Lee County IL Biography


George Steele, Mayor of Dixon, is not only the chief magistrate of this city, but he is one of its leading citizens, and his name is associated with some of its most important enterprises. He is a native of this State, born in the city of Lockport, Will County, May 10, 1842. He is a son of George Steele, who was one of the early settlers of Chicago, locating there early in the '80s,and may well be considered one of the founders of that city, and he was also for many years one of its most stirring and successful business men, and was the originator of some of the enterprises that have contributed most largely to its growth and wealth and have given it world-wide fame. He was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and came to this country when a young man. His brother Alexander Steele also came to America, but he located in Montreal, Canada, the father of our subject being the only member of the family to settle in the United States.

Going to Chicago when it was scarcely a frontier village, he became the prime mover in the establishment of important industries that not only encouraged the more rapid upbuilding of the city, but greatly aided in developing its natural recourses of the country tributary to it. He it was who built one of the first elevators ever erected in the city, and he was one of the first to engage in the pork-packing business, which has since assumed such enormous proportions. His energies were by no means confined to these two enterprises, but extended in other directions, and be did important work as one of the contractors of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. It was during his connection with that, that he was for a period a resident of Lock port His name will always be indissolubly linked with the history of the rise and progress of Chicago as one of the great commercial centres of the world, as it was largely due to his influence that the Board of Trade was founded, which is to-day one of the foremost institutions of that great metropolis from a financial point of view. It was in his building that it was organized, he being one of it* founders, one of its first presidents, and for many years one of its most active and efficient members. In 1866 Mr. Steele's long and honorable career was brought to a close by his death in the city for which he had done so much, and where so many busy years of his life were passed, lie was widely known and honored as a business man of the strictest integrity, as a citizen of noble public spirit, and as a man whose character was above reproach. His good wife, in whom he had found much happiness, died before he did, her death occurring in Chicago in 1854. She was also a native of Scotland, and her maiden name was Anna Stein Morrison. She was the mother of nine children, eight of whom grew to maturity.

The subject of this biographical sketch was but two years old when his parents returned to Chicago after a brief residence of a few years in Lockport. Me received his early education in the public schools of the former city,subsequently entered Racine Academy, and after pursuing a course of instruction there, was sent to Mt. Pleasant Academy, New York, and finally returning to Illinois, became a student in Lake Forest University, where he completed his literary studies. After leaving the university, he assisted his father for a time in the office, and when twenty-one years of age formed a partnership with his brother James to do business as contractors for street building, paving, etc. They built the first crib for the water works and the second lake tunnel, and had control of an extensive business during the five years they were together. In 1873 Mr. Steele came to Dixon, and has been a resident here continuously since. He has proved from the very first a valuable acquisition to the citizenship of the city, for, as a clear sighted, far-seeing citizen, be has invested his money judiciously in various enterprises of import that have greatly benefited the place; his open-handed liberality and the weight of his influence have given an impetus to schemes devised for public good; and in all the civic offices that he has held he has shown himself entirely worthy of the confidence of his fellow-men.

Mr. Steele is a member of the Building and Loan Association, and is Secretary and Treasurer of the Dixon Gas A Electric Light Company. In his politics, he is a Democrat, and is well known for his devotion to his party. lie has been an incumbent of several offices of trust. He has been a member of the City Council, and has been influential in the cause of local education as a member of the School Board. In 1891 he was elected Mayor of the City, and re-elected in 1892. Dixon is fortunate in having at the head of its municipal government a man of such high standing in the business world, whose sound sense, broad and practical views of civic polity, and enlightened public spirit can but add a new impulse to the progress of the city, and it is the united testimony of all, irrespective of party, that his administration is all that can be desired.

In 1871 Mr. Steele was united in marriage with Miss Louise Peck Van Epps, a native of East Bethany, Genesee County, N. Y., and a daughter of Hon. William and Mary (Beck) Van Epps, of whom an account is given in the .sketch of William H. Van Epps. Our subject and his wife occupy a commodious, home-like residence in a pleasant quarter of the city, and its hospitalities are marked by tact and true courtesy in the entertainment of friend or, stranger who may enter its doors. They had four children,óWilliam Van Epps, Bella Georgiena and Gladys Catherine. The second child, Anna L., died in her twelfth year.

Transcribed by Christine Walters - Portraits and Biographical Lee Co. 1892

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