DEFRATES, JAMES - There are several lines of business which are absolutely necessary to a community, enterprises which the people must depend upon for their daily sustenance, namely: the bakery, the meat market and the grocery. Probably the latter is the most important, and the former often combined with it. The grocery business is profitable if properly conducted, if the stock is complete and of good grade, the prices scaled reasonably, and (above all) if the proprietor has learned by experience or keen-sightedness what his patrons want. James DeFrates, who conducts a flourishing grocery business on Enos Avenue, is one of Springfield's self-made men. He is a native of the Capital City, born April 1, 1870.
Antony DeFrates, the father of James, was born on the Isle of Madeira, in 1822, where he carried on a retail mercantile business. Soon after his marriage he came to the United States, landing in New York City, whence he came direct to Springfield, and arrived there in very humble circumstances. One of his first employments was chopping wood for Abraham Lincoln, but later he engaged in a teaming business, became successful, and spent the latter years of his life in comfort. His first residence was No. 1012 Miller Street, but he subsequently built a home at Fourteenth and Madison Streets, where his death occurred in 1896. Antony DeFrates married Mary Govia, also a native of Madeira, who died in Springfield about 1899, in the faith of the Presbyterian Church, to which both she and her husband belonged. Their children were as follows: John, Joseph, Mary, Henry Lewis, Mrs. Joseph Barbour and Mrs. Victor Francis. John is a resident of Decatur, Ill., while the rest live in Springfield.
After attending the public schools of Springfield until fourteen years of age, James DeFrates drove a grocery wagon two years for Joe Roderick, and the following fourteen years were spent in the employ of his brother. He was careful with his earnings and finally accumulated enough to enter the field himself, subsequently opening an establishment at Sixth and Madison Streets, in 1902. His business grew to such an extent that he was forced to find larger quarters and sold out, removing to No. 503 North Sixth Street. In April, 1907, his business demanded a larger store, and he sold out to Frank Elshoff. He built his present place of business at No. 711 Enos Avenue, where he has conducted a first-class establishment to the present time, carrying fancy and staple groceries and provisions of all kinds, and catering to some of the best trade in the city.
On June 20, 1890, Mr. DeFrates was married in Springfield to Irene M. Uhler, born on East Capital Avenue, Springfield, September 28, 1870, and educated at St. Mary's and McClermond public school. Her father was born at South Eighth and Monroe Streets, Springfield, a son of John and Margaret (Hughes) Uhler. John Uhler was born in Pennsylvania, and after his marriage in Maryland, came West, settling in Springfield, where he carried on blacksmithing. Mrs. DeFrates' father spent all his life in Springfield until 1900, when he went to Quincy, Ill. As a lad he helped his father in the blacksmith shop, later carried on a livery business for a few years, and then entered the feed business, operating a sawmill near Sherman. When he was eighteen years old the first call for volunteers for service in the Federal Army during the Civil War was made, and he enlisted in the Seventh Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, for three months. Later he re-enlisted for three years and serving throughout the war with signal bravery, participating in some of the fiercest struggles of the great Rebellion, including Shiloh and Corinth. He is a charter member of Stephenson Post, Grand Army of the Republic. His wife died in 1896, having been the mother of but one child, Mrs. DeFrates.
Mr. DeFrates is a Republican in his political views. He and Mrs. DeFrates are consistent members of the Third Presbyterian church and have been active in church and charitable movements. They have one daughter, Ruth, at home.