Lee County Biography

William B. Page
Palmyra Township


William B. Page, a son of one of the earliest pioneer settlers of Lee County, represents the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co., which is of world-wide fame, having several branch establishments in Europe as well as the United States, and its products are sold in various countries. The manufacture of this article at Dixon is one of the most important industries in Northern Illinois, and under our subject's able management the works are in a perfect condition.

Mr. Page is a native of this county, born in the pioneer home of his parents in the township of Palmyra, in 1854. His father, John H. Page, was one of the first to settle in this part of the State, and was well known here for many years. He was born in the town of Rochester, Stafford County, N. H., in 1806, a son of David Page, and a grandson of Joseph Page. He was reared on a farm in the town of Sandwich, and was educated in the common schools. He early acquired a taste for farming, and in due time adopted that honorable calling for his life-work, engaging in agriculture on the rugged soil of his native State until 1834. In the spring of that year he boldly set his face Westward, determining to brave the unknown perils of life in the wilderness on the frontier so as to profit by the cheap and rich lands of the great State of Illinois, which was still in the hands of the pioneers, with but little of its wonderful resources developed. He located in what is now Palmyra Township, Lee County, where but two or three had ventured to make a settlement before his arrival, the land being still held by the Government, and the survey incomplete. Mr. Page made a claim to a tract of land, and the log house that he erected upon it was the second or third dwelling built in the township. At that time deer, wolves and other wild animals were numerous, and were often troublesome to the settlers. There were no railways and the farmers had to carry their grain and other produce way to Chicago to obtain a market, and to get needed supplies. Mr. Page resided on the farm that he improved by hard and persistent labor until 1869, when he sold it and made his home at Menlo, Iowa, the few remaining years that were left to him, his death occurring there in 1870. He was first married in 1830 to Miss Julia M. Fellows,daughter of Stephen Fellows. She died in Palmyra in 1856. He was married a second time in 1858, Mrs. Sarah (Jenness) Wiggin becoming his wife. By the first marriage there were eight children, of whom these five are now living, George H., Charles A., David S., William B. and Julia M.

As the foundation of the industry with which our subject is connected was due to the far-reaching enterprise and wonderful executive ability of his brothers, a brief resume of their lives will not he out of place in this biographical sketch. The eldest George H. Page, was born in Palmyra Township, May 16, 1836. He received a liberal education at Iowa City College, of which his uncle Stephen N. Fellows was one of the founders and the first principal. After leaving he engaged in farming for a time, but soon after the war broke he was appointed to a clerkship in the War department at Washington, and did good service for the Government the ensuing three years. In 1866 he went to Switzerland, and in company with his brothers Charles S. and David S., embarked in the business of condensing milk, the first undertaking of the kind in Europe, and under their skillful management it has grown to immense proportions. The business proved such a success that a stock company was eventually formed, with a capital of $2,000,000 and now eight factories are in operation - three in England - two in Switzerland, one in Germany, and two in the United States. In 1868 the plant at Dixon was started, and upwards of a half million dollars expended on the grounds, buildings, fixtures, etc. One hundred and thirty five hands are employed in the factory, and the milk of three thousand cows is consumed each day. Mr. George Page is the general manager of the business, and resides at New York City. He was married in 1875 to Miss Adelheid Schwerzmann, of Zug, Switzerland, and they have one child.

Charles A. Page, the second son of the family, was born in Palmyra Township May 22, 1838. He was graduated from Cornell College, at Mt. Vernon, Iowa, and after that he edited a paper in that town for one year. He was then appointed clerk in the fifth auditor's office in the Treasury Department at Washington. He held that position for three or four years, and during the war turned his attention to journalism, and became famous as a war correspondent of the New York Tribune. He accompanied the army of the Potomac in its various campaigns, and his vivid descriptions and graphic delineations of the marches and battles, and the defeats and triumphs of that heroic army, published in the Tribune over the initials C. A. P., were read with intense interest by thousands of anxiousones at home all over our broad land wherever that newspaper circulated, and are remembered to this day by the old readers of the Tribune. He was one of the party that had the honor of accompanying the remains of President Lincoln to their last resting place at Springfield. In 1866 he was appointed Consul of Zurich, Switzerland, in recognition of his services as war correspondent, and he held that office four years. At the expiration of that time he became the manager of the London office of the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co., of whicli lie was one of the originators. He resided in that city until his un- timely death May 26, 1873, deprived the company of his valuable services, and closed a career in which he had already accomplished much though still in the prime of life, and which had given every promise of a brilliant future as a business man of more than ordinary talent. He had been married in 1868 to Miss Grace D. Cowes, of Washington, D. C., who now makes her home in Boston, Mass. By their marriage were four children.

David S., the fourth brother of our subject, was born on the old family homestead in Palmyra Township. He was given excellent educational advantages, and in his career has displayed the same energy and genius for business that marks his brothers. He is the assistant general manager of the company, and resides in Europe. He married Miss Martha Stulz, a native of Cham, Switzerland, and they have four children.

William B. Page, the principal subject of this biography, passed his early years in his native township, and in the local schools laid the solid foundation of his education which he completed at Cornell College in Iowa. His connection with the business founded by his brothers began in 1872, when he went to England to enter their employ in their factory at Chippenham Village, Wiltshire. During the eight yeais that he remained there he became thoroughly conversant with the art of manufacturing condensed milk, and at the end of that time he went to the Canton of Zug, Switzerland, and was connected with the management of the factory there until 1888. In that year he returned to America to take charge of the works at Dixon, which under his energetic management is in a flourishing condition. He is certainly "the right man in the right place," as no detail of this large business escapes his watchful eye, and under his careful supervision everything is kept in good order, and the enormous amount of condensed milk turned out daily by this establishment has no superior for excellence of quality in any country. This is one of the institutions of which Dixon is justly proud, as not only has it brought much capital into the city, and has increased materially the wealth of city and county, but its fine buildings, of a pleasing and appropriate style of architecture, and its handsome, well-laid out grounds are an ornament to the locality, an air of exquisite neatness and cleanliness pervading the whole place, adding greatly to its attractiveness.

Mr. Page was married during his residence in England to Miss Catherine Buckle, of London, their marriage being celebrated in 1876. They have established a handsome home in Dixon, the centre of a charming hospitality, and whoever crosses its threshold is sure of a pleasant welcome from courteous host and amiable hostess. Their household circle is completed by the four children born unto them, whose names are Carl, Roland, Henry and Walter.

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