, has prospered in all of his undertakings.

At the age of twenty-six years Newton H. Colby was married to Miss Mary Whedon who was born in Ohio but was living in Madison, Wisconsin, at the time of her marriage. Unto them have been born two children: Irving N., who was educated in the Granville schools and later at Bradley Polytechnic School at Peoria, Illinois, and who is now conducting a machine shop in Granville; and Jessie M., at home, who was also a student in Bradley Polytechnic School in Peoria.

Mr. Colby exercises his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of the republican party. He served for four terms as supervisor and has been school director, but is holding no office 'at the present time, as his business interests require his undivided attention. He is a member of the Congregational church and contributes generously to its support. While he takes no active part in public affairs as an office seeker, he is nevertheless interested in the welfare of the community, and his labors have largely been of a character that have contributed to general prosperity and progress as well as to individual success. He is a typical business man, alert and enterprising, and possesses in large measure that quality which has been termed commercial sense. Seldom, if ever, at -error in matters of judgment, he has keen insight into business situations and their possibilities and seems to have accomplished at any one point in his career the possibility for successful accomplishment at that point.

Source: Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois authored by John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne in 1907, page 342.

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