JAMES K. ORENDORFF, deceased, was one of the oldest settlers of Bloomington Township, and died at his home in this township Jan. 1, 1875. He was a native of Christian County, Ky., and was born Dec. 28, 1812, being the first child of William and Sarah Orendorff. William Orendorff became the father of fourteen children by four different wives. (See sketch of Oliver H. P. Orendorff on another page in this work.) The subject of our sketch emigrated North to Illinois with his father when he was only about six years old, his mother having died in Kentucky about two years previously. He remained with his father until he had attained to years of manhood, and was married in Bloomington Township, this county, to Miss Lavina Sayles. The wedding took place at the residence of the bride's mother, May 4, 1837. This lady was born in Howard County, Mo., Jan. 23, 1821, and was the daughter of Elias and Sarah (Sayles) Sayles, natives of North Carolina, of Welsh and English ancestry, but of American parentage and Southern born. Elias Sayles was a farmer by occupation, and after his marriage in North Carolina removed first to Nashville, Tenn., thence to Southern Illinois, afterward to Howard County, Mo., whence they returned, in 1830, to the Prairie State and located in Sangamon County. The father subsequently went to the lead mines near Dubuque, Iowa, and died there Jan. 20, 1835. The mother, with her children, came into McLean County, and settled in Bloomington Township. The parental family consisted of nine children, all of whom except Mrs. O. of this notice have been dead for more than twenty years. The mother, in about May, 1844, went to Iowa, and died there in August, 1853.

After the marriage of our subject and his wife they went to Wisconsin, locating on Fox River, where they remained for four years, thence coming to McLean County, Ill., and settling in Bloomington Township, which remained their permanent home. In his earlier years Mr. Orendorff accumulated a handsome property, but by a series of misfortunes lost the greater part of it before he died. His widow is spending the sunset of her life on a part of the old homestead. She is a most excellent and worthy lady and has many warm friends in this county. Their family consisted of five children, two of whom are deceased; Perry married Miss Elizabeth Belleville, and resides on a farm in Sumner County, Kan.; James married Miss Barthana Quinn, and is farming on a part of the old homestead; his wife died near Shirley in 1878. Mary F. is unmarried and lives with her mother. The deceased are William and Sarah A.; the former was married, and left a wife and family who are residents of this county.

Politically Mr. Orendorff was a Whig, but in 1866 joined the ranks of the Democratic party. His family were closely connected with the history of this township, and were people of rare intelligence, good business qualities and principles of honor and honesty. The family history is somewhat remarkable and is of more than ordinary interest. They are widely represented in the United States, and in October, 1886, held a family reunion in the city of Bloomington, at which were represented large numbers of their descendants, there being about 250 in attendance. The reunion occupied two days and evenings, and was a grand success in all of its features. The exercises were interspersed with speeches, toasts and music, and the various members of the family exhibited many old and valuable relics which have been preserved for more than a hundred years.

The Orendorffs are of German descent. In 1823, Christopher, William and Thomas came to this State, and the first named settled in Logan County, on Sugar Creek. Thomas took up a claim on what is now known as the Stephen Houghton place; he became the father of thirteen children. The Orendorffs of this locality are descendants of William and Thomas; those around Canton, of John Orendorff; those around Springfield, of Joseph, and those around Hopedale and Delavan, of Aaron, Enoch and Esau, the latter being brothers of another branch of the family. The various male members of the family have been represented in the State Senate, in the army, and have occupied various other important positions connected with public affairs. They are principally noted for owning mills of all kinds, and various members of the family have brought out several notable inventions. Capt. John Orendorff patented a reaping-machine similar to that of the McCormicks’, but failed to reach the patent office before they had theirs entered. He patented a wool-carding machine, and spent twenty years trying to perfect perpetual motion.

The Orendorffs in Canton are connected with the famous plow company of that city, and Hon. Alfred O., of Springfield, at one time received the Democratic nomination for State Treasurer, and is now Chairman of the State Democratic Central Committee. They have been intimately identified with the business and industrial interests of the Prairie State since it was admitted into the Union, and have contributed their full quota toward developing its resources and building it up financially and otherwise. At the late reunion several members of the family came from Rondo, Polk Co. Mo., traveling the entire distance of 450 miles in a wagon drawn by a mule-team, being fourteen and one-half days on the road. This simply illustrates a trait of the family, namely, that of sturdy perseverance and a determination to accomplish whatever they set about, and this has been the secret of their success in life, and assisted them to the position which they occupy in the history of the State of Illinois.


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), 128.




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