Biography of James M. Reese

James M. Reese has been a factor in the business life of the village of St. Joseph for nearly thirty years, and has made a success because he has given a service a little better than others in the same line and has constantly striven to please.

Mr. Reese was born in that historic section of northwestern Pennsylvania, Washington County, June 17, 1853, a son of William and Matilda (Mikesell) Reese. His parents were also natives of Pennsylvania. The father died in Iowa at the home of his son Henry at the advanced age of ninety-two. In 1864, when James M. Reese was eleven years of age, he came with his parents to St. Joseph Township, where his father for a number of years worked as a carpenter. There were seven children in the family, James being the oldest. He attended school in Pennsylvania and also had one term in the St. Joseph school. When the Reese family came to Champaign County much of the land in St. Joseph Township was under water a part of the year, and to establish and maintain a home here was a task of many difficulties and hardships.

James M. Reese grew up to an industrious manhood, worked in the country and for a number of years was connected with a number of drainage projects in St. Joseph Township. In 1888 he established himself in the restaurant business at the village of St. Joseph and that has been his chief line ever since. He has studied the problems of this business and has solved them and has gradually increased his enterprise, not only in the way of stock handled but in facilities. He installed a soda fountain, has an ice cream parlor, handles candy, cigars, canned and bottled goods, and his place is an especially popular and welcome retreat during the summer season.

The profits of his success Mr. Reese has invested wisely in local real estate and has done much to improve the town. He bought a number of lots and has erected modern homes in the north part of the town.

In 1895 Mr. Reese married Miss Laura B. Cook, a native of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and a daughter of Ezekiel and Matilda Cook. She was eleven years of age when her parents came to Champaign County from Pennsylvania and located at Tolono, where she completed her education in the local schools. Mr. and Mrs. Reese had two children. The older, James Bernard died at the age of three of infantile paralysis. The younger son was named Harry Cook in honor of his mother, and is now fourteen years of age. He is a very industrious and studious boy, attending the local high school, and is also doing much to develop his marked musical talent. He is a student of piano, and is also taking instruction in brass band music with the local organization under Professor Canouse of Champaign. He also plays as a member of the Sunday school orchestra in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Mrs. Reese is a very active member of the Methodist Church and is and has been for some year’s president of the Ladies’ Aid Society. She is a member of the Eastern Star and has served as marshal of that order. In politics Mr. and Mrs. Reese have opposite affiliations, she being a Republican and he a Democrat. Mrs. Reese is a very ardent supporter of the cause of temperance.

The success which he “has enjoyed in a business way Mr. Reese owes not only to his own capable efforts but to the wisdom and counsel of the good wife who has stood by his side. They have one of the pleasant and hospitable homes of St. Joseph, on Lincoln Street, and while enjoying its comforts they may look back with pardonable pride upon the labor of the years which has made it all possible.



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

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