Lee County Biography

David B. Ayres
Dixon, Lee Co IL


David B. Ayres, who is conducting a good busines at Dixon as a manufacturer of harness, has been a resident of this county since he was a child, and is a son of one of its pioneer merchants and prechers, the Rev. Oscar F. Ayres, who was well known throughout Northern Illinois not only as a business man, but for his untiring efforts in the cause of religion and morality.

Our subject was born in Albany, N.Y., April 29, 1833 and his father was born in Orange County, N.Y. in 1809. The latter was a son of Benjamin F. and Christiana (Minthorn) Ayres, who were respectively of Scotch and German descent. He was reared on a farm and later learned the trade of merchant tailor, which he followed in Albany for a time. In 1831 he removed to Fabius, Onondaga County, and continued in the same business there until 1839. In the fall of that year he came to Illinois with his family, journeying by Erie Canal to Buffalo, and thence by the Great Lakes to Chicago, which was then but an insignificant village. His father-in-law met them at that point with a team and transported the family and household goods to Lee County. They found this to be a wild, sparsely settled region, where deer, wolves and other wild animals roamed at pleasure over the prairies and through the timber, and even across the very site where Dixon stands today a beautiful and flourishing city. For several years after the family located at Dixon there were no railways in this part of the country and the farmers had to take their grain to Chicago to market. Wheat sold at a low price, and some times when the roads were bad they did not get enough for their grain to pay the expense of the trip. Many of the settlers used oxen both for their farm work and for transporting their products to market.

The first winter after their arrival the family occupied the garret of a log house at Inlet Grove near Lee Centre. In pleasant weather the mother did her cooking outside in an old Dutch oven. The spring of 1840 they removed to Dixon, and the father followed his trade here for a time, and also kept a general stock of almost everything in use in a household in those days. He continued actively engaged in the mercantile busienss for upwards of thirty years, but finally sold out and turned his attention to the fire insurance business. He resided here until his death at a venerable age in 1886. He had lived to see the country developed from a wildernes to a well settled county, and Dixon from a hamlet to a populous and wealthy city. He was a Christian of lofty principle, and having been converted in early life was licensed to preach in the Methodist Church while a resident of N.Y. After coming here he was regularly ordained in 1845, and from that time forth did a noble work in the ministry duing his active life. He often filled the pulpit acceptably in Dixon and in various places in the surrounding county, always holding himself in readiness to supply any vacancy. By the right of his sacred calling her performed many marriage ceremonies, and officiated at funerals, etc. He was widely known and much respected and his death was deeply regretted by the entire community.

The Rev. Mr. Ayres was married in March 1831, to Miss Hannah M. Birdsall, who survives him, and still makes her home in Dixon. She was born in the State of N.Y. 78 years ago and is a daughter of David H. Birdsall, one of the early pioneers of Lee County. Six of her children are now living, namely; James B., who is a traveling salesman, representing the Rockford Shoe Co., with headquarters at St. Louis; Elizabeth J., Mrs. Bowman of Mt. Vernon, Iowa; Hattie E., Mrs. Crawford of Clinton Iowa; Emma J ., a resident of Helena Mont.; Mary M., Mrs. Snow of Helena Mont.

The subject of this sketch was but six years old when he came to Illinois with his parents, and he was reared under pioneer influences in this county. He remembers many instances of the journey hither and of the primitive life led by the people in this then wild and thinly inhabited country. He attended the early schools of Dixon, and in his boyhood assisted in his fther's store. At the age of 17 he began to learn the trade of a harness-maker, serving an apprenticeship of nearly three years' duration. Ambitious to improve his education he then entered a select school at Lee Centre, taught by Prof. Wright, a most excellent teacher, and he had the advantage of two years' study under his instruction. After leaving school he clerked in his father's store two years, and then accepted a similar position in the establishment of Wood & Boardman, with whom he remained eight years. At the expiration of that time he removed to his father-in-law's farm and tried his hand at farming. Three years later he abandoned agricultural pursuits, and returning to Dixon, then began for the first time to make practical use of his trade by opening a harness shop, and he has ever since been engaged in the manufcture of harness, and enjoys an extensive trade.

Mr. Ayres was fortunate in his selection of a life companion, as by his marriage in August 1858 to Miss Sarah J. Perry, he secured a truly estimable wife. Mrs. Ayres is a native of Vermont, and a daughter of Hillard H. and Amelia Perry. Her union with our subject has brought them two children - Minnie M., who married Charles W. Allen, of Omaha; and Oscar P., married Lillian Coffey, he is a traveling salesman, representing a cloth house at Omaha, and makes him home in Hastings, Neb. Mr. and Mrs. Ayres are devoted Christian people, who enjoy the confidence and affection of the entire community where so many years of their lives have been pleasantly passed, and in them the Methodist Episcopal Church has two of its best working members. Mr. Ayres is a member of Friendship Lodge, No. 7, A.F. & A.M. and also of the Modern Woodmen of America. He is a Democrat, sound and true in his political views. His assistance has been sought in the management of the city government, and during the two years that he served in the City Council he was always to be found on the side of hte right in any question of public importance, and has always cheerfully given his support to all feasible plans for municipal improvement.

1892 Portrait and Biographical Record Lee Co Pg 420


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