James T. Roe

Mr. Roe is remembered as a somewhat eccentric man who would not swap his opinion for that of any man. He was born in Orange county, New York, August 4, 1793, and settled in Shelby county, Kentucky, before coming to Illinois. He was married to Lillis Busey, daughter of Isaac Busey, the pioneer of Urbana, June 19th, 1831, in Kentucky. The same year the young couple came to Illinois and purchasing the land and improvement of Runnel Fielder, who was the pioneer and first settler of this county, settled on section 12, Urbana, now owned by Bate Smith At that time the main road, east and west through the country, known as the Ft. Clark road, because it led from the Indiana line to Ft. Clark on the Illinois river where Peoria now is, led through his farm, thence north of the Big Grove, crossing the Sangamon, at Newcomb's Ford, and westward by Cheney's Grove. On this route passed all the emigration westward, and the only mail carried into or through the county. Along it were made the earliest settlements of the county. At that time Urbana, as a town, was unknown, as was also this county as such, for our territory was part of Vermilion county. Isaac Busey lived in a cabin near where Halberstadt's mill now stands, and it was the only habitation on this spot. A few scattered settlers, probably not over a dozen families, were ranged around the Big Grove, and these were all about the centre of the county. No store had been opened in the county—the nearest trading point being Danville. As soon as a surplus of grain was produced it was hauled by ox teams to Chicago, and the hogs were driven to Eugene or Perrysville for market. The plows in use were of the wooden mouldboard variety and the grain was gathered with sickles or cradles. Corn was planted by dropping and covered with a "jumper."

Mr. Roe laid out four additions to Urbana, built several houses, and took a great interest, while he lived, in its prosperity. Although he began life here with eighty acres he rapidly accumulated and when he closed his business preparatory to his anticipated death, he had near nine hundred acres of the finest land in the county. Mrs. Roe, after being an invalid for many years, confined to her bed for five years, died in November, 1860. He died August 23, 1866. They left two sons surviving them, five other children having preceded them to the silent land. Isaac Roe, one of Urbana's thrifty and successful farmers, married Martha E., daughter of our townsman, John McDonald, and lives two miles east of town. John B. Roe, the other survivor of the family, married Susan, daughter of George Dilling, and lives in Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Roe were Baptists and participated in the organization of the First Baptist Church of Urbana, the ceremony taking place in a log school house near their home. Mr. Roe was a democrat of the Jackson type, and held fast to his political and religious faith, unmixed with the taint of modern heresies. His opinions, as he accepted them in his younger manhood, came to him iron clad and with arguments for their support. These arguments he ever after bore with him, ready to do defensive duty at any time. He was very social and loved controversy upon the tenets of his faith.

The use of good whiskey was common among people of every position in Mr. Roe's day, and he never lost his taste for the article which he continued to use, in moderation, as one of God's gifts, to the last. No one ever saw him the worse for this indulgence. So with tobacco. He was a constant user of this article, but not so temperate as with spirits. His excesses with tobacco admonished his sons of the folly of the habit, and, heeding the admonition, they are both entirely free from its use as well as teetotalers.

Early History and Pioneers of Champaign County by Milton W. Mathews and Lewis A McLean; Published by the Champaign County Herald, Urbana, IL, 1886, Page 31-32, submitted by Leslie Rankin.

 


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