JAMES VIRTUE. The northwest quarter of section 26 in Elizabeth Township is occupied by the well-cultivated farm of the subject of this biographical outline, which, with its appurtenances, is greatly creditable to his judgment and industry. A native of the North of Ireland, he was born May 24, 1818, and has thus more than summed up his three-score and ten years.
The Virtue family is of Scotch origin, having been driven from their native haunts to the North of Ireland on account of religious persecution. James Virtue, the father of our subject, upon reaching man's estate was united in marriage with Miss Jane Shaw. The childhood and youth of our subject were spent in his native county, where he received a fair education for the time and place and where he lived until twenty-two years of age. Then, not satisfied with his condition or his prospects, he resolved to seek the New World and embarked at Donegal on a sailing-vessel bound for America, landing at St. Johns, N.B., after an ocean voyage of six weeks. Thence he proceeded to Philadelphia. Pa., on a schooner down the coast, and for a time was engaged as a farm-hand in New Jersey. In 1840 he set his face toward the Great West, coming to this county and locating in Rice Township. He entered 520 acres of land from the Government, in 1847, in company with his brother Adam.
For the first six years after his arrival in this region Mr. Virtue engaged in smelting lead ore. On the 28th of April, 1846, he assumed matrimonial ties, being united with Miss Fanny A. Robinson, a native of his own country and the daughter of John and Ann (Kile) Robinson. The parents of Mrs. Virtue were natives of Ireland and spent their last days in America. To Mr. And Mrs. Virtue there have been born nine children, namely: Ann, who died when about seven years old; Jane, John R., James S., Samuel, David, Mattie, Adam, and Fanny who died when three years old.
Mr. And Mrs. Virtue soon after their marriage settled in Rice Township upon the land which he and his brother entered from the Government and which was then built a few log shanties in that region, a small number of apple-trees had been planted, and the plow-share of some adventurous settler had disturbed a small portion of the soil. Mr. Virtue bent his energies to the improvement of his property, cutting down considerable timber, clearing away the brush, and preparing the soil for cultivation. He occupied it with his family until the spring of 1859, and then removed to his present homestead in Elizabeth Township. Upon this also there were few improvements when he took possession of it. He has planted numbers of trees in the neighborhood of his home and constructed a pond, from which in the winter is gathered ice for the summer season. This farm comprises a little over 243 acres of land, which has been thoroughly cultivated and produces in abundance the rich crops of this region. It is largely devoted to stock -raising, in the quality of which the proprietor takes great pride. In his efforts at building up a homestead and accumulating a competence Mr. Virtue has been materially assisted by his wife, a lady of excellent judgment, industrious and economical. Mr. Virtue landed in Galena with a capital of $2.75 in his pocket, and considering his fine property today, everyone must acknowledge that he has labored to good advantage. He is a man who has interested himself in the well-being of his community, believing in the establishment of schools and in giving to the young those advantages which will make them worthy members of the community. Politically, he is a Republican, and has served as Road Commissioner of Elizabeth Township, and also treasurer of the Town Board. Both he and his estimable wife are members in good standing of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which Mr. Virtue officiates as Trustee, and is one of the chief pillars. His success is the result of the well-directed effort, and no more than he deserves for his close application for so many years to his self-imposed duties. He is a strong advocate of temperance, making of his life a practical illustration of his theories, having never been addicted to the use of liquor or tobacco. He has lived to see a wild and uncultivated tract of land yield to the advance of civilization and to the labors of such men as himself, and has arrived at the point where he can live at his ease and look about him, not only upon the achievements of his own hands and mind, but upon the steady march of enlightenment and civilization, which has made Illinois one of the most important States in the Union.
Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Jo Daviess Co., IL (1889)
Contributed by Barb Virtue