COLEMAN, JAMES W. - The Coleman was among the earliest to settle in Sangamon County and its representatives bore their full share in the early development of the region. James W. Coleman was born near the first log cabin erected in Ball Township, November 23, 1838, and is a son of Jonathan B. and Mary (Dodds) Coleman. Jonathan B. Coleman was a native of Nashville, Tenn., born November 16, 1811. The Dodds family was of Irish origin, and Mary, daughter of Joseph Dodds, was born in Kentucky, and they later moved to Nashville. In 1818 Joseph Dodds came to what is now Ball Township and became one of the most extensive land owners in the county. His death occurred in 1868. His brother, Thomas Dodds, served with distinction in the Revolutionary War. The family reached Illinois Territory in March and in November of the same year Illinois was admitted as a State, so they are planning to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of their settlement in Ball Township, in 1918.
When he was a boy of seventeen years, Jonathan B. Coleman came to Sangamon County with his aunt, Frankie Hutton, and soon after began splitting rails, which occupation he followed a short time, then learned the trade of millwright. He worked at this trade until March, 1835, the date of his marriage to Mary Dodds, soon after which he purchased a piece of land and erected a frame building, the first of its kind in the vicinity. This house had walls of siding split from walnut trees, and the sills, joists and rafters were all made by Mr. Coleman, the building consisting of one room and in size being 24 by 28 feet. The first Cumberland Presbyterian Church erected in the county was built on land donated by Jonathan B. Coleman, in 1827, and this is yet in the possession of the organization. He and his wife lived on the farm he had purchased until late in life, then removed to the city of Springfield. They were parents of ten children, five of whom died in infancy, the others being: James W., the oldest; Joseph E., of Los Angeles, Calif.; William Harvey, died in Denver, Col., about 1894; Elizabeth A., widow of Lemuel Dyson, resides in Divernon Township; Mary Eveline, wife of A. Stark, of Bellevue, Idaho. The parents moved to Springfield in 1864, lived there two years, then purchased a farm in Ball Township, where they spent the remainder of their lives. He died in 1895, at the age of eighty-four years, and his widow survived him two years, passing away in 1897, at the age of eighty-two. In politics he was first a Whig, but upon the organization of the Republican party espoused its principles. He believed it the duty of every good citizen to cast his vote at every election, and lived up to this view. He never sought public office for himself, although he was active in the councils of his party. He was one of the most respected and honored men of his community, public-spirited and enterprising, and was always ready to do his share to promote the moral and material progress of his fellow citizens. He and his wife were devout members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
The childhood of James W. Coleman was spent on his father's farm in Ball Township, and he attended the subscription schools of the day. However, he also had the opportunity to attend public school, and there completed his education. He remained on the home farm until about twenty-three years of age, and February 18, 1862, married Miss Margaret Bowman, a native of Wayne County, Ill., and they located on a farm in Ball Township. In 1864 he moved to Springfield, learned the trade of carpenter, and lived in that city until 1867. In the latter year they returned to the country to live, locating on a farm in Divernon Township, and in June, 1867, Mrs. Coleman died, having borne two children, both of whom are now deceased. Mrs. Coleman soon afterwards moved to Petersburg, Ill., and engaged in the livery business, having twenty-seven horses.
June 27, 1869, mr. Coleman married (second) Miss Elizabeth Mengle, who was born in Loami township, Sangamon County, in 1843, daughter of Levi Mengle, a pioneer of Sangamon County. Mrs. Mengle came to the county with her parents in 1819. In 1869 Mr. Coleman returned to the farm and two years later moved to the vicinity of Grove city, Christian County. In 1873 he began working at the carpenter's trade in Auburn, in 1878 moved to Virden, returned to Auburn one year later, and in 1880 returned to the old home farm, of which he took charge. In 1881 he moved to Loami, in 1884 to Virden, and in 1890 returned to the home farm, caring for his parents until their deaths. He purchased a saw mill, which he conducted until 1905, in September of which year he located in Chatham, where he purchased a comfortable residence and retired from active life.
Mr. Coleman and his wife have children as follows: Lina J., wife of Cyrus Scott, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; Leslie E., of Lawrenceville, Ill., and they also had a daughter, Nina May, who married Charles C. Corry, and died, leaving one child, Howard.
Mr. Coleman has been a Republican since he was old enough to vote and cast his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln. He was well acquainted with both Lincoln and Douglas. He and his wife are members of the Christian Church. He has been a resident of the county most of the time for about seventy-three years and has witnessed the development of the region from a wilderness to its present prosperous condition. He has always been identified with the best interests of the community where he has lived and has won the respect and esteem of all with whom he has been associated.