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James W. Harper, who is now living retired in a beautiful semi-country home at the village of Ogden, has been a factor in this section of Champaign County for many years. His associates speak of Mr. Harper as a man, meaning thereby not only his physical strength, but strength of determination, of purposeful conduct, and of notable public spirit displayed in his efforts to advance wherever possible the welfare of the community.
Mr. Harper was born at Dana in Vermilion County, Indiana, August 23, 1865, a son of John and Amanda (Dikes) Harper. Both parents were born at Rockville in the same Indiana county. The Dikes family came originally from Kentucky. John Harper and wife had five children, one son and four daughters. About fifty-two years ago the family moved to Vermilion County, Illinois, locating at Pilot Grove, and still later in Champaign County, settling in Ogden Township.
John Harper was one of the most successful men of Champaign County and much of his ability was inherited by his only son, James. He was quick, intelligent and industrious, and had the faculty of using his means for redoubled profit and advantage. At the time of his death he owned an estate of 800 acres.
The Harper children all attended the district school known as the Hope School. James W. Harper was educated there, and as he grew up he learned farming from his father and emulated his skill and competence as a business manager.
On October 1, 1890, Mr. Harper married Miss Mary E. Canady. She was born in Ogden Township, daughter of Asbury and Drusilla (Divan) Canady. The Canadys were prominent pioneers of Champaign County. Drusilla Divan had three brothers who offered themselves to the country for the purpose of preserving the Union during the Civil War. Their mother, Ellen Divan, was at the time a widow and sorely needed her sons at home, but she courageously gave them up for the benefit of the country and deserves every credit for keeping up the home during their absence.
John Harper’s parents were Elijah and Hannah Harper, who were among the pioneer settlers of Indiana and spent all their lives there.
Mr. and Mrs. James W. Harper after their marriage spent one year at Hope, where Mr. Harper rented his father’s farm. They then removed three miles north of the village of Ogden to 160 acres, which had been given Mrs. Harper by her father. Her father gave a similar amount to all his children. Here Mr. and Mrs. Harper made their permanent home for many years, and carried forward their plans for improvement and home making. They erected a comfortable house and barns, and set out many trees, both shade and fruit. Mr. Harper has the distinction of giving Champaign County its largest grove of catalpa trees. He set out 2,500 of them, cultivated them and cared for them, and today it is the finest catalpa grove in the entire county. They serve a double purpose, being not only an attractive feature of the landscape but furnishing a splendid windbreak for the farm.
To the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Harper were born three sons: Arlie C., who died at the age of eight months; Chester C. and Merle. The latter two were educated in the district school known as Prospect School, while Chester subsequently graduated from both the St. Joseph and Urbana High schools, and completed his education in the University of Illinois. On May 12, 1917, he married Miss Mabel Hubbard of Vermilion County, Illinois. Two days after his marriage he went to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, having volunteered his services as a soldier in the American National Army. There after a brief period of training he was released and returned home. The youngest son, Merle, is still a student in the public schools of Ogden.
In 1915 Mr. and Mrs. Harper decided to relieve themselves of the duties and responsibilities of their farm and coming to Ogden bought a beautiful modern home at the edge of town. They have nine acres of ground surrounding their home and that affords them every opportunity to indulge the pursuits of gardening on a small and intensive scale and at the same time they have the nearby advantages of the town.
Mr. and Mrs. Harper began with the 160 acres which she inherited, but their achievements in a business way brought them great increase to this talent, and Mr. Harper added 320 acres more. At the present time he owns 525 acres of as fine land as can be found anywhere, one of his farms being in the state of Indiana.
All this time he has manifested a commendable public spirit and has filled the offices of school director and school trustee and has worked for the advantage of everything that concerns his community. He and his wife are active members of the Prospsct Christian Church, and in politics he is a Republican. He has always voted the Republican ticket and has found that party the most capable of satisfying his views on public questions. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias.