Illinois farmer who built the reputation of being one of the most influential fat stockmen of his day.
1819-1888 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
John Gillett was one of the most influential fat stockmen of his day, and a bas relief carving of his steer, John Sherman (named after the founder of Union Stock Yards), was featured on the stone gate at the entrance to the stock yards. Gillett’s Shorthorn was champion at the very first Chicago Fat Stock Show in 1878.
Born in Connecticut, John Gillett headed west to Illinois in 1838. Working as a farm hand for his uncle, he saved enough money to buy forty acres; upon his death in 1888, he had amassed 18,000 acres. On this Logan County farm he raised cattle, horses, and hogs, but became best known for Shorthorn cattle, supplying the Chicago market with some of the finest stock.
He set new standards for physical development and hardiness, and expanded the breed’s popularity throughout North America. Gillett’s farm brought prosperity to the railroad shipping center nearby and led to the incorporation of the town of Elkhart.
In 1876, Gillett made his first of many shipments of live cattle to Great Britain, earning even higher profit. He was founder and president of the National Bank of Logan County.
Did You Know?
The original restored Union Stock Yards gate with a bas relief carving of Gillett's steer, John Sherman (named after the founder of Union Stock Yards).
A long driveway at the base of Elkhart Hill leads to the Old Gillett Farm mansion originally built in 1870, but was ruined in a fire and rebuilt in 1873. Photo courtesy of Fine and Company. The sprawling, 785-acre Old Gillett Farm sits on the highest point of land – nearly 800 feet high – between Chicago and St. Louis.
John Dean Gillett was good friends with Abraham Lincoln as detailed in this historical marker in Logan county Illinois.