JOHN N. WHEELER represents the oldest family now residing in Belleflower Township. He was born in Kalamazoo
County, Mich., Sept. 9, 1853, and is the son of George W. Wheeler, who was born in Connecticut, near the city of
Hartford. William Wheeler, the grandfather of our subject, who followed shoemaking and farming combined, spent
the last years of his life near Hartford, and was a gentleman highly respected in his community for his upright
character and straightforward business transactions.
George W. Wheeler, the father of our subject, inherited the business capacities of his father, and at the early age of ten years went out from under the home roof, ambitious to do for himself. He carried with him a pack containing light dry-goods and Yankee notions, which he peddled through the country, following this occupation successfully for a number of years. George W. Wheeler was the seventh of seven sons who were born to his parents. When he had become tired of peddling, he went into Kentucky and engaged in a plow shop, and thence, after a few years, journeyed to Michigan. He there purchased a tract of timber land, a part of which he cleared, and on which he erected a set of farm buildings.
After providing a comfortable home for his bride he returned to Kentucky and was united in marriage with Miss Helen M. Wilson, a native of Pennsylvania. The young couple immediately started to their new home and were residents of Michigan until 1856.
Thence they removed to Illinois, and after two years spent in Bureau County, came, in 1858, to McLean County. Mr. Wheeler had purchased 320 acres of wild land in Belleflower Township, which comprised the southwest quarter of section 23, and for a part of which he paid $3 per acre, and for the balance lying on sections 23 and 24, he paid $2.50 per acre. He drew lumber from Ludlow, twenty-four miles distant, to erect a house, first, however, building a small stable, which the family occupied before the house was completed. He improved a large part of his land, and lived to see the country, where the deer and wolves roamed wild when he first came to it, develop into prosperous farms.
For some years there was no school accessible, and Mr. Wheeler employed a tutor for his children at his own house, believing a good education to be the best legacy he could leave them.
After a well-spent life, he looked his last upon the scenes of earth, Oct. 26, 1877. Mrs. W. survived her husband until June 28, 1882. The parental family included ten children, nine now living, as follows: Amina, the widow of J. H. Dean, is a resident of Belleflower; Allie M. became the wife of F. M. Doxsee, and lives at Bloomington; John N, of our sketch was the third child; Thomas M. lives in Belleflower Township; Alida V., the wife of W. Q. Garst, and Nettie I., the wife of D. F. Sill, live in Belleflower; George W. lives in Belleflower Township; Frank W. is pursuing his studies in Wesleyan University [ed., Illinois Wesleyan University], at Bloomington, and Nellie is a student of the High School in that city.
The subject of this history was the eldest son of his parents, and received his early education at home, as stated. He afterward attended a district school and completed his studies in Wesleyan University [ed., Illinois Wesleyan University]. When nineteen years of age he commenced teaching, and was thus employed during the winters for three years following, working on the farm during the summer season.
In 1876 he went to Chicago and was employed on a street-ear as conductor. He afterward entered the employ of J. V. Farwell & Co., as department salesman. In the fall of that year his father died, and our subject, resigning his position, returned home and took charge of the farm for one year.
The following year he operated on rented land, and then purchased the lumber-yard in Belleflower, conducting this for nine months, then selling out at the expiration of that time and purchasing a one-half interest in a dry-goods store. He was engaged in merchandising one and one-half years, then sold his interest in the business, and purchased a farm of eighty acres on section 22, Belleflower Township. This he sold in 1883, and then purchased the farm he now owns and occupies. This comprises 160 acres of good land, all enclosed and in a good state of cultivation. The farm dwelling is a shapely and substantial structure, and the barns and out-buildings in all respects fulfill the requirements of the modern and progressive farmer. The marriage of John N. Wheeler and Miss Jennie Conrad was celebrated at her home in West Township, on the 4th of March, 1879. Mrs. W. is a native of Marion County, Iowa, being the daughter of William Conrad, a native of Ohio, who was the son of Adam Conrad, born in Maryland. The latter removed from his native State to Ohio, thence to Indiana, and afterward to this county, where he spent the remainder of his life. The father of Mrs. W. was married in Indiana, and after his removal from that State, settled in Marion County, Iowa, where he remained until about 1860. He now lives in Washington County, Kan. Mr. and Mr. Wheeler have two children, Delia Gracie and George W. Our subject is Republican in politics, and a gentleman always interested in the progress of education and everything that pertains to the welfare of his adopted State.
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), 698. Transcribed by Judy Rosella Edwards.