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Chicago: Chapman Bros., Publishers


GEORGE W. LAURIE. This gentleman is one of the few citizens in Morgan County who have lived on the same land nearly sixty years. Fifty-eight years ago his father, John Laurie, one of the early settlers of township 15, entered this land from the Government, on the last day of August, 1830, and here founded a new home far from the old one, which lay across the broad waters of the Atlantic. He became a man of much prominence in this community, and always worked for its highest good. His son, of whom we write, is a worthy descendant of his honored sire. Most of his life has been passed on this old homestead, and he is a sturdy representative of those who were reared to a stalwart, honest manhood, amid the pioneer scenes that prevailed in this county less than half a century ago. He has been closely identified with the agricultural interests of the township for many years, and is classed among its most substantial citizens. His farm, on sections 3 and 4, townships 15 and 16, range 10, comprises 285 acres of choice land, under fine cultivation and well improved.

The father of our subject was born Jan. 27, 1787, on the River Clyde, in Scotland, at a town called Bigger. When a young man he entered the office of the Craig Leith Quarry, near Edinburg, as clerk, and remained there for twenty years and became quite an accomplished man of business. IN 1830, when he was about forty-three years of age, he threw up his clerkship in that company in order to try life in the United States, and accompanied by his wife and four children that had been born to them in their Scottish home, he set sail on the ship Eliza, and after a voyage of eight weeks and two days landed in New York August 2.

Leaving his family in that city, and taking with him his eldest son, Mr. Laurie came to this State by the way of New Orleans and the Mississippi River, his family subsequently coming to join him here by way of the lakes and river. He found the country in a wild condition, sparsely settled, there being but a few families between there and Jacksonville, and it was all open prairie in the vicinity of that city. He entered the tract of land mentioned as being the present homestead of our subject, settled on it, and commenced its development into a farm. He broke nearly all of the land, put it under excellent cultivation, and made many needed improvements. But being a man of speculative turn of mind and active temperament, farming alone did not satisfy him, and he became interested in buying and selling land, and also engaged in the loan business. He took a prominent part in promoting the material prosperity of this township, and was active in securing educational and religious privileges. He was one of the first to start a school here, the head of each household paying a certain sum each day for each one of his children, and our subject can well remember the little log building that served the double purpose of a school-house and church.

The father of our subject died on the old homestead, Oct. 21, 1863, at a ripe old age, having lived to see the wonderful growth of Morgan County from the wild, scarcely inhabited condition in which he found it on that August day so many years before, to a wealthy and populous community, occupying a proud position among its sister counties, he having had an honorable share in bringing about the marvelous change. His wife, whose maiden name was Jemima Kirk, died the 8th of the following January, 1864, so that they who had lived in peace and harmony so many years were not long divided by death. She would have been seventy years of age the 26th of March, 1864.

The subject of this biographical review was born in New York City, and was an infant but eight months old when he was brought to his future home in Morgan County. Here he was bred to the honorable life of a farmer, gaining a good practical knowledge of the vocation in all its details, and has ever since prosperously pursued it. When he came to establish himself in life Mr. Laurie chose as a wife and helpmate Miss Mary J. Massey, who was born in Cass County, this State, just across the line from this township. Mr. and Mrs. Laurie's happy domestic life has proved the wisdom of his choice, and in their comfortable home six children have come to bless their union: Martha J., Mary J., Esther B., John H., Elizabeth M., and George W., all of whom are at home and have received fine educational advantages.

Mrs. Laurie's father, Henderson E. Massey, was born in Roanoke, Va., July 27, 1808, but in his boyhood he went to Tennessee to live. At the age of sixteen he made his way to Galena, Ill., was there at the time of the Black Hawk War, enlisted in the service, fought bravely, and had some close calls. He married Miss Martha Marshall, of Cass County, her father, who was of Scotch descent, having been an early settler of that county. She died March 29, 1874, aged fifty-eight years, leaving a family of twelve children. Mr. Massey was an early settler of Cass County.

Mr. Laurie's career in life as a man and a citizen is worthy of emulation. In every relation that he has sustained toward others, as son, husband, father, neighbor, he has shown himself to be guided by the highest and holiest principles, and the many to whom he is known, unite in testifying to his honorable character and unswerving integrity.

1889 Index
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