PETER W. HARTS - Following the close of the Civil war Peter W. Harts became a resident of Springfield and his name has since been enrolled among those who have directed the business development and commercial prosperity of the city. As a merchant he became widely known through a period of twenty-five years' connection with the book and drug trade, and now in his real-estate operation he is sustaining a reputation which has remained untarnished from the time of his arrival in Springfield to the present.
The Harts family is of Swiss lineage and was established in America in 1735 by David Harts, who left his native Switzerland and became a resident of Pennsylvania, his home being between Reading and Philadelphia. Representatives of the family have since resided in that state. John and Mary Magdalene (Epler) Harts, the parents of our subject, were farming people there, carrying on agricultural pursuits near Williamsport, and upon the old family homestead Captain Harts was born October 14, 1837. He was, therefore, about nineteen years of age when the family came to Illinois, locating about ten miles from Lincoln, at a place now called Hartsburg. Here the father resumed the work of tilling the fields, living peaceably with his fellow men and in harmony with his professions as a member of the Presbyterian church, in which he long held the office of elder. He endorsed the political principles advocated by Henry Clay and later joined the new Republican party, with which he continued to affiliate until his death, in 1869.
Having acquired a common-school education in Pennsylvania, Captain Harts there began teaching when seventeen years of age, and for four years he followed that profession in Illinois, but thinking to become a member of the bar he entered upon the study of law in the University of Chicago, in which he was graduated July 3, 1861. The same year he was admitted to practice in Lincoln, but the war was the all absorbing topic of interest and his professional career was postponed for a life on the field. His patriotic spirit having been deeply aroused by the rebellious attitude of the south, he had offered his services upon the outbreak of hostilities, in April, 1861, but as the Illinois quota was then full his company was not accepted. He then finished his law course and began practice but in August, 1862, he again offered his service to the government, after recruiting Company H, One Hundred and Sixth Illinois Regiment, of which he was chosen captain. A year's service, followed by ill health, forced him to resign in August, 1863, but as soon as he had sufficiently recovered he went to St. Louis and recruited and organized Company C, Sixty-fifth United States Colored Infantry. Again he became captain of his company and served with his regiment until a short time prior to the close of the war, doing duty for about two years as judge advocate on the staff of Major General M. K. Lawler, General timothy Sherman and General Herron. He also acted as judge advocate for the department of Louisiana during this period and until he resigned October 4, 1865.
Captain Harts had been married February 22, 1864, to Miss Harriet Bates, of Lincoln, and at the close of his military experience he joined his young wife, and the same year they became residents of Springfield. He began business here as proprietor of a drug store and book store, and for twenty-seven years was thus connected with mercantile interests of the city. There was nothing exciting or sensational in his mercantile career. He carefully guarded his interest, conducted his enterprise along lines of honesty and straightforward dealing and thus a constantly increasing trade enabled him to add to his capital as the years passed by and win a place among the substantial citizens of Springfield. In 1894, however, he sold his store and has since been operating in real estate, having negotiated a number of important real-estate transactions.
Mr. and Mrs. Harts became the parents of four children: William Wright, who was graduated in the West Point Military Academy in 1889 and is now a captain in the Engineer Corps. of the United States Army, being engaged in special duty on the Columbia River in Oregon; Edwin B., a member of the bar of Chicago; Mary M., who died in 1894; and Harry B., who is pursuing a law course in the Michigan University. All three sons have been students in Princeton College. Captain and Mrs. Harts are members of the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield and he belongs to Stephenson Post, No. 30, G.A.R., of Springfield, of which he has served as commander. He votes with the Republican party and in 1894 was nominated on that ticket for the office of mayor, but with this exception has never been a candidate for office. He has done his best public work as a private citizen and his co-operation has been a valued factor in the promotion of interests which have wrought along lines of general good. He is the
vice-president of the Municipal Electric Light Company and was active in the establishment of its plant. His military service won him the high commendation of his superior officers and especially of General Lawler, upon whose staff he served, while his course as a representative of the business life of Springfield had made him one of the representative men of the capital.