Biography of Lew E. Stevenson

Lew E. Stevenson. The village and community of St. Joseph have had no citizen whose work and interests have been more closely identified with the general welfare than Lew E. Stevenson. His home has been there for forty years, and almost continuously during that time he was in business in the village, but has kept in close touch with the agricultural development as well. He has given liberally of his thought and purpose to the upbuilding of local institutions, particularly the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he is now the only surviving original trustee.

Mr. Stevenson was born in Highland County, Ohio, April 21, 1850, by which token he is by no means an old man. His parents were Elisha and Nancy A. (Keelor) Stevenson, both natives of Ohio. His mother was born near Hillsboro, Ohio, a town notable for the fact that it was the birthplace of the little organization which has now expanded into an international instrumentality of good^ the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

On October 6, 1854, when Lew E. Stevenson was four and a half years of age, his father arrived in Urbana, bringing with him his wife and five children. Elisha Stevenson was one of the capable pioneer farmers of Urbana Township, and spent the rest of his days in this locality. He was the father of thirteen children, seven sons and six daughters, all of whom reached maturity except one that died in infancy.

Lew E. Stevenson acquired his education in the district schools of Champaign County, and his personal recollections of this locality go back nearly sixty years. On December 27, 1877, he married at Urbana Miss Ada O. Coffman. She was born north of Crawfordsville in Fountain County, Indiana, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Noah B. Coffman. Her father was a native of Virginia and her mother of Ohio. Her father was long a prominent and notable figure in the life of Champaign County. Mrs. Stevenson was educated in Urbana and in the University of Illinois. She was one of thirteen children, all of whom were carefully educated and made good records for themselves. Several of Mrs. Stevenson’s brothers went out to the state of Washington and have long been prominent in the city of Chehalis. Her brother N. B. Coffman, Jr., is president of the Chehalis Bank and has long been a prominent Republican, having served his party at different times as a delegate to national conventions. Another brother, Joseph Coffman, now deceased, was president of the telephone company in Chehalis. A. L. Coffman is in the real estate business there, and H. B. Coffman is secretary and manager of the Chehalis Furniture Company.

A few hours after Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson were married at Urbana they took the train for the village of St. Joseph. Some months before, on February 1, 1877, Mr. Stevenson had bought the local drug store of that village, and he was thus a factor in its business life before he brought his wife there and established a permanent home. The passing years have meant much to Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson not only in the matter of material fortune but in the good they have been able to accomplish as citizens. For thirty-eight years Mr. Stevenson was a familiar figure in the mercantile affairs of St. Joseph, and continued his drug business until he sold out, April 24, 1915. While never an active farmer, he has kept in close touch with the basic interests of the county by investing liberally in farm land, and at the present time he owns 405 acres in one body in Lawrence County, Illinois, not far from Vincennes, Indiana.

Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson had one child, a daughter named Mae Agnes Stevenson. She received the complete devotion and care of her parents, was liberally educated, first in the public schools of St. Joseph, afterward in high school and finished her education in the Woman’s College of Jacksonville, Illinois. Being musically inclined, she was granted every opportunity to improve that talent. The daughter married Otto B. Divelbiss, a native of Rantoul and a son of John W. and Hattie E. (Dodge) Divelbiss. Mr. Divelbiss was a young man of many capabilities and had laid the foundation of a promising career when he was taken away by death on October 3, 1903. He left his wife a widow and two weeks after his death their only child, a daughter, was born. This grandchild of Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson bears the name Maeotta Divelbiss. Mrs. Divelbiss returned to the home of her parents with her little, child and has continued to remain with them for the past fourteen years. The sunshine of the home all this time has been the granddaughter. She has made a good record in her studies and is now a member of the Champaign High School.

Mr. Stevenson’s family is active members and liberal supporters of the Methodist Episcopal Church at St. Joseph. When he came to the village in 1877 he at once began an agitation for the erection of a church. For years he served as chorister and in the Sunday school of the church. The local church society was organized April 14, 1877, and Mr. Stevenson was one of the first trustees chosen by the twelve charter members. These trustees were V. J. Gallion, W. O. Shreve, W. B. Simms, Harrison W. Drillinger and Lew E. Stevenson. As noted above, Mr. Stevenson is the only one still living. Though the church was small at the beginning, the interest in its work and its membership have been growing and before long they had dedicated their first church building. This house of worship was subsequently burned and was replaced by a second, and a few years ago they completed the beautiful brown stone and brick church which now stands as a monument to the progressiveness and liberality of the church community and promises to continue a beacon light for the welfare of its worshipers for many years to come.

In the political field Mr. Stevenson has for twenty-five years been one of the leading Democrats of Champaign County. He is an enthusiastic and dependable party worker and has done much to strengthen the local organization. He served as postmaster of the village of St. Joseph during both of President Cleveland’s terms, and has also been a member of the town council. Fraternally he is a charter member of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic. His membership in the Grand Army is not honorary, as one might infer from the fact that he was born in 1850. Mr. Stevenson is in fact one of the youngest veterans of the great War of the Rebellion. That war began when he was eleven years of age, and he was only fourteen when it entered upon its final stage in 1864. He realized that he was too young, strictly speaking, to get accepted into the ranks of the Union army, but his loyalty and patriotism were of such determined character that he was willing to sacrifice the truth somewhat and gave his age as sixteen. He enlisted in the spring of 1864 and was mustered in at Mattoon, Illinois, into Company A of the One Hundred and Thirty-fifth Illinois Infantry. Thus he had his ardent wish and marched away with the hoys in blue to do whatever duty was required. His regiment was at first stationed in southern Missouri doing railway guard duty around Pilot Knob and Iron Mountain. When the war was over he was mustered out and given an honorable discharge at Mattoon.

Mr. Stevenson has been identified with most of the fraternal organizations in St. Joseph, having been a charter member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Masonic lodge and the Woodmen order. He is also a charter member of the local chapter of the Eastern Star, and both his wife and daughter are also members. In Masonry he is affiliated with the Mystic Shrine. For forty years Mr. Stevenson has had the inestimable good fortune of having a wife of charming personality and culture to stand by his side and help forward their home, their power of doing good in the community, and they have well earned the right to enjoy the coming years in leisure and comfort in their pleasant home at St. Joseph.



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

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