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Strawn, Jacob

Born: 1800-05-30 Somerset County, Pennsylvania

Died: 1865-08-23 Morgan County, Illinois

Jacob Strawn was a farmer, horse and livestock dealer, butcher, miller, real estate investor, philanthropist, Whig, and, later, a Republican. At age seventeen, he moved with his family to Licking County, Ohio. In 1819, he married Matilda Greene, with whom he had three children. While engaged in horse trading in Ohio in 1828, he traveled to Illinois. He purchased a tract of land in Morgan County, which he settled upon with his family in May 1831. Matilda died in December 1831, and he married Phebe Gates in July 1832. They had six children together, although one died in a mill accident when still a child. Strawn soon became one of the nation's preeminent livestock dealers and helped establish the cattle business in Illinois. He sold substantial amounts of beef to the St. Louis market in particular, and developed new strategies for raising and feeding large quantities of livestock. He also operated a successful butcher business and flour mill. Over the course of his life, he amassed nearly 20,000 acres of land in Morgan and Sangamon counties alone, with purchases in other Illinois counties as well. In 1850, his real estate holdings were valued at $300,000. By 1860, he owned over $1 million in personal and real property. His philanthropic work included the construction of Strawn's Opera House in Jacksonville, Illinois, the donation of $10,000 to the Christian Commission during the Civil War, and the donation of dairy cows to a hospital for disabled soldiers in Vicksburg.

Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Morgan County, ed. by William F. Short (Chicago: Munsell, 1906), 2:954-56; For an exhaustive list of Strawn's land purchases, search "Strawn Jacob,"; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Greene County, 8 July 1832, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Morgan County, IL, 225; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Jacksonville, Morgan County, IL, 239; Illinois Daily State Journal (Springfield), 28 August 1865, 2:2; Gravestone, Diamond Grove Cemetery, Jacksonville, IL.