JAMES F. SPEER, who has traveled for many miles along life's journey, but is still actively engaged in farming on section 36, Tallula township, Menard county, was born in Green county, Kentucky, near Campbellsville, June 21, 1827. His parents were James and Elizabeth (Grant) Speer, both of whom were natives of Kentucky. The Speer family is of Irish origin and the paternal grandfather of our subject emigrated from the Emerald Isle to the new world, establishing his home in Kentucky, where he conducted a plantation, but never owned slaves. The maternal grandfather was of Irish and Scotch lineage. Members of the Grant family were slave owners of Kentucky and Eli Grant, an uncle of Mr. Speer, once traded a horse for a little negro boy.
During his early youth James F. Speer was called upon to mourn the loss of both of his parents and he was afterward bound out to a farmer, whom he was to serve between the ages of six and twenty-one years and on attaining his majority was to receive a horse. He had very little opportunity for attending school, but he spent one month as a student at Campbellsville. With this exception his education was acquired entirely in one of the old time log schoolhouses common at that day in his locality. He came to Illinois on horseback in 1848, traveling alone all of the distance save when he had company on one day's journey. It required nine days for him to reach his destination, which was Menard county. Here he settled on land that his father had owned at the time of his death. He had one brother, Samuel, who also owned an interest in this farm, but sold it to James F. Speer. Our subject now owns a little over three hundred acres of land, upon which he resides and his sons also live on this place and perform the active work of the farm. He formerly had over four hundred acres.
On the 14th of September, 1857, occurred the marriage of Mr. Speer and Miss Malissa Williamson, a daughter of William and America (Brooks) Williamson, who were Kentucky people who settled on land prior to the arrival of Mr. Speer. Eleven children were born unto our subject and his wife, of whom five are living, while six have passed away. America E., who was born November 27, 1858, died January 4, 1860. Lewis C., who was born May 5, 1860, died May 17, 1865. Mary M., who was born November 11, 1861, married Romeo Bracken, making his home in Cass county, Illinois, near Newmansville. They had one child, Pearl, who died at the age of one year, and Mrs. Bracken now resides with her father. Julia I., born September 28, 1863, died January 12, 1864. George W., born October 18, 1864, married Nancy Wilhite, by whom he had five children, all living and they reside upon his father's farm. Malissa H., born June 3, 1867, died December 1, 1871. Margaret J., born May 15, 1869, died November 25, 1871. Serepta I., born June 22, 1873, is the wife of Price Shafer and they reside upon one of her father's farms in Menard county. They had four children, three of whom are living. James F., born February 4, 1874, married Nellie Stitch, and they reside upon his father's land. Effie J., born August 6, 1875, died on the 27th of August, of the same year. Dora M., born June 8, 1877, is at home. The wife and mother died December 3, 1884.
Mr. Speer is a Democrat, supporting the party since casting his first presidential ballot for Franklin Pierce. Both he and his wife were members of the Christian church. It was his desire in early life to enter military service in the Mexican war, but he had been bound out and had no opportunity of going to the front. His grandfathers and one of his great-grandfathers were soldiers of the Revolutionary war and thus the blood of a patriotic ancestry flowed in his veins. When he came to Illinois he purchased land and at once began the development of a farm, for not a furrow had been turned or an improvement made upon the place, when it came into his possession, save that a log cabin had been built. He has worked persistently and earnestly in reclaiming his land for the purposes of civilization and has developed an excellent farm property. His life has been in harmony with his religious professions and he has ever commanded the respect and good will of those with whom he has been associated.