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  • Dale C. Maley

Family played important role




Many Fairbury residents remember Wade's Drug Store and John Wade owning the Keck's Insurance Agency.


The story of the Wade family began with the birth of William E. Martin (1797-1863) on the Isle of Man. This island is located between England and Ireland. William married Mary Ann Quayle (1804-1884) on the Isle of Man, and they had nine children.


James Wade (1824-1886) was also born on the Isle of Man. He married Ann Jane Martin, the daughter of William and Mary Martin. They were married at Donglass on the Isle of Man in 1848.


William and Mary Martin emigrated from the Isle of Man to Peoria in 1855. Two years later, in 1857, they moved to Indian Grove Township. William farmed in the Fairbury area.


James and Ann Wade emigrated from the Isle of Man to Indian Grove Township in 1857. James Wade farmed until he moved into Fairbury in 1872. In 1873, James Wade ran the Wade & Mahoney livery stable in Fairbury. In 1881, at the age of 57, he sailed back to the Isle of Man to visit his boyhood home. In 1886, at the age of 62, James Wade left his home to work at the stable. In the afternoon, he suffered a stroke at the barn. He was moved to his house and passed away that evening. Ann Wade and nine children survived after the death of James Wade.


One of the nine children of James and Ann Wade was Phillip Wade (1854-1931). Phillip was born on the Isle of Man. When Phillip was three years old, he came with his parents to Indian Grove Township. Phillip grew up in the Fairbury area.


In 1876, at the age of 22, Phillip went to work for J. F. Blackburn and his firm of Blackburn & Co. The other partner in the firm was John Zimmerman. Phillip first worked as a clerk at that drugstore. After a few months of working as a clerk, Mr. Blackburn withdrew from the firm, and it was renamed Zimmerman & Co. Phillip Wade was made a partner in the firm.


In 1881, at the age of 27, Phillip Wade married Miss Charlotte Cool of Sterling, Illinois. They had four children in Fairbury. In 1891, John Zimmerman sold his interest in the drug store to William C. Wade (1864-1914), the younger brother of Phillip Wade. They changed the company name to the Wade Bros. drug store. In 1896, William C. Wade left the business. Phillip Wade continued the drug store, and his son James W. Wade (1886-1953) eventually joined the firm.


One of Phillip Wade's hobbies was beautiful horses. He was a horse fancier and was very skillful with them. He always had one or more fine horses in his possession. Phillip Wade also managed the Opera House at the northwest corner of Locust and Fifth Streets. When the new Opera House was built in 1923 at the southeast corner of Maple and Third Streets, Phillip Wade also managed that Opera House for a few years.


In 1931, Phillip Wade passed away at the age of 77 in his home at 504 South Fifth Street. To honor the memory of Phillip Wade, all Fairbury businesses closed for one hour on the day of his funeral.


James William Wade, a son of Phillip Wade, was born and raised in Fairbury. He graduated with the class of 1906 from FairburyTownship High School. After high school, James W. Wade attended the Northwestern School of Pharmacy. After completing pharmacy school, he went to work for his father at his drug store located at the northeast corner of Locust and Third Street. James W. Wade married Miss Lura Potter in 1911. James and Lura had one child, John Potter Wade, born in 1916 in Fairbury.


When his father, Phillip Wade, died in 1931, James W. Wade continued the business until he sold it to Shelby Wharton in 1949. At that point in time, the Wade family had been involved with a Fairbury drugstore for almost 75 years. James W. Wade passed away in 1953 at the age of 66.


John P. Wade, son of James W. Wade, grew up in Fairbury. After graduating from Fairbury Township High School, John attended Lake Forest College and graduated in 1937. Before World War II, he worked at the Farmer's State Bank in Fairbury. When John P. Wade enlisted in the military in March of 1942, he listed his wife as Valerie C. Wade. During World War II, John served with the Air Force Training Command and then with the Ferry Division of the Air Transport Command. He held the rank of Technical Sergeant.


After the war ended, John P. Wade returned to his job at the Farmer's State Bank in Fairbury. In 1948, he left the bank and started working at the Keck Insurance Agency. He then purchased the agency from Karl Keck in 1962.


In 1970, John P. and Valerie C. Wade were divorced. They had no children. In December of 1971, John married Tula H. Kalis in Fairbury. John P. Wade sold the agency in 1977 and retired. John and Tula Wade divided their time between Fairbury and St. Petersburg, Florida, in retirement. John was a member of the Fairbury American Legion Post. Mr. Wade was a member and had been an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Fairbury. John was also a charter member of the Prairie Lands Foundation.


Tula Wade passed away in 1983 at the age of 56. John P. Wade passed away at age 73 in 1989. John and Tula had no children. They left 75 percent of their estate to the Prairie Lands Foundation in their joint will. John and Tula bequeathed 20 percent to his alma mater, Lake Forest College, and the last five percent to the Fairbury First United Presbyterian Church. The money left to Prairie Lands Foundation was designated to be used for cultural, recreational, and community services for Fairbury.


The Wade family played an essential role in Fairbury's history for four generations. They ran a drug store in Fairbury for almost 75 years and operated the Keck's Insurance Agency. The generosity of John P. and Tula Wade is still being used to improve the quality of life of Fairbury citizens under the management of the Prairie Lands Foundation.


(Dale Maley's local history article is sponsored each week by Dr. Charlene Aaron)


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