HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ILLINOIS
& HISTORY OF MORGAN COUNTY
Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1906.





ROBERTSON, John, (deceased), one of the most successful farmers and business men of Morgan County, Ill., was born on his father's farm at the head of Mauvaisterre Creek, east of Jacksonville, in that county, February 2, 1823, the son of Alexander and Elizabeth Robertson. The father, one of the earliest pioneers of Morgan County, was born in Perthsire, Scotland, August 13, 1775, and was a representative of one of the strong and ancient Scottish clans. To him and his wife were born the following named children: Daniel, born June 12, 1804; Alexander, born February 19, 1806; Margaret, born February 29, 1808; Charles, born June 26, 1810; Elizabeth, born October 22, 1812; Catharine, born April 29, 1815; Emily, born May 24, 1817; Christina, born March 9, 1819; and John, born February 2, 1823. Alexander Robertson died November 14, 1856, and his wife, who was born August 20, 1780, passed away February 15, 1862.

In the spring of 1819 Alexander Robertson left his native land for the United States, and soon after arriving in New York City came as far west as Johnsburg, N. Y., where he remained until the following winter. Proceeding westward as far as Alton, Ill., which was then, after St. Louis, the principal center of population in the Mississippi Valley, he soon afterward joined the party which started in pursuit of the Indians who were responsible for the Schrone massacre, and accompanied this punitive expedition to Monticello. Upon his return he passed through the eastern part of Morgan County, and was so impressed with the fertility of the soil at the head of the Mauvaisterre that he returned to that point shortly afterward, entered a tract of land, erected a primitive log cabin, and began the work of developing a farm from the raw prairie. The remainder of his life was spent on this tract. A man of strong convictions, his personality made a marked impress upon the community during the pioneer period. He was widely known as a man of integrity; was straightforward and honest in all his dealings, and extremely conscientious. A stanch Presbyterian, he served as Elder in the church for many years. In politics he allied himself with the Whig party; but he never sought public office.

John Robertson received a common school education. The early years of his life were spent upon his father's farm. As soon as his means permitted he purchased a tract of fine farming land adjoining his father's farm, located about four miles north of the site of the village of Orleans, to which he added from time to time until he had become the owner of about 2,500 acres, all of which was exceptionally fertile prairie land. In his farming and stock operations he exercised rare business sagacity, and became a recognized power in important financial operations in Morgan County. He was one of the founders of the Jacksonville National Bank, in which he served as Vice-President from its date of organization until two years before his death, when failing health led to his retirement. He also held the controlling interest in the Farmers' National Bank of Virginia, Ill. He was one of the organizers of Westminster Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville, to the support of which he was a most liberal contributor, and in which he served as a Trustee for more than thirty years.

A devoted adherent to Republican principles, and a strong Union man during the Civil War, he contributed generously of his means toward the support of the soldiers in the field. His intense patriotism is well illustrated by the manner in which he came to the aid of the Federal Government during the darkest days of the Rebellion. On Black Friday, which is regarded by many historians as having been the most critical day in the history of the Government, Mr. Robertson requested the Treasury Department to deliver to him $50,000 worth of United States bonds, for which he paid in cash at a high premium. This act, which was practically a loan to the United States when its credit was at the lowest ebb, and when investors generally were expressing the gravest fears as to the financial stability of the Union, was preformed in a spirit of patriotism and confidence in the ultimate success of the Government. It redounded to the credit of Mr. Robertson and in itself is sufficient to entitle his name to be perpetuated as one of the most noble, high-minded and patriotic citizens of the commonwealth. It is also related of him that during the days when Richard Yates, the famous War Governor of Illinois, was campaigning in behalf of the Union party, Mr. Robertson on more than one occasion held tallow candles near the speaker. Though a man who shrank from attracting public attention to himself, his nature and spirit were such that he was never able to resist an impulse to participate actively in those public matters and functions which had for their end the strengthening of the hand of the Republican party and the cause of the Union.

Mr. Robertson was twice married. On December 18, 1844, he was united with Mary Ann Drinkwater, who was born November 3, 1824, of an old family of Cass County, Ill., and died May 10, 1867. They became the parents of the following named children: Elizabeth, born September 24, 1845, and died October 6, 1846; John Wesley, born December 1, 1846; John T., August 19, 1848; Mary J., April 23, 1850; Frank, January 17, 1852; Martha, January 8, 1854; Cassandra, November 4, 1855; Richard, September 16, 1857; and William L., September 25, 1860.

Mr. Robertson's second marriage occurred October 6, 1870, when he was united with Kate Rawlings, daughter of Greenbury and Elizabeth Rawlings, of Cass County, Ill., who survives him. Their children are as follows: John Rawlings, of Jacksonville; Kathryn, wife of Preston R. Smith, of Buffalo, N.Y.; and Elizabeth, who resides at home. Mr. Robertson's death occurred December 5, 1895.

John Robertson was a representative of that rare type of men who combine in their personality great force of character and fixity of purpose with generosity of heart, wide mental vision and a spirit of good-fellowship and humanitarianism. His life was one of great practical utility and broad usefulness. It has been said of him that, had he been so situated as to devote his talents to a commercial or financial career in a great city, he inevitably would have become a national figure. Few men have lived in Illinois, who, as private citizens, have made records which have left such an indelible impress upon the communities in which they have been factors. He was essentially "a big man," in the common acceptance of the term, whose limitations were prescribed not through lack of opportunity so much as through his own desire to live a quiet, unostentatious life, free from the turmoil and strife so characteristic of the career of the modern successful man of affairs.


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