THE LEADING CITIZENS OF MADISON COUNTY

CONTENTS
Preface
Names Index
Portrait Index


   JAMES BETTS. Like many another United States citizen, James Betts, a thriving landholder of Lebanon, a man of marked intelligence, liberal-minded, and progressive, although unlearned in the lore of the schools, is of foreign birth and breeding,--an American of his own sagacious, doughty will. He was born in Oxfordshire, England, November 14, 1829, the youngest child of William and Mary Betts, who were also natives of that land, where their entire lives were spent. Having the misfortune in infancy to lose his father, he was brought up by his mother, a worthy woman, who did the best she could for her little ones, training them to habits of industry and ways of virtue. Mrs. Betts remained a widow until James was eleven years old, when she was again married. The lad continued to make his home with her till he was fifteen years old. By this time he may be considered to have come into possession of his entire patrimony, auspicious in- heritance of the poor man's son,--
         "Stout muscles and a sinewy heart,
          A hardy frame, a hardier spirit
."
   "King of two hands," he began life on his own account by working as a shepherd for the beggarly pittance, as it seems to-day, of four shillings per week, out of which sum he was obliged to board and clothe himself, paying one shilling per week for his lodging. As he grew older and became experienced in different kinds of farm labor, his wages were increased, but never to a large amount. However, he managed by the time he was twenty-two years of age to lay up enough money to pay his passage to a country where a workingman might hope in time to own land and a home. Sailing from Liverpool, October 16, 1851, in the ship "Calhoun," he arrived in New York Harbor five weeks later. There was much sickness among the emigrants on board, and two hundred and sixteen passengers died during the melancholy voyage. The survivors were detained in quarantine ten days, in circumstances of much discomfort.
   Our young adventurer landed in New York with twenty shillings in his pocket. Paying his fare to Utica, he walked from there to Eaton, Madison County. His first employment here was threshing grain with the time-honored implement,--soon to be superseded,--the flail, for which he received ten dollars per month and board. He continued working by the month at different kinds of farm labor, each in its season, until he had acquired a sufficient sum of money to carry on the land which he now rented in company with his brother-in-law. Prospering in this undertaking, he was enabled five years later to buy a farm in the north-eastern part of the town of Lebanon. This farm he occupied and improved until 1878, when he sold it, and bought his present homestead of one hundred and forty acres in School District No. 4, town of Lebanon, with forty acres of out-field. No slack hand has brought this goodly farm to its present state of high and profitable cultivation. The place is pleasant and homelike. Everywhere are evidences of diligent, skilful husbandry and well-earned prosperity.
   In 1858 Mr. Betts married Selina Baker, a native of Buckinghamshire, England. Her father, John Baker, emigrated from that country with his family in 1854, embarking at Liverpool in the sailing-vessel "Phoenix, and, after a voyage of seven weeks, landing in New York, whence he came directly to Hamilton. Having in early life learned the useful trade from which, doubtless, many generations before the family had derived its name, he established a bakery in that town, and continued in the business many years. His vigor, physical and mental, was so remarkably preserved that at eighty-six years of age he returned to England on a visit of a few months to the scenes of his younger days, and to such of his friends as were living in the old familiar places. His closing years were spent in Hamilton, where he died at the age of ninety. The maiden name of his wife was Ann Gilkes. She was born in England, and died in Hamilton eight weeks after landing, leaving four children, happily not of tender years,--John, Ann, Selina, and James.
   Mr. and Mrs. Betts have five children, who have profited by the advantages of good home and school training. They are: William D., who married Della Kimball, of Madison County, and has two children, Willie H. and Mabel M.; Ella M., who is the wife of George Buell, and has one son, James Betts; Edward J.; John Baker, who married Addie Kinney, of Earlville, and has one son, John; and Jay L. In politics Mr. Betts is a stanch Republican.

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