DR. JOHN SHELBY LEWIS. Although not a native of this state, Dr. John
Lewis of Carbondale has been connected with the activities of Southern
Illinois for the full term of a generation of human life, and during the
last fourteen years with those of the city of his present home. He has lived
in several localities in this portion of the state, and has left his mark
broad and deep in each as one of the most resourceful and enterprising men
they have ever known, and one of the most sterling and representative of
their citizens wide-awake to the interests of every community, alert and
capable in helping to develop the resources of each, and broad-minded and
far-seeing in reference to the public affairs of all.
Dr. Lewis is a Kentuckian by birth and ancestry, and was born in Crittenden county, in "the dark and bloody ground," on August 6, 1851. His parents, George Slankard and Amy L. (Weldon) Lewis, were farmers, and the father was also a minister of the gospel in the Baptist church. He was a man of great usefulness at a time when the country was sparsely settled and facilities for religious services were few and it was far between them. His farming operations and other personal affairs received his attention, of course, but he never shirked a call to duty in his sacred character, and the people came to revere him for his fidelity to duty in spiritual matters as much as for his power and persuasiveness in attending to them.
The son began his scholastic training in the public schools and completed it at the Normal Institute located at Normal in McLean county. He studied medicine at the American Medical College in St. Louis, from which he was graduated with the degree of M. D. in 1878. He had, however, been previously admitted to practice by examination under the provisions of the state law of that day.
After his graduation he began practicing in earnest and regularly at Harrisburg in Saline county, this state. His practice was general and became extensive, but following the example of his father, he bought a farm, which he worked in connection with his professional duties. On this fam he lived until 1894, when he moved to Carriers Mills and started the Saline County Bank, a private institution belonging to him alone. This bank he still owns, but its seat of operations has been changed to Stone Port in the same county, where it is steadily increasing in patronage and influence.
Dr. Lewis also founded the First National Bank of Johnston City, and was its first president. In this institution he also still has a considerable interest. The Doctor moved to Carbondale in 1897, and soon afterward became largely interested in the Bank of Carbondale, of which he was president three years. In association with the people he learned of other public conveniences of which they stood in need and which he could provide for them, and with the earnestness which has always characterized him in the prosecution of any project that seemed worthy of his attention, he immediately began to set forces in motion to gratify their wishes and supply their wants in these respects.
He in connection with C. E. Hamilton, organized the Citizens "Water, Light and Power Company, and became its president. He also owns the controlling interest in the Carbondale Ice Company and the present local telephone company, known as the Carbondale Telephone Company, which he owns and to which he devotes a large measure of his time and attention. Prior to starting this enterprise he owned large interests in and operated the Ohio & Mississippi Valley Phone Company, which he sold to the Bell corporation. In his own company he has in operation .for the services of the people five hundred phones, and, as has been stated, he devotes a considerable portion of his time and energy to the improvement of his plant, the extension of its business, the perfection of its service, and the betterment of the fine public utilities he has built up in every way.
For some years the Doctor was superintendent of extensive coal mines and gave personal attention to the operation of them. He also has had mining properties of his own for a long time. He is now the largest land owner in Southern Illinois, and especially of coal lands, from which he receives large royalties, but he does not give the working of them his personal attention, being more immediately interested in his Carbondale industries and other business operations.
Dr. Lewis was married on the 10th of October, 1878, to Miss Agnes Emily Rush, of Metropolis, Illinois. They have five children: Myrtie, the wife of J. W. Travelstead, a progressive farmer of Saline county; Rosco, a physician, but engaged in the banking business with his father, having charge of the bank at Stone Fort; Mabel, the wife of J. M. Cable, of Carbondale, an electrician and connected with his father-inlaw in business; Fern, who is living at home with her parents; and Orman J., who is assistant cashier of the bank in Johnston City. The father is a Freemason of the Master Mason's degree. He takes a deep interest in everything in which the welfare of the community is involved, is open-handed and progressive with reference to all matters of public improvement and wise and energetic in his services in helping to promote them. The people of Carbondale regard him as one of their best and most representative men.
Extracted 15 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 1013-1015.
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