John DeMaster, a dealer in agricultural implements, and a farmer residing at Cedar Grove, is one of the most widely known men in the county, as his business has brought him in contact with the people in nearly every township. He was born in Zerkzee [Zerikzee], Zeeland, Holland, October 15, 1844. His parents, Peter and Johanna (Blanker) DeMaster, were natives of the same province. In his native land the father was foreman on a large farm. In 1846, the parents and five children, three sons and two daughters, came to America, spending the first four years at Newport, N. Y. In 1850, they continued their westward course, making a final settlement one mile south of Cedar Grove, which then consisted merely of a postoffice. For hauling the family from Sheboygan to their new home, Mr. DeMaster was to pay the teamster $5, but as that took all the money he had, he borrowed $1 of it to buy bread for his family, and later repaid it. Such incidents show how hard pressed the early settlers were for money, and also what inconveniences and privations they were compelled to undergo. Having accumulated a small sum, he purchased forty acres of timber east of Cedar Grove, which, with the help of his sons, he converted into a farm. This was subsequently sold, and twenty acres bought on section 25, where he spent his last days. His death occurred in 1872, and that of his wife four years before. Both were consistent members of the Dutch Reformed Church, and in politics, he was a Republican.
In the parental family were six children [eight, counting two children who died young in Holland], but, like the parents, some of them have passed to "that bourne whence no traveler returns." Sarah, who became the wife of N. Rottear [Rottier], died, leaving a family; Josephine, who married John Van der Jagt, and became the mother of a large family, has also passed away; Peter, the youngest of the family, and the only one born in this country, died in Waupaca County. The living are: Matthew, who served three years during the late war, in the First Wisconsin Regiment, and is a farmer of Holland Township; John, of this sketch; and William, a farmer of St. Croix County, Wis.
John DeMaster is the fifth [fourth] child in order of birth in the above family [sixth of all eight children]. Being six years of age when his parents moved to the county, he well remembers many of the incidents of early days. As the schools during his boyhood were very inferior, and work exceptionally plentiful, he devoted more time to the latter than to securing an education. However, his experience in business affairs, and his acquisitions through reading, have made him a well-informed man. After ten years of age he never entered a schoolhouse as a pupil. When only eleven years of age, he hired to work on a farm, receiving for his services his board and $1 per month. Four years later, he hired to a farmer, John Kempers by name, who lives near Brandon, Wis. Though a lad of only fifteen years, Mr. DeMaster cradled forty acres of wheat, seven acres of oats, and five acres of barley during the first harvest. He would swing the cradle all day, while his employer bound the grain, and after supper they would put it in shocks. Working hard as he did, almost day and night, for the first year he received only $75, and for the second year $90. Returning home, he engaged in farm work and in running an engine in a grist and saw mill. The succeeding six years he worked on the farm, and teamed for C. M. Van der Jagt. As a teamster, he hauled wheat, pork, etc., to Milwaukee, Sheboygan, and Port Washington.
Like Jacob, Mr. De Master found a wife among the daughters of his employer, though he did not have to work fourteen years for her. On the 15th [16th] of February, 1866, he and Miss Mina Van der Jagt were married. She was born on the island of Schouwen, Zeeland, Holland, June 11, 1845 [June 9th], and when four years of age came with her parents to this country, settling in the town of Holland.
Mr. and Mrs. De Master have had five children. Jennie became the wife of H. J. Huenink, a cheese-maker of Holland Township; Cornelius is a machinist of Sheboygan; Peter and John are at home; and the second child died in infancy. In addition to rearing their own family, Mr. De Master and his wife have reared and educated the latter's niece, Martha Van der Jagt.
The same year of his marriage, Mr. De Master, assisted by his father-in-law, purchased eighty acres of land, upon which the former still resides, and upon which a portion of the village of Cedar Grove lies. For this tract they paid $2,125. Later, Mr. De Master became the sole owner, and has since increased his farm to one hundred and twelve acres, on which he has built fine barns, and made other substantial improvements. Besides, he owns sixty acres in Ozaukee County.
In his political views, the subject of this sketch is a stanch Republican, and is an active and influential worker in the conventions of his party, though he has never sought official honors for himself. For seven or eight years he was a member of the Town Board of Supervisors. He then resigned, refusing to accept the position any longer. In 1889-90, he served as Deputy Sheriff, and was again appointed in 1893. For the past twenty years Mr. De Master has been dealing in agricultural implements, selling over this and adjoining counties. As a salesman he has few superiors. His success, therefore, in that line of business has been exceptional. By honorable dealing, and careful oversight of every detail of his business, he has not only acquired a competence, but has also won the confidence and high regard of his fellow-citizens.
In the work of the Presbyterian Church, Mr. and Mrs. De Master take an active part, the former having been a Trustee for some eight years, a Sunday-school teacher for many years, and is now serving as Assistant Superintendent of the Sunday-school. Our subject is a man of more than ordinary ability; shrewd and far-sighted in business, thoroughly reliable, full of push and energy, he has achieved a success and a consideration among his fellow-men of which he has no reason to be ashamed.
[From "Portrait and Biographical Record of Sheboygan Co.," 1894, Pages 491-493]
[Corrections to the original text that I know about are shown in red]