Lee County Biography


Thomas Harper is one of the leading farmers of Wyoming Township, where his farming interests are centered, and he is known throughout Lee County as a successful breeder of Pereheron and trotting horses. He is a native of this section of the State, born in Paw Paw Township, DeKalb County, June 28, 1853, a son of William Harper, who was a pioneer of Northern Illinois, and during his life one of its most prosperous agriculturists.

The father of our subject was born in Cuyahoga County, N.Y. and was a son of Robert Harper. The latter was born nnd reared in Ireland, and emigrating to America, settled in the State of New York. He was a carpenter all his life, and spent his last days in Cuyahoga County. William Harper grew to man's estate in his native county, and was there married to Jane, daughter of John nnd Jane (Irwin) Kirk, and a native of that county. These are the five children born of that marriage: Mary J., William, Thomas, James and John. William is dead. In 1847 the parents of our subject left their old home to found a home in the wilds of the Prairie State, as Mr. Harper was convinced that a thrifty, wide-awake, skillful farmr ought to reap a rich reward in payment of care and labor spent in cultivating its fertile virgin soil. The momentous journey was made on the canal to Buffalo, thence by the lakes to Chicago, and from that city a ride with a farmer brought him to this part of tlie State. He bought a tract of Government land in DeKalb County containing eighty acres, and on it he built the humble log house that was the birthplace of our subject. At that time the surrounding country was but little inhabited, and Chicago was the principal market for some years before the introduction of railways. Mr. Harper was exceedingly prosperous in all his undertakings, accumulated property rapidly, and bought other land, so that in all he had seven hundred and forty acres of well-improved land at the time of his death, and was one of the rich men of the county. He erected good buildings, and Ms land was placed in a high state of cultivation, making his farm one of the most valuable in the township. He died July 6, 1882, thus closing a career that had been honorable alike to himself and bis community, and his work as a pioneer will never be forgotten, so helpful was he in developing the agricultural resources of the country. His wife survives him, and still resides on the old homestead, in the home that she aided him to make.

Thomas Harper, to whom these lines principally refer, was educated in the schools of Paw Paw Township, where he grew to manhood under good home influences. He acquired a good knowledge of farming while a mere boy, as he was early taught to make himself useful on his father's farm, and that experience has profited him much since he began his independent career as a farmer, as he learned to shape his fortunes by the use of sound, sensible and systematic methods of carrying on his work. He continued to be a member of the parental household until liis marriage, when he settled on a farm at Ross Grove. He made that his home until 1884, and then bought the farm which is his present place of residence in Wyoming Township. Mr. Harper's farm is well adapted to stock-raising purposes, to which he partly devotes it. He has an inherent love for the horse, understands well how to handle it, is quick to note its good points, and has a sharp eye for its failings. Since 1878, he has made a specialty of raising horses, buying in that year a Percheron stallion and two Percheron mares, and in 1883 he commenced breeding and training road horses. He now has some of the finest Pcrcherons and roadsters in the county. He is the owner of tlie famous trotting stallion, "Roderick," by "Mark Field," the son of "Veritas," whose record is 2:18; and a grandson of "George Wilkes," dam by "Hamlet, Jr.,"registered number 16l,and he by "Volunteer." Mr. Harper has also three standard brood mares, besides several other valuable blooded animals. His horses are highly prized in this section, always command a good price, and find a ready market whenever offered for sale, for all who know our subject concede that whoever makes a deal with him is sure to get a well-trained well-broken horse, sound of wind and limb, and with no concealed defects,os Mr. Harper is not only too watchful of his reputation, but loves a horse too well to let one go from his stable misrepresented.

Mr. Harper has been twice married. His union with Miss Catherine Santee, a native of Grand Detour, Ogle County, took place May 1, 1870. She died January 16, 1885, leaving two children, Grade and Bennie. The second marriage of our subject was solemnized February 10, 1887, and was with Cora A. Mead, a native of Wyoming Township, and a daughter of Riley and Rachel Mead. In their pleasant home one son and one daughter have been born to them, whom they have named Arthur and Bertha.
Portrait and Biographical of Lee County IL. 1892

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