Clay County

Biography - J. W. Westcott

HON. J. W. WESTCOTT, merchant, etc., Xenia, was born in Hamilton County, Ohio, March 1, 1828, and is the son of John D. and Margaret (Willes) Westcott. John D. Westcott was born in New Jersey September 12, 1803. February 22, 1823, he was married to Margaret E. Willes, who was born in Worcester County, Md., in 1840. In 1837, they removed to Illinois, and settled in Rushville, Schuyler County, then to Pike County soon afterward. In 1840, they settled in Jefferson County, Ill., where he died September 29, 1850. She was united in marriage, March 1, 1852, to James E. Fergerson, of Mt. Vernon, and died November 30, 1858. Our subject had made the various moves of his parents till reaching Jefferson County, where, September 1, 1850, he was married to Miss Martha Holtsclaw, of Jefferson County. He then followed farming and school teaching till 1854, when he came to Xenia. In spring of 1855, he commenced the mercantile business, and has ever since been interested in that pursuit, and is now the oldest merchant of Xenia. The first goods ever shipped over the O. & M. R. R., to this station, was the stock with which he began business. Till a recent date, he kept a general stock; now, however, he gives his attention mostly to clothing, boots and shoes and gents' furnishing goods, but also has agricultural implements. He carries a stock of goods averaging about $10,000. His attention, however, has not been confined alone to the mercantile business, as he is also engaged in the buying of grain, fruit, etc., and in the milling business, and also farming. Mr. Westcott's life as a business man has been an active one, but that has not occupied all of his attention. In 1857, he was licensed as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1864, he was the leader of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in this section of the State, as it separated from the opposite branch of the church; and so prominent was the part which he took that for some years it was known as "Westcott's" Church in this part of Illinois. He has continually been connected with the conference since 1857, and for twelve years of the time was Presiding Elder. In 1862, he was elected to the State Legislature from the counties of Clay and Richland, and served for two years. In 1864, he was elected to the State Senate from his Senatorial district, and served his term through with credit; then voluntarily retired from political life. On three different occasions, however, the delegates of Clay County were unanimously instructed to vote in the convention for his nomination for Congress. In 1880, he was Democratic Elector for this district, and has always taken an active part in every leading political campaign. His wife died January 6, 1870, and January 10, 1871, he was married to Maria D. Onstott, grand-daughter of Maj. John Onstott, one of the first and most prominent settlers in Clay County. This marriage has been blessed with the following-named children: John W., Flora E., Estella May, Freddie H., Clela Orpha, and William F., deceased. He is a member of the A. F. & A. M. of Xenia, and is Master of the lodge. He has been a Master Mason for twenty-eight years, having been made a Mason in Mt. Vernon, Ill.

Extracted 28 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from 1884 History of Wayne and Clay Counties, Illinois, Part IV, pages 170-171.


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