Lee County IL

The fine block erected in Dixon in 1890, known as Countryman's Block, is occupied by a department store, 50 x 100 feet, in which may be found a complete stock of groceries, queensware, dry-goods and notions. Twelve clerks are kept in constant employ to meet the demands of the trade, and by a courteous treatment of customers and close attention to the wants of the people, the business has been made both remunerative and extensive. The building is built of pressed brick and terra cotta, and the upper floors are utilized for offices.

When Mr. Countryman came to Dixon in 1866, he was employed first as clerk for Alonzo Wood who some years afterward sold out to W.C. Stevens, with whom our subject formed a partnership in 1871, under the firm name of W.G. Stevens & Co. In 1877 he became sole proprietor and has since managed the business alone, having built up his present trade through hisunaided exertions.

A native of Herkimer County N.Y., Mr. Countryman is the son of John I., Jr. and the grandson of John I. Countryman, Sr., a native of New York who came of German ancestry of the old Mohawk Dutch stock. The senior John I. Countryman lived and died in Herkimer County, his decease occurring when he was more than 65 years old, and thus was brought to an end his honorable and useful existence as a farmer and citizen.

The father of our subject grew to man's estate in his native county, Herkimer, where he married Miss Nancy Failing, a native of Montgomery County N.Y. and the daughter of John Failing. The young couple located in Herkimer County where they lived on a farm until their death. He passed away in 1868 at the age of 65 and she died in 1878, age 71. They wer religious and adhered to one common faith, free from denominational distinction. The family numbered 8 children, all sons, seven of whom are yet living - Levi and William, farmers in Herkimer; Norman, Harvey, Alvin and John E. who follow farming in Ogle County and our subject.

The last named was reared in his native county, where he gained a common-school education. He was not a college graduate nor does he consider that a collegiate education is necessary to a successful business career, believing that a thorough training in the good schools of our country, in connection with industry, energy and enterprise, will win success. He is one of the leading merchants and citizens of Dixon, is connected with the Republican party and socially is with the Blue Lodge No. 7, Nachusa Chapter and Dixon Commandery No. 21.

Nephew of Isaac Byron Countryman

E.J. Countryman is prominent as a man whose constantly expanding powers have taken him from humble surroundings to the field of large enterprises and continually broadening opportunities. He has brought to bear upon business situations a clear understanding that readily solves complex problems and unites into a harmonious whole unrelated and even diverse elements. He is today the controlling factor in the largest mercantile enterprise of Dixon, being president of the E. J. Countryman Company, dealers in general merchandise, including dry goods, shoes, meats and groceries.

Mr. Countryman was born in Ogle county, Illinois, in 1870 and acquired a public-school education which brought him eventually to graduation from the high school of Rochelle, Illinois. Early in his business career he entered the Rochelle (Ill.) National Bank, where he spent three years before coming to Dixon in 1893. On his arrival in this city he entered the employ of his uncle, I.B. Countryman, who had been identified with the commercial interests in Dixon from 1868. After three years' experience, during which time he had largely acquainted himself with various phases of the business, his uncle withdrew from active management, following the incorporation under the name of I.B. Countryman Company, This is perhaps the oldest established general mercantile house of the city. It was originally the property of W.G. Stevens & Company, of which firm I.B. Countryman became a member in 1871. A little later he purchased the store, which he conducted under his own name until 1896. From that time forward the business was carried on under the style of I.B. Countryman Company until 1910, when a reorganization was effected under the name of E.J. Countryman Company with the subject of this review as president. They have the largest store in Dixon, occupying two floors, fifty by one hundred and fifty feet and employing from fifteen to twenty two people. The steps in the orderly progression which mark the life record of E.J. Countryman are easily discernible. With marked ability to plan and perform, he stands as one of the conspicuous figures in commercial circles in Lee county and his business activity has found an even balance in his honorable methods.

In 1894 Mr. Countryman was united in marriage to Miss Alice Sheaff, a native of Ogle county. They are well known socially in Dixon, their home being the abode of a warm-hearted hospitality. Mr. Countryman holds membership with the Masonic fraternity and the Elks, and at no time has he ever been neglectful of the duties of citizenship. For four years he was a member of the board of education and for two years acted as its chairman, during which time a new high-school building was erected. He is one of the organizers and charter members of the Union State Bank and one of its directors. Anyone meeting Mr. Countryman would know at once that he is an individual embodying all the elements of what in this country we term "a square man;" one in whom to have confidence, a dependable man in any relation and any emergency. His quietude of deportment, his easy dignity; his frankness and cordiality of address with the total absence of anything sinister or anything to conceal, foretoken a man who is ready to meet any obligation of life with the confidence and courage that come of conscious, personal ability, right conception of things and an habitual regard for what is best in the exercise of human activities.

Transcribed by Karen Holt - 1914 History of Lee County Illinois Vol 2 by Frank E. Stevens.

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