Biography - THERON D. BREWSTER
The visitor in Peru, Illinois, always has pointed out to him one of the time-honored old landmarks, a substantial and imposing brick residence, two stories in height, and surrounded by well kept grounds. This is the old Brewster home, which has stood here for almost three-score years, having been erected in 1841 by the gentleman whose name heads this article, one of the honored early settlers of this place.
Coming from stanch Puritan stock, Mr. Brewster was born in Salisbury, Litchfield county, Connecticut, February 29, 1812, being the eldest son of Daniel and Asenath (Canfield) Brewster, who were likewise natives of the same state. When he was sixteen years of age the mother of Theron D. Brewster died, and in December, 1835, the father also passed to his reward.
In his youth our subject received thorough training as a farmer, his father being a successful agriculturist. His tastes did not lie in that direction, however, and when he had completed his education in the academy at Westfield, Connecticut, he concluded to try his fortune in the west, sooner or later. In 1835 he came to Peru, where he accepted a clerical position, but at the end of six months he was summoned home to his father's deathbed and remained at the old homestead until the fall of 1836, adjusting the estate. The following year he laid out Ninawa addition to Peru, and commenced dealing in real estate, and in 1843 he embarked in the mercantile business here in partnership with Herman Baldwin, with whom he was associated three years. He then began dealing in grain, and, building a large warehouse on the bank of the Illinois river, carried on an extensive and remunerative business as a member of the firm of Brewster & Beebe. At the end of five years he retired, and for several years thereafter was in the dry-goods business, in company with E. Higgins.
Many other local industries and enterprises received the support of Mr. Brewster. In 1856 he was the president of the stock company which owned and sank the Peru coal shaft, which was worked with good results for about seventeen years. In 1852 the firm of T. D. Brewster & Company was formed, and, buying out Messrs. Tuller, Pitts & Dodge, who had been manufacturing plows on a limited scale, and had conducted a small machine shop, the Peru City Plow Factory was established. He became the manager of the concern and remained at its helm until 1882, when, on account of his advanced age, he withdrew from its management. At that time (1882) the concern was reorganized into a stock company and is now known as the Peru Plow & Wheel Company. His last years were especially devoted to the real-estate business, in which he had been interested throughout his career. He managed with great ability the sale of property which he bought of the heirs of his uncle, Lyman Brewster, a pioneer of this county, who owned much of the land upon which Peru now stands.
Remarkably successful in all of his undertakings, no man was more intimately associated with the development and upbuilding of Peru. He was the first mayor of the city, elected in 1851, and re-elected in 1852 and again in 1854. As early as 1838 he held the office of town trustee and for several years served as a member of the board of education. He was a prime mover in securing to Peru the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, and served as one of its first directors. He was an organizer of the First National Bank of Peru and served as its president during its existence of some twenty years. Beginning the battle of life empty-handed, he amassed a fortune by his excellent business methods, pluck and enterprise. Politically he was a strong Republican after the organization of that party. Though not a member of any religious body, he was most in sympathy with the Congregational denomination, and was liberal in its support.
Mr. Brewster was twice married, the wife of his youth being Miss Phoebe Mann, a native of Pennsylvania. Their union was solemnized in 1844, and five years later she died, leaving a son and a daughter. For his second wife Mr. Brewster chose Miss Margaret Jones, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and four of their children — two sons and two daughters — survive. Mourned by the friends and associates of a life-time, Mr. Brewster passed away at his home in Peru, March 2, 1897.
Benjamin D. Brewster, son of Theron D. Brewster, who was so influential in the founding of Peru, was born in this place November 24, 1864, a son by his father's second marriage. He was reared and educated here and later attended Bryant & Stratton's Business College, in Chicago, Illinois. After having mastered the course of commercial training afforded him in that institution he accepted a position as a traveling salesman for the Western Clock Manufacturing Company, of LaSalle, remaining with that firm for three years. Then, going to New York city, he spent two years there with the Time Stamp Company, and in 1893 returned to Peru. For the past five years he has conducted the real-estate and loan business formerly managed by his father, and besides is interested in the Peru Plow & Wheel Company, being a director in the same. Since this concern became a stock company it has enjoyed remarkable prosperity and growth in the volume of business transacted, and long since was found to be entitled to rank among the leading industrial enterprises in this section of the country. A branch house was established some time ago in Council Bluffs, Iowa, it being known as the Peru Plow & Implement Company, and of this Mr. Brewster holds the place of secretary. He has inherited much of his father's business talent, and is a young man of sterling integrity of character, respected by all who know him.
Extracted 26 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 2, pages 401-403.