The following data is extracted from Biographical Sketches, Coles County, Illinois - Mattoon Township.
Ira James, wholesale dealer in coal oil, Mattoon; was born in Dearborn (now Ohio) Co., Ind., May 24, 1826; his father was a cotton and woolen manufacturer; at. the age of 17, he left home and engaged in boating on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers for a period of about ten years; he commanded during the time seven steamboats; his first boating was in the packet trade from Rising Sun to Cincinnati; afterward he entered the trade from New Orleans and Cincinnati; in 1853, he went to California and spent three years; engaged a portion of the time in milling and the remainder in mining; in 1856, he returned to Rising Sun, Ind.; he next made a tour through the Southern States of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, setting up machinery-cotton-screws, cotton-gins and steam machinery; in November, 1857, he located in Mattoon Tp., and engaged in farming three years; in 1860, he moved to Mattoon, and, in 1861, was chosen Police Magistrate and served one year; he next engaged in buying and shipping hay, and, in 1865, began dealing in grain; in 1873, he retired from the grain trade and went to Southern Colorado, where he discovered the mines and laid out the town of Rosita; here he spent most of two years; in 1875, he returned to Mattoon, and, in connection with J. D. Herkimer, purchased the gas works, which he has since operated. He was married in 1859 to Cynthia A. Hendricks, a native of Illinois; she died Feb. 15, 1872; his second marriage to Jennie II. Crow, a native of Ohio, was celebrated Aug. 18, 1875; from first wedlock he has three sons-John Q., Frank P., Justin C.; from second, two children - Harline and an infant daughter. Owns two-thirds of the gas works and 240 acres in Coles Co:; he does a large business in the wholesale oil trade. and is President of the Mattoon Gas-Light & Coke Co.
Source: Biographical Sketches, Coles County, Illinois - Mattoon Township