HIRAM BUCK, one of the honored pioneers of McLean County, has now attained to the age of fourscore years and six. He is a hale and hearty old gentleman, in full possession of his mental facilities, active as most men at sixty, suffers no bodily infirmities, and can still hold the plow and ride on the back of spirited horses. His form has been a familiar one upon the streets of Empire Township for many years, and he is held in that peculiar veneration and respect tacitly accorded those who first pushed their way into the Western wilds and marked out the track of a later civilization.
Mr. Buck was born in the town of Ulysses, N. Y., which was then in Seneca but is now in Tompkins County. He first opened his eyes to the light on the 20th of March, 1801. His father, William Sherman Buck, was born in New Milford, Litchfield Co., Conn., Feb. 17, 1764. His grandfather, James Buck, was also a native of the Nutmeg State and of English descent. The latter engaged in farming pursuits and spent his entire life in his native State. He married Miss Elizabeth Sherman, who was a native of his own town and the sister of Roger Sherman, who was famous in that day as a philosopher and a man of talents and learning.
The father of our subject learned the trade of tanner and currier in New Milford and worked there until after he had attained his majority. He then went into Luzerne County, Pa., remaining there until about 1798, whence he removed to Phelps and Graham's Purchase in New York, and settled in the part now included in the township of Ulysses. The removal from Pennsylvania was effected with ox-teams, part of the route lying through a trackless wilderness. He purchased timber land and on a part of his first purchase now stands the village of Trumansburg. He had been there but a short time when, after clearing a part of his land, he established a tanyard and engaged in dressing hides and in shoemaking. For twenty years he did business without the assistance of railroads or canals. The only way of reaching market was to go overland along the rivers. There William S. Buck remained until 1818, and then selling his property proceeded further westward to Ohio. The journey to the headwaters of the Alleghany River was made overland, and he arrived there the 1st of March, 1818. On account of the great amount of ice in the river his journey was here delayed until the 13th of April. While thus waiting he built a boat and as soon as it could be launched, moved with his family upon it, down to North Bend, Ohio. He had sold his land in New York on time, and was obliged to rent land in order to pursue his further operations. He located in Hamilton County, Ohio, and rented land from President Harrison, until he could get pay for his own in New York State. He remained there eleven years, and then pulled up stakes again and started for Indiana, purchasing a farm in Switzerland County, where he located and spent the remainder of his days, his decease occurring on the 4th of August, 1844. His wife died in Hamilton County, Ohio, in October, 1827. The parental family consisted of thirteen children, eleven sons and two daughters.
Hiram Buck was the eighth child and seventh son of his parents. He was seventeen years old when they removed from New York to Ohio. He assisted his father in clearing the farm and tilling the soil, received a limited education in the subscription schools, and remained under the parental roof until 1826. He had inherited much of the energy and enterprise of his forefathers and at this time had engaged considerably in speculation on his own account. He made three trips down the river with a flatboat, transporting produce to various points. He had improved his leisure time with his books, and in this manner had become well fitted for a teacher of those days, and employed his time during the winter season in dispensing knowledge to the sons of the early settlers, in the log school-house of those days. He possessed considerable musical talents and also taught singing as well as day school. In 1826 he bought a stock of goods and commenced merchandising in Switzerland County, Ind. After two years thus occupied he purchased a tract of timber land and found a ready market for wood which was used on the steamboats, coal not then having been discovered or mined in that region. In 1833, after having considerably enhanced the value of his property he sold out, and started for Illinois, via the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. Leaving his family in Beardstown, Ill., he came on to McLean County, where he procured two teams and returned for his family and household goods. His means were limited, but he purchased eighty acres of land at $1.50 per acre in Randolph Township, and after building a log cabin, removed his family, and raised a crop upon rented land that year. The following year he raised his first crop on his own land and proceeded with its cultivation and improvement. In 1837 he sold out and came to Le Roy, where he purchased village property and also farm land. He built the first hotel in the place, naming it after the town. He soon succeeded in securing a post-office and officiated as the first Postmaster. He conducted this hotel for eight years and was remarkably successful in his farming and business operations. In 1851 he removed to the farm he now owns and occupies and on which he has been a continuous resident since that time, a period of thirty-six years. The first purchase which Mr. Buck made in this vicinity consisted of 172 acres, to which he added as time passed until he became the owner of 965 acres, all in Empire and Downs Townships. It is now all improved and under a fine state of cultivation, being operated mostly by tenants, but Mr. Buck has always exercised a general oversight of the whole, and its valuable condition to-day is owing to his remarkable energy and foresight. The land has been devoted to mixed husbandry and stock-raising and has yielded its owner a handsome income. It is beautifully located and its broad acres stretch over a fine tract of country, forming one of the most attractive spots in McLean County.
The marriage of Hiram Buck and Miss Mercy Karr was celebrated in Ohio on the 5th of April, 1827. Mrs. Buck was born in that part of Sussex which is now Warren County, N. J., on the 16th of November, 1806, being the daughter of Capt. John and Mary (Lee) Karr, natives of Pennsylvania. Her father commanded a company under Wayne's Legion in the Revolutionary War and after his retirement from the military service returned to New Jersey and engaged in farming pursuits. His death occurred at the home of our subject in Le Roy in 1840, after he had become eighty-two years of age.
Mrs. Mercy Buck died at the home of her husband in Le Roy Township, Aug. 6, 1886. They had become the parents of six children, five now living: Amanda M. married James Crumbaugh and lives in Empire Township, which is also the residence of Thomas L.; Elizabeth died when three years of age; Martha E. became the wife of John McConnell and lives in Downs Township; Nancy J. married Isaac T. Dawson and lives in Downs Township; Charles Albert is on the home farm. Mr. Buck has been Postmaster of three different offices of Patriot, Ind., and Randolph and Le Roy, in McLean County. He received his first appointment from President John Q. Adams, and served in this capacity under Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler and Polk. He was School Trustee in Indiana, and Clerk and Treasurer of the Board several years. He was Deputy County Surveyor and School Trustee under the Constitution of 1848, and elected a County Judge in 1851, to fill a vacancy. Two years later he was elected for the full term of four years, and re-elected in 1857. He joined the State Militia in Ohio, and when twenty-three years of age was elected Captain of the first company of the 1st Regiment, 1st Brigade and 1st Division of the Militia of that State. The same year he came to Illinois he joined the militia of this State, being soon promoted Adjutant, and in the late war he endeavored to enlist as a Union soldier but was rejected on account of his age.
In politics Mr. Buck was formerly identified with the Whig party and cast his first presidential vote for John Q. Adams, in 1824. He has voted at sixteen presidential elections, and continued a Whig until the abandonment of the old party by the organization of the Republicans. Then he cheerfully indorsed the principles of the latter and has since cast his vote with that party. Mr. Buck was Supervisor of Empire Township four years and served as Justice of the Peace eighteen years. In 1874 he was appointed a Trustee of the Industrial School at Urbana by Gov. Beveridge, and the following year elected a Trustee of Lombard University [ed., Lombard College in Galesburg, IL].
The mother of Mr. Buck, who before her marriage was Miss Berentha York, was a native of Stonington, Conn., and born Sept. 27, 1770. Her father, Amos York, also a native of Connecticut, afterward removed to Pennsylvania, locating in Luzerne County, and being among the earliest settlers of that region, when the country was peopled largely by Indians. In February, 1778, the Indians surrounded his house, took all his goods and cattle, made him prisoner and carried him to Canada, where he was held in captivity for two years. He was then released, but died soon after his return home. His wife was thus left a widow with ten daughters and one son, the youngest a babe at the breast. She removed to Wyoming with her children and was there at the time of the Indian massacre, being one of the few who escaped in a canoe down the Susquehanna River. She afterward made her home in Luzerne County, Pa., and died at the age of ninety years. Mr. Buck is a devout Universalist and contributed largely toward building the chapel in Le Roy; it is named after Mrs. Buck, being known as "Mercy Chapel."
[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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