Jonathan P. Middlecoff is a citizen to whom Paxton, in large measure, owes her commercial prosperity, material improvement and architectural adornment. The history of Ford county would be very incomplete and unsatisfactory without a personal and somewhat extended mention of him. He finds an appropriate place in the history of those men of business and enterprise who have established and controlled large affairs and have brought to successful completion important schemes of trade and profit, thus contributing in an eminent degree to the development of the vast resources of the state. One of the prominent characteristics of his successful business career is that his vision has never been bounded by the exigencies of the moment but has covered as well the opportunities and possibilities of the future. This has led him into extensive undertakings bringing him into marked prominence in industrial, commercial and financial circles.
Mr. Middlecoff is a native of Richmond, Indiana, born on the 20th of February, 1838. The father, Daniel Middlecoff, was born in Maryland in 1800 and in the same state, in 1809, occurred the birth of Theresa Newcomer, who in early womanhood became his wife. On removing from Maryland in 1827 they established their home at Richmond, Indiana, where they remained until 1849. In that year they took up their abode in Cincinnati, Ohio, and for many years Daniel Middlecoff was a prominent and successful wholesale grocery merchant there. In 1861 he settled in Patton township, Ford county, Illinois, where he resided until his death in 1866. His widow long survived him, passing away in 1898.
When a lad of eleven years Jonathan P. Middlecoff became a pupil in the public schools of Cincinnati and later continued his education in St. John's College and in the Farmers College of Ohio. In 1857 he came to Illinois and entered business life in this state as a merchant of Ludlow, Champaign county, where he remained until 1862. In that year he removed to a farm in Ford county and was actively identified with agricultural pursuits until 1867, when he became a hardware merchant of Paxton, continuing the business with success for several years. Constantly watchful of opportunities for the extension of his business, in 1881 he became associated with C. Bogardus, P. Whitmer and F. L. Cook in the manufacture of drain tile and brick under the firm name of the Paxton Brick & Tile Company. Mr. Middlecoff was chosen president and general manager and from the beginning the enterprise proved a success. The trade steadily increased, his capable control being manifest in a growing patronage that rendered this a most profitable investment. Mr. Middlecoff continued at the head of the business until 1902.
In the meantime, in 1888, he assisted in organizing the Paxton Canning Company, of which he was also chosen president and general manager. The same spirit of enterprise was brought to bear in its control and thus the success was assured from the start. In all of his business interests Mr. Middlecoff has been watchful of every detail, has been energetic, prompt and notably reliable and in the execution of well defined plans and purposes has met with success. From time to time he has made judicious investments in property and now has extensive real-estate holdings, including valuable farms and much city reality. In 1896 he was the organizer of the hotel company which erected the present magnificent hotel at Paxton, a building which would be a credit to a city of much larger size. He was elected president of the company and after the completion of the structure the hotel was named the Middlecoff in his honor. It is but one of many evidences of his public-spirited interest in Paxton. Although he spends but four or five months of each year here he loves his home city as a father loves his child and does much to further its interests and promote its progress.
The marriage of J. P. Middlecoff and Miss Mary F. Fox was celebrated in Cincinnati, Ohio, in January, 1864. Mrs. Middlecoff was reared and educated in that city and was a daughter of Richard Fox, the original starch manufacturer. They became the parents of three children but Alice, the eldest, died at the age of sixteen months, Samuel at the age of twenty-two months and Addie in early womanhood, March 9, 1891. Recently Mr. Middlecoff has erected in Paxton a colonial mansion, the finest residence of the city, and also maintains a home in St. Augustine, Florida, where he spends the winter months.
Not alone in business affairs but through other avenues of activity has Mr. Middlecoff contributed to public progress. He was for some years recognized as one of the republican leaders of central Illinois, and was a delegate to the national republican convention held in Philadelphia in 1900. He was first called to office in 1866 as supervisor of Patton township. He served also in the following year and was again elected in 1872, 1877 and 1878. During the last two years he was chairman of the county board and in the administration of public affairs brought to bear the same executive force and keen discrimination that have ever characterized him in his business life. That the public regarded him worthy of higher political honors was indicated by their election of him as their representative in the twenty-eighth general assembly. As a member of the house he served on the committees on public buildings and grounds, on corporations and on county and township organizations. He proved an active worker in the committee room and on all occasions gave earnest consideration to every question which came up for settlement. Four times he served as mayor of Paxton and as its chief executive promoted reform, progress and improvement along various lines, holding high the standard of municipal honor and exercising his official prerogatives in support of those interests and movements which were a matter of civic virtue and civic pride. During his second term as mayor the waterworks were put in operation and during his fourth term the city hall was erected. I'll is fine structure and ornament to Paxton owes its existence in no small degree to Mr. Middlecoff, who advocated a building that would be a credit to the city.
In Masonry Mr. Middlecoff has attained high rank. He belongs to Oriental Consistory, S. P. R. S., of Chicago, and to Morocco Temple of the Mystic Shrine in Jacksonville, Florida. Both he and his wife are active members of the Methodist Episcopal church of Paxton and he has been leader of the choir for thirty-five years. His life has been an open scroll inviting the closest scrutiny. His achievements represent the result of honest endeavor along lines where mature judgment has pointed the way. He possesses a weight of character and native sagacity, a discriminating mind and the fidelity to principles that command the respect of all. There is perhaps no other one citizen who has done for Paxton what Jonathan P. Middlecoff has accomplished for the city.

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 340-347.

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