JONATHAN COLBY, deceased, during the period between the pioneer epoch in the history of Menard county and the latter part of the nineteenth century, so utilized his opportunities and the business conditions of this part of the state that he gained a place among its extensive landowners and substantial citizens, and, moreover, he always maintained an honorable reputation and an unspotted record for business integrity. He was born in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, seven miles from Concord, March 10, 1808, and was a son of Timothy and Lydia (Herrick) Colby, the former a native of New Hampshire and the latter of Massachusetts, both representing old families of New England. Timothy Colby was a farmer and lumberman of the east and in addition to the tilling of the sail operated a lumber mill, becoming, through the careful conduct of his business interests, a well-to-do man of his locality. In addition to his other interests he furnished shipmasts for the shipwrights of Portsmouth. His last days were spent at the old homestead in the Granite state and both he and his wife died when about ninety years of age.
Jonathan Colby began his education in a district school and also attended a select school of Hopkinton, and when he attained his majority he went to Boston, where he engaged as a clerk in a mercantile store. He afterward removed to western New York, when he was about twenty-five years of age, but did not tarry long in the Empire state. Starting westward, he made his way to Chicago by canal and the Great Lakes, and thence proceeded to Salem, Illinois, where he purchased land in what is now Petersburg township, the purchase price being a dollar and a quarter per acre. Abraham Lincoln was at that time postmaster of Salem. A friend from the east brought five letters for Mr. Colby to Illinois, but stopping in Chicago he sent the letters on by mail. Mr. Lincoln, putting the letters in his big hat, went out to collect from Mr. Colby the price of postage-twenty-five cents apiece, or a dollar and a quarter for all-which at that time was the price of an acre of land. Today the land sells for one hundred and forty dollars per acre, while the postage on that amount of mail would be ten cents. Arriving in this county in 1834, Mr. Colby turned his attention to farming and as the years passed by he prospered. He invested his earnings, above what was needed for the expenses of the home and farm, in more land and eventually became the owner of twelve or fourteen hundred acres, which gradually increased in value, owing to the cultivation he bestowed upon it and a rise consequent upon the increased population. He was one of the well-to-do men of Menard county, and his success was attributable to his own efforts.
Mr. Colby was married in 1837 to Miss Lydia Ingals, a native of Connecticut and a daughter of Ephriam and Lucy Ingals, of Pomfret, Connecticut, who died in that state, their children afterward coming west to Cass county, Illinois. It was in this neighborhood that Mrs. Colby met her future husband. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Colby were born six children: William D., a resident of Henry county, Illinois; Mrs. Mary F.Dixon, of Menard county; Sarah S., the widow of John Beekman, of Menard county; Henry H., who is living at Rock Creek, Menard county; Mrs. Maria L. Rucker, of Boston, Massachusetts; Grosvenor G., a resident of Petersburg township. The father died in the fall of 1885 and the mother's death occurred in the fall of 1858. They were both members of the Congregational church and Mr. Colby was a Whig in his political views, until the dissolution of the party, when he joined the ranks of the new Republican party. Eh was never an office seeker, but was interested in public progress and improvement and was the champion of many progressive measures. He enjoyed in large measure the respect, confidence and admiration of his fellow men, because of his success and the straightforward manner in which it was gained, and from pioneer times to his death he was classed with the valued citizens of his community.