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McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



WILLIAM B. KENT, one of the early pioneers of Dale Township, and whose portrait is shown in this connection, became a resident of McLean County in 1843, and during a residence of over forty years, has been an interested witness of the various changes that have been taking place in this section of the Prairie State. During this time he has fulfilled his obligations as a good citizen, and has contributed his full quota toward the progress and prosperity of his adopted township. He has lived honestly and uprightly, met his moral and legal obligations in a praiseworthy manner, has identified himself thoroughly with the business and industrial interests of this section, and, as a valued citizen, enjoys the confidence and respect of his townsmen in a marked degree.

William B. Kent is a native of Indiana, and was born in Jones Township, Hancock County, April 23, 1832. His father, Nathaniel Kent, was a native of Mason County, Ky., and his grandfather, John Kent, died there in 1833. Nathaniel Kent learned the trade of a blacksmith at Lexington, whence he removed to Brown County, Ohio, and renting a tract of land, engaged there in farming pursuits. In the meantime, however, as time and opportunity permitted, he continued at his trade, and remained a resident of that section until 1831, when he moved into Indiana, located in Hancock County, and engaged in farming and blacksmithing alternately for the following twelve years.

In the fall of 1843 Nathaniel Kent decided to remove to the Prairie State. He accordingly loaded his household goods and blacksmith tools into wagons, together with his wife and seven children. The entire journey was made overland, and Mr. Kent employed men to drive the teams. They carried their provisions with them and cooked along the route, making their beds in their wagons at night. After arriving in McLean County Mr. Kent rented one room in a house in Dry Grove Township, into which they removed and lived for a time, then rented a house of Roswell Munsell, and also a tract of land. Here Mr. Kent pursued farming operations, and worked at his trade for the following five years. He then purchased forty acres of land lying on sections 8 and 9 of Dale Township, upon which he removed in the fall of 1848. He was prospered in his labors, and in due time made an additional purchase of 160 acres adjoining, lying on sections 16 and 17. As soon as his sons became old enough to manage the farm, he turned the business over to them principally, and applied himself most of the time to his trade for twenty years. Here, Mr. Kent established a comfortable home, which he occupied until his death, which occurred on the 7th of July, 1884.

Mr. Kent was united in marriage in early manhood, with Miss Annie Hawk, who was born in Brown County, Ohio, came West with her husband and survived him over one year, her death taking place Dec. 19, 1885. Their family included thirteen children, ten of whom grew to years of maturity, having been carefully trained in those principles of honor and honesty which had been the secret of Nathaniel Kent's success in life, and of the respect in which he and his excellent and worthy helpmeet were held during the period of their long and useful lives.

William B. Kent was the third child of his parents, and was eleven years old when he came with them to McLean County. Here he attended the common schools and assisted his father around the farm and in the shop. He remained at home until the breaking out of the late Civil War, and then, on the 8th of August, 1862, enlisted as a soldier of the Union, in Co. L, 94th Ill. Vol. Inf. He served with his comrades until the close, having been in the battles of Prairie Grove, the siege and capture of Vicksburg, Ft. Morgan and Spanish Fort, and participated in various other engagements and skirmishes. He marched with his comrades through the States of Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas, most of the time being upon active duty, and returned home unharmed, and with his regiment received his honorable discharge at Springfield, Ill., on the 9th of August, 1865.

After his return from the army, Mr. Kent resumed his farming operations on the old homestead, upon which he has resided since that time. Of this he is now the possessor of 120 acres, a good set of frame buildings, and all the necessary appliances for carrying on agriculture after the most approved methods. Mr. Kent is still unmarried, having for his housekeeper his sister, Miss Susan. Our subject is Republican in politics, liberal in his religious beliefs, and for his honest and upright dealings and straightforward business methods, enjoys in a marked degree the confidence and esteem of his associates and fellow-townsmen.

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


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