Biography of Hugh Graham

Hugh Graham. Coming to Illinois over half a century ago, a young and ambitious Irishman but with little capital except that contained in the resources of his individual character, Hugh Graham is living today in one of the most complete country homes of Champaign County, located in section 22 of Harwood Township. His wealth consists not alone in many broad acres, well- tilled fields and sleek stock, but in the riches of esteem paid him by a large community of friends and acquaintances, and even more in the capable and trustworthy sons and daughters who are still part of the family circle.

Mr. Graham was born in County Monaghan in the Province of Ulster, May 22, 1844. He was the seventh of nine children born to Hugh and Sarah (McMahon) Graham. Mr. Graham obtained his early education in the National Schools of Ireland. This was a very satisfactory system and he attended throughout the year except for two weeks at Christmas, two weeks at Easter and the month of August. The school hours when he was a boy ran from 10 to 3 in the afternoon.

He was about twenty years of age when, having heard of the wonderful opportunities of America and not being satisfied to live in a country burdened with British rule, he expressed his spirit of adventure by immigrating with relatives and landed at New York on October 25, 1864. A sister was already living in New York and a brother in Sangamon County, Illinois.

On the 12th of December, 1864, Mr. Graham reached Macon County, Illinois. At that time most of central Illinois was a raw prairie and looked like a complete wilderness to the young Irishman who was accustomed to the fertile and closely tilled estates of Ireland. In Macon County he found work as a farm hand and remained there until 1869, and afterward, as a result of well directed industry, bought some land in Champaign County, where at the age of forty he established a home of his own.

Mr. Graham married in 1885, at Rantoul, Miss Johanna Murphy. She was born in Morgan County, Illinois, a daughter of William and Mary Murphy, natives of southern Ireland. Mr. Graham took his bride to the farm of eighty acres in section 22 of Harwood Township which he had previously purchased. For this land, the nucleus of his present handsome estate, he paid $37.50 an acre, and that was considered a very high price for land at the time. Mr. and Mrs. Graham had the requisite qualifications of industry and thrift, and they made these qualities count until at the present time their possessions embrace 520 acres of as fine land as can be found in the State of Illinois. They have been satisfied not with crops alone but have expressed their energies in numerous improvements that add to the attractiveness and value of their possessions.

The best part of the entire record is that pertaining to the children. Eight sons and two daughters have come into the home, the names of these sturdy young people being William A., Hugh D., Sarah, John J., Arthur, Margaret, Tom C., Edward, Francis Paul and Joseph Leo. From the first Mr. and Mrs. Graham have furnished the young people every incentive at home and every advantage in the local schools. The children all attended the Harwood Center district school. William completed his education in Brown’s Business College, while Hugh and Tom were students of St. Viator’s College at Kankakee. John and Arthur were also students at St. Viator’s. Sarah completed her education in St. Mary’s school at Champaign, Margaret studied at the Sacred Heart Academy in Springfield, Francis attended the Donovan Memorial School at Rantoul, and Joseph is still in the Harwood Center school. Not only did the older children wisely improve the advantages of schooling given them by their parents, but they have put their education to good use and have ably assisted the father in the management of the farm. The son William A., who married Catherine Kirk, is a practical farmer living on some of his father’s land in section 12 of Harwood Township. Mr. Graham has been liberal in extending opportunities to his sons and has done all he could to get them located near by and as sharers in the prosperity which his capable efforts have won.

The family are all active members of the Catholic Church at Ludlow. Mr. Graham is a stanch Democrat in politics and has served in such positions as town clerk, collector and school trustee. As a farmer his place is known not only for the quantity but for the quality of its products. Last year his land produced 8,800 bushels of oats and 6,400 bushels of corn. In the way of stock he raises Polled Durham and Shorthorn cattle and fine horses of the Percheron and Shire breeds. His progressiveness as a farmer is well attested by his fields and the systematic management of the farm in every detail. Mr. Graham through his experience is in a position to appreciate the wonderful changes that have come over the country. He recognizes the value of improved machinery, and he also knows that the character and industry of ‘the man is the chief factor in any worthy success. There was no thought in the early days of germs or danger lurking in drinking water. Today, as he enjoys the pure water that comes from deep wells, he looks back and wonders how the people lived and prospered. All the many other inconveniences he endured without murmur, such as lack of roads, which at certain seasons of the year were almost bottomless, and lack of drainage also made some of the most fertile lands of Champaign County useless for agricultural purposes. The history of the Graham family is a real factor in the development of Champaign County. Mr. and Mrs. Graham have successfully exerted their efforts to make their farm and home attractive for their children, and the young people have found their permanent interests here rather than in the more superficial life of the large cities.



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

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