Sangamon County ILGenWeb © 2000
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By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

JAMES H. DESPER. - Among the citizens of Sangamon county who aided in the defense of the Union during the dark days of the Rebellion is numbered the subject of this sketch, who is now living a retired life in the village of Loami. He is a native of the county, his birth having occurred in what is now Curran township, on the 11th of August, 1843. His father, Thomas Jefferson Desper, was born in Todd county, Kentucky, in 1820, and was a son of Overton Desper, a native of Louisa county, Virginia. Our subject's paternal great-grandfather, Isom Desper, was a Scotch-Irishman by birth and was an early settler of Virginia. During pioneer days in Kentucky, Overton Desper removed to that state, where he and his wife both died, leaving Thomas J. an orphan when quite young. In 1827, at the age of seven years, he was brought to Sangamon county, Illinois, by John Parks, and here he grew to manhood amid pioneer scenes. He married Miss Martha H. Kelly, who was born in Curran township and was a daughter of Elisha Kelly, one of the first settlers of Springfield, where he lived in a rail pen for some time, but later removed to a farm seven miles west of the city. For many years the father of our subject followed farming in Sangamon county, but spent his last years in Christian county, this state, where he died June 10, 1882. His wife survived him, passing away in 1890. Unto them were born ten children, six sons and four daughters, who reached years of maturity, namely: James H., of this review; William E., now a resident of Macon county, Illinois; John H., who died in 1882; George F., and Daniel, both of Springfield; Thomas who died in 1880; Anna, wife of Samuel Cox, of Crawford county, Kansas; Nancy M., wife of William Childers; Amanda, wife of Colman Shipley, of Springfield; and Louisa, who died in 1889.

On the home farm in this county, James H. Desper passed the days of his boyhood and youth and remained with his father several years after he was grown. Prompted by a spirit of patriotism, he enlisted on the 22d of October, 1862, in Company b, Tenth Illinois Cavalry, which went south and was assigned to the western army, taking part in the battle of Little Rock, Arkansas, Saline River and a number of lesser engagements. In March, 1865, he went from Brownsville, Arkansas, to New Orleans, and from there to Shreveport, Louisiana, and on to San Antonio, Texas, where he was finally mustered out of service, receiving an honorable discharge at Camp Butler, January 6, 1866. He then returned home and assisted in the operation of the farm for ten years.

In 1875 Mr. Desper was untied in marriage to Mrs. Elizabeth Henry, a widow, who had two children by a former marriage, one of whom is still living. Mrs. Desper died March 21, 1899, and our subject was again married April 11, 1900, his second union being with Mrs. Elizabeth Ecker, nee Campbell, who was born near Bates, in this county, and being well educated successfully engaged in teaching school for some years prior to her marriage. Her father, Sidney S. Campbell, was also a native of Sangamon county and a son of Robert Campbell, who was one of the first settlers in this locality. By her first marriage Mrs. Desper had two children, both now deceased. Her brothers and sisters were as follows: Robert D. Campbell, who served throughout the Civil war as a member of the Eleventh Missouri infantry and died in Chicago in 1892; Samuel Campbell, who was a member of Company B, Tenth Illinois Cavalry, and died at Little Rock Arkansas, while in the service, his remains being interred in the National cemetery there; Harvey G. Campbell, who is now a resident of Chatham township, this county; Maria, wife of William H. Sowell, an old soldier, both of whom died in Macon county, Illinois; and Emeline, wife of Morris Lee, of New Berlin township, Sangamon county.

After his first marriage Mr. Desper engaged in farming in Berlin township for several years, but in 1882 was obliged to retire from active labor, having lost his eyesight entirely from injuries received during the war. He then purchased a place near Loami, where he lived for two years, and in 1884 bought his present pleasant residence in the village, where he has since made his home. Politically he is a stanch Democrat, as was his father before him, but he has never taken an active part in politics aside from voting. Both he and his estimable wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church and are held in high regard by all who know them.

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