JOHN BRUFF STOUT.
The position of an editor is one of great responsibility, for in spite of this being an age of doubt and of much independent thought, and in spite of the commonly heard remark “I believe nothing I see in the newspapers,” people are unconsciously influenced by what they read. The seed is sown, and there are ten chances to one that it will grow. An editor, therefore, should be a man of great discrimination, and instead of retiring into a literary shell he should be out among the people, for he, more than anyone else, should know the conditions of the people who read his words and he must keep in touch with the thought of the day, for which his paper should be only a mirror. John B. Stout comes very near the realization of this ideal. For many years previous to his entering the field of journalism he was connected with educational work in one way or another, and in this work he had a great opportunity to learn how people really thought and felt. With this as a foundation he has been able to keep in close touch with the people, and he has always stood as the champion of any cause that would improve conditions and would benefit the social and civic life of the people.
John Bruff Stout was born in Lawrence county, Illinois, on the 5th of August, 1863. His birthplace was a farm near Clancy, Illinois. He was the son of George Stout, who was born at Coshocton, Coshocton county, Ohio, on the 18th of October, 1836. He was not yet grown when he came to Illinois, the year being 1853. He located in Lawrence county, and there took up farming. He has been a farmer all of his life and is now living a very quiet life at his home in Sumner. At the age of twenty-one he was married to Sarah Mushrush, who was at the time a resident of Lawrence county, although she, like her husband, had been born in Coshocton, Ohio. She is now seventy-three years of age and is enjoying the companionship of her husband, as she was never able to when she had the cares of a household and he had the work of the farm. Her family of children numbered eight, seven boys and one girl, and of these John B. was the third. George Stout is a Republican in his politics and both he and his wife are members of the Methodist church.
The early years of John Bruff Stout were spent on the farm in the western part of Lawrence county, and, as farmer's lads usually do, he spent about as much time working on the farm as he did in the school room. Being one of the older boys, he was of great assistance to his father, and it was hard to spare him, even for the few hours he spent in school. He had inordinate thirst for knowledge, however, and when this was clear to his parents they were as anxious that he make the most of his advantages as he was himself. He first attended the public schools, and then knowing that the money could not be spared from the family exchequer for any further education, he determined to earn some through the medium of a teacher. He taught school until he had saved enough to enable him to enter the state university at Lawrence, Kansas, and by making every penny do double duty, and by working while he was studying, he managed to remain at the university until he had a fair education.
On leaving the university he first taught in the county schools, and then was elected assistant superintendent of schools at Sumner, Illinois. He remained here for two years as assistant, and then was elected principal,
holding the latter position for two years. In 1894 he was elected county superintendent of schools for Lawrence county, and he threw all his forces into the work of improving and developing the school system of the county. He modernized and improved the course of study, raised the standard of scholarship in the schools and infused into the life of the community a new enthusiasm for reading and for general culture by the introduction of a reading circle which he organized and developed. During his work as superintendent he had great difficulty in placing his projects before the people, and he realized that the county needed a newspaper that would stand for progress and would not only fight for political reform but would also stand for civic and social reform.
It is not surprising, therefore, that at the expiration of his term as county superintendent he should buy the plant of The Republican, the oldest newspaper in this section of the state, having the prestige that age always gives to anything. It was established in 1847, and ever since the founding of the Republican party the policy of the paper has been consistently Republican. Into this staid, conservative publication Mr. Stout infused new life, and now the paper has the largest circulation of any in the county. It is popular because its editor is afraid of no one. Catering directly to the people, he is not forced to pander to the men who advertise in his pages. Being independent, he can say to men who threaten to take their advertising away from him, “Take it out, if you choose, the people believe in me, and you will be the loser in the fight.” It is a great thing to have the trust of the people in this way, but the responsibility is also a heavy one.
During the past years Mr. Stout has built a fine new fire-proof building, the ground floor of which is occupied by the offices of the paper. He has the most modern machinery, and the attractive sheet which is issued would be a credit to any community. The policy of the paper is now, as it has always been, Republican, and opposed to the saloon element and the liquor dealers. Mr. Stout was appointed postmaster by Roosevelt in 1907 and he still holds the office. He has been a strong element in the civic affairs of Lawrenceville, serving for four years on the city council, and for one year acting as mayor. He is one of the strongest men in the Republican party in this part of the state, and will doubtless be of great value in the coming campaign.
He is a very active member of the church in which he was reared, that is the Methodist Episcopal. He is a member of the board of stewards, was elected as delegate to the General Conference in East St. Louis in 1911, and since 1894 has been superintendent of the Sunday-school. He was a member of the building committee that had the erection of the $35,000.00 church in charge. This edifice was completed in 1911, and is a very fine piece of architecture. In the fraternal world he is prominent, being a member of the Masons, the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America and of the Elks.
In 1891 Mr. Stout was married to Miss Jennie Dobbins, who lived in the northwestern part of the county. She was the daughter of a retired farmer, Vincent Dobbins. Three children were born of this marriage, but they were early bereft of their mother, who died at the age of twenty-eight. The eldest of these children, Lela, is dead, and the other two are Mable and Leslie. In December, 1898, Mr. Stout married again, his second wife being Sarah A. Salter. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Salter, who lived at that time in Lawrenceville, but who have since moved to Wisconsin. There are no children from this second marriage.