JOHN N. LEDBETTER, a real-estate dealer of Elizabethtown, is a grandson of Wiley Ledbetter, who was a native of South Carolina, and was a pioneer Methodist preacher in most of the Southern States. He was a strong, vigorous and active man, a typical circuit rider of the early days, and experienced all the hardships, trials and privations of a life such as he led, preaching in the wilderness, in log cabins, and with but little, if any, compensation. With this, however, he was satisfied, as it was one of the cardinal doctrines of many of the early enthusiastic ministers of the Gospel that the good they could do was a sufficient reward for their labors. Rev. Wiley Ledbetter had one son, Matthew, an only child, who was born in Kentucky. The mother of this child died when he was but two years old, so that he was deprived of a mother's care and love, so much needed in the tender years of childhood, and was brought up by his grandmother in Kentucky. When old enough, he was apprenticed to a blacksmith by the name of Wolf, with whom he learned the blacksmith's trade. From lack of opportunity his education was necessarily limited. However, as he grew to years of discretion he secured a fair practical education by observation of the ways of men and by such reading as he could find time to pursue. He was an orator by nature, and his gift of speech and flow of language were something wonderful. He was born in 1800, and began life on his own account the same year that Illinois was admitted into the Union, and as he was a strong man in many ways, when he entered the ministry his natural ability was recognized at once. By his own persistent application to study he acquired a knowledge of medicine, and was a practicing physician as well as minister, and a very active man in the days of Henry Clay. He was successful in whatever he undertook, and besides preaching and practicing medicine he engaged in general merchandising in Providence, Ky. During his lifetime he accumulated a large amount of property, but being of a generous disposition he saved but little of what he did accumulate. He was a slaveholder.
In 1842 the father of our subject removed to Illinois and practiced medicine in this State until 1847. In the spring of this latter year he removed to Arkansas, and followed the same profession there, having a very extensive practice, and riding over an immense amount of territory, administering to the physical necessities of the sick and distressed, and at the same time giving them spiritual consolation. His labors in this field of usefulness did not last long, however, for in 1850 he was himself taken sick with the cholera, and never recovered, and was buried in Arkansas. His wife, who had like a true woman and wife participated in his joys and sorrows, lived until March, 1868. Her maiden name had been Rachel Wood, and she was a daughter of William Wood, who was a Captain in the Revolutionary War. To the marriage of Matthew Ledbetter and Rachel Wood were born twelve children: Jane, who became the wife of John C. Ramsey, and died in 1863, Mr. Ramsey being now also deceased; Wiley, who died in Providence, Ky.; William, now living at Santa Barbara, Cal.; James A., now living at Cave in Rock, Hardin County; John N.; Nancy, living in northern Illinois; Rachel and Helen, both of whom died in Arkansas; George W., who enlisted in Company A., Twenty-ninth Illinois Infantry, and whose present whereabouts are unknown; Matthew, who died in Hardin County in 1850; and Marion and an infant, both of whom died in infancy.
John N., the fifth child in order of birth, was born April 26, 1830, in Caldwell County, Ky. When a mere boy his father was engaged in merchandising, and on this account his work was then light. He attended the subscription schools of the time and secured a fair education, and later in life increased the amount of his knowledge, and is now a man of broad views and wide information. The schoolhouse in which he received his early training was of the typical pioneer style of architecture, constructed of and furnished wholly with logs, with a large open fireplace at one end. Mr. Ledbetter was a natural mathematician, and any kind of calculation in figures came easy to him. When he started out in life for himself he was without money, and so chopped cord-wood in Arkansas and hauled it to the river with a yoke of oxen and an old-style cart, the wheels of which were made from logs and were without tires. He also ran a ferry across the river, and worked at these two occupations until the death of his father, when with his mother he came to Illinois and engaged as clerk on a wharf-boat at Caseyville, Union County, Ky., remaining there eighteen months. In the meantime he was saving his small earnings, and when he had accumulated $300, fearing that he might lose it, he gave it into the keeping of a man named Brown. When he was married and assumed the duties of a head of a family he secured the return of this $300, and with it began the establishment of a home.
Our subject married Rebecca A. Myres, a native of Indiana, who was the daughter of Joshua and Mary Myres, pioneers in that State, whence they removed to Hardin County. This marriage occurred March 25, 1856, after which he bought forty acres of land, the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 33, township 11, range 10, which had upon it a little house and a small orchard, but the land was poor. When he moved to this land to make a start in life he had a bobtailed pony and a few pigs. After working hard for six years he could see that he was getting ahead a little, and had saved a little money by practicing the most rigid economy. Thinking to use this money to better advantage than he had hitherto been able to use his money, he went to Elizabethtown and bought a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, which he soon afterward sold at an advance over the purchase price of $280. This transaction opened up to him a new field for making money, and since that time he has been engaged to a greater or less extent in the purchase and sale of real estate. He lived on the old place for eleven years before moving to Elizabethtown, and since then, in addition to his real-estate business, has also been engaged in general merchandising for the past fifteen or sixteen years. He has always been successful in his business, and has owned at one time or another a great many different farms and tracts of land.
By his marriage to Miss Myres our subject has had eight children: Rachel, who lives at Evansville, Ind.; Wiley, deceased; Mollie, wife of Richard S. Taylor, State's Attorney; Mattie wife of John Abbott, editor, of Elizabethtown; John M., bookkeeper at Evansville, Ind.; and three others who died in infancy. Politically, Mr. Ledbetter was formerly a Whig, but has been a Republican since the organization of this party, and has for many years been a prominent man in the county. For twenty-four years he was a Justice of the Peace, and for nine years, while living on the farm. Deputy Circuit Clerk, and attended to a large amount of business in connection with the office. He has served repeatedly on the School Boards of the county, and is a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Extracted from Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, published in 1893, page 403
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