George Dana Ladd, one of Peru's most honored and distinguished citizens, and for more than two score years connected with numerous local industries and enterprises of this place, came from fine old Puritan stock, and was the embodiment of many of the best traits of that hardy, brave, God-fearing race who nobly withstood the hardships, dangers and privations of bleak New England.
On the 24th of March, 1633, as the old records show, one Daniel Ladd
sailed for America from England; and in the archives of Ipswich may be seen
a deed executed to this worthy man entitling him to six acres of ground.
Later he was one of the founders of Salisbury and Haverhill, Massachusetts,
his death occurring in the town last mentioned, July 27, 1693. He had eight
children, of whom the sixth, Nathaniel, had seven children. The eldest was
Nathaniel, and his third son, Edward, married Catherine Thing. That worthy
couple had a son, Edward, and a son who received his mother's maiden name.
Thing. Thing Ladd was the father of fourteen children, of whom Edward, the
ninth, married Sophia Gookin.
George Dana Ladd, the fourth child of Edward and Sophia Ladd, was born in Peacham, Caledonia county, Vermont, June 15, 1833. His father was a thrifty farmer, influential and highly respected in his community; and the mother, whose educational advantages had been better than her husband's, was a woman of exceptional ability. She died February 26, 1849, and soon after that sad event our subject left home. Joining his brother Leonard, in Cincinnati, Ohio, they both clerked in a book-store, but within a month after he landed in that city George D. Ladd found that his services as a nurse were in requisition, as his brother was stricken with the cholera. Though the young man survived, they concluded to return to the old Vermont homestead, that his health might be fully restored.
Agriculture was not well suited to the rather delicate constitution of our subject in his early manhood; indeed, it was commonly believed that he would die with consumption sooner or later. Always a great student, he learned many of his lessons while guiding the plow, and after leaving the district schools he attended the academy, during the winter seasons, at Danville Green, and was successfully engaged in teaching for several terms. He then took up the study of law, was admitted to the bar in 1855, and at once started west to found a home and embark upon his career. For a brief time he resided in Racine, Wisconsin, and there formed the acquaintance of Judge Blanchard, now of Ottawa, whose advice had great weight in inducing him to locate in Peru. Coming here in 1856, he established an office and soon had won favorable notice as a lawyer. Naturally he was not fond of legal wars and litigation, and as the years passed his friends were not surprised that he gradually dropped out of practice and more and more turned his attention to his various financial investments and outside interests. He was one of the prime movers in the incorporation of the Illinois Valley & Northern Railroad, now a part of the Burlington system, and in its subsequent construction. His invaluable services in this matter have resulted to the lasting benefit of Peru, and had he accomplished nothing else for the welfare of this locality his name would deserve to live in the annals of the county.
Space could not be reserved to enumerate in full the many enterprises in which the genius of George D. Ladd found manifestation. During the last years of his busy life he was prominently connected with the Peru Elevator Stock Company, and previously he had been active in the organizations of the Peru Water Works and Electric Light Company, the Peru Water & Gas Pipe Company and the Illinois & Wisconsin Live-stock Company, besides many others of lesser note.
In his political convictions. Mr. Ladd was broad minded, and, posting Iiimself thoroughly upon all the great issues of the day, acted in accordance with the verdict which his judgment returned. For the most part a Democrat, he was still so liberal and unbiased by party ties that he voted for Harrison and McKinley, as a matter of principle, believing that the good of the country would be best subserved by their election. Never a seeker of political preferment, upon his own account, he could not disregard the wishes of his fellow citizens, when, in 1886, they honored him with the office of mayor of Peru; but at the end of his two-years term he declined re-election. He was a true friend of the workingmen, and many a deed of kindly charity and unostentatious assistance did he perform. Quiet and reserved, he found publicity especially distasteful; but his name and fame were such that he was not always able to avoid being brought into prominence.
In early life he identified himself with the Masonic order and the Presbyterian church. After coming to Peru he joined the Congregational church, from which he afterward withdrew, owing to the fact that a political sermon was delivered from the pulpit, - a thing that offended all of his principles of good taste. In after years he expressed regret to his family that he had severed his connection with the church, but his action in this matter was but an expression of his strong individuality and his inherited belief that church and state should be kept separate, each perfoming its mission in its proper place. Deeply mourned by the whole community, Mr. Ladd passed away at his home in this city, in 1898, at the age of sixty-five years.
The wife of his youth was a Miss Lorinda Laird, of Danville, Vermont, and of the two daughters born to them Kate, the elder, now the wife of Thomas F. Bitner, resides in Milwaukee; while the younger, Lora, died when but six years old. Some time subsequent to the death of his first wife, Mr. Ladd wedded Mrs. Louise Banks, who died without children. In 1875 the marriage of Mr. Ladd and Miss Christina Murray was solemnized. Mrs. Ladd, who survives her husband, is a native of Peru, where her father was a prominent merchant for years, and was one of the early settlers. Both of the parents of Mrs. Ladd, Andrew and Bessie Belle (Buchanan) Murray were natives of Scotland, and they are now residents of St. Louis. The eldest son of our subject and wife, George Dana, is now employed in the ore department of the Illinois Zinc Company and stationed at Joplin, Missouri; Frank Fenton, the second son, is with the same company; and the younger sons are Andrew Murray and Lester L.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 300-302.