PETER L. DENBY. The agricultural element that has been so largely instrumental in the upbuilding of Macoupin County has no better representative than this gentleman whose portrait is on the opposite page. He was a native born citizen of this section of the State, grew with its growth, has become a man of wealth and one of the principal farmers and stock raisers of South Palmyra Township, his birthplace, where he has large farming interests and a beautiful residence on the old homestead where his entire life has been passed.
Mr. Denby was born November 21, 1838, to Peter and Sarah (Quarton) Denby, pioneers of this county. His father was a native of Yorkshire, Eng., and a son of English people who spent their whole lives in the land of their birth. The father of our subject and two of his brothers were the only members of the family that ever crossed the ocean to this country. The brothers, William and Thomas, settled in Morgan County, this State. Peter Denby, Sr., was about thirty years of age when he came to America in 1834, sailing from Liverpool and landing at New York. He came directly to Illinois by the most convenient and expeditious route at that time, which was by the way of the Hudson River, Erie Canal and Lake Erie to Cleveland, thence by the Ohio Canal to Portsmouth, from there by way of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to this State. He first located in Morgan County, where he rented land. In 1835 he visited South Palmyra township and entered Government land on section 36, which was one of the finest tracts in this county. His first pioneer work was to build a log cabin, which became the birthplace of his son, of whom we write. At that time, and for some years after, the surrounding country was sparsely settled and people going from one place to another drove over the open prairies, where in season large herds of cattle graced, while deer, wolves, and other wild animals were often seen. Alton and St. Louis were the nearest markets.
By years of hard and persistent toil Mr. Denby brought his land into a fine state of cultivation and erected a neat set of frame buildings to take the place of the primitive cabin and outbuildings that he first erected. He lived here in peace and contentment until death rounded out his life December 3, 1862. His wife also spent her last days on the home farm that she had assisted him to reclaim from the wilderness, her death taking place February 2, 1847. She was likewise a native of Yorkshire and came from her early English home with her father, Thomas Quarton, who was of Yorkshire birth and a pioneer of Morgan County. Three children were reared by the parents of our subject: William, a resident of Carlinville Township; Thomas, the youngest, who lives in Missouri, and our subject.
As before mentioned, Peter Denby, of this biographical review, has always resided on the farm where his life began and he was never separated from his parents until their death. His education was obtained in the pioneer schools, the first that he attended being taught in a log house. The seats were made by splitting logs and hewing one side smooth and inserting a wooden pin for support, the seats being without backs or desks. A log was taken out of the side of the building and in the aperture thus made, that extended nearly the whole length of the room, glass was inserted. Holes were bored in the logs underneath this primitive window, wooden pegs were inserted and a piece of puncheon laid on them served as a writing desk for the larger scholars.
Our subject was reared to habits of industry and early displayed those strong characteristics that have made him eminently successful in carrying on extensive farming operations and have placed him among the leaders in his vocation. Besides possessing the old homestead he has much other valuable property, as from time to time he has judiciously invested his money in real estate, and now has twelve hundred and fifty acres of choice land. His improvements rank among the best in the county, and make his farm a model and an ornament to the township. He has erected a commodious frame house of a modern style of architecture, which is neat and tasty in its appointments and is surrounded by well kept grounds. In keeping with this handsome residence are a large and conveniently arranged barn and other substantial outbuildings.
Mr. Denby was first married in 1863 to Miss Margaret S. Trible, a native of England, she departed this life in 1876 leaving behind her the record of one who was a good wife and tender mother. These six children are of that marriage - Nellie, Laura, Charles, John, Walter and Clara. The marriage of our subject to his present amiable wife, formerly Miss Clara E. Johnson, a native of Illinois, was consummated in January, 1878. Two children - Zoe M. and Fred L. have added to their felicitous wedded life.
Mr. Denby possesses in a rare degree force and decision of character, tenacity of purpose, a sagacious, independent judgment and great practibility which have enabled him to conduct his business to the best advantage and after the best methods, and those traits have also made him an important agent in developing the agriculture of the county. He has decided views on all subjects with which he is conversant; this is particularly true in regard to his political opinions, and we find him a firm supporter of the Republican party.