CASSIE B. LEWIS. Franklin county, Illinois, shows today some of the best-cultivated farming land to be found in the southern part of the state, and many of the most successful agriculturists of this section are living on land that they have developed from a practical wilderness. It would be hard for the casual visitor to the vicinity of Sesser to believe that the magnificent tract of land comprising the farm of Cassie B. Lewis was only a comparatively short time ago a wild waste of prairie, swamp and timber, and that the same soil which now yields bounteous crops was at that time almost totally unproductive. This, however, is the case, and it has been due to the efforts of just such men as Mr. Lewis, most of them self-made men, that the county is at present in such a flourishing condition. Mr. Lewis is a native of Franklin county, and was born January 29, 1855, on his father's farm near Sesser.
The paternal grandfather of Mr. Lewis lived and died in South Carolina, and little is known of him save that he was a farmer, the occupation followed by Mr. Lewis' maternal grandfather, Samuel Hammond, who was born in Kentucky, and moved to Illinois at an early day, the remainder of his life being spent in agricultural pursuits. Two of his sons, Sanford and Reuben Hammond, served as soldiers during the Civil war, and both died while wearing the blue uniform of the Federal army. John B. Lewis was born in South Carolina, and came to Franklin county at an early day, securing land from the Government and developing it into an excellent farm. A quiet, unassuming man, he never engaged in public matters, but at his death, in 1895, was known as an exemplary citizen and skilled farmer. He and his wife, who bore the maiden name of Rachel Hammond, died in the faith of the Baptist church, of which they had been life-long members.
Cassie B. Lewis received a common-school education, but did not receive many advantages in that line, as the family was in anything but prosperous financial circumstances, and the youth's services were needed on the home farm. He remained with his father for a number of years, accepting every opportunity that presented itself to make a little extra money to add to his earnings, and finally was able to make the first payment on a small piece of land. Following the example of the first settlers, he cleared and cultivated his little tract, and by industry and persistent labor was able from time to time to add to his livestock and farming utensils. When he had his first purchase well under cultivation he added to it, and the original small property grew from year to year until it is now one of the handsome, productive farms of this locality, and the poor lad who started out without influential friends or financial help is now one of his community's prosperous citizens, owning real estate in country and city worth ten thousand dollars, and being vice president of the First National Bank of Sesser. Such a career must of necessity be encouraging to the poor youth of the present generation, and will serve as an example of what the man with sufficient perseverance can accomplish in spite of all handicaps and discouragements.
In 1877 Mr. Lewis was married to Miss Martha Cook, daughter of George Cook, a native of Hamilton county, who died during the Civil war. Seven children were born to this union: Harley, who was killed
in a mine accident; Elza, who is engaged in mining and farming; Arthur, an agriculturist of Franklin county; Ople, who is in business at Sesser; Ica Jennings, who resides at home, and one who died in infancy. The mother of these children died in 1900, and in 1901 Mr. Lewis was married to Mrs. Ellen Browning, daughter of John Maddox, an early settler of Franklin county. Mr. and Mrs. Lewis are members of the Missionary Baptist church. He belongs to Sesser Lodge, No. 918, A. F. & A. M., of which he is secretary. In political matters he is a Democrat, and for a number of years acted as justice of the peace. Mr. Lewis is one of the self-made men of his county of whom Illinois is so proud, and is respected and esteemed by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.