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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



ANSEL D. HOWARD, of McLean, is senior member of the firm of Howard & Gifford, dealers in hardware. He is a native of Taunton, Bristol Co., Mass., and was born Aug. 18, 1831. His father, Ansel Howard, Sr., was a native of West Bridgewater, Mass., and was born June 24, 1803.

Our subject's grandfather, Simeon Howard, was a native of the same town, and it is supposed that his great-grandfather, Eliakim Howard, was also born there. Eliakim Howard was a farmer there, and Clerk for the town of Bridgewater in early days, and died there. Simeon Howard was a farmer and miller, and served as a soldier in the War of 1812, and with the exception of the time he was in the army, spent his entire life in Bridgewater.

Ansel Howard, Sr., was reared in Bridgewater, Mass., and served his apprenticeship there at carriage-making. When twenty years of age he went to Taunton, where he worked as a jour for one year, and then engaged in business on his own account as a manufacturer of carriages and coaches. After the construction of the Taunton & New Bedford branch railroad he added to his other business that of car-building, carrying on this latter department until 1856, and manufacturing carriages until 1867. He then disposed of his property in the East, and coming to this State located in McLean County, and has since lived a retired life, spending the most of his time with his son, our subject.

Ansel Howard, Sr., in early life was united in marriage with Miss Louisa Wilbur, the mother of our subject. She was born in Easton, Mass., Sept. 5, 1804, and departed this life in Taunton, April 4, 1834. Mr. Howard afterward married Miss Phoebe Bucklin, also a native of Massachusetts, and who died in Fall River, that State, in 1885.

Of the first marriage there were four children: Louisa W. died May 11, 1843, in Taunton; Maria W. became the wife of Daniel McFarland, and lives in Mt. Hope Township; Ansel D., our subject, was the third child; James G. died Feb. 8, 1836, in Taunton. Of the second marriage there was one child, a son, Charles W., who died Feb. 27, 1859.

The subject of this history remained under the home roof and attended the city schools of Taunton until fifteen years of age. He then engaged as clerk in a drug-store, and later in a boot-and-shoe store. When seventeen years of age he began an apprenticeship at carriage-building, serving three years, and then spent two years in a locomotive manufactory. He became remarkably skillful in the use of tools, and after working as a jour in a wagon-shop one year, went into partnership with his father and operated with him until the fall of 1857, and the following spring came to Illinois.

After arriving in this county our subject engaged at farm work with S. J. Chapin for a brief time, afterward going into DeWitt County and working at his trade. There, after eighteen months, the shop in which he was employed was destroyed by fire, and he lost a large number of valuable tools.

He then went to Independence, Iowa, whence he returned after nine months to Waynesville, this State, and from there came to Heyworth in this county, where he built a shop and engaged in the manufacture of carriages and other vehicles four years. He then came back to the Prairie State and this county, and purchasing a farm in Mt. Hope Township, engaged in agricultural pursuits until 1875. He then sold out, and going to McLean engaged in the furniture trade. In 1881 he became associated with his present partner, Laban F. Gifford, and added hardware to his other stock. The firm is on a substantial basis, and doing a profitable and steadily increasing trade.

Mr. Howard was married in October, 1855, to Miss Mary B. Hunter, who was a native of Warren, R. I., and the daughter of William S. Hunter, of the same town and State. Rufus Hunter, the grandfather of Mrs. H., was a native of Rhode Island, and in early life followed the sea in the whaling service. His father served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and his son Rufus was in the War of 1812. William Hunter, the father of Mrs. Howard, followed the sea from the time he was sixteen until he was thirty years of age, and then engaged in ship-building in Warren, R. I.

He left New England in 1858, and crossing the Mississippi settled in Buchanan County, Iowa, and still lives there upon a comfortable homestead. He married, in early manhood, Miss Sarah Luther, who was born in Rehoboth, Mass., and died in Warren, R. I., in 1840.

For his second wife William S. Hunter married Miss Lydia Luther, a sister of the first lady. Mr. and Mrs. Howard have two children Mary L., the wife of Laban F. Gifford, of McLean, and Ella M., who married Willis Snow, and lives in Mt. Hope Township. The parents and daughters are members of the Congregational Church, of which Mr. Howard has been Treasurer and one of the leading members for several years. He has in all respects fulfilled the obligations of a good citizen, and enjoys the friendship and esteem of the community in a marked degree.

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), 298. Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.


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