Conservative business tactics generally result in conservation of resources, as every practical man knows, but all do not possess the courage to practice accordingly. John Colp has proven during a long and active career his ability to grapple with every condition that has presented itself and wrest success from discouraging situations. As the senior member of the millage firm of Colp, Arnold & Company, of Carterville, he has become a very active factor in the industrial life of this community and built up a business of considerable magnitude. Mr. Colp was born near Osage, Franklin county, Illinois, December 30, 1849, and is a son of Milton and Louisa (Dillard) Colp.
Milton S. Colp was one of the two children of John and Sarah (Gray) Colp, his brother, also named John, serving with distinction during the Civil war and later entering the medical profession. Milton Colp came to Illinois from Tennessee with his stepfather and mother, as a mere child, having been born in 1820, and received a meager education. When the Civil war broke out he entered the Union service and served valiantly as a defender of his flag, participating in a number of fierce engagements but escaping capture or wounds. He owned for a time the old Laban Carter farm, on which, many years after he sold it, coal was discovered and in honor of which recent owner the city of Carterville took its name. He met his death by assassination, September 17, 1874, enroute home from DeSoto with a load of wheat, his widow surviving until 1899. They had the following children: Mary Ann, deceased, who was the wife of Thomas Lowry; William, whose home is in Oklahoma; Josiah, who died at Delhart, Texas, leaving a family; Sarah, the widow of Ed Elliott, of Murphyshoro; Emily, widow of Thomas Bush; Miles, who was accidentally killed while engaged in logging near Ava, Illinois; John; Melissa, who married Henry Ritcock and died in Texas; Nancy, who died in young womanhood; Sidney, who is married and resides at Effiugham; Louisa, who married Lon Sweet, both of whom are deceased; and Charles, who lives at Bush, Illinois.
John Colp was given only the advantages to be secured from a country school education, and when he had attained his majority left the old
homestead to establish a home of his own. He continued to engage in farming, however, and when he married located on a property at Dogwood Ridge, Williamson county, where he spent two years. During the two years that followed he managed the old Colp farm, and in 1876 he came to the Carterville community and purchased a farm one and one-half miles from the city, where he has since maintained his home and reared his family. In this locality Mr. Colp was fortunate, because it threw him into association with his friend, Mr. Hezekiah F. Arnold, in the machinery business. Mr. Colp was thoroughly familiar with the threshing business, as just after the close of the Civil war he had assisted in threshing wheat on the present site of Murphysboro, with a horsepower machine, and with the vast and successful experience of Mr. Arnold to aid, the firm started into the work of selling all kinds of heavy machinery with much promise of a profitable career. Entering the field of grain-threshing, they extended their force of machines until ten outfits, owned exclusively by them, were hulling the golden kernel for market in Southern Illinois, and a number of outfits were managed by others but owned partly by Colp & Arnold. Their machinery sales extended over into Missouri, as did their threshing interests, and for some years they did considerable business in Scott and Stoddard counties, that state. They also entered the saw-mill business and cut much lumber out of the vast forests which abounded there a score of years back. In the early nineties they decided to curtail their business, and gradually withdrew from the field as threshers and salesmen and by 1894 they had largely closed up their former affairs and that year erected the Carterville flouring mill, a hundred-barrel mill, which is now their chief interest, together with handling and dealing in grain.
For a time Mr. Colp was one of the active dealers in and developers of coal lands in Williamson county. Associated with S. T. Bush, he put down the first shaft of the Colp Coal Company, four miles north of Carterville. Selling this proposition, they leased some twelve thousand acres of coal lands in the county and opened a mine at Lake Creek, under the name of the Lake Creek Coal Company, and when they had sold this took up leases under the original charter, “The Colp Coal Company,” and purchased lands as well near Marion, developing still another property and selling it. At this time Mr. Colp became interested in the building of a railroad into the new coal field, and helped to organize and partly construct the Eldorado, Marion & Southwestern Railroad, and was for a time the president of the company. When it became evident that the golden days of mining coal in this section were rapidly passing, Mr. Colp slackened his pace as a speculator and as rapidly as possible entered upon an era of entrenchment, until now his mill and his farm constitute his live, active holdings. Progressive in all things, Mr. Colp was the first to introduce the self-guide traction engine in Williamson county, the first to use the automatic straw-stacker and the first to take up with and introduce the modern wind-stacker, indicating his attitude toward the implements which saved labor and helped popularize new inventions.
On December 19, 1873, Mr. Colp was married to Miss Dora North, daughter of George and Fredonia North, early residents of Williamson county, where Mrs. Colp was born. The children born to this union are as follows: Mary, the wife of John A. Milford, of Olive Branch, Illinois; Monroe P., a merchant at Pittsburg, Illinois; Paul, who is associated with his brother at that place; Leonard, a well-known attorney of Marion; Loran R., who is in the service of the Western Electric Company, at Chicago; Stella, who died in infancy; Miss Effie, of Carterville; and Harrison and Logan, who are connected with the Swift Packing
Company, at Chicago, and the latter of whom finished his education at Delafield, Wisconsin.