George Sanwald

George Sanwald, now living retired at Lacon, was for several years numbered among the prominent and enterprising farmers of Roberts township, who are of alien birth. Like others of his countrymen, he brought to America the habits of economy and frugality which are an inherent characteristic of his native land, and the exercise of which, accompanied by industry and good management, raised him to a position of comparative affluence.

Mr. Sanwald was born in Wurtemburg, Germany, in 1824, where he grew to manhood, but with the view of benefiting his financial condition he sailed for the new world, landing on the shores of this country July 25, 1854. He at once obtained work in Pennsylvania, where he remained for two years, at the end of which time he came to Illinois and here was employed as a farm hand for the following eight years. Having succeeded in accumulating one thousand dollars, in 1865 he invested this in land, purchasing one hundred and sixty acres in Roberts township, Marshall county, to which he later added. He has given his son Otto two hundred and thirty-three acres on sections 3 and 4, Roberts township, which tract is supplied with good farming buildings, and still owns three hundred and eighty acres on section 9, which, since coming to Lacon, he has rented. He is entirely a self-made man, as on coming to this state he was without means and all that he now possesses has been acquired through his own industrious efforts. He was for some time extensively engaged in raising and feeding stock often shipping four car loads of cattle to the city markets and from one to four car loads of hogs. In this business he was in partnership with his brother Jacob until about three years ago. The brother died upon the farm in the summer of 1895, and the following fall our subject removed with his family to Lacon, where he is now resting in the enjoyment of the fruits of his former toil. His farm is highly cultivated and well improved with a comfortable dwelling, good barns and other outbuildings.

In 1863 Mr. Sanwald led to the marriage alter Miss Anna Crist, a native of Hesse, Germany, who died in 1891. On the 6th of May, 1893, he was again married, his second union being with Mrs. Mary Keinath, widow of Matt Keinath, who lived for ten years in Lacon and then returned to Germany, where he died November 25, 1888, leaving one son, John, who now makes his home with his mother in Lacon. By his former marriage, Mr. Sanwald had one son, Otto, who married Elizabeth Ranch, by whom he has three children, Amelia, Bernardt and an infant unnamed, and is living upon a farm near the old homestead.

Although usually voting the democratic ticket, Mr. Sanwald is now strictly non-partisan, endeavoring to support the man best qualified for the office. He holds membership with the Lutheran church at Varna, in which he takes an active part, and enjoys the esteem and respect of all who know him.

Taken From The Biographical record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois., Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1896 Page 54-55


Horace Spencer

Taken From the Henry Republican
March 22, 1877

Horace Spencer was born in Hartford, Ct., March 3, 1805. He left home at an early age, lived in Massachusetts and subsequently married Harriet Parmenter, moving to Brownington, Vt., where he resided until his removal to Illinois. He came here to look when George Burt, Sr., and family opened a farm in Whitefield in 1846, and was so much pleased with the Prairie State that her returned with his family the next winter, building one of the first frame houses on the prairie west of Henry, on the farm he has since resided on. That house catching fire, was consumed, when he immediately built the beautiful structure now adorning the premises.

Five children was granted him by his first wife - Frances, Mary, John, Henry and Horace - Mary and the two latter, with their mother, having preceded him "beyond the beautiful river." A second wife, Mrs. Eleanor More, daughter of Loton Frisbey, left him Miss Rosa Spencer, a girl of sweet sixteen now, and a student in the Henry high school, consumption claiming her as a victim, and leaving him again a disconsolate widower. He remained single until last fall when he was united a third time in wedlock with Mrs. Catharine Goodfellow, his housekeeper, who survives him.

Coming to Illinois comparatively poor, Mr. Spencer has so managed his worldly possessions as to have become owner of 283 acres in a body, and one of the best stock farms in the region. He estate will probably be appraised at about $12,000. The deceased was indeed a man - of honor, probity, hospitality, kind hearted, of excellent character and one of our best citizens. He scorned a mean act, in others or in himself.

His late illness was a combination of pneumonia and heart disease, so violent and complicated as to baffle medical skill; and from the first he predicted that he was on his deathbed, and so it proved. His house was crowded with sympathizeing mourners at the funeral, and Rev. B. Edmiston, who officiated, referred in fitting terms to the noble character and useful life of the deceased. Over 50 vehicles followed the remains to Sugar Grove cemetery, in spite of the terrible roads. Mr. and Mrs. John O. Dent of Wenona, the latter a daughter, was present at the funeral. A deaf and blind brother, 83 years old, has lived with Mr. Spencer for several years surviving him. Mrs. George Burt, Sr., is also a sister. - Transcribed by Nancy Piper


Colonel John Strawn
First Settler of MarshallCounty

Taken From the Henry Republican
July 11, 1872

Our death column chronicles the passing away of Colonel John Strawn, on the evening of the 4th, after an illness of 10 days, caused in great measure, by a hart received from falling from a wagon recently, at his residence three miles east of Lacon. The colonel was one of the old landmarks of the county, settling on the place where he died, so long ago as September 1829, when he was the only white settler in this region. Every old settler knew him well, for he was hospitable, a hard worker, and a leading man of his day.

He was born in Somerset county, PA., on November 25, 1791, of Quaker stock, a religion he embraced. He had a taste for pioneer life, and in 1812 started out into the western country, visiting Kentucky, Ohio, and even Illinois, then a wilderness, when Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, etc., were insignificant trading posts. He finally made up his mind to go west, first going to Kentucky, thence to Ohio, where he married, and afterwards to Illinois, as given  above. He took part in all the enterprises of the early day, shared its struggles, privations and progress, and at the Indian outbreak gained the title and rank of colonel. He entered the ground where Lacon now stands, and we believe laid it out in lots. He was married three times, his last two wives being quite young women.

By his first wife he had 13 children, one by his second, and two by the widow. He was very wealthy, and he has numerous children in the vicinity, who are invariably in good circumstances. One of his peculiarities was love of horseflesh, and kept a large lot of them for many years, for no other purpose that most folks could see but to eat him up, many being of ordinary stock. A year ago he had an auction and sold the most of them under the hammer. His widow is quite young, 25 perhaps, who has two small children, to whom he wills all his property, estimated at $200,000. She is a fine appearing lady, and well calculated to be a colonel’s widow. The colonel’s residence stands on high ground, on the prairie, surrounded by a very high board fence, and can be seen a long distance. The funeral was a very large one, and the exercises unusually impressive. - Transcribed by Nancy Piper


William Melville Springer

Mr. Springer comes from a noted family, and was born in Marshall county in 1849. He married Miss Mary Angeline Reece in 1877. She was born in Knox county, Ill. They have one child, Frederick R., born May 28, 1878. Mrs. Springer is a member of the Congregational church. He is a township trustee. He cultivates 250 acres of land, and is a son of the late Isaac Springer, one of the oldest settlers of this county, an extended notice of whom is given elsewhere. He is engaged in breeding short-horn cattle and Poland China hogs. - Transcribed by Nancy Piper

From  "The  Record of Olden Times or Fifty Year on the Prairie"
embracing sketches of the discovery, exploration and settlement of the country.
by Spencer Elsworth,   Lacon, IL Home Journal Steam Printing Establishment
Copyright Date MDCCCLXXX (1880)

(Courtesy of Peggy Brock Cacciamatta)

“WILLIAM M. SPRINGER”

Copied from a Denver publication, date and title unknown.  (Courtesy of Peggy Brock Cacciamatta)

For the past 12 years, the people of Colorado have been indebted to the enterprise of William M. Springer and his associates, mainly for the introduction of improved breeds of cattle and blooded horses and for the benefit of the live stock industry in general in the state. For more that 30 years, in the United States and in all the nations of Europe, as an importer and breeder, he has been a man of unusual celebrity in connection with the live stock business. William Melville Springer was born in Wenona, Marshall county, Illinois, February 26, 1849, the son of Isaac Springer. He was educated at Hedding College, Ill. In 1874 he was deputy recorder in Chicago. Afterwards, in Marshall county, he introduced the Shorthorn breed of cattle. At Oskaloosa, Iowa in 1881, he continued as an importer of Belgian and Oldenborg stock, also Percheron stallions from Europe. Since then he has crossed the Atlantic 64 times traveling through all parts of the continent in the live stock interest. Was former president of the National Association of Importers and Breeders of fine draft horses; has held important commissions at the several world’s fairs. Coming to Denver in 1899, the firm of Springer & Stubbs has been the leading dealer in blooded stock. Residing in Denver, he still retains an interest in the business. - Transcribed by Nancy Piper


Frank D. Shafer

Mr. Shafer is a farmer living on section 13, who was born in Knox county, Ohio. His father settled in Hopewell township in 1846, living in the old homestead, three miles above Lacon until the close of his life. He was a Jacksonan Democrat, inflexibly honest and wedded to his opinion. His son Frank came to Lacon in 1846 and wedded Amelia Cain, daughter of James Cain of Richland. He has a productive farm and a fine residence beautifully situated in a natural grove and surrounded with fruits, etc. They have four children, Mary E., James V., Henry B., and Benjamin F. He is a good farmer and stock raiser, loves a good horse and when business permits enjoys himself in hunting, etc., but don’t neglect business for any pleasure.

[Source: Record of Olden Times or 50 years on the Prairie, 1880, Page 683 Lacon Township. Transcribed by Nancy Piper ]


Isaac Springer

The subject of this sketch, son of John and Rebecca Springer, was born in the State of Maryland, May 7, A.D. 1798. When about two years of age he with his parents moved to West Virginia and settled on a farm on Grove Creek Hill, and there remained a few years. He then with his parents moved to Muskingum county, Ohio, and settled near Zanesville.6 Here he grew up to manhood and learned his trade. He married Miss Elizabeth Cowan in 1822, by whom he had two children, a son and a daughter. The son died in infancy, and the daughter, Mary Ann, is still living and resides in Ohio. He buried his wife in February, 1823. He married Miss Charlotte Ijams of Muskingum county, Ohio in the spring of 1826, by whom he had 12 children, viz: Creighton, Caleb, Martha Ellen, Lewis, Harriet, Milton C., Sara E., Amelia R., Helen L., Adelia A., William Melville, and Clara Emma. Caleb died in childhood, and Martha E. died in January, 1866, leaving a family behind her. All the others are still living and reside in this state.

In the fall of 1834 he emigrated to Illinois, and spent the first winter in a cabin where Magnolia is situated, and in the following spring moved on a farm owned by Mr. Parks, east of Captain Haws', and remained in Putnam county about three years, and then settled in Marshall county, where he resided most of the time until his death, which occurred March 17, A.D. 1853. He was a carpenter by trade and was a first-class mechanic. He built several of the largest edifices erected in the county in his time, among which were Fisher’s Packing House in Lacon, and Livingston Roberts’ barn at Robert’s Point.

He was a man of more than ordinary intellect, and endowed with a wonderful memory, so not withstanding that his early educational advantages were quite limited, he made considerable progress in literary pursuits. He was a good historian, and well-read on all the general questions of the day. He was one of the finest mathematicians in the county, being able to solve mentally, almost an incredible short time, all the practicable problems he met with. He obtained an extensive knowledge of law, and was considered superior counsel by those who knew him best. He took a deep interest in political affairs of the country, and was an ardent Whig until the agitation of the question of free soil, which became one of increasing interest to him until his death. He was a public spirited man, always advocating internal improvements, and willing to bear his full share in pushing forward any laudable enterprise. From the early settlement of this State he foresaw in it the grandest commonwealth of the Union, but passed away as he was entering upon the realization of his fond hopes. - Transcribed by Nancy Piper

From  "The  Record of Olden Times or Fifty Year on the Prairie"
embracing sketches of the discovery, exploration and settlement of the country.
by Spencer Elsworth,   Lacon, IL Home Journal Steam Printing Establishment
Copyright Date MDCCCLXXX (1880)

(Courtesy of Peggy Brock Cacciamatta)


A.J. Signer

Mr. Signer is a carpenter by occupation and was born in Pennsylvania.  He came to LaSalle county, ILlinois in 1849 and to Marshall county in 1873.  He served three years and one month in Co. C. Fourth U.S. Cavalry and was in the battles of Culpepper Court House, the siege of Vicksburg, at Chattanooga, Fort Douelson, and numerous smaller engagements.  March 28, 1870, he married Mrs. Irene Williamson, whose maiden name was Phelps.  They have two children, Frank O. and Charles I., and Mrs. S. has one child, George E. Williamson, by her first marriage.  Mr. Williamson, Mrs. Signer's first husband, served three years during the war for the suppression of the rebellion, in Co. C, 72nd Illinois Inf.  He participated in 21 pitched battles, was wounded seven times, and died of wounds received in the battle of Shiloh.  He held the rank of sergeant. - Transcribed by Nancy Piper

From  "The  Record of Olden Times or Fifty Year on the Prairie"
embracing sketches of the discovery, exploration and settlement of the country.
by Spencer Elsworth,   Lacon, IL Home Journal Steam Printing Establishment
Copyright Date MDCCCLXXX (1880), Bennington Township, Page 740


James Smith

Taken From the Henry Republican
March 11, 1915

James Smith died Saturday march 6 at 9:30 am. The funeral was conducted from the home at La Prairie Center on Monday, March 8, where a brief service was held at 1 pm., and in the United Presbyterian church at 2 p.m. Six young men, all grandsons of the deceased were pall bearers. A quartet from th U. P. church, consisting of Richard Martin, Mrs. Wm. Scott, Miss Cora Scott and Harry Scott, furnished the music. Mrs. Andrew McCartney presided at the organ. Rav. E. S. Busby, pastor of the M. E. church, read the obituary and preached the sermon. The interment was beside his wife in the U. P. cemetery.

James Smith, son of William and Wilhelmina Scott Smith, was born in Dumfrieshire, Scotland, May 9, 1825. There he grew up and attended school in the land of hills and heather. When a youth of 15, in 1840, he came with his parents and brothers, William and Andrew, and sister Mary, Mrs. Robert Turnbull, to Marshall county, Ill. Their first home was at Hard Scrabble, in Steuben township. Here, six months after arriving in America the father died. After three years the family moved to Yankee Street, now a part of the Schiller farm, in Peoria county, where they lived two years. Then they purchased the farm at La Prairie center.

In 1856 Mr. Smith was united in marriage to Lucy Canterberry, whose birthplace was Rathdrum, County Wicklow, Ireland. Mr. and Mrs. Smith took up their residence on their farm two miles north of La Prairie Center. Here their eight children were born, five of whom survive. The children living are Fannie (Mrs. Calder of La Prairie); Wilhelmina (Mrs. Charles Monier of Princeton, Ill.); Sadie (Mrs. Charles Collins of La Prairie); Lucy (Mrs. A. W. Bradford of Lacon), and Miss Millie B. Smith of La Prairie.

In 1878 Mr. Smith was bereaved of his beloved companion. He lost his devoted mother in 1885. The deceased leaves besides five daughters, a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren and other relatives.

In 1892 he returned to his former home at La Prairie Center, where he has since resided. Mr. Smith's life in this community practically covers the history of the progress of La Prairie township, his residence having been established ten years after the first one built. He hauled wheat to Chicago and returned with finishing lumber for his house at La Prairie Center. Those were the days before the telephone, the telegraph and railway. The Indian still wandered up and down the river and the wolves still howled in the woods. Peoria was still a village and Chillicothe was not even a hamlet. -- Transcribed by Nancy Piper