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Chicago: Chapman Bros., Publishers


HON. HENRY DRESSER. No one has conferred greater benefits on that section of Scott and Morgan Counties near where he resides than the subject of this notice. It was through him more than all others that the Scott and Morgan levee and drainage district was organized, bringing large areas of waste land into cultivation, adding greatly to the wealth, as well as healthfulness of that section of the two counties. When first proposed, the scheme was regarded as visionary by most persons, and was met by a factious opposition from some who were most benefitted in the end. Judge Dresser, from his observation and knowledge of the kind of engineering required, was confident of success from the first, and the result will be a living monument to his energy, tact, and judgment, as enduring as bronze of marble.

Most any intelligent individual having the slightest acquaintance with Mr. Dresser, would acknowledge at once that he is a man of more than ordinary abilities. He is thoroughly well-informed upon all general topics, and has been endowed by nature with that temperament which seldom yields to any obstacle or abandons any project which he has conceived. By his own enterprise and industry he has accumulated a fine property, being the owner of over 1,000 acres of land, situated in Scott and Morgan counties. He is a Democrat, politically, and has represented Scott county in the Illinois Legislature two terms with credit to him self and satisfaction to his constituents.

The descendant of a good family, our subject was born in Pomfret, Conn., on the 27th day of December, 1813, and is the son of the Hon. Nathan Dresser, a native of the same place, and born in 1774. The paternal grandfather, Nathan Dresser, Sr., was likewise a native of Connecticut, and a farmer by occupation. He represented an old New England family, which traced its ancestry to England, and was first represented in America during the Colonial days, and settled on Narragansett Bay. Nathan Dresser, Jr., was a tailor by trade, which he chose rather from necessity than otherwise, having been a cripple and unable to follow other than a light pursuit. He kept gentlemen's furnishing goods, and in connection with his trade, conducted a store in Pomfret, and there spent his entire life, departing hence in 1834, at the age of sixty-four years. He was a prominent man in his community, and represented the town in the Connecticut Legislature in 1828-29.

The mother of our subject was Mrs. Rebecca (Leffingwell) Dresser, a native of Connecticut, whose father followed farming and was of English descent. She came west after the decease of her husband, and died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Stone, in Springfield, Ill. The parental family included five children - Lucretia, Charles, Nathan, Mary, and Henry, our subject. The latter is the only survivor. He was reared in his native town, and given the advantages of a practical education. At the age of eighteen years he entered upon an apprenticeship as architect and builder, serving three years and becoming master of the profession. About the time of reaching his majority he repaired to Massachusetts, where he engaged as a contractor and builder, and from which State he removed, in 1838, to Illinois.

The journey of our subject to this then pioneer region was made via the Hudson River and Erie Canal to Buffalo, thence by lake steamer to Chicago, and from there overland to Springfield, Ill. At this latter point he sojourned until 1848, continuing to operate as an architect and builder. That year he changed his residence to Scott county, and purchased the land from which he has built up one of the finest homesteads within its limits. In the meantime he was employed by the directors of the Sangamon and Morgan Railroad Company, to facilitate and furnish material for the reconstruction of a portion of what was then known as the Northern Cross Railroad, situated between the Illinois River and Springfield, and he was thus occupied most of his time until the fall of 1850, when he purchased and turned his attention to the improvement of his present homestead, although he continued operating as a contractor and builder for several years.

In 1854-55 Mr. Dresser followed the river as captain of a steamboat, and thereafter, in addition to his business of contractor, was carpenter, mason and bridge-builder. Later he was Superintendent of the building of the Deaf and Dumb Asylum at Jacksonville. But the great enterprise in which he was mostly interested was the draining of the lands already spoken of, so that now a portion of the vast area of useless marsh has given way to cultivated and productive fields.

Mr. Dresser was first married in Brooklyn, Conn., Dec. 19, 1836, to Miss Phebe Stone, who was born in that State, and who died in July, 1853. He was married a second time in Barry, Pike Co., this State, to Miss Martha Heseman, a native of Sussex, England. She died in December, 1857. Mr. Dresser contracted a third matrimonial alliance in Providence, R.I., with Miss Elizabeth P. Work, who was born in Eastford, Conn., and who died in March, 1880. Mr. Dresser has no living children. He was first elected to the Illinois Legislature in the fall of 1868, and the second time in 1875. In November, 1861, he was elected Judge of the County Court, holding the office four years. He was a member of the Masonic lodge at Naples, and in religious matters adheres to the doctrines of the Episcopal Church. In early manhood he belonged to the old Whig party, voted for Henry Clay, and erected the highest Clay pole in the State at Springfield, and which reared its top to the height of 226 feet from the ground. In 1858 Mr. Dresser became a Democrat. He has been active in the councils of his party in this section, and officiated as Chairman of the Central Committee, besides holding other offices of trust and responsibility.

1889 Index
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