FOSTER, Samuel J., one of the oldest and most honored among the pioneer citizens of McDonough County, Ill., but now living in retirement at Table Grove, Fulton County, was born at Fosterís Point, McDonough County, December 30, 1832, and enjoys the distinction of being the first white child born in the township. He is a son of Arthur J. and Sarah (Kelso) Foster, both of whom were natives of the State of South Carolina. At an early period the Foster and Kelso families journeyed from the South to Indiana, where the parents of Samuel J. Foster were joined in matrimonial bonds about the year 1830. In 1831 Arthur J. Foster and his wife left Indiana and located in Macon County, Ill., shortly afterward establishing their home in McDonough County. The former, who was a farmer by occupation, was born in 1800. he was a man of unflagging industry, provident methods and strict probity of character, and his exemplary and useful life came to an early close in 1843. Although always busy and diligent in and out of season, he nevertheless found time to take an active interest in the cause of church and school and gave freely of his means to promote their interests. He donated the one acre of ground which has always been the site of the Fosterís Point Cumberland Presbyterian Church, of which he was a devoted member. Public spirited to a marked degree, he set out a fine sugar grove and did many things tending to advance the general welfare of the place. His charities were unostentatious, but liberally bestowed. In all his beneficent deeds he had the hearty co-operation of his worthy helpmate, and both were held in the highest esteem by all who knew them. Their hospitable home was the abiding place of the preacher and before the church was built it was the meeting point of the synod of the denomination to which they belonged. Their nearest neighbor was then about six miles distant. Politically Mr. Foster was a Whig and when a young man was an ardent admirer of Abraham Lincoln, to whose speeches he often listened.
Sarah (Kelso) Foster survived her husband many years, passing away a half century later at the advanced age of ninety-three years. The remains of these honored pioneers lie together in the old family graveyard on the homestead farm, the hallowed scene of the strenuous endeavors of their brief but happy wedded life. To Arthur J. and Sarah (Kelso) Foster were born seven children, as follows: Henry W.; William D., who lives at Table Grove, Ill.; John N., who resides at Fosterís Point, Eldorado Township, McDonough County; Samuel J.; Sarah, deceased, who was the wife of James H. Lowe, of Rocky Ford, Colo.; Abner D., whose home is in Nebraska, and Johanna C., widow of J. S. Gettis, who is a resident of Chicago.
Samuel J. Foster was reared to agricultural pursuits and in early youth thoroughly utilized the opportunities for mental training afforded by the public schools in his vicinity. His entire life has been spent in McDonough County, all of its active period being devoted to farming operations. His labors have been uniformly successful and his business transactions have involved the handling of many thousands of dollars. The farm on which he was born is among his present possessions. He is the owner of 227 acres of land and has amassed a handsome competency as a dependence for his declining years.
In 1854 Mr. Foster was united in marriage with Mary McMahon, who was born in Dubois County, Ind., in 1833. Her father and mother died in that county, the former in 1836 and the latter in 1850. When about seventeen years of age she came to Illinois and made her home with one of her aunts. The union of Mr. and Mrs. Foster resulted in nine children, as follows: Sarah V., widow of William Vail and a resident of Table Grove, Ill.; A. D., of Macomb, Ill.; James M., deceased; John L., who is engaged in farming in Industry Township, McDonough County; Henry L., who lives on the old farm in Eldorado Township; Eva, who is with her parents; Nellie C., wife of William Barkley, a farmer in Scotland Township, McDonough County; Luella, wife of Edward Ansbury, of Macomb, Ill., and Samuel R., who is on the old homestead in Eldorado Township. Their father rendered each of the children, on growing to maturity, the assistance necessary to start in life, and those surviving having been provided by him with thorough mental instruction, are living comfortable and useful lives, and are respected members of the communities to which they severally belong. All of them are consistent members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. With this church their father and mother have been closely and prominently identified for many years, the former having joined it in 1843 when twelve years of age. For half a century he has officiated as one of its elders and as Superintendent of the Sunday school. He has always been ready with his means in affording help to the poor, and every good cause has felt the impulse of his kindly and benevolent heart.
Since attaining his maturity the subject of this sketch has witnessed many marvelous changes in McDonough County, and with all the wonderful transformation which that region has undergone, he has borne his full share in the labor attending the process of development. He has been one of the most eminently useful of the faithful workers who laid the foundations of the material, moral and educational prosperity of his section of the State. His career has been unsullied by venality and unmarred by selfishness, and the ripening years that crown his head are attended by the consciousness of steadfast fidelity to the obligations of duty and by the assurance that he enjoys the profound esteem and regard of the entire community.
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