MASTERS, JAMES MADISON, (deceased), late a widely known and highly respected pioneer farmer of Morgan County, was born in Overton County, Tenn., April 3, 1818, a descendant of an old and honored pioneer family of that State. He was reared upon his father's farm, receiving a limited education in the subscription schools of his neighborhood. In his childhood the family removed to another part of Tennessee, whence they later removed to Illinois. Accounts as to the year of this removal differ, but some of Mr. Masters' living descendants state that they recall having heard him frequently assert that the family entered the State in 1818, the year it was admitted into the Union. Other accounts are to the effect that they did not arrive in Illinois until 1830. Their first location was on a tract of unimproved land situated about three miles northwest of the site of the city of Jacksonville. Shortly afterward the father brought his family to a log cabin which stood on the site of what is now the campus of Illinois College. In the fall of 1830 they again removed to a tract of land about a mile and a half west of Murrayville, which had been entered as a Government claim; and this was the home of James Madison Masters during the remaining years of his active life.
Mr. Masters commenced life with practically nothing. The land upon which he began his independent farming operations was partly timbered and partly covered with wild blackberries, and the task of putting it in condition for cultivation was an arduous one. But he possessed strong characteristics - determination, energy and perseverance - inherited from a long line of sturdy ancestors; and, applying himself to the task of developing a farm from the wilderness, he succeeded within a comparatively brief space of time. His energy was undoubtedly a powerful inspiration to many of his neighbors, and he was famed throughout the southern part of Morgan County for his vigor, his honesty and integrity, and his willingness to assist generously in the promotion of the public welfare at a period when such labor as this entailed often meant self-sacrifice in no small degree. As his years advanced he felt the lack of educational facilities which had hampered him in his earlier life, and succeeded, by much reading and intercourse with men, in securing a fairly liberal education for his day. His devotion to his family was very marked. Having been compelled in his youth to deny himself practically all of the luxuries of life, as well as many of its actual necessities, he determined to deny his family nothing which might add to their comfort and pleasure. To his neighbors he was also the same kindly, generous and public-spirited citizen, extending every assistance possible to make life more pleasant. In all respects the record of his life was not only pure, but supremely helpful.
Mr. Masters was married, in 1841, to Ann Rebecca Dinwiddie, who died in 1873. They were the parents of five sons and two daughters, all of whom are now deceased. It is worthy of note that the sole survivor of this family who bears the name of Masters is Arthur Madison Masters, of Jacksonville, grandson of James Madison. Of the children of James Madison Masters, William Thomas Masters was at one time Professor of Greek in Illinois College; James served in the Civil War, and Squire Davis Masters (whose sketch appears elsewhere) became one of the most successful farmers and stock-raisers in Morgan County. A brother of James Madison Masters named Davis Masters (an uncle of S. D. Masters, above mentioned) died in Menard County, Ill., February 22, 1904, aged ninety-eight years. He served as a Representative in the Nineteenth General Assembly (1854-56).
Representatives of early generations of the family also served in the Black Hawk War. Throughout the entire career of the family in Morgan County, it has occupied a position of prominence in the community, and the name is indelibly associated with the history of the county.
James Madison Masters, the subject of this sketch, died at the home of his son, S. D. Masters, in Jacksonville, at noon, April 3, 1898, at the exact age of eighty years, his birth having occurred at noon, April 3, 1818.