WILLIAM WIRT RANDOLPH is one of the merchants of Towanda. The ancestry of the Randolph family in the United
States dates back to an early day. Edward Fitz Randolph and Elizabeth Blossom came with their parents from Northampton,
England, to escape religious persecution in that country. Miss Blossom came in the Mayflower in 1620, and Edward
arrived here in 1630. They were married in this country, May 10, 1646, and settled at Barnstable, Barnstable Co.,
Mass., and became the parents of eight children. Joseph, the fifth child, was born in 1656, married Sarah Congdon
in 1687, and they had twelve children; Joseph, the second of these, was born in 1690, married, and became the father
of twelve children. Joseph, the fifth of these, was born in 1722, married Esther Broderick, and they had eleven
children; John, their sixth child, was born in 1752, married Phebe Steele by whom he had eight children, and died
in 1826. Steele, the sixth son of John and Phebe (Steele) Randolph, and father of our subject, was born at Piscataway,
N. J. Oct. 22, 1786, and was married Jan. 25, 1810, to Harriett Runyon, of French extraction. She was born in Middlesex
County, N. J., Jan. 14, 1793. They first settled in Somerset County, N. J., after their marriage, where he followed
the occupation of a miller and which vocation he continued until his death. He died March 6, 1855, in Somerset
County, after a residence there of upward of forty-five years. After his death his wife came to Bloomington, Ill.,
where she lived for some eight years and then, returning to New Jersey, departed this life at Boundbrook, Somerset
County, Nov. 25, 1874. They had seven children Esther R., John S., Phebe A., Reune R., Asa R., William Wirt and
one who died in infancy. Esther became the wife of Peter Kline and departed this life in Macon County, Ill., Oct.
4, 1865; John S. is living at Boundbrook, N. J.; Phebe A. was the second wife of Peter Kline and died at Bloomington,
Ill., July 10, 1868; Reune R. is living at Bloomington, Ill., and Asa is a resident of Summit, N. J.
William Wirt Randolph was born in Somerset County, N. J., Jan. 8, 1834, and lived at home until he was of age. He received his education in the Quaker schools and upon the death of his father came west to Chicago, where he worked at the carpenter's trade about six months. He then went to Decatur, Ill., and there worked at the same trade for something over a year, when he came to Bloomington, this county. Arriving here in 1856, he began working at his trade and was thus occupied for about sixteen years. During that time, however, he became infatuated with the idea of becoming suddenly rich and the novelty of digging a fortune out of the ground, and went to Pike's Peak, in the spring of 1860. He soon satisfied himself that the precious metal was not to be had in such an abundance as to make him a Croesus, and in January of the following year he returned to this county, having made the journey overland. In 1871 our subject traded for a farm in Blue Mound Township, on which he moved and lived for two years engaged the while in its cultivation. He then sold it, and in 1873 moved to Towanda and worked at his trade for two or three years, after which he opened a restaurant and gradually merged it into a mercantile business. In May, 1878, our subject bought the stock of goods owned by Morrison and Moats of Towanda, and embarking in that business has thus been engaged until the present time. Of course, he increased his stock as the requirements of his patrons demanded, and by honest and fair dealing built up a good and lucrative trade. He now carries a general assortment of all kinds of goods. The dry-goods department of his business is under the immediate charge of Mrs. Randolph. In addition to his mercantile interests, Mr. Randolph is the owner of valuable village property in Towanda, and has succeeded in life by following the dictates of his own judgment and bringing to bear that energy and perseverance with which he is so happily endowed.
Mr. Randolph was married in Boundbrook, N. J., Oct. 18, 1856, to Miss Angeline B., daughter of Andrew and Hannah (Dunham) Drake, natives of New Jersey. Her father died in Dunellen, Middlesex County, that State, Jan. 14, 1873. His widow, the mother of Mrs. Randolph, survives and is at present residing in New Jersey. They had three children who lived to attain the age of maturity: Jonathan, a resident of Wisconsin; Angeline B., wife of our subject, and Barzilla, who is engaged in mercantile pursuits at Baltimore. Mrs. Randolph was born in New Market, Middlesex Co., N. J., Aug. 17, 1835, and has borne our subject six childrenóLillie H., Emma D., Etta D., Asa R., Ella D. and Hattie B. Lillie H. died May 11, 1864; Emma departed this life Oct. 6, 1859; Etta died April 23, 1864; Asa R. is Station Agent at Sterling, Col.; Ella B. died in March, 1870; and Hattie B. is living at home.
In politics Mr. R. is a stanch Republican and cast his first vote for John C. Fremont, in 1856, and has voted for every Republican nominee for President since that time with the exception of Abraham Lincoln first time, when he was absent from the State. Mr. Randolph became a member of the Baptist Church in March, 1854, in his native State. He has been connected with the First Baptist Church of Chicago, First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ill., and First Baptist Church of Bloomington, Ill., and since becoming a citizen of Towanda, has held fellowship with the First Baptist Church of that place. He has been a constant worker in the Sunday school since 1857. He was instrumental in organizing a colored Baptist Church and was the first Superintendent of the Baptist South Mission at Bloomington. He was also the first Superintendent of the Baptist West Mission, now the German Church. Since leaving Bloomington, he has helped to organize, and was the first Superintendent of the first Baptist Sunday-school at Lexington. In 1871 he organized a Baptist Sunday-school at Towanda and has been its Superintendent until the present time. His entire family are earnest workers in the Church and Sunday-school. When the contrabands first came to Bloomington, Mr. Randolph and his sister, Mrs. Phebe A. Kline, with others, got them together and organized a night school, for Mr. Randolph claimed that while the question of suffrage was being agitated the colored man should be taught to read and write that he might know how to vote. Mrs. Phebe A. Kline was a lady of considerable attainments, and for ten years taught a private school at Bloomington with marked success.
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), 664. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.