HON. LEWIS F. PLATER, attorney-at-law of Elizabethtown, Ill., is a son of James L. Plater, who was from the District of Columbia, came to Illinois in 1843, and subsequently removed to Maryland. When he first came to Illinois, he engaged in general merchandising at Centralia, Marion County, at which time goods had to be hauled from St. Louis, a distance of sixty miles. James L. Plater had a good education, which he secured mainly by his own efforts and application. He was married to Anna Stull, who is still living at the advanced age of eighty-nine years. When he came to Illinois, he was a poor man, but being a good business man, he was successful in the accumulation of property. Misfortune, however, attended him, for his store was destroyed by fire, together with most of his goods, upon which there was no insurance. He then removed to Union County, Ill., bought a farm near Western Saratoga, and followed farming successfully until his death. His widow is living in Colorado with a son, W. W. Plater. By the marriage of James L. Plater and Anna Stull there were born ten children, viz: John S., a farmer in Kansas; one who died in infancy; Henry, who lived in Union County, Ill., until 1886, and died in Kansas about 1890, a farmer; James L., a druggist in Rocky Comfort, McDonald County, Mo.; William, a farmer of Carbondale, Ill.; Thomas J., a merchant of Walkins, Mo.; Lewis F.; Anna, wife of J. F. Casper, of Ozark, Ill.; Charles W., of Murphysborough, Ill.: and Joseph S., a farmer living near Vienna, Ill.
Lewis F. Plater, the seventh child was born in Jefferson County, Ill., December 17. 18I7. He was reared upon the farm, and educated in the subscription schools, kept in the log schoolhouse of the times. His early education was therefore limited, but as he had a great desire for books and learning, he largely supplemented the education of his boyhood, and became a well-informed youth. He used every means within his reach to earn money, such as taking tan-bark to town and selling it, and then using the money to buy books with, poring over them by the light of the fireplace or by the "grease dip" lamp far into the night. He was always anxious to attend public speaking, and would walk bare-footed for miles to hear a public address. By these means, his hard study at night and his attendance upon oratorical displays, he acquired considerable knowledge of books and of the world. In 1863 he started out in life for himself. From the County Superintendent of Education in Union County, who was his friend, he secured a third-grade certificate to teach school, and taught at Smith's Mills, Union County, a term of six months, at $20 per month. With the money thus obtained, he bought books and attended school, thus further storing his mind with knowledge. He attended McKendree College, at Lebanon, St. Clair County, Ill., two years, and in the summer of 1864, the crops being large and help scarce on account of the war, he worked in the harvest fields at good wages, 13 per day, and during Sundays and holidays at $4 per day, thus earning about $100 with which to complete his course of study. He then went to St. Louis, Mo., where he remained some time, and the next summer began reading law at home. At the same time he raised about six acres of sugar cane, and made about $300 out of the crop. He read law about five years, studying not only Blackstone's Commentaries, but also the best textbooks in law that he could find. He then taught school in Goreville, Johnson County, two years, in Williamson County two years, and in Marion one year, reading law as he had time and opportunity.
Our subject began reading law in the summer of 1866, with Judge Crawford as his preceptor, at Jonesboro. Union County, Ill., and continued with him three years. He was admitted to the Bar in January, 1870, at Mount Vernon, by Judge Breese presiding, and commenced the active practice of his profession April 28, 1871, at Elizabethtown, where he soon established a reputation as a thorough lawyer, and where his opinions soon became acknowledged as of great weight and value. He thus became a successful lawyer and acquired an extensive clientage. In 1873 a law was passed creating the office of county attorney, and Mr. Plater was the first appointed to that office in Hardin County. He retained the position until the election of W. S. Morris. In 1874 he was elected to the Lower House of the Legislature, and represented his constituents to their satisfaction and with credit to himself. In April, 1875. he was elected State's Attorney, and served in that position until 1880, and was an efficient officer. He is now one of the most prominent and able attorneys in southern Illinois, and in very important cases is usually called in as counsel. He has also served in many parts of the State in the preparation of important papers. Politically, Mr. Plater is a Democrat. He is also a Mason. a Knight of Pythias and an Odd Fellow. He was married June 18, 1873, to Miss Ange B. Steele, a native of Hardin County. Mr. Plater, it will have been seen by the above brief narrative of some of the events of his life, is a self-made man in the truest sense of the term, and his success in life is wholly due to his perseverance and application to study when he was young, and to his duties and profession as a man.
Extracted from Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, published in 1893, page 610
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