PHELPS, HARRY EMERSON. - Sangamon County is peculiarly well adapted to fruit growing both on account of its fertile soil and the climatic conditions which prevail, and some of the more progressive farmers of this locality have taken advantage of the opportunities offered, specializing in fruit culture. One of the young farmers who has succeeded beyond his own expectations is Harry Emerson Phelps who owns fifty-seven acres of very fertile land, three miles west of the city of Springfield. He was born in Springfield, October 15, 1880, a son of Adna and Martha (Meigs) Phelps, the former born in Hebron, N.H., December 28, 1832, while his wife was born in Iowa, in 1840.
Adna Phelps was brought by his parents to Loami, Ill., in 1844. Six years later, removal was made to Springfield. In 1851, Mr. Phelps began teaching school in a small brick structure on West Capital avenue, west of Spring street, which was recently torn down. Among other pupils were Mrs. John F. Peters, Mrs. John Underfanger, I. N. Ransom, H. L. Phelps, as well as many of the other older residents of Springfield, who remember with gratitude and affection their young teacher. After the death of his father, in 1852, he took his mother and returned to Loami. Here he married, November 16, 1856, and lived happily with his wife until her demise, January 2, 1904. She bore him a family of whom two sons and four daughters survive: David B. and Matilda reside on the homestead; Lillian Raisch of Springfield; Eva Cottet, wife of Eugene Cottet; Daisy, wife of Thomas Hessey of Springfield; Harry Emerson. Mr. Phelps was the oldest fruit grower in the county. He made all of the boxes used for berries, out of pasteboard, tacking them together by hand. He was the first one to bring berries in quart boxes to Springfield. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in Company I, Seventy-third Illinois Volunteer Infantry, serving to the close of the struggle. Returning from the war, he located three miles west of Springfield where he developed his fruit business, thus continuing until advanced years forced him to retire. He spent his last years with his daughter, Mrs. Thomas Hessey, on West Jefferson street, there dying at 4:45 o'clock, Sunday morning, June 12, 1910, aged seventy-seven years, five months and fifteen days. From the formation of Stephenson Post, No. 30, G.A.R., he was one of its most honored members. He was a man widely known and universally respected, and his loss is deeply mourned by many outside his immediate family.
Harry Emerson Phelps was educated in the country schools and the Springfield Business College. He worked with his father learning at the same time the trade of a carpenter, but later resolved to devote himself exclusively to fruit growing, and since 1905 has done this. So exceptional has been his success, that his work has attracted the attention of outsiders, and since 1907, he has served as Assistant Superintendent of the Horticultural Department of the State Fair, having been recently reappointed for two years more. For five years he has been Secretary and Treasurer of the Springfield Horticultural Society. Fraternally, he is a member of the Knights of Pythias, having joined the order six years ago, and continued actively identified with it ever since. In politics he is a Republican.
Mr. Phelps was married in Springfield, Ill., May 4, 1904, to Louise Anna Mester, born March 9, 1882, daughter of Julius and Frederika (Heimbrock) Mester, the former born May 26, 1840, and the latter, August 3, 1840, both being natives of Germany. They came to America, and their six children were all born here, they being: Johannah, born February 23, 1875; Alfred, born August 14, 1877; Edwin who died at the age of two years; Mrs. Phelps; Charles F., born June 2, 1884, and Orrin A., born October 10, 1888. Johannah married Conrad Wirth of Springfield. Mr. and Mrs. Phelps have one son, - Adna Emerson, born April 4, 1905. Mr. Phelps is one of the live, progressive young men of the county, and is recognized as a leader in the fruit growing business of the State.
In the spring of 1899, Mr. Phelps enlisted in the Illinois National Guards, Single corps, Second Detachment, and that fall was appointed First Sergeant. The following spring, he was appointed by Adjutant-General Reese, Mounted Orderly. The next spring, he was placed on the Hospital Corps. He is a member of the Sons of Veterans, having held all the offices in the gift of the local post. He has served as aide-de-camp on the Colonel's staff.