James Fergus




Four Hundred Years of Freethought.


[Title page has 400 Years of Freethought, but spine, cover, and left hand pages spell it out Four Hundred Years of Freethought.]


By Samuel P. Putnam.


New York.


The Truth Seeker Company.





Pages 724-726:



James Fergus.


         James Fergus was born in the parish of Glassford, Lanarkshire, Scotland, on the 8th of October, 1813. His parents were well-to-do farmers, owning some real estate; his father a rigid Presbyterian, his mother rather Liberal. After receiving a common school education, mostly of a religious character, he spent his time on the farm, noted only for doing everything well and a fondness of books, until he was nineteen, when, seeing little chance in his native country for a young man to rise in the world, and longing for less restraint and more liberty and equality, he sailed for America. He reached Canada, where he spent three years in a Quaker settlement and learned the trade of a millwright. Getting involved in some political trouble just before the Canadian rebellion, he left for the United States. He spent one summer on a public work at Green Bay, Wisconsin; a few weeks at Milwaukee, then an embryo town of a thousand inhabitants (1836); passed through Chicago, where he was offered one hundred and sixty acres of land, now in the center of the city, at $8 an acre, on time; spent the winter of 1836-7 at Buffalo Grove [NW of Chicago], near Dixon’s Ferry [now Dixon on the Rock River upstream from Rock Island and Moline?] ; from there went into central Iowa, then known as the “Blackhawk Purchase,” making his home at what is now Sabula [now Iowa, SE of Savanna on the Mississippi River]; built and superintended powder mills at Savanna, Illinois; engaged in the foundry business at Moline, first in the company with D. B. Sears, then at the same place and at Rock Island with Gen. N. B. Buford, being the acting and practical partner. Ill health compelling him to quit the business, he was for some time of the firm of Wheelock & Fergus, paper manufacturers, Moline. Finally, he moved to Minnesota in 1854. In company with Wm. Sturgis and Calvin A. Tuttle he laid out the town of Little Falls, on the Mississippi river, a hundred miles above St. Anthony Falls; helped to build a dam and bridge across the Mississippi at that place; owned the town of Fergus Falls, failed; went to Colorado, thence to Montana by way of Minnesota and the James L. Fisk expedition of 1862, driving his own team from Little Falls to Bannack. He acted as the first recorder of Alder Gulch at Virginia City; was the first county commissioner appointed in the territory for Madison county; was for many years a citizen of Lewis and Clark county, where he served nearly two terms as commissioner, three terms in the legislature, and is now a citizen of Fergus county, which is named in honor of him, with his home north of Fort Maginnis, where he is engaged in raising cattle, horses, and sheep. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention from that county; is a Republican in politics, and a Freethinker in belief. His main characteristics are a natural aptitude of mechanical enterprises, a sturdy independence of thought, a strict integrity of purpose, and a love of study and good books.


         Mr. Fergus is a thoroughly honest man. His character is as sturdy as the mountains of his chosen home. With his children and children’s children near him, a genuine pioneer he lives, respected and loved by all who know him. Through all the years of his varied career he has never concealed his Freethought and radical convictions. He has made many public speeches in the legislature of Montana, and other places, against religious intolerance. He was elected first president of the Montana Pioneer Association, an honor which still crowns his busy and useful life.



His portrait is between pages 660 and 661 and as all the others is not placed adjacent to the article, but does cite the page of the text.



Digital photograph of portrait with distortion as book will not lay flat.






JPEG files with 300 dpi are stored for each page in the same directory. Click on the illustrations here for the full file of each.