Prominent among the leading journalists of southern Illinois is the
well-known and highly esteemed gentleman whose name furnishes the caption of
this article. As editor and proprietor of one of the influential papers in
his part of the state he has been a forceful factor in moulding sentiment in
his community and directing thought along those lines which make for the
enlightenment of the public and the highest good of his fellow men.
Jeter C. Utterback is a native of Jasper county, Illinois, where his birth occurred on the 8th day of August, 1873. His father, B. C. W. Utterback, a Kentuckian by birth, was the son of Thomas Utterback, who was also a native of the Blue Grass state, and a member of one of the oldest pioneer families of Grayson county. In an early day Thomas Utterback became prominent in the affairs of his county and stood high in the confidence and esteem of his fellow citizens. In 1836 he migrated to Illinois and settled in the northwestern part of Richland county, where he also became a local leader and a man of wide influence. He was a farmer by occupation, and in due time accumulated a large and valuable estate in the county of Richland, in which he spent the remainder of his days, dying a number of years ago, deeply lamented by the large circle of friends and acquaintances who had learned to prize him for his sterling worth.
B. C. W. Utterback was reared to maturity in Richland county, and, like his father, followed agricultural pursuits for a livelihood. In the early seventies he disposed of his interests in the county of Richland and removed to Jasper county, where he continued farming and stock raising until 1878, when returned his land over to other hands and took up his residence in Newton, where he is now living a life of honorable retirement. Nancy Ann Hinman, who became the wife of B. C. W. Utterback in January, 1856, was born in Bartholomew county, Indiana, where her father, Titus Hinman, a native of Ohio, settled in an early day. She bore her husband ten children, seven of whom survive, namely: Eva, wife of George E. Hutson, of Dundas, Illinois; Thomas H., Assistant State Librarian, who lives in the city of Springfield; Hester, now Mrs. T. C. Chamberlin, of Newton; Charles C. resides in Salem; Albert L., of Caney, Kansas, where he holds the position of postmaster; M. T., of Newton, and Jeter C., whose name introduces this sketch.
Jeter C. Utterback spent his early life in the town of Newton, grew up under the sturdy and invigorating discipline of an excellent home environment and while still a lad laid his plans for the future with the object of becoming something more than a mere passive agent in the world of affairs. In due time he entered the schools of his native place and after attending the same until completing the prescribed course of study, in 1889 began learning the printer's trade in the office of the Newton Mentor, where he made rapid progress and soon became quite proficient, besides obtaining a practical knowledge of other branches of the profession. After mastering the trade he worked for a short time in Webb City, Missouri, and then accepted a position in the office of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where he continued until 1891, when he came to Salem, Illinois, and entered the employ of Mrs. Belle C. Johnson, editress and manager of The Republican, with whom he continued until affecting a co-partnership with his brother, T. H. Utterback, for the purchase of a paper four years later.
The Republican under the joint management of the Utterback brothers, continued to make its periodical visits about one year, when the plant passed into the hands of G. C. Harner, the subject going to the town of Carrollton, where he followed his chosen calling until his return to Salem in 1896, when he again became interested in The Republican, buying the paper that year from his brother, who in the meantime had succeeded Mr. Harner as editor and proprietor. On becoming sole proprietor of The Republican Mr. Utterback infused new life into the paper and it was not long until its influence began to be felt throughout the county, not only as an able political organ, but as a clean, dignified and popular family paper, through the columns of which appeared all the latest news, also much of the best literature of the day, to say nothing of the numerous productions from the pens of local writers. Since assuming control he has enlarged the paper as well as added to its interest and popularity besides purchasing new machinery, presses and other appliances and thoroughly equipping the office until the plant is now one of the most valuable of the kind in Marion county, and in all that constitutes a live up-to-date sheet. The Republican compares favorably with any other local paper in the southern part of the state. Mechanically it is a model of the printer's art, and politically is staunchly and uncompromisingly Republican, being the official party organ of Marion county, while its influence in directing and controlling current thought in relation to the leading questions and issues of the day has brought it prominently to the notice of party leaders throughout the state.
As an editorial writer, Mr. Utterback is clear, forceful, elegant, at times trenchant, and in discussing the leading questions before the people he is a courteous but fearless and formidable antagonist. On all matters of public policy he occupies no neutral ground, but fearlessly and honestly advocates what he considers to be for the best interest of the people and regardless of consequences. In addition to its prominence and influence as a party organ, Mr. Utterback has endeavored to make his paper answer the purpose of an educational factor and such it has indeed become, as its contents, both political and general, tend to improve the mind and cultivate the taste rather than appeal to passion and prejudice, after the manner of too many local sheets.
In recognition of valuable political services as well as by reason of his fitness for the position, Mr. Utterback in February, 1907, was appointed by President Roosevelt, postmaster of Salem, the duties of which responsible position he has discharged with commendable fidelity, proving an able, courteous and truly obliging public official. At the time of his appointment the office was in the third class with a salary of $1,700 per year, but since then the business has increased to such an extent that it is now a second class office with fair prospects of advancing.
Since the establishment of a post-office at Salem many years ago, no young man was appointed postmaster until the honor fell to Mr. Utterback, and to say that he has been praiseworthy of the trust and discharged the duties as ably and faithfully as any of his numerous predecessors is to state a fact of which all are cognizant, and which all, irrespective of political alignment, most cheerfully concede. The high esteem in which he is held as an editor, public servant and enterprising citizen, indicate the possession of sterling manly qualities and a character above reproach, and that he is destined to fill a still larger place in the public gaze and win brighter honor with the passing of years, is the belief of his friends and fellow citizens, based, they say, on the able and conscientious manner in which he has fulfilled every trust thus far confided to him. Mr. Utterback, although a young man, has achieved success such as few attain in a much longer career, and the hope the people of Salem and Marion county entertain for his future seems fully justified and well founded.
Mr. Utterback is a splendid type of the intelligent, broadminded American of today, and personally as well as through the medium of the press he is doing much to foster the material development and intellectual growth of his city and county, besides exercising an active and potential influence in elevating the moral sentiment of the community. He holds membership with the Pythian Lodge of Salem, and has labored earnestly to make the organization answer the purposes which the founders had in view, exemplifying in his daily life and conduct the beautiful principles and sublime precepts upon which the order is based. He is a believer in revealed religion, and while subscribing to the Methodist faith is not narrow in his views, having faith in the mission of all churches and to the extent of his ability assisting the different organizations of his city, although devoutly loyal to the one with which identified.
Mr. Utterback owns one of the most beautiful and attractive homes in Salem, which is a favorite resort of the best social circle of the city, and within its walls reigns an air of genuine hospitality which sweetens the welcome extended to every guest that crosses the threshold. The presiding spirit of this attractive domicile is a lady of intelligence and gracious presence who presides over the family circle with becoming grace and dignity, and whose popularity is only bounded by the limits of her acquaintance. The maiden name of this estimable woman was Charlotte B. Merritt, and the ceremony by which it was changed to the one she now so worthily bears as the wife and helpmeet of the subject was solemnized on the 2nd day of November, 1898. Mrs. Utterback is the daughter of Hon. T. E. Merritt, of Salem, ex-Senator from Marion county, and a man of influence and high standing both politically and socially. Mr. and Mrs. Utterback have one child, a son, Tom C., who was born October 17, 1901, and for whose future his fond parents entertain many ardent hopes.
Extracted 05 Jun 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 23-26.