John McKinney, senior partner of the John McKinney & Son Company, has been engaged in the lumber trade in Piper City for more than a half century and has carried on business on his own account since 1859. In his undertakings he has prospered by reason of his intelligent and well directed effort, his unremitting industry and perseverance, being now one of the substantial residents of Ford county. He was born near Belfast in Cookstown, Ireland, in 1833, his parents being Archibald and Elizabeth (McKinney) McKinney, who, though of the same name, were not relatives. With their family they came to America in 1847 and resided in Philadelphia until 1857, when they came to Ford county. There the father carried on agricultural pursuits until 1888, when with his wife he removed to Piper City, where they lived until called to their final rest. The father reached the advanced age of ninety-three years, while the mother was eighty-two years of age at the time of her death and during the last fifteen years of her life was blind. In their family were five children, of whom John is the eldest. Rachel is the widow of Captain Perry of Philadelphia, and has one son, Joseph. Mrs. Margaret McLaughlin, a widow, is living in Piper City with her sister, Mrs. Perry. William died in 1880, and Joseph in 1883.
John McKinney spent the first twelve years of his life in the land of his nativity and then crossed the Atlantic to Philadelphia with his mother, three brothers and two sisters. In this land they joined the father, who had preceded them to the new world. The voyage was made in 1847 as passengers on a sailing ship which was six weeks in covering the distance between the European and the American harbors. On the trip over a brother and sister died, the sister being buried at sea and the brother on Staten Island. The family lost all their baggage after reaching New York. John McKinney remained in Philadelphia for about ten years and for two or three years spent a part of the time in school. During the period of his residence in Philadelphia he served a five years' apprenticeship to the carpenter's trade, becoming an expert workman during that period. In 1856 he made his way westward to Chicago with his father and later both came to Ford county and purchased a tract of land three miles south and a half mile west of what is now Piper City. For three years after arriving in Ford county John McKinney worked at his trade in Chicago and on the road for the Illinois Central Railroad Company. He then began to build houses for the first settlers at Piper City and this vicinity, for it was during the period of pioneer development here and it was necessary that the early inhabitants should build homes for themselves. Mr. McKinney was thus employed at contracting and building until 1866, when he took the management of a lumberyard for the firm of Piper & Montelius. He continued in business in that way until the fall of 1869, when he bought out his employers and has since continued in the lumber trade without intermission. This is the only lumberyard in the city and the business has grown to extensive and profitable proportions. In 1872 he further extended the scope of his trade by establishing a hardware department, while later he opened a furniture and undertaking establishment, thus his business growing in volume and importance until it has long since been considered one of the leading commercial industries of the village. In 1870 Mr. McKinney admitted his brother William to a partnership under the firm style of John McKinney & Brother, a relation that was maintained until the death of the junior partner in 1880. Mr. McKinney was afterward alone in business for thirteen years, when he admitted his son, W. O. McKinney, under the firm name of John McKinney & Son. Later they organized a stock company, holding all of the stock themselves with the exception of about three thousand dollars, to which extent H. G. Flessner is interested. The business is now carried on under the firm style of the John McKinney & Son Company. The son and Mr. Flessner have active management of the business, while the father gives his attention largely to the management of his real-estate interests. They also have a branch store and lumberyard at La Hogue, where they have operated for seven or eight years.
In 1865 Mr. McKinney was married to Miss Fredericka Walrich, who was born in Germany in 1846 and came to Illinois with her parents about 1857. She is a daughter of Otto and Margaret (Hempken) Walrich and by her marriage has become the mother of six children: Elizabeth, the wife of Rev. A. S. Hoskins, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal church in Chicago for the past nine years, now located at the Irving Park church; William O., who is his father's partner in business; Margaret W., who died at the age of nine years; Kate Montelius, the wife of J. A. Johnston, of Charleston, South Carolina; Jeane M., who died in 1896 at the age of twenty-two years; and Emily F., the wife of John A. Montelius, Jr., of Piper City. Jeane M. McKinney was in the fifth year of the Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, at the time of her death, pursuing a literary course.
In his political views Mr. McKinney is a republican where national questions and issues are involved but at local elections does not consider himself bound by party ties. In early days he served as collector of his township and was also school officer. He is a charter member of the Presbyterian church of Piper City and one of its trustees. His interest in community affairs is deep and sincere and his cooperation can always be counted upon to further any progressive public movement. He has made a splendid record as a business man, for he started out in life empty-handed, realizing, however, that labor is the basis of all honorable success. He has worked diligently and persistently and his close application and stalwart purpose find tangible evidence in the substantial success which he is now enjoying and which has made him one of the leading business men of Ford county for many years.

Extracted 19 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 1, pages 362-366.

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