JAMES M. EDWARDS is classed with the leading men of Menard county, and his history is one deserving of high commendation. Well may it prove as a source of inspiration to others for from early boyhood he has been dependent upon his own labors for a livelihood. Moreover he sustains an unassailable reputation in business circles and in Menard county his name has come to be a synonym for honorable dealing. In public affairs he is also prominent and as a county official he has rendered to his fellow men valuable service.
Mr. Edwards was born in Pennsylvania, December 23, 1853, and was a son of John W. and Loretta (McCabe) Edwards, the former a native of Philadelphia and the latter of Maryland. The father was a cabinet-maker and carpenter, and devoted his attention to those trades during his active business life. In the family were six children, but James M. Edwards is the only one now living. When only three or four years of age he was bound out to Edmund Otto, of Pennsylvania, with whom he lived until eight or nine years of age, when he left Mr. Otto and began earning his own living, working in Pennsylvania and in Maryland. After a time he learned the sawyer's trade and operated a sawmill for five or six years. Later he came to the middle west, arriving in Menard county on the 17th of April, 1875. Up to the time of his marriage he worked as a farm hand and then rented land and began farming for himself. As soon as possible he became a landowner, gaining through his earnest labor and economy the capital that enabled him to purchase a small farm. From time to time he has added to this property until he now has extensive possessions. He has continuously followed farming and has also fed many cattle and hogs. He has stall-fed seven hundred cattle in three years for the Chicago market. His business interests are conducted in a most practical way, and his sound judgement, keen foresight and unfaltering energy have been the strong features in his prosperity.
On the 7th of March, 1879, Mr. Edwards was united in marriage to Miss Ellen Trent, a daughter of Henry and Harriet (Clemons) Trent, both natives of Kentucky, the former born January 1, 1799, and the latter February 15, 1812. By his first marriage Mr. Trent had five children, but only one is now living. By his second marriage there were twelve children, of whom five are living, three sons and two daughters. Mr. Trent died June 4, 1883, at the age of eighty-four years, five months and three days, while his wife passed away April 4, 1893, at the age of eighty-one years, one month and seventeen days. Both died in Mercer county, Missouri, where Mr. Trent had followed the occupation of farming and stock-raising. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards has been blessed with five children: Mary E., born December 1, 1879; William, February 21, 1885; Harry M., November 28, 1891; Cecelia M., February 5, 1897; and Beatrice M., January 17, 1901.
Because of his capability and deep interest in his country and her substantial progress Mr. Edwards has been selected for public office. He is now serving his eleventh year as road commissioner and has been three times elected to that office on the Republican ticket. Twice, when he had an opponent in the field, he polled nearly every vote and at the other election the opposition party named no candidate. When he entered the office there were only two steel bridges in the county and now there are ten. He favors substantial progress and permanent improvement and heartily endorses every measure which he believes will prove of practical benefit to the county. For seven years he has served as a member of the school board and his present term will cover two more years. His public record is above reproach, his service being actuated by the utmost devotion to the county and its welfare. In private life he is equally reliable and his fairness in all business transactions is indicated by the fact that although he has rented land for many years he has never had a dispute over the matter. Thoroughly reliable, he commands the confidence and respect of all by his unfaltering allegiance to whatever duty devolves upon him, and his example is indeed well worth of emulation, for it proves that success and an honored name may be won simultaneously.