Lee County Biography


Ira W. Lewis, who is serving as deputy circuit clerk, his connection with that position covering many years, while almost his entire life has been devoted to public office, was born in Broome county, New York, April 3, 1842, a son of Hiel and Eveline Lewis, who came to Lee county in the year of their son's birth. The father, a farmer by occupation, turned his attention to agricultural pursuits and was continuously engaged in the tilling of the soil until he passed away in 1880. His political allegiance was given to the republican party and he was accounted one of the worthy and representative citizens of the community. The mother has also departed this life. In their family were six children, four of whom are now deceased. The ancestry of the family can be traced back to a remote period. The grandfather was a son of Nathaniel Lewis, junior, who was born in Vermont, but spent the greater part of his life in Pennsylvania. He was a descendant of George Lewis, who came from England in 1650 and settled in the Green Mountain state.

Ira W. Lewis had a public-school education and was reared to farm life, early becoming familiar with the best methods of planting, plowing and harvesting. He remained upon the farm until 1863, and since that time has given almost his undivided attention to the duties of public office. He spent four years in the position of deputy sheriff and in 1868 was made deputy circuit clerk, which office he filled for twelve years. He was then elected circuit clerk and remained the incumbent for twenty years. He is now again deputy circuit clerk and thus his connection with the position has covered about forty-five years. There is no one in Lee county so familiar with the office and all that appertains thereto. He has ever been prompt and systematic in the discharge of his duties and a well trained mind keeps him in touch with the work of the office so that he can refer to any point or fact needed at a moment's notice.

On the 21st of March, 1867. Mr. Lewis was united in marriage to Miss Marilla M. Williams, a daughter of Cyrus Williams, who came to this city in 1839. He was a millwright by trade and as one of the pioneers became closely connected with industrial interests here at a very early day.

Mr. Lewis holds membership with the Modem Woodmen of America and his political support has always been given to the republican party since age conferred upon him the right of franchise. Over his public record there falls no shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil. Abraham Lincoln once said: "You may fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." This statement finds verification nowhere as much as it does in public office. An incompetent man may be called to public office, but his inefficiency is soon demonstrated and when a man has again and again been chosen for a position of public trust it is evident that he is worthy of the place to which he is called. While Mr. Lewis has now passed the psalmist's span of three score years and ten, he is still active in public office and his entire record is one which has gained for him well merited commendation and indorsement.

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



J.E. Lewis, engaged in the practice of law in Amboy since 1877, occupying a suite of rooms in the postoffice building, was born December 21, 1847, in the city which is still his home and is the oldest native resident in his part of the county. His parents were Joseph and Rachel (Cargill) Lewis. The Lewis family is of Welsh origin and was established in America long prior to the Revolutionary war. The great-grandfather of our subject was wagon master for General Putnam during the struggle for independence. Our subject's grandmother, Mrs. Sarah Cole, wife of Nathaniel Cole, was a niece of Pickering, the naturalist, who traveled extensively over the globe with Commodore Perry. Joseph, father of our subject, came to Lee county in the spring of 1845 from Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania. He found here a district which was largely wild prairie, and he settled upon a tract which he converted into rich fields, leading a busy life as an enterprising agriculturist. In politics he was a republican. His death occurred in 1882 when he was seventy-six years of age and his wife passed away some years later at the advanced age of ninety years. They were laid to rest in Oakridge cemetery near Amboy. One of their sons, James C. died while serving in Company C, Eighty-ninth Regiment of Illinois Infantry, meeting death at Chattanooga. Two other sons, John and Andrew, died while members of the Thirty-ninth Illinois Infantry, known as the Yates Phalanx.

J.E. Lewis, whose name introduces this review, acquired his education in the Amboy high school and in the Mount Morris seminary, from which he was graduated in 1868. He afterward began reading law under the direction of Norman H. Ryan and later taught school as principal for some years in Rockton, Illinois. Another year was spent upon the home farm, and in 1877 he was admitted to the bar, since which time he has engaged in practice in Amboy. Here he has been accorded a liberal and distinctively representative clientage, and his devotion to his clients' interest is proverbial. That he has prospered as the years have gone by is indicated in the fact of his investments in real estate. These have been most judiciously made, and he is now the owner of the postoffice building and several other business blocks of the city.

In Ogle county, Illinois, December 21, 1870, Mr. Lewis was married to Miss Margaret M. Hayes, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Hayes and a granddaughter of Captain Cameron, who was killed by the Driscoll bandits, when he was acting as captain of the vigilance committee. Both Mr. and Mrs. Hayes have passed away and are laid to rest in White Rock cemetery in Ogle county. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis have become the parents of six children: Benjamin D., a salesman residing at home; Ada E., the wife of John H. Heil, principal of the Morgan Park school of Cook county; Fred E., a carpenter of Amboy; Paul R., who was court reporter with Judge Bond, afterward in the naval department and later chief law agent with the Morgan Railroad System, but who died in March, 1904; Ethel E., who died at the age of sixteen years, and Stella B., who died in Rockton, Illinois, in 1873, when but two years of age.

In politics Mr. Lewis is a stalwart republican and has been clerk of Amboy township since 1895. He has practically had charge of township affairs since 1878, acting at all times as attorney in such matters. He was postmaster of Amboy under Benjamin Harrison. No citizen of the community is more public-spirited or more loyal to the welfare of the district. Mr. Lewis is a member of the Knights of Pythias lodge and is faithful to the teachings and high ideals of that organization.

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

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