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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



MRS. EMELINE G. BARNETT, of Leroy, is the daughter of Elisha and Theda (Woodruff) Gibbs, and the widow of the late Thomas J. Barnett.

She was born in Belpre, Washington Co., Ohio, Aug. 11, 1818. Her father, Elisha Gibbs, was a native of Connecticut, and also her grandfather, Elisha Gibbs, Sr., the latter spending his entire life in his native State. Elisha Gibbs, Jr., was reared in Connecticut, and learned the trade of a carpenter and millwright. He was there married, and soon afterward removed to New York and located near Lake Geneva, where he followed his trade until 1816.

He then removed with his family to Ohio, the journey being made on a raft via the Ohio and Alleghany Rivers. They first located in Belpre, whence after two or three years they removed to Mt. Vernon, Knox County, where, in company with another man, Mr. Gibbs erected a saw and grist mill three miles from the village. After a time he purchased the interest of his partner and operated the mills by himself until the fall of 1838, when he decided to move further West.

After reaching Illinois he came into McLean County and purchased land in what is now Empire Township. The following year he removed a part of his family here, his wife and two children, two sons, having preceded him. He located in Leroy and put up the first mill in the village. His sons operated the mill and Mr. Gibbs pursued his trade in different places, putting in mill machinery wherever required and erecting a number of buildings in this locality, many of which are now standing.

The mother of Mrs. Barnett, who before her marriage was Miss Theda Woodruff, was born in Connecticut, and a daughter of Philo Woodruff, also a native of Connecticut, and who served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He spent the last years of his life with his daughter, Mrs. Gibbs, near Mt. Vernon, Ohio.

He was a prominent Abolitionist, and both parents were members of the Presbyterian Church.

The mother of Mrs. Barnett died in Leroy in March, 1854.

The parental family consisted of seven children, of whom the record is as follows: Maria became the wife of Luther Hill, and died in Akron, Ohio; Philo died in Decatur, Ohio, when thirteen years old; David died in Ottumwa, Iowa; Simeon lives in Leroy, this county; Enoch, in Kansas City, Mo.; Mrs. Barnett was the sixth child; Julia married Rev. Austin Rogers, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and lives in Heyworth.

Mrs. Barnett spent her youth and childhood with her parents, and attended the subscription schools. When of suitable age and attainments she entered Oberlin College and graduated from there when twenty-five years of age, after her parents had removed to Illinois.

After joining them there she engaged in teaching, and continued three terms after her marriage. This event occurred in February, 1845. Her husband, Thomas J. Barnett, was a native of Bourbon County, Ky., and born Jan. 21, 1818. His father, Moses Barnett, was a native of Pennsylvania, also his mother, who was formerly Miss Catharine Ellis.

In 1831 Moses Barnett, with his family, emigrated to Illinois and settled in what is now Empire Township, this county, where their son Thomas was reared to manhood. He received a limited education, and, his parents being without worldly wealth, he worked out by the day or month. He broke prairie and engaged in teaming, making frequent trips to and from Chicago, making the tedious journeys with oxen.

The Garden City then was but an unpretentious hamlet, and the experiences of Thomas J. Barnett, together with the interesting scenes which he witnessed from time to time would make an interesting volume.

After his marriage with our subject they lived with her father's family for a time, and Mr. Barnett cultivated a portion of the land. He was industrious, enterprising, and possessed of excellent judgment, and was soon in a condition to become the owner of 100 acres, which he secured and engaged as before in general agriculture.

After a few years he abandoned farming to engage in the grocery and hardware business, and later merged his stock into, dry-goods. He was a thorough and successful business man, straightforward and honest in his transactions, prompt to meet his obligations, and became a useful and honored member of the community. He continued in business until the summer of 1874, and then, on account of failing health, disposed of his interests and retired from active business. He departed this life in September, 1882.

Mr. and Mrs. Barnett became the parents of six children, of whom the record is as follows: Alice married John Young, and lives in Chicago; Emma became the wife of Denton Young, a clothing merchant of Leroy; Orvin died in infancy; Orrin is a resident of Lewistown, Fulton County, this State; Laura, Mrs. Dixon Brown, lives in Downs Township, this county, and George in Chicago. Mrs. Barnett's son Orrin possesses unusual musical talent which has been finely cultivated. He attended the Conservatories of Music at Oberlin and Boston, and is well qualified for the position which he occupies as leader in the musical circles of his locality.

Mrs. Barnett is a lady of more than ordinary ability, has been a wise and judicious mother, attending closely to the training and the education of her children, and has fitted them to become good citizens and useful members of the community. She is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and greatly respected by those among whom she has lived for so many years. As a member of society, a neighbor and friend, she has fulfilled her duties creditably and conscientiously, and has built for herself a good record of womanly virtues.

[SOURCE: Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887). Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.]


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