Biography of J. R. Esworthy

J. R. Esworthy, whose country home is on Rural Route No. 15 out of St. Joseph, has spent the greater part of his active life in Champaign County. He began here almost empty handed and that he now owns one of the larger and better improved farms of the county is a distinct tribute to his hard working industry and persistent efforts.

Mr. Esworthy was born in Union County, Ohio, May 14, 1849, son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Good) Esworthy. His father was born in Maryland, of which state the grandfather was also a native. The mother was a native of Pennsylvania. J. R. Esworthy was the second of five children. He acquired his early education in a country school near Nashport in Muskingum County, Ohio. From Muskingum County the family removed to Putnam County in northwestern Ohio, then to Missouri, and finally to Illinois, locating near Potomac. It was in that locality of Vermilion County that J. R. Esworthy came to manhood, having in the meantime completed his education in the public schools and having received a classical training as a farmer and husbandman from his father.

At the age of twenty he took upon himself the responsibilities of a home maker by his marriage to Miss Serena Shoaf. Mrs. Esworthy was born in Indiana, daughter of David and Catherine Shoaf. The first year after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Esworthy spent at his father’s home and the next year they rented a farm in Compromise Township in Champaign County. They possessed the energy and determination that are sure to bring success in the long run and from what they earned and saved as renters they were able to make the first payment on a small tract of twenty-three and a half acres in East Stanton Township. They agreed to pay $10 an acre for this land. It was their home for fifteen years and during that time they steadily prospered. For two years they rented and lived on J. S. Kilbury’s farm, and then moved to land which Mr. Esworthy bought in section 30 of Ogden Township. This tract consisted of 178 acres, but had no improvements worthy of the name. Today that farm is one of the best in Ogden Township, and its improvements are the work and creation of Mr. Esworthy’s labors and intelligent management. The farm has many fruit and shade trees which they set out, commodious buildings, and altogether constitutes a country place which anyone might be glad to own.

Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Esworthy, one of whom died in infancy. The others were James E., Sarah A., Lula M., C. D. and Maude M. They enjoyed while growing up the advantages of the local district schools, while Sarah was for ten terms a student in the deaf and dumb institution at Jacksonville, Illinois.

The son James E. is now successfully engaged in farming east of Ogden on part of his father’s land. He married Keturah Johnson and their seven children are Xora, John, Glen, Melvin, Raymond, Donald, Burton. The daughter Sarah married Clarence Houston of Springfield, Illinois, and her two children are Clara Daisy and Xeta Marie Houston. Lula M. Esworthy married David Stayton, who died leaving one child, Jessie Ray, and for her second husband she married William Sallee of Lebanon, Indiana, now a farmer near Fithian, Illinois. Mrs. Sallee has one child, Earl. C. D. Esworthy is a prosperous young farmer living on his father’s place in Ogden Township. He first married Maud Bass, who died, leaving one child, Grace, and his second wife was Ora Valandingham. The daughter Maud married Lewis Alexander, a farmer in Carroll County, Illinois. They have six children, Chester, Pearl, Ora, May, Earl and Lloyd.

Besides the land which he acquired and developed many years ago Mr. Esworthy’s success has brought him much additional holding and he is the owner of 384 acres. For many years he has been one of the noted stock raisers in eastern Champaign County, both cattle and hogs. Three times in one year his hogs topped the market at Indianapolis both in price and quality. One year he shipped a Poland China hog raised on his farm that weighed 960 pounds. The finest two-year-old heifer ever shipped from the market at St. Joseph was one raised on the Esworthy place.

Mr. Esworthy’s greatest sorrow was when death separated him from his beloved wife and the companion of his many years of struggle and increasing prosperity. Mrs. Esworthy died in March, 1916. She had endeared herself to the entire community by her kindliness and neighborliness, and as a home maker she shared the credit with her husband for the prosperity they enjoyed. For the past six years Mr. Esworthy’s home has been brightened by his widowed daughter Sarah and her children. Sarah’s husband was killed as a result of an accident at Springfield when he was struck by a street car.

His fellow citizens have more than once shown confidence in Mr. Esworthy’s public spirit and judgment, and for nine years he filled the office of school director and has always been a stalwart champion of the drainage system in his part of the county. He took the lead in advocating drainage long before there was any popular support for it. Through his work the first ditch was constructed, and while much opposition was encountered at first, many of those most determined against it are now thoroughly converted and have many times praised the work which Mr. Esworthy did as a pioneer in this direction.

In matters of politics Mr. Esworthy lends his support to the principles of the Democratic party. He is an admirer of President Wilson, and especially of the wise and conservative policy which he has maintained in international relations and in the effective use of America’s army and navy and economic resources to secure a just settlement of the world war on a basis of lasting peace and popular welfare. Mr. Esworthy has lived in close touch with progressive ideals, has made his own life a factor in progress, and can take a great deal of personal satisfaction in what he has done for himself and the community and what mankind generally has accomplished during the years that he has been a personal witness of the world’s history.



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

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