PORTRAIT & BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF TAZEWELL & MASON COUNTIES, ILLINOIS, 1894
BENJAMIN S. PRETTYMAN, Sr. To the pioneers of Tazewell County the present generation owes a debt that can never be repaid. Through their efforts, continued unweariedly through a long period of years is due the present high standing of this section of the state alike in commercial, agricultural and social matters. Having borne the heat of conflict, many of them have passed to their final reward, but a few remain to witness and enjoy the fruition of their early hopes and labors.
Such an one is B. S. Prettyman, Sr., to whom belongs the distinction of being the oldest attorney in Tazewell County, who now makes his home in Pekin. At the time he accompanied the other members of the family hither, this now flourishing city contained but one hundred inhabitants, and Tazewell County embraced the entire territory extending from the Illinois River on the east to Sangamon County on the south. Chicago was then in this county and Mr. Prettyman remembers having seen the Sheriff start on horseback for the city by the lake. About 1841 the county was reduced to its present boundaries, and he was appointed one of the Commissioners to district the county into towns, which he did, laying it out into nineteen townships, the present number.
Mr. Prettyman comes of good old Revolutionary stock, his grandfather, Benjamin Prettyman, having served both in the army and the navy during the Reolutionary War. With old Commodore Decatur, he sailed the seas in the vessel "Fair America," but was finally captured and placed in one of the New York prison ships, whence he was released some time afterward. In Delaware, the state of his nativity, he engaged in farming pursuits until his death, the closing years of his life presenting a tranquility and peace in marked contrast to the eventful days of the Revolution. He and a brother were the only representatives of their branch of the famiy in America, and each left a son.
The father of our subject, Lewis Prettyman, was born in Sussex County, Del., and participated in the War of 1812, being Lieutenant at the bombardment of Lewistown. Later he made a trip on horseback to Ohio, and was so well pleased with that section of the country that, in 1831, he brought his wife and five children west, journeying up the Delaware to Philadelphia, thence to Pittsburgh, and from there down the Ohio and up the Mississippi. The boat upon which they journeyed from St. Louis to Pekin was the second that made the passage up the Illinois. Arriving in Tazewell County, Mr. Prettyman entered four or five eighty-acre tracts, upon which not a furrow had been turned nor any improvements made. On Mackinaw Creek he built a fort, afterward put up a log cabin at the edge of the forest and broke the prairie soil with the first wooden mold-board plow introduced into the neighborhood.
In politics a radical Democrat, Lewis Prettyman held a number of official positions. For several years he was County Surveyor, first by appointment of the Governor in 1832, and in 1840 by election. In religious belief he was a Presbyterian. His death occured on his farm in 1856. His wife was Harriet, daughter of John Mason, a Quaker farmer who lived and died in Delaware. She was born in Kent County, Del., and was of English descent. In religious belief she was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Her death occurred at the home of a daughter in Mason County in 1865. In her family were eight children, of whom five are now living.
The subject of this sketch, the only son and the second in order of birth in the parental family, was born in Smyrna, Kent County, Del., November 21, 1819. He was about twelve years of age when he accompanied his parents to this state. His educational advantages were confined to three months' attendance in the district schools, but being energetic and observing, he became well informed. From 1840 until 1844 he served as Deputy Surveyor, and then commenced the study of law under Judge Robbins, of Springfield, Ill. He went to the office of Logan & Lincoln, but was crowded with law students, and Logan advised him to get some legal books, adding that he would loan him such volumes as he desired. In March, 1845, he was admitted to the Bar of Illinois, at Springfield, and afterward settled in Pekin, which then had a population of four hundred.
While Mr. Prettyman neither sought nor desired office, he was chosen to occupy a number of responsible local positions. In 1860 he was nominated for State Senator, but suffered defeat with the remainder of the ticket. His law library included that of Stephen T. Logan, as well as many books selected by himself. At the time of commencing practice, there were but three Illinois reports, and now there are more than one hundred and thirty. In early days he often rode to Decatur, Clinton, Bloomington and Woodford, where court was held. As a stump speaker, he was in contant demand during campaign days. For years he was Chairman of the County Democratic Committee, and served as delegate to every Democratic National Convention from 1860 to 1892, excepting that of 1876. For six years he made the political speech at the opening of court, while Lincoln was the Whig speaker. During the war he was twice elected Mayor of Pekin, and served in the same capacity several times afterward.
At Pekin, in April, 1845, Mr. Prettyman and Miss Sarah A. Haines were united in marriage. This lady was born in Butler County, Ohio, and died in Pekin, in February, 1893. Her father, William Haines, was one of the proprietors of this city in early days, and owned a mercantile establishment, a distillery, as well as the ferry and other important interests here. Fourteen children were born to the union of Mr. and Mrs. Prettyman, and of that number seven attained mature years, while five are now living: Emily, the wife of Dr. Schenck; Elizabeth, the wife of Judge Rider; Mrs. Hattie Murray; Nellie, the wife of Daniel Sapp; and William and Benjamin S., Jr., attorneys of Pekin. All the children are residents of Pekin.
Socially, Mr. Prettyman is a demitted (sic) member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and has been a Master Mason since 1945, belonging to the Royal Arch chapter. A prominent member of the Old Settlers' Society, he has served as its President and ever been interested in its success. In securing the railroads at this place, he was enthusiastic and energetic. In getting the first railroad, it was necessary to build the Illinois River Railroad (now the Jacksonville South-easter) to keep the county seat. Mr. Prettyman drove to Lewistown and Chandlersville, through which the new road was to pass, and canvassed both cities in the interest of the road. He was chosen Vice-President and Director of the company, and accompanied the President to New York for the purpose of securing iron for the road, the object of their trip being accomplished only after considerable effort and annoyance. Mr. Prettyman was also interested in securing the Indiana, Bloomington & Western Road at this place, and also in the construction of the Peoria, Decatur & Evansville, as well as the Chicago, Pekin & South-western (now the Sante Fe). Of the latter road he was President until its completion to Marseilles, when he resigned. Of the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway Company he was a charter member, and active in its enterprises, serving for a time as its President.
One of Mr. Prettyman's plans was to run the Indiana, Bloomington & Western Road through Ft. Madison, Iowa, to Ft. Kearney, Neb., and to secure the success of this enterprise he worked arduously, making speeches at various points along the route and endeavoring to arouse public enthusiasm on the subject. The company agreed to go to work immediately upon the construction of the road, and Mr. Prettyman was elected President of the Division to Ft. Madison. The contract was drawn up and signed, but at a meeting in Pekin the Directors were persuaded that a batter plan could be developed; consequently the road was never built, and its projectors lost all the money they had invested in the enterprise.
However, Mr. Prettyman has been more fortunate in his other schemes, and has been the orginator of many plans whereby the best interests of Pekin have been conserved. Through now advanced in years, he is still active and vigorous, and it is the wish of his many friends that he may long survive in the enjoyment of good health and unimpaired mental faculties."
Submitted by Betty Doremus