Jerome HOWE, banker and capitalist of Wenona, is too well known in Marshall county and Illinois to need special introduction to the readers of this volume. His business interests are so important and extensive as to make him a representative citizen of the state and his strict conformity to a high standard of business ethics stands as an unquestioned fact in his career. The secret of his success lies in his ready recognition and utilization of opportunities, his quick solution of intricate business problems and his ready adaptability of the means at hand toward the accomplishment of desired ends. All this entitles Mr. HOWE to prominent mention in the history of his county and moreover he is descended from an ancestry honorable and distinguished.
Born in Mount Palatine, Putnam county, Illinois, August 1, 1848, he is a son of Peter and Arvilla (PARK) HOWE, natives of Vermont and Massachusetts, respectively, while the mother was a sister of the well known George PARK. Her parents came to Illinois just a year prior to the Black Hawk war and settled in Pekin, Tazewell county. They were farming people and afterward took up their abode upon a farm near Pekin. At that time the country was full of Indians and it required great personal courage to settle alone in the forest and aid in the reclamation of the frontier for the purposes of civilization. However, bravery has ever been a distinguishing characteristic of the family. Various representatives of the name served as soldiers of the Revolutionary war and two were ranking officers. George S. PARK, brother of Mrs. Arvilla HOWE, served as state senator from Missouri and was a very prominent man. He was a soldier of the Mexican war and was the founder of the town of Parkville, Missouri a few miles from Kansas City, although the latter place had not yet been established. He opened a trading post for dealing with the Indians to whom he traded a considerable amount of clothing (purchased from the government) for land. He became the owner of several thousand acres of land in various states from Maine to Texas. He was in the latter state at the time of the massacre in the Alamo, when he and only one other soldier escaped the butchery of the savage Mexican troops. He died at Magnolia, Putnam county, Illinois, after a most eventful career, distinguished by military service, political prominence and business successes.
The HOWE family was established in the middle west about 1835 and Peter HOWE, then a single man, went to St. Louis, where he worked at the mason's trade and also engaged in contracting along that line. He remained for some time in that city and was the builder of Shurtleff College at Alton, Illinois, and also some of the first large brick buildings in St. Louis. A singular coincidence in his life was the fact that he and Asa L. HILL started from Buffalo, New York, together and thus drove through to St. Louis. They made the journey in a sled, but carried with them some wagon wheels as a precaution lest the snow should melt and they would be unable to continue on runners. After leaving St. Louis, Mr. HOWE made his way up the river and when he had accumulated a little money he went to Magnolia, Putnam county, Illinois, on a visit, and while there entered land a quarter section at a time. He would chop and split enough posts in the winter to fence a quarter section in the summer. He finally settled at Mount Palatine, Illinois, and in the fall of 1859 removed to Wenona, where he retained his residence until called to his final home, November 11, 1888. His time was given to the supervision of his landed interest, which had become quite extensive, for as his financial resources increased and favorable opportunity offered he made investment in real estate. In antebellum days he was a strong abolitionist, advocating the cause when it was very .unpopular to do so. He was a warn personal friend of Abraham LINCOLN, David DAVIS, Owen LOVELJOY and other leaders in the political movements of that period and his interest in the negro question led him to found the HOWE Institute at Memphis, Tennessee, and also the one at New Iberia, Louisiana, for the education of the colored people both schools still in existence and doing well. His was a work of philanthropy and was thus of great benefit to the race. His wife died on the same day of his death, both being murdered. In the family were three daughters and two sons: Mrs. M. A. ERVIN, of Galesburg, Illinois; Mrs. L. J. HODGE, who died in 1889; Jerome; Charles; and Ida E.
Educated in Knox College, at Galesburg, Illinois, Jerome HOWE afterward had the supervision of his father's farms for a number of years. In 1883 he joined his father and brother in the banking business at Wenona and in 1889 he purchased his brother's interest and has since been alone in the ownership and conduct of the institution, which is recognized as one of the strongest financial concerns in this state, having back of it valuable real estate interests. A general banking business is carried on, of which his sons, Charles R. and Walter V., largely have charge, while Mr. HOWE gives his attention principally to the supervision of his extensive landed interest in New Mexico, Louisiana, Texas, Iowa, Illinois and other states. His business interests and investments are found in so many parts of the country that he necessarily spends much of his time away from Wenona, in the supervision of his extensive business affairs. He is largely interested in the oil fields of Kansas and the oil refinery in Kansas City.
Mr. HOWE's first introduction to the "negro problem"' came when a small boy. His father, a champion of abolition, kept a darkey over night. Mr. HOWE had never before seen a member of the colored race and asked his mother why the man did not wash his face. He was also very much afraid of the man whose black would not wash off. He was reared in the faith of the republican party, formed to prevent the further extension of slavery, and has usually supported its candidates, but has never been active in political work, as his attention has been fully occupied with his extensive business interests.
On the 5th of June, 1872, Mr. HOWE was married to Miss Fannie HALL, a native of Pike county, Illinois, and they have two sons and two daughters: Cora, wife of C. H. PINGREY, of Bloomington; Charles R., of Wenona; Walter V. and Charlotte A. The family are members of the Presbyterian church and are welcome guests in the homes where culture and refinement are supreme, while their own home is the scene of many a delightful social function. Mr. HOWE has always resided in the middle west and has ever been imbued with the spirit of enterprise and progress which has led to the rapid and substantial upbuilding of this section of the country and while a man of wealth, he has allowed the accumulation of a fortune to affect in no degree his relations with his friends of earlier years less fortunate in the business world. He measures a man by character, not by possessions, and his own sterling worth has made him one of the most respected citizens of Marshall county.
Extracted July 2011 by Norma Hass from
Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties