Joseph P. Moore

By Kyle Eick, MC ‘07

Journeys often bring people to a stop that might not have been imagined. A journey takes place when a person strives to achieve a goal. Some journeys end up a little different than imagined, while others end up as successful as a small dream inside a thoughtful mind. One journey was in the small town of Monmouth, Illinois, a journey that led to the mayor’s office. Joseph P. Moore found himself as mayor of a small town in Illinois. With a strong business background, he was determined to help the community every way he could.

In the early 20th century, on the brink of a world war, the United States was beginning to find itself as a powerful nation with some very bright minds at the control desk to provide leadership to the many enthusiastic people. The years 1911-1913 saw one of those bright minds take control of the small community of Monmouth in hopes to guide the people of the community to some great years. Joseph P. Moore was that person.

Born February 10, 1865, Joseph was raised in Monmouth. His father was Stewart R. Moore and his mother was Isabelle Dunbar Moore. They were married on September 16, 1852. Stewart was born on February 22, 1830, and died on April 7, 1901. Both were natives of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. A small place, home to many people who wanted to find opportunity in the west. They journeyed down the Ohio River, which was the quickest way to travel in those times. Stewart made the journey in a boat with very few belongings. Once he reached the Mississippi River he traveled north, he settled in a town just outside Warren County on the banks of the Mississippi River. He spent about a year there, honing his skills as a carpenter. He had always been talented with wood and when he reached Illinois he was able to become a craftsman in the art of cabinet making. Stewart decided to take his skills to the town of Monmouth. In 1851 he settled in Monmouth. Stewart died in April 1901 in Monmouth.

Isabelle Dunbar Moore was a very caring woman who mothered 9 children, Ida, Minnie, Anna, Kate, Robert, Boyd, Albert, Joseph and Wilbert. Isabelle was liked to be around children and felt that her children came before anything. She was the type of woman who would stay at home all day with the children while Stewart made a living as a cabinet maker. Stewart and Isabelle were great parents who cared dearly for their children.

Joseph P. Moore spent his whole life in the town of Monmouth. He was able to have a childhood that allowed him to learn many things about small communities. As a boy Joseph found himself right in the middle of the groups always going to work with his father and learning how to run a business. Farming was also very intriguing to him. Monmouth was the perfect place for Joseph to grow up. Farming was a very intricate part of the economy in Warren County; however, Monmouth was based on the business part of the farming while those living in houses on the outskirts of the town were responsible for the farming. Joseph was able to learn a lot about business from his dad’s cabinet making business.

Joseph was educated in the public schools in Monmouth. He finished school in 1885 and he went on to work in the factory of the Pattee Plow Company based right in the center of Monmouth along the train tracks. He first did odds and ends jobs around the company, working in the factory as well as cleaning up and part time in the shipping department. The Pattee Plow Company was a fairly large company that specialized in plow manufacturing, shipping products around to neighboring towns and cities. Joseph became head shipping clerk in 1887, a job he kept for eight years, after which he was promoted to Superintendent of the Pattee Plow Company. The superintendent’s job was something that would prove to be very good experience for the later jobs that Joseph would encounter. As superintendent Joseph was responsible for hiring and firing of the workers in the company. He oversaw the workers and made sure production was where it was supposed to be. Joseph quickly learned the ropes of the job and was responsible for the hiring of more than 160 people, the most in the history of the company. Little did Joseph know that the responsibility for the company’s well-being was only a start in the journey of his working career.

For the most part the journey through life was dominated by Joseph’s ability to be a businessman. However, there is more to Joseph than that. Joseph married Elsie Powell on February 21, 1894, having met her through his job at the Pattee Plow Company. Elsie was born in Knox County and was the daughter of George and Martha Powell. Joseph and Elsie were married in Monmouth. They had one daughter, Verne Marie. The family lived in a house on South D Street in Monmouth, No. 326. The house was a good sizde family home, located in the heart of the wealthy part of town and close to the railroad station.

The next part of Joseph’s life was politics. Business had always been his passion, but with such strong social ties he found that he could make a difference to everyone in a different way. Politics gave Joseph the power to change certain aspects about the community that he did not like. The Pattee Plow Company gave him the strong business mind-frame that allowed him to hone his political skills. Joseph’s political life proved to be the one that showed his social skills and abilities to help the community and the people around it. As an ardent democrat Joseph was very involved with various committees around the county that helped to improve the community. Before he became mayor Joseph was a member of the Board of Aldermen for more than five years. As a member of the board Joseph quickly learned the ropes of politics and what it would take for him to become the mayor of Monmouth. He was able use his business skill and combine them with his social skills to learn how to deal with the people around the town, as well as find out what the problems were that people wanted to have solved. He was a Chairman of Finance Committee and Fire Committee. He was Chairman of the Water Committee. During his tenure for the Water Committee, Joseph was able to make his first major mark on the town of Monmouth. His goal was to get a more adequate water supply. More than $20,000 was expended while the city devised a plan to sink a water shaft and develop wells underneath the city.

Joseph was also a member of the Order of Foresters. With all the membership and committees that Joseph was a part of he was able to learn the vital abilities of being a people person. He was able to develop the skills needed in business and politics that would help him keep the mayor’s office for two consecutive years. After his terms as mayor Joseph would also join the Commercial club as a Charter Member. He also joined as a member of the Local Lodge of Odd Fellows. Joseph’s journeys through life finally lead him to the mayor’s office in the city of Monmouth.

Joseph had many ties throughout the city and running for mayor would prove to be a very good choice. His strong social skills combined with his business knowledge was the cornerstone for this ability to relate to the people and prove to them that he would help create a new and improved environment for the people of Monmouth. His campaigning led him to the final draw which was Election Day. The Monmouth election worked much like the national election except in place of the state votes the city was split into four wards. Each ward would collect the votes and tally them to finalize the election. On Election Day the people of Monmouth were able to choose from 3 different candidates. Joseph P. Moore represented the Union Party, R.R. Murdock represented the Progressive Party and W.E. Bradbury represented the Socialist Party. On April 19, 1911, Joseph P. Moore was elected as the new mayor in the city of Monmouth. He won by a combined margin of 472 votes over R.R. Murdock, who finished second. The margin of victory was by the largest amount of votes in the history of elections in Monmouth.

Life as mayor was a completely different lifestyle than what Joseph was used to. As mayor he was able to get many different improvements passed for the town of Monmouth. Two people elected with Joseph were the city clerk, George Becker, and the City Attorney, E. Fields. The responsibility of the city clerk was to sign off on the meeting and be most importantly Joseph’s right hand man. Shortly after the election, his first duties as mayor was to appoint the city council members that would be put in place to oversee different parts of the city. The appointments were made for any job that needed someone in charge. Joseph appointed a council member for the fire department, police department, and town budgets.

One of the first petitions Joseph had passed was $500 to build a vault to house the city record and important documents. As mayor, Joseph carried out everything he possibly could with the amount of resources. Throughout his terms he was able to oversee tax levy ordinances, a water reservoir, roof repairs for city hall, hot water furnace for the city, and also tried to see many petitions by the people of the town get passed. Joseph also dealt with a special hard road surface that was petitioned to be built on N. 6th Street, as an entrance to the town off the highway. One major development that Joseph had to deal with in his first year was the city attorney resigning. On July 15, 1912, E. Fields resigned as the city attorney and Joseph replaced him with C.M. Huey.

For his second year in office, Joseph again had to make the council appointments for the up coming year. Also, during this year he dealt with many sewer and street problems that needed to be fixed. The year was also filled with building renovations. Joseph spent most of the year gathering bonds from the people to aide in the development of the town, most people bought bonds for around $500. After two successful years as mayor, Joseph decided to step down and allow someone else to try the position.

After he finished his terms in office, Joseph decided he would take time to spend with his family. He went on to spend his time enjoying being a member of many clubs that he still showed interest towards. A little more than thirty years after he was mayor of Monmouth, Joseph died on June 28, 1946. The cause of his death is on record as deemed carcinoma Prostate. He was buried in Monmouth on June 30, 1946. About nine years after his death, Elsie died in 1955. They are buried next to each other in a cemetery in the town of Monmouth.

Joseph P. Moore was mayor of Monmouth ,a businessman and a family man. He was prominent in the social scene throughout his life. Beginning with his outgoing personality as a child he took that ability and turned it into a great journey of life. As each journey ended and another began Joseph looked at each as a chance to provide some help to the neighboring people. His personality provided a spark for the people of the city and allowed then in turn granted him the opportunity to be the mayor of the city for two consecutive years. As a token, the community provided Joseph with a watch, signaling their thanks for his two years as mayor. His life was lived by using his knowledge and values that were instilled in him from his parents as a child. Joseph used ever moment he could in the community with a hand in mostly everything he possibly could into. His journey ended with a well lived life. He accomplished many goals and provided the people of the small knit community in the middle of Illinois with many new changes around the town.



[1] Picture from Monmouth, Illinois Cemetery, North Hill, Section 15.