Biography of John Sleeper
Kalamazoo County, MI Biographies



Kalamazoo County

Online Biographies


Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

The life of Judge Sleeper was comparatively uneventful, and marked by few incidents save such as occur in the lives of most successful men. He was emphatically a " man ot affairs," industrious, sagacious, enterprising, and publicspirited, early developing those qualities which contributed to his success in after-life.

The family from which he sprang is one whose history in the United States dates back to 1607. In that year two brothers came from England, and settled in Hampton, N. H. Four of their grandchildren went to New Chester, N. H., now Bristol, where they becasñe prominently identified with the history of that locality, and reared large families; and, according to genealogical record, Judge Sleeper's descent is traced to one of these branches. He was born in Bristol, N. H., Nov. 4, 1805. His father was the eldest in a family of twenty children, eighteen sons and two daughters, and died when John was eight years of age. He was a successful farmer, and his estate included a portion of what is now the village of Bristol. Upon his decease an elder brother (Walter Sleeper) moved on to the farm, and with him John resided until he was fourteen years of age, at which time he was apprenticed to a woolen manufacturer, with whom he remained seven years; but the avocation proved uncongenial to his tastes, and he abandoned it as a means of obtaining a livelihood, and in 1S2S entered the employ of Philip Winegar, a prominent business man of Union Springs, N. Y. In 1835 he formed a copartnership with Winegar & Son, in the dry goods and grocery business.

The following year (1836) he was married to Miss Sarah, the eldest daughter of the senior member of the firm.

During Mr. Sleeper’s residence in Union Springs (a period of fourteen years) he became prominently identified with its interests, and filled many positions of trust and responsibility. He was elected supervisor of the town of Springport, and officiated as clerk, inspector, and justice of the peace.

In 1839 he and his father-in-law came West to look at some land owned by the firm. He was favorably impressed with the location and natural advantages of a tract in the town of Comstock, and concluded to turn his attention to farming, and in May, 1842, started for his future home with his family, which consisted of his wife and three children, Lewis, Henry, and Eliza. Arriving upon his farm, he immediately commenced to clear and break up land, and in October began the erection of a house upon his land, into which the family moved in December of that year. The town at this time was sparsely settied. Galesburg had not reached the distinction of a village, and the family endured many privations and hardships incident to a life in a new country. Mr. Sleeper at once took a leading position among the citizens of Comstock. He was elected supervisor of the town, besides filling many other minor offices. In 1848 he was elected probate judge, and changed his residence to Kalamazoo, where he lived until the spring of 1860, when he returned to the farm. During his residence in Kalamazoo he was trustee of the village, and took a prominent part in the organization of the County Agricultural Society, and was its treasurer for several years. After his return to Comstoek he held the position of county superintendent of the poor, county drain commissioner, and, in 1865, was again elected supervisor. While engaged in the duties of his office he contracted a cold, which caused his death on the afternoon of May 19, 1805.

Mr. Sleeper was emphatically a self-made man. He early established methodical business habits, and his energy and perseverance, coupled with integrity of character, rendered his life a success. Politically he was a Republican, and en able exponent of the principles of that organization. He was a man of large experience in the affairs of the world, of decided abilities, and of marked industry. In social life he was refined, unselfish, and courteous, attracting to himself the warm friendship of the intelligent and cultivated. In his busineas life he was just and honorable in all his dealings, and had the respect and confidence of those with whom he was brought in contact.

History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of its Men and Pioneers.
Everts & Abbott., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.