James QUINN, deceased, was a well-known citizen of Marshall county, Illinois, and his life well illustrates the possibilities of even the poorest in this free country. Born in poverty in Fermoy, county Cork, Ireland, at the age of seventeen years he came with a sister to Blackstone, Massachusetts, where he was soon after placed in a cotton mill, and where his young life was mainly spent, toiling early and late, with no chance of obtaining an education only in the night school. However, he gladly availed himself of the opportunity of doing this, and in that way obtained a little knowledge, which was beneficial to him in after life, backed as it was by a strong will and a steadfast determination to succeed.
As the years went by the young Irish ad saved his earnings, which wee sent across the water to his old home, and with the aid thus given, his mother, two brothers and one sister were enabled also to reach this country. On their arrival here he still continued to assist them as long as it was necessary, and a younger brother he materially assisted in obtaining an education. While still residing in the east he took out naturalization papers, later came west and for a time worked on the levees along the Mississippi river, principally at Rock Island. The life of a common day laborer, with such meager wages as were paid before the war, did not satisfy his ambition, and he determined to seek other and better employment. Therefore he engaged in farming in Menard county, Illinois, on rented land.
In order more fully to succeed in life, Mr. QUINN determined to secure a helpmeet, and we find that on the 19th of February, 1863, at Pekin, Illinois, he was united in marriage with Miss Barbara WOOD, who was born on the Orkney Islands, and came to the United States at the age of seventeen, and was employed as a domestic in various families in Menard, Mason and Tazewell counties, Illinois. That this was a happy one, and fortunate for each, their after life and the success crowing their united efforts will attest. At the time of their marriage, Mr. QUINN was the possessor of one team of common horses, an old wagon and barely enough cash with which to buy the furniture for a house, but scantily and economically furnished.
With faith in the future the young couple went to work, and with the proceeds of the first year’s crop purchased eighty acres of land in Peru township, Stark county, and thus laid the foundation for the success in life which followed them until parted by death. An additional one hundred and sixty acres were added to the original eighty, in Saratoga township, Marshall county, making a fine farm of two hundred and forty acres. On this farm they spent eleven years of ceaseless activity, year by year adding to their possessions, both in real estate and personal property. During all this time produce of all kinds brought a good and remunerative price, and therefore, Mr. QUINN confined himself principally to the raising of grain.
On leaving the old farm the family removed to a farm of three hundred and sixty acres in Putnam county, and more attention was then given to stock raising, principally cattle. For years he fed and shipped from two to four cars of his own raising, and in that time his was a familiar figure in the Chicago stock yards.
On removing to Putnam county, Mr. QUINN did not dispose of his Saratoga township farm, nor did it ever pass out of his possession. Instead of disposing of any of his landed possessions, he continually added to them, and at his death was the owner of about twelve hundred acres, which included the Saratoga farm of two hundred and forty acres, the Putnam county farm of three hundred and sixty acres, eighty acres in Stark county, Illinois, and additional eighty acres in Saratoga township, two hundred and twenty-five acres in Whitefield township, and the home farm of two hundred and forty acres in Henry township, all of which was valued at about seventy-five thousand dollars.
In 1884, Mr. QUINN removed from Putnam county to Henry township, Marshall county, where he spent the remainder of his life. His death occurred January 13, 1895, and his remains were laid to rest in the cemetery in Henry township. While reared in the Catholic faith, for years before his death he ceased to believe that all goodness and righteousness were confined to those of any one belief, and was therefore liberal in his views. He was one of the charter members of Crow Meadow Grange, and was a firm believer in the principles of that organization. Farmers should combine together for their rights and without such combination he believed them at the mercy of designing men of other trades and professions. His funeral services were conducted under the auspices of the Grange, and members of the order attended in large numbers and escorted the funeral cortege from his late home to the final resting place. The active pall-bearers were James HARRISON, S. L. CASE, S. S. MERRITT, Clarence E. BURT, of Meadow Grange, and Royal OLMSTEAD and J. S. TOWNSEND, of Telegraph Grange.
While at all times willing to concede the rights of others, Mr. QUINN was ever tenacious of his own rights and would never yield when he thought he was being imposed on by others. Believing the attempt made to close a public road, running along the side of one of his farms, the result of spite work, and with the object in view of depreciating the value of his land that they might buy it cheaper, he resisted the effort to the utmost. Twice was the case tried before a justice of the peace, twice in the circuit court at Lacon, where it was decided in his favor, and was then appealed by his opponents to the supreme court at Ottawa. The case was there argued at length, and the very morning on which Mr. QUINN died, his attorneys, Barnes & Barnes, received word that it was decided by that august tribunal in his favor. In his death he was thus vindicated.
To Mr. and Mrs. QUINN, seven children were born – Mary, Edmund, Elmer, Lillie, Albert, Francis and Edith, all of whom yet reside at home, and all work together in harmony and enjoy the respect of the community in which they reside. Mrs. QUINN, the mother, yet presides over the household and enjoys in full measure the love of all who know her.
Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois published in 1896, page 252.