J. K. Donnell, wholesale grocer, Mattoon; was born in Tyrone Co., Ireland, Oct. 14, 1835. At the age of 13, he entered the employ of John and James Graham, as clerk in their grocery establishment, in the town of Strabane; here he served an indentured apprenticeship for three years and four months, at which time he received a certificate of qualification as a practical business man. The family soon after came to America and settled in Philadelphia, where he was employed in various firms in the capacity of clerk. In 1857, he began business for himself in the retail grocery trade; this he conducted ten years. In 1867, he came to Illinois and began the retail trade in Mattoon; for the first four years he conducted a jobbing trade in connection with the retail department; in the fall of 1861, he leased his present place of business to operate exclusively a jobbing trade; this he continued five years; in the fall of 1866, he leased an additional room, and again connected the retail trade with his business; October, 1878, he abandoned the retail department and entered upon the wholesale business exclusively. His is the pioneer wholesale establishment, being the first and only exclusively wholesale house in the city. In addition to his fine and growing business, ranging from $130,000 to $150,000 per annum, he owns a fine fruit farm of twenty acres within the corporate limits of the city, a number of residences and eighty-four acres in Cumberland Co., well improved. All this he has accumulated by honest industry and good management and while ill-timed adventure and unwise speculation has engulfed many in financial ruin, he feels grateful that his every obligation has been met, dollar for dollar; and yet with his armor on, he boasts not as he may who has laid it aside.
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