Biography of David Harvey Lester

David Harvey Lester. For almost a half century has David Harvey Lester been a resident of Champaign County and it has been his privilege to witness and bear a part in its remarkable development. He is a native of Indiana and was born in Switzerland County, October 18, 1848. His parents were David A. and Eliza A. (Gerard) Lester, who were the parents of eight children, the survivors being: Martha, who is the widow of Robert T. Graham, has five children and lives at Vevay, Indiana; David Harvey; Margaret, who is a resident of Saint Joseph, Champaign County; Mary, who is the wife of Eugene Abbott, a farmer in Wabash County, Indiana; Armenia, who is the wife of John More, a fruit dealer and grocer living in California; Clara, who is the wife of A. T. Clark and they live in Indiana; and John, who is an agriculturist and resides near Cromwell in Noble County, Indiana.

David A. Lester and his wife were born in Switzerland County, Indiana, where he died at the early age of thirty-five years. After the death of her husband the mother of the above family remained in Indiana until 1889, when she came to Champaign County, Illinois, where she yet resides. She has reached the unusual age of ninety years and, what is more remarkable, has retained her faculties unimpaired and enjoys general good health. She is tenderly cared for and resides with her daughter Margaret, and there loves to have her descendants gather about her.

David Harvey Lester is an example of the self made man. He had but few educational advantages in boyhood, a short time only in the subscription schools covering his entire opportunity, but general reading and years of association with men and affairs have made Mr. Lester one of the well informed men of his county. He was twenty years old when he started out on his own responsibility and he remembers the first 50 cents he earned by covering corn. When he came to Champaign County he had a cash capital of $20, but has lived to see the day when his name at the bottom of a legal paper is accepted in any bank in the state for any amount represented.

For three years after becoming a resident of this county, Mr. Lester worked as a farm hand, his wages being $18 a month, which he surely earned, considering how little farm machinery was then employed to assist in agricultural industries at that time. After his marriage in 1871 he decided to become a pioneer in Nebraska, glowing accounts of which territory being then circulated through the more closely settled states, and located on land in Otoe County, near Nebraska City, two years later moving to near Beaver City and lived one year on a homestead of 160 acres. There were many hardships to be endured and by 1874 Mr. Lester determined to return to Champaign County, even if he had to begin once more at the bottom of the ladder. For eight years after coming back to Illinois he rented farm land and then felt justified in buying the first forty acres of his present ample estate and had it paid for in a comparatively short time. Through his own hard work and the judicious frugality of his estimable wife he made further progress and at the present time owns seventy-two acres of finely developed land and his wife had an equally valuable tract of thirty-two acres.

Mr. Lester was married November 17, 1871, to Miss Phoebe Brodrick, who was born in Champaign County, Illinois, January 8, 1855, and passed away in her home in Newcomb Township, November 8, 1915. She was a noble woman both within and without her family circle and there were many outside the domestic circle who felt bereaved, for she had been known for twenty years as a kind and faithful Sunday school teacher in her neighborhood prior to her marriage, and at the time of death was president of the Ladies’ Aid Society of the Shiloh Methodist Episcopal Church. She was the beloved mother of four sons and two daughters, the four survivors of her children being: Effie, who married H. S. Wright, a prominent farmer in this township and they have six children; Bert, who was educated in the public schools, the Mahomet High School and the State University at Champaign, for two years has been superintendent of schools at Piper City, Ford County, Illinois, married Grace Addison and they have three children, Howard, Eloise and John, and he is identified fraternally with the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias and the Royal Neighbors; Oran, who is a graduate of the high school at Mahomet and a successful teacher, lives with his father on the homestead; Daisy was a student in the State Normal University at Normal, Illinois, after being graduated from the Mahomet High School, and she married Elmer Rohlfing and they have two children, Elizabeth and Lucile.

William B. Brodrick, father of Mrs. Lester, was born in Ohio, moved from there to Indiana and from there came to Champaign County and acquired 160 acres of land in Newcomb Township. He became one of the leading men, was prominent in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and for many years was a school trustee and also was township clerk. His death occurred in 1895. He married Phoebe Keelor, who was born in Indiana and is now deceased, and they had seven children born to them, four sons, two of whom served in the Civil War, and three daughters. Two sons survive: Charles, who is a resident of Santa Cruz, California, and Allen, who is a retired farmer of Newcomb Township.

Mr. Lester is a Republican and he cast his first presidential vote for Ulysses S. Grant and ever since has loyally supported the great men of his party who have been candidates, and frequently he has served as a delegate to the county conventions. He has conscientiously done his part at all times as a good citizen and his fellow men have shown their confidence by many times electing him to local offices. For twenty years he served as a school director, for one year was a school trustee, for ten years was highway commissioner of the township, and for two terms was assessor of his township, the duties of every office being performed honestly and efficiently. For many years he has been a member of the order of Knights of Pythias, attending the lodge at Fisher, Illinois. Mr. Lester has been one of the pillars of the Shiloh Methodist Episcopal Church. W T hen this congregation resolved to erect a new house of worship a building committee was appointed that was made up of the prominent and substantial men of business experience and good judgment, and Mr. Lester was one of these. The beautiful building was dedicated May 13, 1917, and was erected at a cost of $9,000. This edifice is a credit to Champaign County and to the progressive church organization whereby it was made a possibility. Mr. Lester is still a member of the financial committee. He is in every way recognized as one of the dependable and trustworthy men of his township and his name is justly included in a history of the worthy men of Champaign County.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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