The gentleman whose name heads this sketch has long enjoyed prestige as a leading citizen of the community in which he resides, and as an official against whose record no word of suspicion was ever uttered he has been for years an important factor in the history of Marion county, Illinois. His prominence in the community is the direct and legitimate result of genuine merit and ability, and in every relation, whether in the humble sphere of private citizenship or as a trusted public official, his many excellencies of character and the able and impartial manner in which he discharged his every duty won for him an enviable reputation as an enterprising and representative self-made man. He was for some time a prominent figure at the local bar, but desiring the more prosaic routine of the abstracter, he abandoned the legal profession and has for many years successfully conducted an abstract office in Salem, being known throughout the county in this line of work.
J. E. Bryan was born two and one-half miles north of Salem, July 4, 1851, the son of A. R. Bryan, a native of Virginia and a fine old southern gentleman, who came to Illinois when a boy. He was a tanner by trade and after a busy, successful and honorable career passed to his rest in 1901. He lived first at Shawneetown, then at Mt. Vernon, later at Walnut Hill, then at Salem, where he spent the balance of his life. The mother of the subject was Amanda Tully, whose people came from Tennessee and were among the first settlers in Marion county, having come here when the prairies were overrun by red men and wild beasts, but they were people of sterling qualities and surmounted every obstacle, winning a comfortable home as a result of their habits of industry and economy. The maternal grandfather of the subject was the first Sheriff of Marion county. This family consisted of twelve children, nine of whom are living in 1908, namely: Mrs. Anna Torrence, who resides on the old homestead, where the mother of the subject was born, in Salem; Mrs. Alice J. Kite, who is also living at the old homestead in Salem; J. E., our subject; Lewis O., living in Van Buren, Arkansas; Andrew R., of Salem; Mrs. Rosa Kagy, living in Arkansas; Mrs. Minnie Fisher, of Indianapolis, Indiana; Mrs. Emma Shepherd, of Centralia, Illinois; Adis, living at Van Buren, Arkansas. The mother of the subject, who was a woman of many praiseworthy traits, passed to her rest several years ago. Mr. Bryan's father, A. R. Bryan, was a brother of Silas Bryan, father of W. J. Bryan.
J. E. Bryan was reared in Salem, and he preferred to risk his fortunes in his native community rather than see uncertain success in other fields, consequently he has spent his life right here at home. He attended the common schools at Salem, applying himself most diligently to his text books and at the age of twenty began to read law, making rapid progress from the first, and in 1876 he was admitted to practice, his success being instantaneous and he soon became widely known as an able practitioner in all the local courts; but after twenty years of arduous work at the bar, during which time he built up an extensive business and won the unqualified confidence and esteem of a large clientele and of his brothers in the legal profession, he abandoned the law and opened an abstract office in Salem since which time he has devoted his time and attention to this business with gratifying success as indicated above. In his fraternal relations Mr. Bryan is a member of the Knights of Pythias.
Mr. Bryan was married in 1876 to Josephine W. Pace, a native of Salem and the accomplished representative of an old and highly respected family. No children have been born to this union.
Something of the confidence which the people of Salem repose in our subject will be gained when we learn that he has been School Treasurer of Salem township for over thirty years at the time of this writing, 1908. He has devoted much attention to the development of the local public school system with the result that much has been accomplished toward making the Salem schools equal to any in the country. Mr. Bryan was also Master in Chancery for Marion county for a period of eight years, which responsible position he filled with great credit to himself and to the entire satisfaction to all concerned. In business he has always been successful and is at present one of the stockholders of the Salem State Bank. He has ever had the welfare of his community at heart and has always been found willing to devote his time to any movement looking to the development of the public weal, and as a result of his genuine worth, his pleasing demeanor, integrity of principal and honesty of purpose, he is today recognized as one of Marion county's foremost citizens.
Extracted 06 Jun 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 244-246.