John Lowrie Beveridge, Governor 1873-6, was born in the town of Greenwich, Washington Co., N. Y., July 6, 1824. His parents were George and Ann Beveridge. His father’s parents, Andrew and Isabel Beveridge, before their marriage emigrated from Scotland just before the Revolutionary War, settling in Washington County. His father was the eldest of eight brothers, the youngest of whom was 60 years of age when the first one of the number died. His mother’s parents, James and Agnes Hoy, emigrated from Scotland at the close of the Revolutionary War, settling also in Washington Co., N. Y., with their first-born, whose “native land” was the wild ocean. His parents and grandparents lived beyond the time allotted to man, their average age being over 80 years. They belonged to the “Associate Church,” a seceding Presbyterian body of America from the old Scotch school; and so rigid was the training of young Beveridge that he never heard a sermon from any other minister except that of his own denomination until he was in his 19th year. Later in life he became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which relation he still holds.
Mr. Beveridge received a good common-school education, but his parents, who could obtain a livelihood only by rigid economy and industry, could not send him away to college. He was raised upon a farm, and was in his 18th year when the family removed to De Kalb County, this State, when that section was very sparsely settled. Chicago had less than 7,000 inhabitants. In this wild West he continued as a farm laborer, teaching school during the winter months to supply the means of an education. In the fall of 1842 he attended one term at the academy at Granville, Putnam Co., Ill., and subsequently several terms at the Rock River Seminary at Mount Morris, Ogle Co., Ill., completing the academic course. At this time, the fall of 1845, his parents and brothers were anxious to have him go to college, even though he had not money sufficient; but, not willing to burden the family, he packed his trunk and with only $40 in money started South to seek his fortune. Poor, alone, without friends and influence, he thus entered upon the battle of life.
First, he taught school in Wilson, Overton and Jackson Cos., Tenn., in which experience he underwent considerable mental drill, both in book studies and in the ways of the world. He read law and was admitted to the Bar, in the South, but did not learn to love the institution of slavery, although he admired many features of Southern character. In December, 1847, he returned North, and Jan. 20, 1848, he married Miss Helen M. Judson, in the old Clark-Street M. E. Church in Chicago, her father at that time being Pastor of the society there. In the spring of 1848 he returned with his wife to Tennessee, where his two children, Alla May and Philo Judson, were born.
In the fall of 1849, through the mismanagement of an associate, he lost what little he had accumulated and was left in debt. He soon managed to earn means to pay his debts, returned to De Kalb Co., Ill., and entered upon the practice of his profession at Sycamore, the county seat. On arrival from the south he had but one-quarter of a dollar in money, and scanty clothing and bedding for himself and family. He borrowed a little money, practiced law, worked in public offices, kept books for some of the business men of the town, and some railroad engineering, till the spring of 1854, when he removed to Evanston, 12 miles north of Chicago, a place then but recently laid out, under the supervision of the Northwestern University, a Methodist institution. Of the latter his father-in-law was then financial agent and business manager. Here Mr. Beveridge prospered, and the next year (1855) opened a law office in Chicago, where he found the battle somewhat hard; but he persevered with encouragement and increasing success.
Aug. 12, 1861, his law partner, Gen. John F. Farnsworth, secured authority to raise a regiment of cavalry, and authorized Mr. Beveridge to raise a company for it. He succeeded in a few days in raising the company, of course enlisting himself along with it. The regiment rendezvoused at St. Charles, Ill., was mustered in Sept. 18, and on its organization Mr. B. was elected Second Major. It was attached, Oct. 11, to the Eighth Cavalry and to the Army of the Potomac. He served with the regiment until November, 1863, participating in some 40 battles and skirmishes: was at Fair Oaks, the seven days’ fight around Richmond, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. He commanded the regiment the greater part of the summer of 1863, and it was while lying in camp this year that he originated the policy of encouraging recruits as well as the fighting capacity of the soldiery, by the wholesale furlough system. It worked so well that many other officers adopted it. In the fall of this year he recruited another company, against heavy odds, in January, 1864, was commissioned Colonel of the 17th Ill. Cav., and skirmished around in Missouri, concluding with the reception of the surrender of Gen. Kirby Smith’s army in Arkansas. In 1865 he commanded various sub-districts in the Southwest. He was mustered out Feb. 6, 1866, safe from the casualties of war and a stouter man than when he first enlisted. His men idolized him.
He then returned to Chicago, to practice law, with no library and no clientage, and no political experience except to help others into office. In the fall of 1866 he was elected Sheriff of Cook County, serving one term; next, until November, 1870, he practiced law and closed up the unfinished business of his office. He was then elected State Senator; in November, 1871, he was elected Congressman at large; in November, 1872, he was elected Lieutenant Governor on the ticket with Gov. Oglesby; the latter being elected in the U.S. Senate, Mr. Beveridge became Governor, Jan. 21, 1873. Thus, inside of a few weeks, he was Congressman at large, Lieutenant Governor and Governor. The principal events occurring during Gov. Beveridge’s administration were: The completion of the revision of the statutes, begun in 1869; the partial success of the “farmers’ movement;” “Haines’ Legislature” and Illinois’ exhibit at the Centennial.
Since the close of his gubernatorial term ex-Gov. Beveridge has been a member of the firm of Beveridge & Dewey, bankers and dealers in commercial paper at 71 Dearborn Street (McCormick Block), Chicago, and since November, 1881, he has also been Assistant United States Treasurer: office in the Government Building. His residence is still at Evanston.
He has a brother and two sisters yet residing in De Kalb County—James H. Beveridge, Mrs. Jennet Henry and Mrs. Isabel French.
Source: “Portrait and Biographical Album of Champaign County, Illinois,” Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1887.