Lee County Biography

William M. Stradler


The agricultural element that has been so largely instrumental in the upbuilding of Lee County is well represented by this gentleman, a prominent farmer of Wyoming Township. His well-appointed farm is finely located on section 8 of said town­ship, on the Chicago and Dixon Road, at this junction with the Rochelle Road, and one and three-fourth miles west of Paw, his residence occupying a rise of ground commanding a pleasant view of the surrounding country.

Mr. Strader was born on a farm in Lafayette Township, Sussex County, N. J., August 18, 1824. His father, whose given name was Henry, was also a native of that New Jersey township, but his father is thought to have been of German birth. The latter was the owner of a farm in Lafayette Town­ship, which is now in possession of his great-grand­son, having been in the family one hundred and twenty years, and a railway station is on the place, called Strader's Station. The mortal remains of the founder of the family in the United States are buried in the Plains buying ground, near his old home.

Henry Strader was reared and married in his native county, Rachel More becoming his wife. She was a native of Sussex County, N. J., and was a daughter of Noah and Hannah More. She died at the home of her son, our subject, in 1860. The father of our subject left his early home in 1829 and founded another in that part of Luzerne County, Pa., now included in Wyoming County'. He bought a farm there two miles from Newton, in Newton Township, upon which he resided twenty years. At the expiration of that time, he returned to New Jersey to spend his closing years amid the scenes of his childhood, and lived on the old Strader homestead until death closed his mortal career in 1880. He now lies sleeping the last sleep in the old Plains burying ground.

Our subject was one of nine children born to his parents who grew to maturity. He was five years old when the family removed to Pennsylvania, and there he grew to manhood and was given the opportunity of obtaining such an education as the local schools offered. In the month of May, 1848, he and his mother, brothers and sisters started for what was then considered the "Far West," and after five weeks' travel overland arrived in this county. He entered the northwest quarter of section 6, in what is now Wyoming Township, which was wild land. He was then in the flush of early manhood, endowed with strength, tenacity of purpose and a good capacity for down-right hard labor, and as soon as he had erected a log house for shelter, he proceeded earnestly to work to improve his land. At that time the county was but sparsely inhabited, the greater part of the land was owned by the Government, and game of all kinds found a home on the prairies or in the timber. There were no railways for some time, and La Salle was the nearest market.

Mr. Strader broke and fenced his land, bought one hundred and twenty acres more on section 31, Willow Creek Township, and continued his farming operations until March, 1852, when he once more started Westward, this time bound for the Golden State. This was also his wedding journey, as he was accompanied by his bride, he having been married a few days previously, February 22, 1852, to Miss Sarah A. Post, a native of Batavia, Genesee County, N. Y. She was born October 9, 1831, and is a daughter of James D. Post, who was born at Sheffield, Mass., in 1804, and was a son of James Post, who is supposed to have been a native of the old Bay State. He was a soldier in the War of 1812, and after the close of hostilities he went to Indiana to spend the remainder of his days. Mrs. Strader's father was reared in Massachusetts, and when a young man went from there to New York and was a pioneer of Batavia, where he followed the trade of a carpenter until 1838. In that year he went to Indiana, making the removal by lake and canal. He carried on his calling at Ft. Wayne until the fall of 1847, when he came to this county with a team. He settled at Lee Centre, where he bought a tract of land and gave his attention to its cultivation until death closed his career-The maiden name of his wife was Eliza Hopkins. She was born at Plainfield, Conn., July 2, 1805, and died on the home farm at Lee Centre, November 28, 1880. She was a daughter of George and Sarah (White) Hopkins. She was the mother of eleven children, of whom she reared seven. She and her husband passed together a happy wedded life of fifty-two years. They were devoted members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In their journey across the plains to California, Mr. and Mrs. Strader were members of a company of seven women and twenty-one men, of whom William Hopkins, of Temperance Hill, was the captain. They had seven wagons drawn by oxen, and a few saddle horses. They had to wait three weeks at Iowa City for the grass to grow, that their oxen and horses might have feed on the long journey, which was to consume six months, and lay a weary way across a country almost uninhabited and over sterile plains and high mountains. From Iowa City to Council Bluffs, a distance of seventy-five miles, there was not a house or any trace of civilization. Wearied and travel-stained, the little party arrived at Shasta, Cal., the terminus of the stage route, September 26. Mr. Strader became possessed of a ranch on Trinity River, in Trinity County on which he erected a commodious house and barn, and there established a ferry which was known by his name. He occupied quite an important location, and his house was the polling place for that section of the county, which was called Strader's Precinct.

In the fall of the following year, Mr. Strader sold his ranch at a good price, having tired of life on the frontier, and in the latter part of January, 1854, he set his face towards his old home, taking with him his little family and proceeding by stage to Marysvillc, where he embarked, January 27, on the steamer "Pearl," bound for Sacramento. There was a great rivalry among the various steamers plying up and down the rivers, and the fare had been reduced from $5 to fifty cents. Our subject and his wife came near being the victim of a steamboat accident, as there was a race between the boat which they were on and another, and when not twenty rods from the landing at Sacramento, the boilers of the "Pearl" exploded, injuring all on board, one hundred and twenty-two in number, except eight, among whom were. Mr. and Mrs. Strader and their child, who happened to be in the toilet room at the time, and thus escaped scalding, and were rescued before that end of the boat went down. From San Francisco to Panama, the voyage consumed fifteen days, and there our friends had another rather exciting adventure. There was a fine harbor, but no wharf, and when steamers approached Panama a gun was fired as a signal for boats to come out a distance of three miles to land the passengers, who had to pay two dollars apiece to be put ashore. The tide being out when the steamer containing the Straders arrived, the boats could not reach the shore with their prows, and the passengers had to pay another dollar to be carried ashore on men's backs. The boatman who tried to perform that office for Mr. Strader found him a too heavy burden, and fell with him in the water and left him to get to terra firma as best he could. Six hours were taken up in crossing the forty-eight miles of intervening isthmus between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, on a dilapidated railway, and our subject and his family were detained in the cars at Aspinwall, awaiting the arrival of the specie boat, which was outside in the harbor but could not approach until the tide turned. From New York they went to Chicago by the way of Philadelphia and at last arrived at Paw Grove, March 25, safe and sound. Since her return home, Mrs. Strader has had another narrow escape from death, when the Dixon bridge fell, May 4, 1873, as she had just crossed before the fatal accident, when so many were killed or injured.

Mr. Strader bought his present farm from Russell Town in 1856, and has devoted himself assiduously to its cultivation and improvement, and in both respects it ranks with the best in the township. He is a man of marked intelligence, his travels, in which he has driven across the United States from ocean to ocean, having broadened his intellect, as he has made good use of his powers of observation, and has stored his mind with useful information derived from nature, as well as from books, for which he has a special fondness. He is credited with bringing the first carriage and light harness to the township, in 1856. He is well known as a man of progressive ideas and of much enter­prise, and his fellow-citizens are always sure of his hearty co-operation in any movement that will benefit the township or county, whether to heighten their material welfare or to elevate their social and moral status.

Mr. Strader and his amiable wife occupy a warm place in the hearts of the people about them, as they are known far and near for their never-failing kindness and consideration for others, for their free and open-handed hospitality, and for that beneficent charity that means not only a liberal giving of their means, but impels them to think kindly of, and sympathize with, the unfortunate, and to care for the suffering. They have been members of the Baptist Church for twenty-four years, and have taken an active part in its upbuilding. Mr. Strader was a Whig in his early manhood, but he has been a Republican since the formation of the party. He has served as Road Commissioner, has been School Director and is at present School Trustee. In 1848, the year of his settlement here, the school districts were organized, and began to draw public money. In 1850 the township was organized under the name of Paw Paw, which was soon after changed to Wyoming. Our subject has been a member of all the juries impaneled here since his residence here, and in 1886 he was a member of the Grand Jury at Chicago.

Mr. and Mrs. Strader have been blessed in their wedded life by the birth of six children, of whom these four have passed to the life eternal: George C. who was born in California and died at the age of nineteen; John, who died in his ninth year; Mary A., who died in her eighteenth year, a lovely girl, who was just blooming into a tender and beautiful womanhood, and Edward J., who was born August 16, 1862, and died July 7, 1886, aged twenty-four years. Two children remain to our subject and his wife, Willis and Harry G. The latter married Miss Emma Morris, and has one child, Grace.

Portraits and Biographical Lee County IL 1892

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