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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



ROBERT S. HOWARD, of Leroy, has been a resident of the Prairie State since 1858, and has built up for himself a good record as a man of the highest integrity, and one who has exerted a good influence in society. He is an ardent Prohibitionist, earnestly and actively opposed to the use and manufacture of spirituous liquors, and a devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with which he has been prominently connected since 1845. A large portion of his time has been given to the promotion of those ideas which he believes to be for the welfare of the community, socially, morally and religiously, and he has contributed liberally and cheerfully of his means to these ends.

Mr. Howard is a native of Madison County, Ky., and was born June 15, 1827. His father, Ignatius Howard, was a native of the same State, and his grandfather, of English birth and parentage, was one of the earliest pioneers of the Blue Grass region. He served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and yielded up his life on the battle-field as a tribute to liberty of thought and conscience. By his death there were left a widow and two small children, the father of our subject being but three or four years old when his father died. The mother subsequently married Thomas Taylor, of Madison County, Ky., who became a well-to-do farmer. Ignatius Howard was reared on the farm of his stepfather, and lived there until a few years before his death, his last days having been spent in Owen County. He and his only brother, James, served as soldiers in the War of 1812. The maiden name of the mother of our subject was Elizabeth Stalker. She was also a native of Madison County, Ky., and died at the home of her husband in Owen County. The parental household consisted of eight children.

Robert S. Howard was the sixth child and third son of his parents, and remained under the home roof until sixteen years old. He then went to Jessamine County, Ky., and became an apprentice to learn the cabinet-maker's trade. In June, 1846, he enlisted in the 2d Kentucky Infantry [ed., Second Regiment, Kentucky Foot Volunteers], Company F, the latter being known as Jessamine Blues," under command of Capt. Willis [ed., Capt. William T. Willis]. He was mustered into service on the 9th of June, and mustered out late in the summer of 1847. His war experience was in the territory of Mexico, where he participated in the battle of Buena Vista, and where his Captain, Colonel, and Lieutenant-Colonel, Henry Clay, Jr., were killed.

After the close of his army service Mr. Howard returned to his cabinet trade, and in the latter part of 1848 started in business on his own account, in Jessamine County, Ky., and operated there for the following ten years. In 1858 he emigrated to Illinois, and purchased eighty acres of land in Empire Township, this county, where he carried on farming six years.

He then rented his farm and again returned to jour work at his trade in Bloomington, where, after a year thus occupied, he opened a furniture store. He conducted this until 1872, then sold out and came to Leroy and opened a store of the same kind, which he operated until 1883, when he sold out and retired from active business. His homestead comprises twenty acres of land within the city limits, upon which is a good set of frame buildings, and he owns other valuable property in this vicinity.

Mr. Howard was married, Dec. 27, 1848, to Miss Lavina Sageser, who was a native of Jessamine County, Ky., and born Dec. 17, 1830. Her father, Henry Sageser, was a native of the same county and State, and her grandfather, Frederick Sageser, was a native of Germany, whence he emigrated in early manhood, and spent the last years of his life in Jessamine County, Ky. His son Henry, the father of Mrs. H., spent his entire life in farming pursuits in his native county. He was married to a Miss Nancy Woodard, a native of his own country, and they became the parents of thirteen children.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard have no children of their own, but have reared two others. Joseph F. Sageser, the nephew of Mrs. H., was taken in charge by our subject and his wife when six months old, carefully reared and educated and given the best advantages; he is now a practicing physician of Chicago, and a leading member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The other child, a little girl by the name of Annie Cook, became an inmate of the household when six years of age, and remained until her marriage.

Mrs. Howard is a member of the same church as her husband, and has been his active helper and sympathizer in all his good works. Our subject, before the war, was Democratic in politics, when he joined the ranks of the Republicans, but since 1872 has identified himself with the Prohibitionists. He voted for Green Clay Smith in 1876, for Neal Dow [ed, Father of Prohibition] in 1880, and for St. John [ed., John P. St. John] in 1884. In 1876 and 1880 he cast the only vote for prohibition in this township, and has been among the bravest in the opposition which has been attendant upon the efforts to abolish that which brings such untold misery to thousands of human beings.

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), 289. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.


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