REV. JAMES DE WITT was born at Hope, Warren county, New Jersey, November 5, 1817, a son of James and Anna (Coates) De Witt; the father was born in Sussex county, New Jersey, and about the year 1842 emigrated to Michigan; he located on a farm in Oakland county, and there passed the remainder of his days; he died at the age of eighty-six years; the mother was also a native of New Jersey, and died in Michigan, at the age of seventy years. They reared a family of eight children, seven of whom are living: one son was a merchant, another a tanner, and a third was a millwright, but they are now engaged in agricultural pursuits. James De Witt, Jr., remained at home with his parents until he was thirteen years of age, and then began clerking for an older brother; at the end of two years he secured a position as clerk in a general store, and three years later he went to Pennsylvania, where he was employed as a clerk by his brother. In the spring of 1838, he left the Keystone State, and came by rail, canal and river, to St. Louis; the journey was continued by water to Warsaw, where he disembarked, and from that point he walked to Schuyler county. The first summer of his residence here he clerked for Dr. Benjamin V. Teel, and then returned to New Jersey, where he spent the summer of 1839, and in the fall of 1839 he came again to this county and secured a position with the firm of Wilson & Greer, which he held until 1842.
Mr. De Witt was united in marriage, January 25, 1842, to Miss Ellen Little, a native of Columbia, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania; she died in this county at the age of sixty-one years; seven children were born of this union, six of whom are living: James L. is married and has three children; John M. is married and has three children; George W.; Elizabeth is married and the mother of four children; Cyrus L. is married; William A. is the youngest. Mrs. De Witt was a daughter of James and Rebecca Little, natives of Ireland, who emigrated to the United States in 1801, and died in Schuyler county, Illinois, the father, at the age of seventy, and the mother at eighty-four years of age. Mr. De Witt was married a second time, October 3, 1883, to Mrs. Catharine H. (Pittinger) Waddell. She was born in Hancock county, West Virginia, April 30, 1837, a daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth (Matthewson) Pittinger, natives of Ohio and Pennsylvania respectively; the father died at the age of seventy-two years, and the mother at eighty-five; they removed to Illinois in 1838, and settled in Fulton county, where they resided two years, thence they came to Schuyler county, and here passed the last days of their life; the Matthewson family is of Irish descent. Mrs. DeWitt's first marriage was to William Waddell, and of this union was born one child, Clementine. Mr. Waddell died in Fulton county, Illinois, at the age of thirty-three years.
After his first marriage, Mr. De Witt settled in Rushville, and clerked for his father-in-law until 1844, when he engaged in business for himself, his partner being Mr. Greer; he conducted the business with different partners until 1850, when he sold out and removed to Littleton township, where he and his brother-in-law conducted a general store for four years; the firm was then changed, Mr. De Witt retaining his interest for another period of four years; the old firm then resumed business, and in 1862 he sold out. He now resides on the farm which was given his wife by her father, and devotes much of his time to agriculture; he has added to the original tract, and built the residence they now occupy.
Mr. De Witt received his elementary education in the district school, but it was through his own efforts that his advanced studies were carried on; he was under theological instruction only one year, but during that time made great attainment. For more than fifty years he has been a local minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and during that half century he has accomplished much work for the Master. He has performed the marriage ceremony 130 times, and has as often been called to administer the last sad rites of burial. In the affairs of the State, as well as of the church, he has taken a prominent part; he has been Postmaster, Collector, and Deputy Marshal, to take the census of one-half of the county, in 1870; and in 1874-'75, he was a member of the State Legislature from Schuyler county, representing the people with great credit to himself and to their best and highest interests. Politically, he adheres to the principles of the Republican party. In all the walks of life he has borne himself with that dignity and rectitude worthy of his calling, and has made a record that will bear the scrutiny of ages.
Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, Biographical Review Publishing Co., Chicago, 1892, pages 262-264.
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