STEVENSON, JAMES FLEMING, one of the oldest, most extensive and most prosperous stock dealers in Jacksonville, Morgan County, Ill., was born four and a half miles west of that city, September 11, 1830. He is a son of Elliott and Jane (Stevenson) Stevenson, natives respectively, of Scott and Woodford Counties, Ky., the places of their birth being only about ten miles apart. They remained in Kentucky about four years after their marriage, which occurred October 21, 1824. In November, 1828, (election day) they camped upon the ground which afterward became the site of the capitol in Springfield, and then passed into Morgan County to seek favorable locations. In he following spring both his father and his uncle (James Stevenson) with their brothers-in0law and families, located permanently in Morgan, Cass and Scott Counties - then one county - and to the number of sixty-nine commenced life in the Western country. This was the largest colony, composed exclusively of related families which ever settled at one time in that region.
Elliott Stevenson, the father of James F., while a resident of Kentucky, was an overseer on the plantation of a Mr. Chambers, and thus earned sufficient money to invest in Morgan County lands. The father and mother died in 1883. James Stevenson was at one time a civil engineer, and in 1848 surveyed the route of the Sangamon & Morgan Railroad, running from Naples to Springfield.
Upon settling in Morgan County, in 1829, Elliott Stevenson purchased, for $625, 200 acres of land west of Jacksonville, which he sold six years later. He also bought 350 acres five and a half miles east of the present city. Before his death he also owned 300 acres of land in Kansas, and when his son, James F., was twenty-one years of age, he was the proprietor of fully 1,000 acres in Morgan County. This remarkable accumulation of landed property was largely due to the industry and shrewdness of the son named. The land was well adapted to stock raising and supported much valuable live stock, including $4,500 worth of Durham cattle.
In boyhood James F. Stevenson received his mental training in the early subscription schools. He was reared on the farm where he remained until he was thirty-five years old, giving considerable attention to the stock business. In 1865 he moved to Jacksonville and devoted himself to that line - buying stock cattle on commission. He took many train loads of stock to the New York markets. He has carried in cash, of other people's money, as much as $40,000 at a time, accounting for every penny. He followed the stock business until 1905. In 1866 he shipped the first load of cattle sent out of Kansas City, has operated extensively in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa, and has made as many as a hundred trips to New York. Many times he has driven his herds to St. Louis, where they were shipped by boats to New Orleans, handling stock in Kansas before that State had a railroad. In 1903 he transacted business for a stock firm amounting to $50,000 and is still in their employ. One of his most successful transactions was during the silver panic, when he was engaged by Ayers National Bank to dispose of eighty-eight car loads of cattle, which could not be sold in the local market. He shipped the stock to New York and, after an absence of twenty-two days, returned to Jacksonville with $85,000 clear of all expenses.
Politically, Mr. Stevenson was first a Whig, and acted with the Republicans until the demonetization of silver, since which he has been an independent voter. He was reared in the faith of the Presbyterian Church. He is a man of the highest integrity of character, and enjoys the implicit confidence and unbounded respect of all who know him.