HON JOHN A. PETRIE, formerly representative from his district to the Illinois general assembly and now engaged in the insurance and real-estate business in Greenview, was born near Mount Carmel, Fleming county, Kentucky, February 8, 1856. His father, David A. Petrie, was born December 21, 1829, near Newport, Herkimer county, New York, and his father was of German and his mother of Irish descent. He went to Fleming county, Kentucky, in 1854, and was there engaged in farming and dairying. He married Hannah C. Lewellin, April 30, 1855. She was born in Fleming county, Kentucky, March 24, 1832, and was a descendant of John Hart, one of the signers of the declaration of Independence. Leaving Kentucky, Mr. and Mrs. Petrie removed to Illinois, reaching Petersburg, Menard county, February 8,1865. They lived on a farm for three years and in March, 1868, removed to Greenview, where the family has since resided, the father being engaged in the lumber business and contracting. Unto him and his wife have been born the following named: John A.; Clarence A., who was born April 21, 1859, and died January 3, 1904; Frank H., born June 25, 1861; Lucy G. Hamil, born May 4, 1863; Lydia A. Moore, March 21, 1867; Phebe A., who was born April 20, 1869, and died September 8, 1870; Charles A., who was born December 28, 1871, and died July 18, 1872; and Claude, born September 22, 1873.
At the usual age John A. Petrie entered the Greenview schools, where he remained as a student until June, 1872. He became a member of the freshman class of Lincoln University in September, 1873, and after a year left school to engage in business with his father in Greenview. This was in the summer of 1874. He never returned to school but has always been a student and a great reader and keeps posted on the affairs of the day, taking an active part in all that pertains to the progress and welfare of his town and state. Although born on a farm and there remaining until twelve years of age, he was not interested in farm life and always longed for a business or professional life, and up to the time he was twenty years of age he entertained the idea of studying law and in later years has many times expressed the regret that he did not do so. After coming to Greenview he attended school in the winter seasons and worked on a farm in the summers of 1869 and 1870. In 1871 he worked with his father and from July, 1872, until September, 1873, he clerked in the hardware store of W.S. Morse & Company, receiving a salary of twenty-five dollars per month and thus earning the money which paid his tuition in Lincoln University the following year. After leaving school he engaged in business with his father under the firm name of D.A. Petrie & Son, in 1874, and continued in the business until January, 1877, when they consolidated their hardware business with that of Frank Frorer, of Lincoln, Illinois, which was then being conducted under the name of Leighton & Company, by E.F. Leighton. The business was consolidated under the name of Petrie & Company. This firm handled grain of all kinds in connection with their hardware and farm machinery and did a large business, which they sold out in 1884 to A.E. Stewart. In 1880 John A. Petrie assisted in organizing the Greenview Coal Company and was its first secretary. He was a member of the board of directors for several years, was president of the company for one term and afterward was general superintendent, resigning in 1883, and selling his interest in 1885 to E.F. Crane, of Mount Sterling, Illinois. In 1886, with several citizens of Greenview, he helped to organize the Menard Coal Company, which began sinking the second shaft in Greenview, June 28, 1886. He entered the employ of this company as clerk in 1886, was appointed sales agent in 1887, was elected secretary about 1890 and had the active management of the company until January, 1899. He is still a director of the company. In the meantime the Greenview Coal Company and the Menard Coal Company were consolidated in 1893, under the name of Menard Coal Company, and this was reorganized, in October, 1895, as the Greenview Coal & Mining Company. In March, 1899, Mr. Petrie opened an insurance and real estate office, and is now engaged in that business, enjoying a very satisfactory patronage, being ever mindful of the best interests of his patrons.
Mr. Petrie has ever worked for the best interest of Greenview and never fails to speak a good word for her business men nor try to promote their welfare as opportunity offers. He has always been closely connected with the business affairs of the village and has been a most earnest champion of its system of public education. He was elected school director when twenty-two years of age and has been connected with the school board, either as member or president, for the past nine years. He has served several times as trustee of the village, and for the last five years has been village clerk-elected three times without opposition.
Politically a Democrat, as was his father, Mr. Petrie, from the time he attained his majority, has taken an active part in politics and has been solicited many times by his friends to run for office. About two weeks before the primaries were held in 1896 he announced himself as a candidate for assessor and treasurer. He went into the county convention with the largest number of delegates and the largest popular vote, but, there being two other candidates-J.H. Clary and Henry Burfiend-the contest was close, and after seventy-three ballots were taken Mr. Clary withdrew from the convention and the nomination of Mr. Petrie was conceded, but three of the Oakford delegation failed to follow their instructions and voted for Burfiend, who was nominated by a half vote. The dissatisfaction caused by the action of the convention resulted in the defeat of a part of the ticket, and had it not been for the personal work of Mr. Petrie among his friends Mr. Burfield, who was only elected by a small majority, would have been defeated. Mr. Petrie next entered the political field in 1900, when he became a candidate for member of the forty-second general assembly against Hon. T.W. McNeely, whom he defeated in the county convention, and, with the assistance of Logan and Mason counties, in the senatorial convention held at Havana, Illinois. The candidate from Cass withdrawing, Mr. Petrie and Hon. John C. Young, of Mason, were nominated for the legislature and Lawrence B. Stringer, of Logan, for the senate. The thirty-second senatorial district was then composed of Logan, Mason, Cass and Menard counties. Mr. Petrie was elected by a large majority, and in January, 1901, entered upon his duties. His record in the forty-second general assembly was a clean, honest, business record, where he was ever on the alert, looking after the best interests of his constituents, working for good and working and voting against all vicious and unworthy measures. He was appointed on the following committees: fish and game, insurance, mines and mining, public charities, and roads and bridges. By his courteous treatment and gentlemanly bearing he made many friends among Republican as well as Democratic members. During this session of the legislature the gerrymander of the state changed Mr. Petrie's district from the thirty-second to the thirtieth and made a strong Democratic district, composed of Schuyler, Brown, Tazewell, Cass, Mason and Menard, and Tazewell having a holdover senator and every county a candidate for representative, the fight for preferment in the forty-third general assembly became a lively and interesting contest. Mr. Petrie was again a candidate and received the endorsement of his county without opposition, and after a hotly contested fight in the senatorial convention was renominated and again elected to represent his district. In the forty-third assembly he became an active worker and was appointed on the committees on rules, insurance, mines and mining, roads and bridges, revenue, appropriations, education, horticulture, and public buildings and grounds. Though he never made a speech in the house, his work in the committee rooms and his watchfulness on the floor of the house gave him a prestige among the members which surpassed any influence many speeches could have gained, and on leaving Springfield, at the close of the session, it was the wish of many members that he would again be returned from his district.
Mr. Petrie belongs to Greenview Lodge, No. 653, A.F.&A.M., and has always been one of its most active and influential members. He has filled all the various stations and served the lodge as master several times. He is a member of De Witt Chapter, No. 119, R.A.M., and St. Aldermar Commandery, No. 47, K.T., and has the distinction of having been elected eminent commander of the commandery the next year after being made a Sir Knight. He is also a charter member of the Modern Woodmen of America, belonging to Tree Camp, No. 178, of Greenview, and the Fraternal Reserve Life Association, No. 48, of Greenview.
On the 10th of February, 1876, Mr. Petrie was married to Miss Samantha Pierce, who was born September 21, 1856, a daughter of Hon. Hiram L. Pierce, of Logan county, Illinois, now in Indian Territory. The wedding ceremony was performed at Lincoln, Illinois, by Rev. L.P. Crawford, of the Presbyterian church, they became the parents of two children: Nina Edith, born November 13, 1876; and Mabel Eva, born January 14, 1879. The former, a graduate of the Greenview high school of the class of 1894, was assistant in the postoffice here and then spent a year in Grand Rapids, Michigan, pursuing a course in kindergarten work, and for five years prior to 1905 she had charge of the primary department of the Greenview schools, and for three years had charge of the kindergarten at Old Salem Chautauqua. Mabel Eva, a graduate of the Greenview high school of the class of 1895, was a teacher of a country school in the winter of 1899-1900 and until January, 1901, when she resigned. She was married August 5, 1901, to Alonzo W. Larison, of Lincoln, Illinois, where they reside. They have a son, Donald Alonzo, born October 6, 1902. Mrs. Petrie, the mother, died in September, 1883, and her remains were interred in Rose Hill cemetery, near Petersburg, Illinois. She was an earnest, devoted Christian, was an active worker in the church, a lady of fine social qualities, and was loved and mourned by all who knew her. On the 13th of November, 1884, Mr. Petrie married Emily Florence Alkire, daughter of John H. Alkire, of Sweetwater, Illinois. Unto them was born a son, Loyal John Petrie, November 22, 1889. Mrs. Petrie is a lady of sterling qualities, an advocate of the true and right , a disbeliever in the shams and an avowed enemy to the evils in life, and especially to the abuses and frivolities of the social world. She loves her family, and the loyalty of her son and his rapid progress in his school life and the honors he has won are especially due to her untiring oversight of his life and work.
Mr. Petrie is a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, of which body he has been an elder and officer for several years. He is a regular attendant at the services of the Sunday-school and church and has taught a class for many years, very seldom failing to be present. His wife and three children are also members of the same church. He is strong in his convictions of right and wrong, but liberal in his views and never infringes on the rights of others. Devoted to his family, attached to his friends, charitable to his enemies, he believes in giving every man a fair show in the world. Perhaps no one man in the town has done more to help his fellow men or tried more earnestly to make their burdens less than John A. Petrie.