JOHN A. PEARSONS

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 112-114

JOHN ALONZO PEARSONS, an early settler of Evanston, was born in Bradford, Vermont, September 8, 1818.  He is a son of John Pearsons and Hannah Putnam, natives, respectively, of Lyndeborough and Francestown, New Hampshire.  John Pearsons was a prominent farmer and lumberman of Bradford, where he located at the age of twelve years.  For some years he also kept a hotel there, known as the Mann House.  He was a soldier of the War of 1812, serving throughout that struggle.  His death occurred in Bradford, October 7, 1857, at the age of sixty-five years.  His mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Kimball, also died there at an extreme old age.

Mrs. Hannah Pearsons died at Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1888, at the age of ninety-one years.  She was a daughter of John Putnam, a Revolutionary soldier, and a relative of Gen. Israel Putnam.  John Putnam served seven years in the Continental army, and was at one time a member of General Washington’s Life Guard.  He afterward became an Adjutant of Vermont militia, and, with two of his sons, participated in the War of 1812.  In later life he was a carpenter and bridge-builder at Bradford.  His wife, Olive Barron, lived to the age of ninety-three years.

John A. Pearsons spent his boyhood in Bradford, where he attended the district school, and, at the age of nineteen years, began teaching, a calling which he continued for four winters at and in the vicinity of Bradford.  He helped to conduct his father's hotel, and subsequently carried on the same business at White River Village and Norwich, Vermont.  The latter place was then the seat of General Ransom's Military School.

In September, 1852, he arrived in Chicago, where he was employed for a time by John P. Chapin, a prominent pioneer of Chicago.  In March, 1854, he located at Evanston, being induced to settle there through the influence of Dr. Hinman.  Mr. Pearsons was the first to build a house on the university lands, the location being identical with his present residence on Chicago Avenue.  Others soon followed his example, and when the Chicago & Milwaukee Railway reached that point the next winter, there was a rapid influx of people.  Such was the demand for building materials and other merchandise, that Mr. Pearsons found it advantageous to engage in the business of general teaming.   For eighteen years he operated Pearsons’ Evanston Express, employing a number of teams and wagons on the road between Chicago and Evanston, and the business which he started has ever since been continued, and is still a prosperous enterprise.  For some time he also kept a livery stable at Evanston.

In 1872 Mr. Pearsons sold out his express line, and spent the following winter in the woods of northern Michigan in the interest of his brother, D. K. Pearsons, the well-known lumberman and philanthropist.  Becoming interested in the lumbering industry, and finding the business agreeable to his health, which had become considerably impaired, he spent the ensuing twelve years in the lumber woods, during a part of which time he operated a lumber-yard in Evanston.  In 1885 he disposed of his lumber interests, since which time he has lived in practical retirement.  He has filled nearly every office in the township, village, and city of Evanston, and his official as well as business obligations have always been discharged in a creditable and efficient manner.

On the twenty-fifth day of October, 1842, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Pearsons and Miss Hannah Stevens Bayley, of Newbury, Vermont, a daughter of Amherst Bayley and Melissa Stevens, both natives of Newbury.   Mrs. Pearsons’ paternal grandfather was the distinguished General Jacob Bayley, of the Continental army.  Her maternal grandfather, Simeon Stevens, was an extensive farmer and highly exemplary citizen of Newbury, distinguished also for his musical talents, being the possessor of a strong and very sweet voice, which he retained even in old age.   He survived until nearly ninety years of age.

Mrs. Pearsons is a lady of many graces of mind and heart.  In her youth she won considerable celebrity as a participant in the State Musical Conventions of Vermont.   She was one of the prime movers in organizing the Woman’s Educational Aid Association, which was formed in 1871, and has been an officer of the association from its inception, and for eighteen years has served as its President.  The object of this society is to assist worthy young ladies of limited means in obtaining an education.   The College Cottage, which was built soon after the organization of the association, has been several times enlarged and improved, and now accommodates about fifty-five students, and is recognized as a worthy adjunct of the Northwestern University at Evanston.

Mr. and Mrs. Pearsons are the parents of two children, and have lost two by death, one passing away in infancy.  The eldest, Henry Alonzo, is a business man of Chicago, residing in Evanston.  Isabella is the wife of Wilbur F. Mappin, of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.  Helen, who was the wife of Rev. Harvey R. Calkins, died March 27, 1892, at the age of twenty-six years.  Two grandchildren, Harry Putnam Pearsons and Lilian Mappin, make glad the hearts of this worthy couple.

In October, 1892, the golden wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsons was celebrated, and they are still in the enjoyment of excellent health and that contentment of mind which is “a continual feast,” and few of their acquaintances, and none among strangers, can readily believe the number of their years of usefulness already spent.  They are members of the First Methodist Church of Evanston, which they helped to organize in the summer of 1854, at which time the society comprised but six members.  Mr. Pearsons was the Chorister of the church for many years, and is one of the Trustees of the Des Plaines Camp-Meeting Association.  Mr. Pearsons cast his first vote for William Henry Harrison, and was a member of a military band which furnished music for many of the public gatherings of the famous political campaign of 1840.  he played in this band for ten years.  Since the organization of the Republican party, he has been an adherent of its principles.  When he first located in Evanston, a large portion of the present site of the city consisted of a marsh covered with water, and none of the streets had been improved.  He has witnessed the material development of the town until it has come to be recognized as the first suburb of Chicago, and has simultaneously watched its intellectual and moral growth, in the promotion of which he has been an interested factor.

                                -- Submitted on April 1, 2000 by Sherri Hessick ( shessick@flash.net )