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Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published by Biographical Publishing Company in 1893.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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JAMES M. TRUITT. An influential position among the farmers and stock-raisers of Cass County is occupied by the successful agriculturist with whose name we introduce this sketch, and who is the owner of fine farming property located on section 15, Milton Township. He is a native of Cass County, having been born in Milton Township April 28, 1837. In his boyhood he attended school taught in a log house near his home, and passed his vacations in the usual routine of farm work. For three years he and his brother Henry ran a threshing-machine, and in 1859 he assumed the management of the old homestead.

After his marriage, which occurred on the 22d of April, 1860, Mr. Truitt and his young wife commenced housekeeping in what had formerly been the bar-room of his father’s hotel, a building of rude construction and few conveniences, which still stands on the farm. In 1866 he removed to another farm and for a time engaged in the manufacture of brick, some of which may be seen in his substantial, two-story residence, built at a cost of $3,600, and containing eleven rooms. After completing his house, he graded the lawn and planted a number of ornamental trees and shrubs, thus adding to the beauty of the place and materially enhancing its value. At the time he located here, the land yielded eight bushels per acre, but through proper fertilization and cultivation, the same land now yields an average of twenty-eight bushels an acre.

Removing to Edwardsburgh in 1878, Mr. Truitt engaged in the agricultural implement business for four years, meanwhile handling all kinds of machines and doing a profitable business. He became identified with the welfare and progress of the village, being one of its property holders and also a Director of the Berrien County Mutual Fire Insurance Company. However, the failure of the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railway to pass through Edwardsburgh caused its immediate decline, and, learning the road would pass through his farm, Mr. Truitt returned to his former home in the country and for a time superintended the farm.

Being a strong working Democrat, Mr. Truitt received the appointment of Deputy Revenue Collector, Second Division of the Fourth District, including eight counties. He occupied this position for four years, his services being entirely satisfactory to the people. At various times he has been engaged in different kinds of business, and has made a specialty of raising blooded horses, being successful in this enterprise as in others in which he has been interested. His farm consists of two hundred and fifty-five acres, and through it passes the Michigan Division of the “Big Four” Railroad, with a station about twenty-five rods from the residence, known as Truitt’s Station, in honor of our subject’s father, who named the township Milton, after his native town in Delaware.

At the present time Mr. Truitt is officiating as Justice of the Peace, which position he has filled for twelve years. He is a charter member of the Grange at Niles, and has been identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows since twenty-one years of age. He is one of the oldest members of St. Peter’s Lodge, at Edwardsburgh, and is also a Knight Templar, holding membership with Niles Commandery No. 12. He is a charter member and has served as President of the Patrons of Industry of Milton Township. Having been transferred to the Alliance, he was elected President of that organization and is still one of its active members.

The lady who for more than thirty years has been the devoted helpmate of our subject bore the maiden name of Margaret P. Hicks, and was born in Niles in 1839. Her parents, John and Lettie (Nieve) Hicks, were natives of England and were married in Niles, Mrs. Truitt being their only child. She was orphaned in infancy and was reared by her uncle, Perry Hicks. An amiable woman, she is held in high esteem by the people of the community, who appreciate and recognize her many estimable qualities.

We cannot close this sketch without mentioning, in brief, some of the important events in the life of Peter Truitt, father of our subject, and for many years one of the most prominent men in Cass County. He was born in Slatter Neck, Sussex County, Del., February 7, 1801, and was a son of Langford and Esther A. (Shockley) Truitt. His father being an agriculturist, he was reared on a farm and had few opportunities for self culture. February 25, 1819, he married Mary Simpler, whose father, Milby, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. They had five children: John M., Elizabeth C, Henry P., David T. and Langford. The wife and mother died in April, 1828, and some two years later Mr. Truitt married Isabel, daughter of James and Mary McKnitt.

On the 17th of June, 1831, Mr. Truitt, with his family arrived in the then territory of Michigan, the journey by team having occupied forty-four days. Having entered eighty acres of land near the center of the present town of Milton, he erected a double log house on what some three years later proved to be a wrong description of land, and learning that a Mr. O’Dell had started for the land office at White Pigeon to enter it, he started in the night for the office and had the satisfaction of outstripping his competitor and securing the coveted prize. Being located on the old Detroit and Chicago stage road, he soon commenced keeping a tavern, which became famous for its many comforts. It was called the White Oak Tavern, because of an immense white oak tree that threw its branches over the house, as if inviting all to partake of the cheer to be found therein. He also filled the office of Postmaster at this place.

In an early day Peter Truitt opened a store at Bertrand and sold goods for a time, and then moved his stock to Milton Township, continuing business for two years longer. This proved a very disastrous enterprise, for he lost so heavily by the decline of goods and “wild-cat” money, then in circulation, that all his property except his land was swept away. This, however, did not discourage him, and he bravely set about repairing his fortune, and at his death, which occurred December 29, 1881, he possessed fifteen hundred acres of rich farming land, which was divided up among his seven heirs. He was a shrewd business man, and his large accumulation of property was the result of his industry and perseverance, combined with good business judgment. For half a century he lived on the farm he first selected, and not only witnessed but assisted in transforming an almost unbroken wilderness into one of the finest and most beautiful agricultural districts in the West.

Politically, Mr. Truitt was first a Whig, and then a Republican. He held several township offices, including that of Justice of the Peace. When fourteen years of age he united with the Methodist Church and was a zealous Christian. Before a church building was erected in this county, religious services were frequently held in his house, which was the home of the ministers. When old age and disease had blinded his intellect so that all things earthly had faded from his mind, on the subject of religion it was as bright and clear as an oasis in a sandy desert, and so remained until his death. His wife, after coming to this county, united with the Methodist Church when it had but ten members. By his second wife, who died about 1834, he had two children: Mary J. and Esther A. By his third wife, who departed this life in 1841, he became the father of one child, James M., the subject of this sketch. His fourth wife was Mrs. Sarah (McKnitt) Lane, their union being a childless one.

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This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in the Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published in 1893. 

View additional Cass County, Michigan family biographies here: Cass County, Michigan Biographies

View a map of 1911 Cass County, Michigan here: Cass County Michigan Map

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