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William Hieronymus
McLean County, Illinois

(Transcribed by: Amy Robbins-Tjaden)


William Hieronymus was born February 13, 1788, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. His parents were of English and Dutch descent. He was raised on a farm and led a farmer's life. When he was a young man, he and his father went to Madison County, Kentucky, to look at the country, and were so well pleased with it, that William remained to raise a crop, while his father returned for the family, which came out in the fall.

William Hieronymus married, August 14, 1811, Alvira Darnell, probably in Madison County. During the war of 1812, he was drafted, but the situation of his family made it impossible for him to leave, so he hired a substitute.

He followed boat-building for a while, as business of building flatboats was one which grew with the growth of commerce. He was a skillful workman with a broadaxe, and could handle it to perfection. In the year 1818, he went to Boone County, Missouri, and settled on the Missouri River. The place is now washed away and forms the channel of the stream.

He lived three years in Missouri, then went back to Kentucky to his old home, then, after a few years, went to the Big Bone Lick. This lick is a deep lake of mud and water, the water being very shallow. The mud has apparently no bottom. The animals, which in former years went there to drink, sank down and died. Their bones are so numerous that the places is called the Big Bone Lick. The bones of many curious animals have been found there; and particularly curious were the bones of the large mammoth, which was placed in Barnum's museum. Enoch Hieronymus has seen a bone from this lake, large enough for nine men to sit on. The water of the lake was impregnated with sulphur, and people from the surrounding country came there to drink it for their health.

In the fall of 1828, William Hieronymus started for Illinois. His family moved with several other families, numbering in all forty-two persons. The oldest man in the company was George Henline, whose sons John, George, Henry, William and David, all had families. They camped the last night of their journey in Blooming Grove, at what is now called the Nathan Low farm, then owned by a Mr Latta, and the next day went to Hittle's Grove in Tazewell County, where they made arrangements for locations.

Old George Henline and Henry and David remained at Hittle's Grove; but John, George, Jr. and William, settled on the head waters of the Mackinaw, where they made a permanent location. William Hieronymus went from Hittle's Grove to Hieronymus Grove, in October, 1828, and there threw up a half faced camp. During the winter, he built a small cabin, in which he lived for some years. In the following spring he opened up a small farm, which was carried on by his sons, while he made looms, barrels, stocks of ploughs, etc. He was very skillful in the use of tools. He worked at this business more or less until his death, which occurred March 12, 1848.

William Hieronymus was a tall man, standing six feet and two and one-half inches. His bones were large and his features prominent. Hieronymus Grove received its name from him. He had nine children, of whom only three are living.

They are: Enoch Hieronymus, who lives in Mt Hope township, in McLean County, in the edge of Hieronymus Grove. Benjamin Hieronymus, who lives at the head of Indian Grove, in Livingston County, and William Hieronymus, Jr., who lives on the homestead place.

[The Good Old Times in McLean County, Illinois (Bloomington Ill, 1874)]



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