Jesse Black, who must ever be regarded as one of the most liberal-minded and helpful of the pioneers of 1854, and to whom his fellow farmers in Sand Prairie Township are indebted for an example of moderation and well- earned success, is perhaps as well informed concerning the early days of this section as any settler who owes native allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania. The lives and struggles of the men who have exchanged brain and brawn and ceasless effort for the opulence which they now enjoy, and who have helped to establish an agricultural standard second to none in the State, are an open book to him, as are also the many changes which have swept over the country in the wake of plow and harrow and rapid settlement.
When Mr. Black arrived in Tazewell County, the Government land had all been taken up, but a spirit of newness characterized the country, the entire prairie being without a tree of any description and fences being as yet strangers to the landscape. On their way to the nearest trading posts, the settlers took the shortest cut across lots, for established roads were also matters of the future, and ownership seemed to be more in the nature of a selection than of purchase. At that time, Mr. Black was twenty-nine years old, and in a position to appreciate any advantage that life might hold for him.
The subject of this sketch was born in Huntingdon County, Pa., February 7, 1825, the son of Jacob, and grandson of John Black, both natives of the Quaker State. His great-grandfather, also John, was born in Easton, Pa., and removed to Crawford County, Ohio, where he engaged in farming. At one time he was the owner of the land on which the city of Bucyrus now stands. Going still further back it is learned that Jacob, the founder of the American branch, emigrated to America, on account of religious persecutions, in 1679. Mr. Black’s father, Jacob, was born near Williamsburg, Pa. His mother, formerly Sarah Neikirk, and his maternal grand-father, Abram Neikirk, were also natives of the Keystone State. On October 20, 1846, Mr. Black was married in his native State to Mary J. Johns. She was also born in the Keystone State, on January 28, 1830, and several children had been added to the family ere the overland journey was undertaken in 1854. Very little money remained in the father’s pockets, when he arranged to purchase his first farm of 160 acres, but the indebtedness was entirely met by the proceeds from the first crop of wheat, which far exceeded his expectations, and which was followed by others equally profitable and encouraging. He continued to reside in the same place until 1883, when he purchased several hundred acres with the fruits of his toil, making in all an imposing tract of fertile land. Removing to another part of his farm, he has since uninterruptedly remained there, surrounded by those luxuries and aids to a happy and contented life, which are the heritage of the well-to-do farmer of today.
For many years Mr. Black has been prominent in the Old Settlers’ Club of Tazewell County. His activity in the Methodist Church covers many years, and was particularly noticeable during the construction of the present church edifice, in which he is a trustee. Eleven children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Black: John W. (deceased), William, Sarah J., Henry (deceased), Almon, Francis M., Newton, George (deceased), Charles, Edward and Jessie May. Mr. Black is a stanch Republican, and though never an office-seeker, has served as Supervisor of his township. He is a noble, upright man, sympathetic and generous, and as he comes and goes in the community of which he is an integral part, enjoys the consciousness of a universal and an abiding good-will.
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Tazewell County - page 980