JAMES W. DUNCAN was for several years a resident of this county, and during the latter part of his life was one of the leading farmers of South Palmyra Township, owning one of the best farms in that locality, and his death was a severe blow to its most important industry. He was born in Washington County, Tenn., July 4, 1832, and was a son of James Duncan, who is also supposed to have been a native of Tennessee. He in turn was a son of Joseph Duncan, who was a pioneer farmer of that State and spent his last years in Washington County, where he cleared a farm from the wilderness. He was a soldier of the Revolution, and was a pensioner during the latter part of his life.
The father of our subject grew to maturity in his native county, and began his career as a farmer on the old homestead that was his birthplace, a part of which he inherited, and he bought the remainder of the other heirs to the estate. He resided thereon many years, actively engaged in agriculture, but in 1856 he came to Illinois to spend his last days with his children, and his life was brought to a close in the home of our subject near Girard. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Sarah Hunt, died at the home of their daughter near Sulphur Springs, Macoupin County.
He of whom these lines are a brief biographical record passed his early life amid the scenes of his birth, and remained with his parents until he was twenty-one. He was of a thoughtful, studious turn of mind, and ambitious to gain an education, he made the best of his advantages at Fall Branch College. When he attained his majority he came to Illinois, and utilized his knowledge of books by teaching in South Palmyra Township two years. He then bought some wild prairie land near Girard, at the rate of $10 an acre, and buying a house, moved it to his land for a dwelling. He broke and fenced his land, and lived on it eight years after his marriage. At the expiration of that time he sold and removed to Girard, where he engaged in the grain business the ensuing two years. After that he bought the farm on section 8, South Palmyra Township now occupied by his family. It comprises three hundred and eight acres of land of surpassing fertility, and with its fine improvements ranks among the best in the township.
March 25, 1861, was the date of the marriage of Mr. Duncan with Abigail Proffitt, a native of Tennessee, and to her active and able co-operation he owed much of his prosperity. Three of the children born of their marriage are living: John W., who married Miss Fannie Thacker; Joseph B. and James T. Their first-born child, Allen C., married Mary Fansler, and after marriage settled in Franklin County, Kan., where he died in 1882.
Mrs. Duncan's father, Daniel B. Proffitt, was a native of the same Tennessee county in which his daughter was born. He was a son of John Proffitt, who is also thought to have been born in that county. He carried on his business as a farmer there, improved a farm, and continued to live in that county until his demise. The maiden name of his wife was Mollie Barnes, and she was a life-long resident of Tennessee.
Daniel B. Proffitt was reared and married in the county of his nativity. He inherited a part of his father's old homestead, and bought the interest of the other heirs in it. He made it his home until 1854, and then came to Illinois, journeying on a flat boat down the Tennessee River to Paducah, Ky., and thence by steamer on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to Alton, and from there by rail to this county. He bought a home in South Palmyra Township, in which he dwelt until he closed his eyes in the dreamless sleep of death. His widow spent her last years with her daughter, Mrs. Duncan. Her maiden name was Sarah Range, and she was born in Washington County, Tenn., a daughter of John and Abigail Range.
Our subject passed away November 24, 1889. He left a record worthy of emulation of one who by right living had won the full trust and regard of all with whom he came in contact. He conscientiously and unfalteringly strove to do his duty at all times and in all places, and the Baptist Church which he joined in his youth, found in him one of its most ardent and active members and one of the most useful Deacons, an office which he held for many years, and his place in the church and in his community can never be filled. His wife also belonged to that Church.