Jerry Foster, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Jerry Foster

JERRY FOSTER. Of one class of life stories the world never tires. These are of the men, now fortunate, prosperous and influential, who began their careers without money and in an environment that called forth the hardiest qualities of manhood in order to acquire that first "stake" which is the starting point of solid success. One such man resides at Valparaiso in the person of Jerry Foster, who many years ago retired from the strenuous activities and has lived in the enjoyment and comforts of a more than ordinary material wealth, all of it gained from hard toil and good management in Porter county, which has been his home for nearly sixty years.

Mr. Foster was born in 1835, in the little village of Stoltsville, forty miles east of Montreal, Canada, a son of Peter Foster, a farmer. Among the large family of children were Levi, Peter, Raphel, Isaac and Delphine. Jerry, like the others, obtained his little schooling in a log schoolhouse. His mother died when he was a child, and at the age of eighteen he joined a party of nine to emigrate westward to Porter county, Indiana. Twenty-five cents was all the actual money he had. He was a vigorous young fellow, and he was soon in the employ of Charles Briggs, a brick maker at that time. His first wages were fifteen dollars a month and board, which increased to fifty a month, and he was retained in that one employment for nine years.

In 1856 he took a step toward permanent prosperity by his marriage to Miss Jane Hesser, who was a willing co-worker with him in the early struggles and has with him also enjoyed the attainments of those early years. She was born at old Winchester, Crawford county, Ohio, in 1840, and was a daughter of Peter and Mary (Fleming) Hesser, the other children in the family being Benjamin, Elizabeth, Catherine, Rebecca, Peter, Fannie and John. The Hesser farm in Ohio was a central place in that particular locality, and on it was the Hesser school, where all the children received their education. In 1851 the family embarked in prairie schooners, in company with another family named Schults, and made the overland journey to Porter county, where Peter Hesser was a successful farmer and esteemed resident until his death.

Some time after his marriage Mr. Foster engaged to work for his father-in-law, who had heard some good accounts of the industry of this young man, and that relation was continued for one year. A part of the work was splitting rails, an important occupation in this region at that time. On taking up this task young Foster was told, "Now, Jerry, when you have split a hundred, stop." This proved a short day's work for Mr. Foster, who made a record of splitting 396 red-oak rails in one day, besides walking two miles and carrying the maul and wedge from home to the timber.

His energies were next directed to acquiring a home of his own, which was the most cherished ambition with the young couple at the beginning of their wedded life. He accordingly bought nineteen acres of land, with a one-room log cabin, and there they made their real start. Both worked hard and early and late, and few people in the county could in later years point to better results. At this time Mr. Foster told his wife that if he could just own forty acres he would be satisfied. But so well was their industry rewarded that he became the owner of six hundred acres. The original nineteen was kept as the site of the homestead, where a comfortable home was built and surrounded with shade and fruit trees of their own planting.

In the meantime seven children had come to them, all of whom as they grew up attended the district schools and were trained according to the principles of industry and right living which were the ideals and practices of their parents. These children were named Mary D., John L., Peter E., Lilly J., William H., Benjamin A. and Charles E. Mary D. married W. Alyer, a carpenter of Valparaiso, and they have three children, Jennie, Charles and Frank. John L., who is proprietor of a confectionery store in Valparaiso, married Nora Harris, and is the father of five children, Jennie, Verna, Floyd, Frank and Zelda. Peter E., who first married Jennie Hicks and after her death Minnie Nichols, who is also deceased, has two children, Ora and Cecil. Lilly J. became the wife of Harry Smith, a lumberman, and their children are Mabel, Cora and Earl. William H., who is a successful farmer and the manager of the home estate in Union township, married Nellie Hicks, and their seven children are Clarence, Ross, Myrtle, Hazel, William, Howard and Gerald. Benjamin A., a farmer in Center township, married Clara Hagen, and their four children are Grace, Lizzie, Roy and Ada. Charles E., a prosperous lumber dealer of Valparaiso, married Carrie Skinner, and their children are Mona Bell, Charles and Catherine. The family circle remained unbroken until 1911 when within a few weeks the daughter Mary and her brother, Arthur F., passed away. Mr. and Mrs. Foster have been fortunate in that when their children settled down in life they remained close to the old home center. Although the parents have occupied their pleasant home on East Main street for a number of years, the old farm homestead has been the scene of the happiest associations, and remains as the symbol of the home when the children were young and the family unbroken.

The parents are both members of the Presbyterian church in Valparaiso, of which Rev. Gelston is pastor. His political principles have always accorded with those of the Republican party, and he has served as school director and has always been a progressive influence for the welfare of his community. At the age of seventy-eight he enjoys that distinctive esteem which is paid to the resident who has worked out a successful career and grown old in one locality, and from the past he has inherited no regrets and toward the future he looks without fear.

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 529-531

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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