Carroll County Biographies

Van Buren Merchant
Mt. Carroll Twp., Carroll Co. IL

Van Buren Merchant, a well known farmer of Mt. Carroll Township, resides on section 28. He is of New England ancestry, his father Myron Merchant, being a native of Massachusetts, and his mother, whose maiden name was Samantha Hough, being born in Connecticut. After heir marriage this couple removed to Greene County NY whee the father followed his trade of carpenter, and also taught school. They were the parents of three sons and a daughter, our subject being the second child. He was born in Schoharie NY Aug. 10, 1829 and passed his boyhood in his native state, receiving his education in its common schools. He was early apprenticed to the trade of harness marking, which he learned in Hobart, Delaware Co NY and after completing it went to Newark NJ where he was employed in a trunk factory.

In 1852 our subject decided to coem West, and on his way stopped for a time in Pittsburg, thence going to St. Louis, from there making his way to Keokuk, Iowa, and from thee crossed the river to the place where the town of Hamilton now stands, and thence on to Carthage IL. At this latter place he engaged for some months in herding cattle, and during the following winter was engaged as Assistant Principal in the Carthage schools. Following this he carried the mail on the road between Warsaw and Rushville. Tiring of this desultory life, he returned to his native state and accepted a position as clerk in a store. A few months of this was enough for him, however, and he went to the place of his birth, where he was engaged as engineer of a stationary engine. At this he did not remain long either, taking employment in a saw-mill but in July followin ghe returned to the house of an uncle, whom he assisted in haying and harvesting. In the fall of 1856 he once more came West and engaged in farming at Fairhaven in Carroll County, and the ensuing year bought 40 acres of land in that township, which he traded later for a couple of lots and a house in Mt. Morris. The next season he hired out to work for a mr. Gray, but soon after bought him out. This place formed the nucleus of his present home, which now comprises 203 acres of excellent land all under good cultivation and on which he has a good house. In addition to his general farming he is interested in the raising of good horses, of which he usually has about 15 head, and he sells annually about 40 to 50 hogs.

On Nov. 1, 1861, our subject was united in marriage with Lestina A. Bancroft, a daughter of Lawson and Ann Bancroft and a native of Indiana, born in October 1844. This union has been blessed by the birth of nine children all but one now living and all of whom have received or are now receiving, the best education this part of the country can afford. Mr. Merchant is an unusually well-informed man, and believes that a good education is the best gift he can bestow on his children.

The children are Samantha E, wife of W.N. Casselberry of Mt. Carroll Twp. and the mother of two children; N. Helen is now at the Normal School at Normal ILl and a very successful teacher; Mark Albert, Frank B., Anna May, Donna B., Bessie E and Kate are at home with their parents, and form a bright and interesting family group.

Mr. Merchant enlisted in March 1865 in Co. I, 97th Il Infantry and serveduntil the close of the war, eing mustered out by special order. Ever since his residence in Carroll County he has taken an active part in its public affairs. He has held the office of Town Clerk, School Trustee, and Township Assessor, has been a member of the A.F. & A.M. of the Sons of Temperance, and also of the Good Templars. He and his wife are members and workers in the Methodist Episcopal Church of which he has been Class Leader and is now Steward. The marked success which he has achieved in life is due to his good judgment, cautious habits and industry. After his marriage he taught school in Fair Haven receiving but $25 per month and boarding himself and family. A man of unexceptional character and of good attainments, he is one of the most respected citizens of the township.

Portraits & Biographical Carroll Co. 1889 Page 891

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