Streator has no more thoroughly representative citizen than Milo J. Luther, whose ardent interest in the growth and progress of the town has continued unabated during the long period of his residence here. By his means and influence he has fostered many of the leading industries and enterprises of this vicinity, and to his wise counsel and excellent judgment are due numerous advantages and improvements which our citizens enjoy.
In common with the majority of his countrymen who have risen to positions of honor and high standing, Milo J. Luther was born and reared upon a farm; his forefathers were of the agricultural class. The founder of the Luther family in America came to these hospitable shores from England, and the great-grandfather, Ezra Luther, born in 1751, was so in sympathy with the Colonies that he took up arms in their defense during the war of independence. He was a native of Providence, Rhode Island, and died in 1847. His son Nathaniel, the next in line of descent, w-as born in Rhode Island, in 1784. In early manhood he removed to New York. In the war of 1812 he enlisted and served his country as a captain of militia. He died in Scio, Allegany county. New York, November 12, 1862. Benjamin, the son of Nathaniel, was born March 9, 1806, and departed this life in the town of Scio, New York, September 3, 1859. For a companion and helpmate along life's journey he chose Electa, daughter of Peter L. Stout, like himself a native of the Empire state. Her father, who was a man of much influence and decision of character, was born in New Jersey, and upon arriving at man's estate he married a Miss Waite Luther. He fought for his country in the war of 1812, and reared his children to be loyal, patriotic citizens.
The birth of Milo J. Luther, son of Benjamin, took place on the parental homestead in Scio, Allegany county, New York, October 15, 1835. His boyhood days passed happily and uneventfully in the usual pursuits of country lads, and it was not until he was twenty-four years of age that he left home. Going to Pennsylvania, he soon found employment with contractors, then constructing a portion of the Oil Creek Railroad. He continued with them and in the service of the railroad company for seven years, giving entire satisfaction in the performance of the duties assigned to him.
In 1867 he came to LaSalle county and was placed in charge of the construction of the first line of railroad built out of Streator. At that time the mining industry had not reached its present importance in this region, but the possibilities in this direction soon appealed strongly to the mind of Mr. Luther, and he became a leading spirit in the firm known as the Luther & Tyler Coal and Coke Company. Gradually his interests and investments widened and he became an extensive operator in coal and iron mines, and in gold and silver mines as well. He was one of the fortunate few who reaped a splendid financial harvest during the great advance in Brotherton and other mining stocks some years ago, and at present he owns shares in prominent and promising mines in different parts of the west. Probably in no one matter has he contributed more to the industrial prosperity of Streator and vicinity than by his system of coal-washing, by which process great quantities of coal, hitherto considered valueless, have been freed from dust and other impurities and rendered fit for use.
The genuine interest which Mr. Luther maintains toward everything in the line of progress and education has been manifested in ways too numerous to mention. Fraternally he is associated with Streator Lodge, No. 607, F. & A. M.; Streator Chapter, No. 168; and Ottawa Commandery, No. 10, K. T.
His cultured, accomplished wife ever warmly seconds his efforts, and for three decades has shared his joys and sorrows. It was in Streator, January, 1869, that Mr. Luther wedded Melissa E. Wilson, daughter of James Wilson, of Pennsylvania. James Wilson was of Scotch-Irish descent, born in New York in 1811. He married Hannah Baumgardner, of Millsboro, Washington county, Pennsylvania, who died in 1852. Mr. Wilson died in California in 1855. Mrs. Luther was born in Millsboro, Pennsylvania, January 14, 1848, and was their only child. Possessing the same broad, progressive views of her husband, she endorses all movements calculated to benefit the locality in which her lot is cast, and besides taking a distinctive part in literary affairs here she has served with great credit as the president of the Women's Council, a city federation of women's clubs, and was for twenty years a member of the Ladies' Library Board. She is at present one of the trustees of the City Public Library.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 216-217.