Marshall County
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PORTERFIELD, James E.

James E. PORTERFIELD, manager and stockholder of the Toluca Lumber & Hardware Company, and one of the wide-awake and energetic business men of Toluca, is a native son of Illinois, his birth occurring near Dover, in Bureau county, October 9, 1849, and with the commercial and agricultural interests of this section of the state he has been prominently identified. His father, James PORTERFIELD, Sr., was a native of Belmont county, Ohio, and a son of John PORTERFIELD, who was born in the north of Ireland, and on coming to the new world first located in Pennsylvania, but finally settled in Belmont county, Ohio, where he engaged in farming throughout the remainder of his life. In his family were sixteen children, all of whom reached years of maturity. The father of our subject was reared and educated in the county of his nativity, and in 1836 emigrated to Bureau county, Illinois, where he married Eliza BRIGHAM, a native of New Hampshire, and they became the parents of three children: Joseph B., of Normal, Illinois, who is married and has two children; John, of Fullerton, Nebraska, who is married and has six children, and James E., of this review. After the death of his first wife the father was again married, but had no children by the second union.

James PORTERFIELD, Sr., was one of the honored pioneers of Bureau county, where he entered government land, and although he was in limited circumstances on his arrival, by industry, enterprise and good management, became well-to-do. Being a strong anti-slavery man, he assisted many a helpless negro on his way to Canada and freedom, and aided Lovejoy and Holbrook in their good work. He was a consistent and active member of the Congregational church. His oldest son was in the one hundred days service during the civil war.

Upon the home farm in Bureau county our subject grew to manhood, and besides the country schools also attended an academy. At the age of nineteen he began teaching, which profession he successfully followed for four years. On the 25th of December, 1872, Mr. PORTERFIELD was united in marriage with Miss Icedora MILLER, daughter of Henry J. and Jennie (WILLIAMS) MILLER. Two daughters blessed their union: Edna, who was born near Spring Valley, acquired her education in Princeton and at Oberlin college, Ohio. She is now the wife of C. A. BROWN, of Princeton, by whom she has one son, James E. Ada Lois, the younger daughter, is at home.

For a few years after his marriage, Mr. PORTERFIELD followed farming in Illinois, and then removed to Wilson county, Kansas, where he dealt in live stock for over a year. On account of his wife’s health he returned to Bureau county, where he remained until 1881, when he went to Emporia, Kansas, where for a year he engaged in stock dealing. Subsequently he purchased land in Greenwood county, that state, where he still owns eight hundred seventy-five acres of productive and well stocked land. Two years later he again came to Illinois, this time locating in La Salle, where he engaged in the manufacture of brick and tile for a short time, and then removed to a farm near Spring Valley. Later he became connected with the Spring Valley Coal Company, and in 1885 again turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, which he followed for three years. On the expiration of that time he embarked in the grocery and shoe business at Spring Valley, being at that place during the memorable miner’s strike. For a few years he was in the employ of a lumber firm in that city, and in 1893 came to Toluca, to accept his present position, which he has since filled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. He is also a director and stockholder in the First National bank of Toluca, and secretary of het Devlin Coal Company. He is a man of good executive ability, sound judgment, and is one of the most capable business men of Marshall county.

Mr. PORTERFIELD is a firm adherent in the principles of the republican party, which he has always supported since casting his first vote for General Grant in 1872, but has never cared for the honors or emoluments of public office, preferring to give his exclusive time and attention to his business interests. He is a faithful member of the Congregational church, and while a resident of Spring Valley served as trustee of the church at that place.

Extracted May 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.


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