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11907 HISTORY
Jonathan Hall Truman

TRUMAN, Jonathan Hall, who, although always domiciled in the land of his nativity, has made his name broadly recognized on this side of the Atlantic as the projector and leading spirit of the important enterprise widely known as "Trumans' Pioneer Stud Farm," established in 1878, In the vicinity of Bushnell, McDonough County, Ill., is also entitled to the distinction of being one of the first men to become identified with the handling of American cattle in the British Isles. His life has thus served a double purpose in signally promoting the interests of a large class of people in the two great English-speaking countries of the world. Mr. Truman was born November 26, 1842, in Whittlesea, Cambridgeshire, England, and has maintained a life-long residence in the town of his birth. He is a son of George and Ann (Brown) Truman, both natives of England, the former having been born in Yaxley, Huntingdonshire, and the latter in Whittlesea. The occupation of George Truman, the father, was that of a cattle and sheep salesman, in which his efforts were attended by merited success.

From his earliest recollection up to nine years, J. H. Truman attended school in Whittlesea, and during this period he was a choirboy in St. Mary's Church there. He was then sent to the Oundle Classical School (of the Grocers' Company), where scholarships are gratuitously bestowed upon deserving students as aids to university courses. Although his boyhood was notable for a strong inclination toward cricket and ordinary youthful sports, he was nevertheless diligent in applying himself to study, and in his first half year at Oundle was awarded first prize as the best writer in the school. After continuing there four years, he followed Mr. Kingston, one of the Oundle undermasters, to Northampton, where he remained for one year. The latter gentleman was a noted cricketer, and this continued association with him afforded Mr. Truman a good opportunity to become proficient in the good old English game. He had, moreover, the advantage of still retaining the valuable assistance of Mr. Kingston as a teacher, in which vocation the latter was one of the most competent of his time. When this highly agreeable connection was severed by the withdrawal of Mr. Truman from school, he had the pleasure of receiving from Mr. Kingston the compliment that the pupil had surpassed his tutor in skill as a cricket player.

The parents of Mr. Truman, deeming it advisable that their son should remain with them at home and perfect himself in his father's business as a cattle salesman, he had to begin at the bottom in this occupation when fourteen years of age. His first task was to learn how to drive sheep at a speed not exceeding one mile an hour, which in those days was considered the safe limit. Sheep were at that time fattened to such a degree that to hurry them on the first day's drive would enfeeble them so that they could not walk. The next thing to be learned was the process of clipping, in which our novice became quite proficient after some experience. Cattle, by the same rule, required proper handling, especially in the winter and the spring seasons, when they came off the manure, being hovel-and-yard-fed. Mr. Truman's father was one of the old-school cattle dealers, who drove his cattle and sheep to the London market, which consumed from ten to thirteen days. It was necessary to keep careful note of the time made each day, in order to make connection with the Monday market, which he always aimed to do. In October of the year when Mr. Truman reached his seventeenth birthday (1859), his father succumbed for a time to an attack of typhus fever, thus devolving the entire arduous task of taking care of the business on the former. This, however, proved a good discipline for the son, necessitating the utmost diligence on his part. The serious responsibility had suddenly fallen upon him of selling fat and lean stock of all kinds, and the effort to fulfill the expectations of the owners was no light matter for one of his age. Still he gained confidence in himself after the first week's attempt to act as a substitute for his father, and when the latter became convalescent in February of the following year, having been informed through reliable sources of the thorough, faithful and satisfactory manner in which his affairs had been conducted during the protracted period of his illness, his warm expressions of approval and commendation were most grateful to the sensibilities of the son, stimulating in him a lively pride in well doing, and furnishing an additional incentive to fidelity in connection with any future trust committed to his care. As soon as his father was in a condition to resume business he placed his check book in the hands of his son, with authority to make any purchases which he deemed best for the interests of the concern.

Thus matters continued until J. H. Truman reached the age of about twenty-two years. At this time he entertained serious thoughts of entering into the marriage relation and establishing a home of his own. In consummating this purpose he was peculiarly fortunate, being united in matrimonial bonds with Mary Elizabeth Crane, of Thorney, Cambridgeshire, who is descended from a Huguenot family which settled at an early period in the Thorney Pen district. The nuptial ceremonies occurred at Mitcham, Surrey, in 1864. Mrs. Truman is a lady of unusual intelligence, literary tastes and training, and genial affability of demeanor. She has earned for herself a high meed of honor as helpmate, mother and mistress of the household, and has shared her husband's joys and sorrows with unfailing affection and undeviating fidelity. Five sons have resulted from this happy union, as follows: John George Truman (born January 17, 1865), manager of "Trumans' Pioneer Stud Farm," at Bushnell, Ill.; Wright Edward Truman (born February 17, 1867), First Vice-President of that enterprise; Herbert Henry Truman, of March, England, M. R. C. V. S. and F. V. M. A. (born November 8, 1869), who is a shareholder in "Trumans" Pioneer Stud Farm," and acts as its buyer in France and Belgium; Horace William Truman, of Bushnell, Ill. (born February 15, 1872), Second Vice-President of the same concern; and Reginald James Truman (dispenser), of Bushnell, Ill., who was born on March 26, 1876, Sketches of the lives of all of the above named gentlemen appear in this connection, by reason of their association with the superb establishment founded by their father, which is elsewhere described in these pages.

In 1874, J. H. Truman, obtaining information concerning a lot of American cattle that was on the way to England, and being naturally of a speculative turn of mind, was much interested in the arrival of the cargo. Had the cattle been so many elephants, none of the English cattle dealers would have seemed less likely to venture any money in purchasing. The importation had no attraction for buyers. Its novelty was the occasion tor hesitation and distrust on their part, although all admitted the superiority of American over English cattle at that day. Mr. Truman, however, thought he would invest something in the chance, and took the initiative by giving 37 each (or $185) for a number of the cattle. The next year, people were still indisposed to take kindly to the innovation. Mr. Truman forced sale at last, after a threat that if he brought any more American cattle into Peterborough market, they would be turned out. He sold by retail at 25 cents (two bits) for a, pound and a quarter of meat, the same price that the English dealers in the market were charging for a pound. In case he disposed of the beef in wholesale quantities he made the concession of giving buyers credit until the next week. This arrangement met with satisfactory results, so that subsequently it was not a difficult matter for Mr. Truman to sell from forty to sixty head of cattle in that market weekly. Ordinarily, the full supply was only 120 head, but Mr. Truman's sales helped to increase the aggregate. He became fully satisfied with the profits from his patronage, and his customers appeared equally pleased. In the following year Mr. Truman paid $300 (60) each, in the London market, for four white American steers. These he placed on exhibition at the Peterborough Fair, which was at that time noted as the largest exposition of the kind for miles around. He afterward sold them to a farmer, Mr. Harry Cook, of Postland, for $315 each, who kept them until Christmas and then disposed of them at $375 per head. At this period Mr. Truman had become fully identified with the handling of American cattle, and he was naturally curious to see the places where such cattle came from, particularly as odd tales were rife among Liverpool dealers as to prices paid for them in the country where they were raised. Therefore, he crossed the ocean in July, 1878, and visited Chicago, soon making himself familiar with all details of the cattle trade there. The result of this trip was the purchase of 120 head in New York, which he shipped to Liverpool on the Anchor Line steamer "Alsacia." After paying freightage of 7, 10 shillings per head ($37.50) and other heavy expenses incident to those days, the transaction netted him a profit of $32.50 per head. He then entered into a contract with T. M. Duche & Sons, of London, Paris and New York, to attend to their buying in Chicago. In accordance with this agreement he again crossed the Atlantic, starting in January, 1879, and returning in September of that year, having bought in the meantime 10,666 cattle of the very best grade, including some of the heaviest bulls obtainable. He was the first English buyer to export cattle on these shores, and during the first three years of his operations here shipped to the home market 90,000 head. He was also the first importer of Shire horses to this country.

While in Chicago he became convinced of the urgent necessity of improving on the draft horses of those days by breeding a kind closer knit and in more compact form, thus eliminating the long back, loose loins and short ribs in that class of horses, which constantly came under his observation in the metropolis of the West. He came to the conclusion that the Shire horses met the requirements for this work, and so began shipping to this country some of these (together with others) which he had bred on his two farms in England. In this undertaking he studied from the first the lines he had followed at home, using animals which had won prizes in the show-ring as far as possible — the Shire breed not being so numerously kept for business purposes there, at that time, as at present. The gentleman farmer of that day would not keep such a horse, and they cost what was then considered "big money." Now, however, the price of horses of tills breed is from five to ten times higher, for, in these days, $5,000 is not deemed an excessive price to pay for a good young "Shire" — or even $15,000, if on the right winning lines. The efforts above mentioned, made by Mr. Truman, to improve the breed of draft horses in this country constituted the foundation of the extensive enterprise at Bushnell, of which he is still President. When he established his American headquarters there, in 18S3, he purchased thirty-nine acres of land near the city, situated at the intersection of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railways. He then organized the present company, incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois, to operate "Trumans' Pioneer Stud Farm." In 1900 the company built a large breeding and sale stable tor the purpose of handling and breeding Shire and Hackney horses. Here fifty imported horses are constantly kept. The concern has also dealt in Percheron and Belgian horses. Its offices are located in Bushnell, and it employs from twelve to fifteen salesmen on the road. The Trumans have been the recipients of prizes for exhibitions at all the principal fairs in this country, and have taken more premiums at the International Stock Shows at Chicago, within five years, than all other exhibitors combined. At the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, in 1904, practically all the premiums in this line were awarded to them, including six gold medals, eight diplomas and $2,891 in premiums on Shire horses, of which they entered twenty-five head. The company has branch stables at Phoenix, Ariz.; Moscow, Idaho, and London, Ontario. Since organizing the Bushnell establishment, Mr. Truman's business career has been so largely devoted to transactions in this country and Canada, in connection with the importation of "Shires" and "Hackneys" that the name of J. H. Truman, of "Truman & Sons," is familiar as a household word among the users of high-grade horses in America. Mr. Truman feels that it is no small honor to be thus conspicuously identified with interests so highly regarded in the United States, whose people he looks upon as undoubtedly the most progressive in the world.

Religiously. Mr. Truman is a member of the Established Church, as are also his wife and family. At one time he held the office of church warden of "St. Andrews," in Whittlesea. In politics, the absorbing cares of his extensive business relations have precluded, on his part, any thing more than a good citizen's individual interest in the civic affairs of the realm. He has had a very busy and successful lite, having made between fifty and sixty round trips across the Atlantic, and, wherever known, his name has been recognized as a synonym for uprightness of character and equitable dealing.


Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 1025-1028, extracted 07 Aug 2020 by Norma Hass.


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