Lee County Biography

Jason C. Ayres
Dixon, Lee Co IL


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Jason C. Ayres, President of the Dixon National Bank, capitalist, and one of the largest dealers in real estate in northern IL, has long been one of Lee County's ablest business men and financiers, who is widely known and honored for his high personal standing, for the value of his citizenship and for the generous, progressive and far-seeing public spirit that has exercised such a powerful influence in the making of his adopted city.

Our subject was born in St. Lawrence County, N.Y., August 22, 1835. He is a descendant of some of the old families of New England, his forefathers being among the Colonial settlers of that part of the country. The following facts concerning his ancestry are taken from the "History of the Ayres Family," written by Wm. Henry Whitmore. His father, Col. Sylvanus Ayres, was born in April 1780 in New braintree, Mass., and was a son of Jabez and Persis (Stewart) Ayres. Jabez Ayres was born in Newbury Mass., April 26, 1737, and was a son of Jabez and Rebecca (Kimball) AYres, who were also natives of that town. The great-grandfather was born Dec. 27, 1690, and was a son of Samuel and Abigail (Fellows) Ayres. Samuel Ayres wsa the second son of Captain John and Susanna (Simonds) Ayres. Captain Ayres was born in England, and was one of three brothers who came to America as Colonists in the early years of the settlement of New England. He went with others to the present location of Brookfield, Mass., where he secured a tract of land and set about building a home in the wildernes. That section of the country was inhabited by a tribe of hostile Indians, and he was killed by them August 3, 1675. His family and the remaining settlers then returned to Ipswich, Mass. Samuel Ayres was married in that old New England town April 16, 1677. He departed this life in 1717. Jabez Ayres, the great-grandfahter was married December 8, 1718 to Rebecca, daughter of Henry Kimball. He removed from Ipswich to New Braintree, in the same State in June 1721. His son Jabez, grandfather of our subject, served in the French and Indian War and in the War of the Revolution. He removed from New Braintree to Salisbury, Herkimer County NY in 1792, an thence to Manheim in the same county, where he died Feb. 24, 1824. His widow died there in 1833, aged 68 years.

The father of our subject was a lad of 12 years when he went with his parents to Herkimer County NY, where he continued to live until a short time after his marriage, when he went to Montgomery County and thence to St. Lawrence County, in the same state. He became one of the leading citizens of his community. After serving in the War of 1812 he joined the New York Militia and June 13, 1814, Daniel D. Tompkins, then Governor of NY, commissioned him Captain of a company of the 8th NY Inf. In May 1818, he received a commission as Major of the regiment from Governor DeWitt Clinton and in April 1821 was commissioned Lt. Colonel of the same regiment. In 1839, Col. Ayres migrated with his family to Indiana and took up his residence in the primeval wilds of Allen County, going to his destination by lake to Toledo Ohio and from there up the Maumee River to the head of navigation, and thence with a team to the end of his journey. He was not destined to enjoy his new home very long, as, ere the year was closed, he wsa numbered among the dead.

The maiden name of the mother of our subjectr was Anna Bean. She was a native of Saratoga County NY and was a daughter of Wm. Bean, who was a native of Boston. He was the son of an Englishman, who came to this country in Colonial times and settled in or near Boston. He met his death at the hands of the Indians, being shot by them and mortally wounded, and dying shortly after in his home. The maternal grandfather of our subject was the youngest of six children. When the Revolutionary War broke out he entered the Continental army, fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and served with devoted patriotism throughout the entire struggle for freedom. Previous to going into the army he had worked in a shipyard, but after the war he turned his attention to farming, and was thus engaged in his native State for a time. He then resided in Vermont a fewyears, and from there went to New York. He first located in Saratoga County, but subsequently removed to Montgomery County, and buying a farm near Johnstown, spent his remaining days there. The maiden name of his wife was Lydia Nutting, and she was born in Salem, Mass. Her mother, the great-grandmother of our subject, was a Severance. SHe was very young when her father died, and she was reared by an aunt in Fitchburg. She died on the home farm in Montgomery County. The mother of our subject was reared in New York. After the death of her husband in their newly founded home in Indiana, she returned to the East with six of her eight children, and taking up her residence in Buffalo, devoted herself to rearing and educatingher children. She came to Dixon with her son, of whome we write, and was a beloved inmate of his home until her death Feb. 20, 1884 in her 90th year.

Jason C. Ayres was but four years old when his father died. He was principally reared in the city of Buffalo and educated in her public schools. In the spring of 1854, a youth of eighteen years, he came to Illinois and began life in the State as a clerk in a store in Chicago. In December of that year he paid his first visit to Dixon, coming by rail as far as Rochelle, which was then the terminus of the railway, and from there to this city with a team. He was much impressed with the beautiful site of Dixon, and the many advantages it offered to a wide-awake enterprising man of business, and in the spring of 1855 he made a permanent settlement here, establishing himself in the mercantile business, which he conducted for a time. In 1857 he formed a partnership with Joseph Crawford and Milton Santee, and opened a land agency office. The firm did a very large business in the l ine of surveying and entering Government lands in the Western States, and teh gentlemen composing it continued together until 1863. Since that time Mr. Ayres has conducted the business alone in the same office, looking carefully after his extensive landed interests and the management of his other property. He has dealt in lands in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, and for many years invested money for Eastern capitalists. WHen it became necessary to select a new president for the Dixon National Bank, one of the substantial monetary institutions of Northern Illinois, Mr. Ayres was chosen on account of his extensive acquaintance iwth men and affairs, his wide experience in business, his accurate knowledge of financial matters, and the sound and sagacious policy by which he has always managed his own interests and those of other people entrusted to him. Under his careful and skillful guidance the bank maintains its old-time reputation, its prosperity resting on a firm and healthy basis and, as of yore, it enjoys the entire confidence of its depositors and all who have dealings with it.

May 7, 1861 our subject entered into a happy and congenial marriage with Miss Lavina, daughter of Dr. John S. Crawford of Willimasport PA. They have a home made beautiful with all that goes to make life worth living, and their pleasant household circle is completed by their one daughter, Anna B. Their only son George N. died when 12 years old.

Mr. Ayres is a thoughtful, scholarly man, of fine address, and in all things conforms strictly to the highest principles of honor, fairness and courtesy. His strong business qualifications, aptitude for affairs and executive talent, combined with his personal attributes have given him prominence in this city, with whose growth he has been so intimately associated for the past 36 years. For many years he held two of the most important civic offices within the gift of his fellow citizens, serving as City Treasurer upwards of 20 years, and as City Clerk for 23 years. In politics he is first, last and always a Republican. In his social relations he is a member of Friendship Lodge, No. 7, A.F. & A.M.; Nachusa Chapter, No. 56, R.A.M.; Dixon Council, No. 21, R. & S. M.; and of Dixon Commandery, No. 21 K.T. He has always been generous in the use of his money for public enterprises and charitable purposes. He is broad and catholic in his religious views, and attendant of the Methodist Episcopal Church for many years, but not a member of any eligious denomination.

1892 Portrait and Biographical Record Lee Co Pg 370

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JASON C. AYRES, President 'of Dixon National Bank, Dixon, III., was born in St. Lawrence County, N. Y., August 22, 1835, son of Sylvanus and Anna (Bean) Ayres. He located in Dixon in 1855 and has since been prominently connected with its growth and development, as well as with real estate interests of his locality. He was admitted to the bar in 1870. In political sentiment Mr. Ayres is a Republican and has served as City Clerk and Treasurer of Dixon for many years. On May 7, 1861, he married Lavina Crawford, daughter of Dr. John S. and Delia A. (Preston) Crawford, of Williamsport, Penn. Fraternally he is a member of Friendship Lodge, No. 7, A. F. & A. M.; Nachusa Chapter. No. 56, R. A. M.; Dixon Council, No. 21, R. & S. M., and Dixon Commandery, No. 21, K. T.

Transcribed by Karen Holt - 1904 History of Lee County Illinois edited by Mr. A.C. Bardwell

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Jason C. Ayres of Dixon was born in St. Lawrence county, New York, August 22, 1835. He is a son of Colonel Sylvanus and Anna (Bean) Ayres and on both sides is descended from old families of New England founded by adventurous colonists from the mother country in early colonial days. Both his grandfathers were revolutionary soldiers and his father served in the war of 1812. His father was a native of Massachusetts and his mother of Saratoga, New York. They settled first in Herkimer county and afterwards removed to St. Lawrence county, New York, where they resided for several years. In 1836 the family moved to Indiana and settled on lands owned by them north of Fort Wayne, which was then a village, to make a home, in what was then an entirely new and undeveloped country. Upon the death of the father, some four years later, the widow with her family returned to Buffalo, New York, where Jason C. Ayres passed his boyhood days and acquired his early education in the schools of that city. He moved to Chicago in 1854 and in December of that year he visited Dixon for the first time, traveling by rail to Rochelle, Illinois, which was then the terminus of the Dixon Air Line, now the Chicago and Northwestern Railway and from thence by stage to Dixon. In March, 1855 he located in Dixon, to which place the railroad had then been completed and has since resided here. He engaged in the real-estate business as a junior partner in the firm of J. Crawford and Company, operating in the northwestern states in the location, purchase and sale of government lands. The partnership was dissolved in 1863 and Mr. Ayres continued the business alone, and in connection therewith he held the office of city clerk and treasurer for some twenty years. In the meantime he took up the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1870 but has since continued to give the greater part of his time and attention to real-estate and financial operations. He was one of the original stockholders and organizers of the Dixon National Bank and has been president of the bank for more than thirty years.

He was married in May, 1861 to Lavina C., daughter of Dr. John S. Crawford of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Ayres passed away September 21, 1907, survived by one daughter, Mrs. Anna A. Dement, widow of Lewmon D. Dement of Dixon, who with her daughters, Carmen L. and Rosanna V. Dement reside with her father in the old home, — her other daughter, Esther A. Dement, having been united in marriage with Morgan Lloyd Davies of Chicago and residing in that city. In politics Mr. Ayres has always been a republican, casting his first vote for electors for John C. Fremont, and has taken an active interest in political measures and efforts for party success, but has never sought office or any political preferment or reward. Fraternally he is a Mason, a member of Friendship Lodge, No. 7, one of the oldest lodges in the state, and of Nachusa Chapter, of Dixon Commandery, K. T., and of Freeport Consistory, A. A. S. R. thirty-second degree. Mr. Ayres is widely and favorably known as an active and efficient business man and a public-spirited and influential citizen.

History of Lee County by Frank E. Stevens 1914

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