Biography from History of DuPage County, Illinois, by C.W. Richmond, published
1877, pg. 313-14:
JOHN WEST, dealer in drugs and general merchandise in Turner, was born on the 25th of
September, 1828, in Shepton Mallet, Somersetshire, England, and is a son of Joseph and
Sarah (Gaite) West, who were natives of the same country. They had but two
children, Dr. J.E. and our subject. The paternal grandfather, Joseph West, reared a
family of seven children, and died in England at an advanced age, as did also the maternal
grandfather. The family for many generations had been wool manufacturers, and
Joseph West, Sr., followed the same pursuit. The closing of the European wars
acting disastrously on the woolen interest, he gathered together the remnant of his
fortune, and with his family emigrated to the United States. His first venture
proving unsuccessful, he went to Mexico, but the unsettled condition of the country caused
him to retrace his steps and in the autumn of 1833 he permanently located in the
flourishing manufacturing village of Oriskany, N.Y.
Our subject was a babe at the time of the emigration to the New World. He says his first recollections are of making mud pies in the public square of Manayunk, Pa. Between the ages of five and nine years he attended school, studying the old Websters Elementary Spelling book and Dubolls Arithmetic, unless he could evade such work by playing "hooky." This latter finally occupied so much of his time, that his father placed him in the woolen factory, where he remained for eight years, working from five oclock in the morning until six in the evening, and often until nine. Only thirty minutes were allowed for meals and return to work. For all those long weary hours of labor he received the munificent sum of $1.25 to $3.50 per week--the latter only for the last two years. Children employed in the factory were often obliged to wade a mile through deep snow in the dark of the morning in order to be at their posts in time. There were but two holidays in the year, New Years Day and Fourth of July. Thanksgiving and Christmas existing only in name. On reaching the age of sixteen, Mr. West was for six months placed under the care and instruction of a Presbyterian minister, and later spent a year in Whitesboro Academy, to which he walked a distance of three miles.
In 1847, our subject entered the counting room of S.N. Dexter, as book-keeper and manager of a general store, and has since been continuously connected with mercantile pursuits. There he remained three years, and out of the $150 received for the first years service, having no board to pay, he saved $109.50. In 1848 he made his first investment in shares of stock in the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, at the time when not more than a mile of the road was built. He is probably the only one of the original subscribers to that road who still retains possession of his stock. In 1850, Mr. West visited England and
the Great Exposition, and in 1852 embarked in merchandising in Oriskany.
On the 22nd of October of that year, our subject married Miss Elizabeth Allison, daughter of Robert and Sarah (Briggs) Allison, natives of Leeds, England. Five children have been born unto them, of whom one son died in infancy. John A., of Turner, married Frank [Frances] M. Shaw, of Boston, and they have two sons, Joseph M. and Paul F. Carrie is the wife of James T. Hosford, of Turner, by whom she has three children, William F., Mary and Florence. Sarah died in 1861; and Annie is the wife of Clarence H. Bradley, of Turner. They have one son, Allison W.
In 1855, Mr. West was attacked with the gold fever, and going to California, engaged in mining for a year with good success. In the fall of 1856, he went to Blackberry, Ill., and in the following spring located in Turner, where he has engaged in merchandising continuously since. He is recognized as one of the prominent and influential citizens of the community, and was called upon to serve as Town Clerk for fifteen years, and Postmaster for eight years. His public duties he has even discharged with promptness and fidelity that have won him the commendation of all concerned. Himself and wife were reared in the Episcopal Church, but are now members of the Congregational Church. In politics, he is a supporter of the republican party. Born in England, he has lived in California and in the extreme eastern and western and central portions of this country. His life has been eventful to a certain degree, but no matter where he has lived his career has always been an upright one, worthy of emulation.
Submitted by Marilynn Howard on
November 6, 2001.