Stark County IL Biographies - R

Mrs. Mary R. Redfield

In a history of La Fayette it is imperative that mention be made of Mrs. Mary R. Redfield, who from her early childhood has here resided and is numbered among the prominent pioneer women of Stark county. She was brought to this county in her infancy, her birth having occurred in Cleveland, Ohio, May 10, 1836. Her father, John White, was a native of Massachusetts, in which state he was reared to manhood. He was married in Providence, Rhode Island, to Miss Amelia Manning, a native of Pennsylvania, and in the year 1824 they left New England, removing westward to Ohio. They took up their abode upon a farm near Cleveland and while there residing two of their children were born. In 1836 they came to Illinois, making their way direct to Stark county, at which time they settled on a tract of land adjacent to the present town site of La Fayette. Mr. White built thereon a little log house, in which the family lived for a number of years, meeting all of the experiences, hardships and privations of pioneer life. There were also many pleasures to be enjoyed, for at that time there was a spirit of friendliness and helpfulness which is perhaps not as prevalent at the present time. Mr. White was the owner of three hundred and twenty acres of land, which he developed and improved, and he also bought and owned other tracts, making judicious investments as his financial resources increased. He reared his children upon the home place and there spent his last days, passing away at the age of fifty-three years. His wife survived him for several years.

Mrs. Redfield was reared in La Fayette and is indebted to the public school system for her educational opportunities. In early life she took up the profession of teaching, which she followed for two terms, but her hand was sought in marriage by Benjamin F. Smith, and in 1855 she became his wife. For a number of years he carried on farming in Stark county, devoting his energies to general agricultural pursuits until 1865. Although in poor health, he was drafted into the army and sent to the east, but because of his physical condition was sent to the hospital in Philadelphia, where he died on the 22d of June of that year. He left four children: Frank, a railroad man now residing in St. Joseph, Missouri; Amelia, who died in 1910; Carrie May, the wife of Timothy Bailey, living in the state of Washington; and Jessie, the wife of John Ticlow, a farmer of Goshen township.

On the 12th of September, 1867, Mrs. Smith became the wife of Gilbert Redfield, in La Fayette, and they established their home upon a farm near the town, Mr. Redfield being there engaged in the cultivation of the soil for several years. At length they lost their residence by fire, at which time they established their home in the village and Mr. Redfield afterward lived retired until his death, which occurred in 1905. He reached the very advanced age of eighty years and was one of the venerable citizens of the community, honored and respected by all who knew him.

To Mr. and Mrs. Redfield were born a son and daughter: Arthur, who is now an undertaker and funeral director of Spencer, Iowa; and Mary A., the wife of E. F. Jones, who is one of the public officials of the state of Washington and has an office in the capitol at Olympia.

Mrs. Redfield is a member of the Woman's Relief Corps and of the Universalist church and is identified with its various auxiliary societies. She is today one of the oldest residents of Goshen township and Stark county in years of continuous connection therewith. More than three-quarters of a century have passed since she was brought to this county and she is therefore familiar with almost its entire history. She is still quite active and her hearing and eyesight are but slightly impaired. She possesses a very retentive memory and relates many interesting incidents of the early days when Stark county was a pioneer district, in which the work of settlement and improvement was thus being commenced. She has witnessed the many changes that have occurred as pioneer homes have been replaced by modern residences, as candles have given way to kerosene lamps, and these in turn to the gas and electric light. She has seen the building of railroads, the introduction of the telegraph and telephone throughout the state, and her long residence in this county has made her familiar with almost every point of its history.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 128-132. – Contributed by Karen Seeman]


Ira Crandall Reed

One day in the spring of 1838 a youth of nineteen knocked at the door of "Uncle" John White in the settlement of La Fayette and asked for board and lodging. This young man, with visions of a bright future in the fertile west, had left a comfortable home in the Nutmeg state and by stage, canal, lake and river had at last reached Peoria. But now he was weary and footsore, for he had walked the forty miles across the prairie to his journey's end. His sole material possessions, which later followed him by wagon, consisted of a shoemaker's kit and a brass-nailed leather trunk containing an ample wardrobe. His father, too, had given him his time, which in those early days was thought a handsome thing to do. To these he added an active brain coupled with energy and industry. He came of stern New England stock and among his ancestors were those who suffered the privations of the Continental soldier as well as those who endured the hardships of the patriot at home. He was born

November 11, 1818, at Groton, Connecticut, and was christened Ira Crandall Reed. His grandmother, Mary Allen, was related to Ethan Allen of Ticonderoga fame. His father was a soldier in the War of 1812.

Established in his new home, the young tradesman soon had more work than he could do and was known for miles around, for shoemaking was a fine business and the Reeds were masters of their craft. Today the "cobbler" makes us smile, but then everything was made by hand from the cowhide boot of the woodsman to the white satin pump of the bride. Many a needy woman earned her living by doing fine stitching and binding shoes for the shoemaker. In later days the subject of this sketch often spoke of Connecticut's famous men who had risen from the last to the judge's bench, the governor's chair and the senate, among them being Roger Sherman. On Sundays the young folks of the community would gather at some settler's home, often at "The North Pole," as the Cummins cabin, some two miles north of town, was called. From there they sometimes walked to the schoolhouse in Fraker's Grove about four miles away, to meeting, and here the young man met Maria Charles, a girl of English parentage, though she was born in Wales. She was his match in courage, brain and skill. On the 5th of September, 1840, they joined their lives and for just fifty years they toiled together. Material success could hardly fail to come to such a pair. In 1843 a son, Robert Charles, was born, and he grew into a bright, genial, fun-loving boy beloved by young and old.

As his business grew, Mr. Reed employed more and more workmen in the shop, who became his firm friends, for he was a just employer as well as a friendly social man. One of these was the late Dr. Warne of Independence, Iowa. Another lawyer, J.W. Olson, of Galva, Illinois, still recalls his home life in the family as an apprentice and his friendship with Charlie as among the pleasantest days of his youth. While active in the material development of the town, Mr. Reed was not unmindful of its spiritual welfare and was a worthy member of the Methodist Protestant branch of the old South church, built in common by the Methodist Protestants and Congregationalists. The words of his daily morning prayer still linger in his daughter's memory. Preachers of whatever creed found a most cordial welcome in his home. In 1850 lumber was hauled from Chicago for a substantial residence and the boundless hospitality for which the old house was noted was not diminished in the new. A friend once said of its mistress: "She makes each guest 'at home,' whether rich or poor, whether child, day laborer or senator."

About this time congress and the state legislature greatly encouraged the building of railroads throughout the state. Among others the "Air Line" was surveyed directly north and south from Savanna to Alton. This went through La Fayette and hopes were high as eager citizens saw visions of a busy little city in the near future, for the prairie grass still waved where Galva and Kewanee stand. Railroad stock was bought by thousands and soon hundreds of workmen grading the railroad made the village a veritable beehive. Town lots sold as high as one thousand dollars. The Hurd and Reed addition was platted but it was never added, for a mile south of town the "railroad" suddenly stopped, and La Fayette as well as all of little Stark was doomed to wait for many years for the shriek of the iron horse. Prominent citizens, among them Mr. Reed, looked in each other's faces and at the ditch where lay their buried gold. Now the remains of the old "Air Line," a long, green, sloping ravine, form an ideal coasting place for the school children in winter, who little dream of its tragedy of disappointment.

In 1853 this country held its first "World's Fair" -- the Crystal Palace in New York. Mr. Reed visited this with his wife and son. On the way they stopped with relatives in Canada and at Niagara and in the village of Skaneateles, on the banks of its beautiful lake, the home of "David Harum," who was an old horse trader in the place. This was Maria Charles' first home in the new country and here the widowed mother had many friends. Before returning they visited the old New England home, where relatives and friends listened incredulous to the tales of vast prairies and wide fields of Indian corn.

In 1861 the war cloud darkened every home. The son, not yet eighteen, like thousands of his age, said, "I must go." He joined the LaFayette Rifles, Company B., Thirty-seventh Regiment, known as the Fremont Rifles. Ten weeks later Lieutenant Jackson brought home his silent form wrapped in the stars and stripes. Though bowed with grief, the parents did not falter but worked with all their strength to help preserve the Union. The Soldiers' Aid met often in their home, scraping lint from every scrap of linen, winding bandages, packing boxes and doing everything that could be done to aid the boys in blue. Another sorrow came and Ellen, a thoughtful child of seven years, followed her soldier brother. A second son came to the saddened home and brought a gleam of cheer, but still their cup of sorrow was not full, for after two bright, sunny years death claimed the little Edward Sellon. A child of five alone was left of all the four, the daughter Amy, now Mrs. Alva Janes, the writer of this sketch. In 1864 the family moved to a farm adjacent to the town, though the home was a half mile away, across the line in Knox, which they named Maple Grove. Each spring they made the maple sugar, in those days boiling the sap in great iron kettles in the open. Maple Grove Farm still retains its name and fame for sugar, although the grove now has a fair ground in its borders. In the late '60s they took a boy of three, one of the motherless children of Captain Peyton of Galva. This foster son, Anthony Jay, they cherished almost as their own and bequeathed him two hundred acres of land in Iowa.

Having acquired the land in Clarke and Decatur counties of Iowa, Mr. Reed spent much time there in later years and engaged extensively in cattle raising. Centennial year he again made a tour of the eastern states, taking with him his wife and daughter and a niece, Kate Driscoll. At last in 1887 failing strength caused him to retire and the farms were rented, though the home at Maple Grove was still retained. In the summer of 1890 he and his wife went to the western coast in hopes of regaining strength. The trip was much enjoyed but health was not improved. On their return plans were made to celebrate their golden wedding, but the celebration was not to be, for on the morning of his golden wedding day, September 5, 1890, Mr. Reed very quietly fell asleep. Perhaps no man in the community was better known or more respected, for he had lived a generous, upright Christian life.

His widow trod life's path alone for more than sixteen years. Her sympathies were broad. Her zeal in any cause she loved was great. She entered heart and soul into the temperance work and loved to entertain white ribbon women. In 1895 she, with her daughter, attended the world's convention of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in London and gratified a long desire to see once more her native Wales. In 1897 she built and equipped the I. C. Reed library, which she donated to the village. She was a woman of great business ability, frugal yet public-spirited and generous. Strong in will and character, her influence was felt by all who came in touch with her. On the 20th of December, 1906, at the age of eighty-three, she crossed the silent stream and another pioneer had reached the great beyond.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 52-58 – Contributed by Karen Seeman]


R. J. Rewerts

R. J. Rewerts owns and operates two hundred acres of good land on section 27, Penn township, and gives special attention to the raising of high grade stock. His birth occurred in Peoria, Illinois, on the 26th of August, 1860, and he is a son of John R. and Fanny (Westerman) Rewerts, both natives of Germany. They came to the United States in early manhood and womanhood and were married in Peoria in the 50’s. After living in that city for a time they took up their residence upon a farm near Dunlap and later came to Stark county, locating west of Castleton. After farming there for a time they removed to what is now known as the Fred Tess place. Subsequently they removed to a farm

north of Castleton, which belonged to Elijah Holmes, but at length the father purchased a tract of good land a half mile from the Lincoln schoolhouse. The farm was totally unimproved when it came into his possession, but at the time of his death it was one of the well developed places of the locality. He was survived by his wife for several years.

R. J. Rewerts received his education in the schools of Penn Center and remained at home until twenty-eight years of age. He then took up his residence upon his present farm, which comprises two hundred acres, and the fine improvements upon the place testify to his energy and efficiency. He grows the usual crops and also raises high grade stock and derives a gratifying financial return from both branches of his business.

In 1888 occurred the marriage of Mr. Rewerts and Miss Bertha Strange, by whom he has had six children, namely: John, a resident of Marshall county; Fanny, who is keeping house for her brother John; Fred, at home; Elmer, also at home; Etta, in school; and one who died in infancy.

Mr. Rewerts belongs to the German Lutheran church at Castleton and for many years had held the office of trustee, doing much in that time to promote the interests of the church. Politically he is a republican, and for twenty-three years he has been a school director. He has also served for six years as trustee of the Valley cemetery. He has not only won financial success but has also gained the unqualified respect of all who come in contact with him, and his personal friends are many.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 328-331. – Contributed by Karen Seeman]


John Wesley Rist

John Wesley Rist, who owns two acres adjoining Toulon, gives some time to the cultivation of his land but devotes the greater part of his attention to weaving rugs and carpets and to the operation of his cleaning plant. He was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, on the 18th of October, 1853, a son of Martin and Elizabeth (Myers) Rist, both natives of Pennsylvania. In 1857 or 1858 the family removed to Stark county, Illinois, and located in Toulon township, where the father purchased one hundred and sixty acres of raw prairie land. In a comparatively short time he had brought his place under cultivation and as the years passed he continued to improve it. He also purchased other land, and at the time of his death owned three hundred and sixty acres. His first wife, the mother of our subject, died many years ago, and he afterward married Mrs. Elizabeth Morris, who also preceded him in death. He passed away in Toulon in 1909. He gave his political allegiance to the republican party for some time but later became identified with the prohibition party. He never used liquor or tobacco in any form, and all of his sons have followed his excellent example. His religious faith, which was that of the Methodist church, guided his life, and he was one of the most influential members of the local church. Three sons and a daughter were born to his first marriage, and a daughter and a son to his second, namely: John Wesley; Ervin, who died in childhood; Franklin, who is a Methodist minister and is located in Kansas; Sarah Ann, the wife of Joseph Chase, of Toulon; Onetta, who married Mardo Leitch and resides in Iowa; and Benjamin, who is a Methodist minister stationed near Chicago, Illinois.

John W. Rist was reared upon the home farm and followed agricultural pursuits for a number of years although he never found farming very congenial. For five years he resided in Spring Hill, Warren county, Iowa, and subsequently returned to Stark county and operated the homestead for some time. In 1904 he purchased ten acres adjoining Toulon, where he has since lived. He dos a little farming but devotes the greater part of his time to other pursuits. He is an expert weaver of rugs and carpets and has no difficulty in finding a sale for his work. He also has a plant for cleaning rugs and carpets and as he is much interested in mechanics and industrial processes of various kinds he finds this phase of his activity very congenial. Everything that he does is well done, and his work yields him a good income.

Mr. Rist was married in 1879 to Miss Alice M. Goodale, a native of this county and a daughter of Gustavus Goodale, an early settler here. To this union have been born eight children, namely: Charles, a farmer of Toulon township, who married a Miss Massie, by whom he has three children; Winfred James, a resident of Burt, Iowa, who married Miss Emma Winans, by whom he has two children; Martin G., a farmer of Alberta, Canada, who married Miss Lillian Claybaugh and had four children, but two died in infancy; Avery M., of Carthage, South Dakota, who wedded Miss Gertrude Jones, by whom he has two children; Elsie, the wife of Harley Rhodes, a farmer of Goshen township, by whom she has two children; Clara, who married Walter Knapp, of Toulon township, by whom she has four children; Frank, a resident of Galva, who married Miss Ada Greenwood, by whom he has four children; and Gelila, at home.

Mr. Rist is a supporter of the prohibition party as he is firmly convinced that many of the problems of the day have their origin in the liquor traffic. He is also much opposed to the use of tobacco, believing it injurious to health. He and his family are all members of the Methodist church, and he is serving on the official board. His influence is always on the side of reform and righteousness, and there has never been the slightest question as to his integrity. He is well known and highly esteemed.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 133-135. – Contributed by Karen Seeman]


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