John J. Steele


John J. Steele, a son of one of the honored pioneers of Rice Township, was born at the old homestead on section 35, in 1853. He at an early age became familiar with farm pursuits, and later attained a good education, attending first the district school, and later being graduated at the German English College at Galena. He is of Irish descent, his father having been Richard Steele, a native of County Monaghan, Ireland, who was born in 1776.

The father of our subject employed himself at farming in his native isle, but came to America when a young man, in 1831. He landed first at St. Johns, New Brunswick, and thence emigrated to the city of Philadelphia, where he sojourned for a period of eight years. Then, setting out for the West, he came to this county, and purchased a claim of 160 acres in Rice Township. A small portion of this had been cleared, and there was upon it a log house without window or door. The family, however, moved in and made themselves as comfortable as possible. The father battled with the elements of the soil in true pioneer fashion, and the mother in her household operations was subjected to fully as many inconveniences, in providing for the needs of her family, as was her husband outside, working with imperfect implements and under the disadvantages of a distant market.

The marriage of Richard Steele occurred in Elizabeth Township, Jo Daviess County, this lady being Elizabeth Speer. She also was born in County Monaghan, Ireland, in 1823, and emigrated with her parents to America when a little girl nine years of age. They also landed in Philadelphia, where they resided a short time, then removed to Jo Daviess County, where she was married to Mr. Steele Jan. 14, 1840.

The father of out subject was very successful after coming to this county, and in due time became the owner of 400 acres of land, 175 of which he brought to a good state of cultivation. He made one improvement after another, put up a fine residence and out-buildings to correspond, and is considered one of the most thorough and skillful farmers of this section. Of his marriage there were born eight children, four of whom are living: Robert married Miss Letitia Gillespie, a native of County Monathan, Ireland, and who came to America after becoming a young woman; they are living on a farm in Hanover Township. Mary Ann married John Q. Miller, who was born in New York City, and who is now farming in Sioux County, Iowa; Charles R. married Miss Margaret Irwin, of County Monathan, Ireland, and is also farming in Sioux County, Iowa.

The Indians had not left this section when Richard Steele first came here with his little family, and took up his abode in the rude cabin on his unfenced tract of land. They were peaceable, however, and did not offer to molest the settlers. The elder Steele had learned the trade of weaver in his native county, at which he was occupied while a resident of Philadelphia. He was an Orangeman while in his native Island, and consequently a Protestant in religion - a member of the Episcopal Church. Upon becoming a naturalized citizen he identified himself with the Republican party, with whose principles he was thoroughly in sympathy, although never having the ambitioe (sic) to become an office-holder.

John J. Steele received kindly the careful parental training given him in his boyhood, and is now one of the most highly respected, members of the community. Like his father, he is a strong Republican, politically, and is warmly interested in the temperance work, with evidences that he will in the near future be a leading light among the Prohibitionists. He has held the various local offices; he has served as Supervisor of Rice Township, and is the School Treasurer of his district. With the exception of never having taken a wife and helpmate to his home, he has performed in a worthy manner his obligations as an honest man and a good citizen.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess Co., IL (1889)