Stark County IL Biographies - S

William R. Sandham

William R. Sandham, son of James and Sarah (Connelly) Sandham, was born in Northumberland county, Ontario, Canada, September 23, 1842. His father was born near Preston, England, and his mother at Loughrea, Ireland. The father died in 1847. In 1851 the mother and two children, William R. and John, moved to Herkimer county, New York. The sons were educated in the common schools of New York and at Fairfield Seminary, one of the leading educational institutions in that state, located at Fairfield, Herkimer county. William R. Sandham taught school several terms in Herkimer county. He came to Illinois in March, 1866, and located in Henry county, where he was a teacher for four years. He came to Stark county in September, 1871, to take charge of the Bradford schools.

In August, 1873, he applied for and received a state certificate which is good for life and entitles him to teach in any school district in the state of Illinois. In September, 1873, he assumed charge of the South Side school in Wyoming, which position he held until the end of the school year 1879. During the last named year he purchased the Wyoming Post and later he bought the Wyoming Herald. The two papers were united and called the Wyoming Post-Herald.

In September, 1882, Mr. Sandham was elected county superintendent of schools of Stark county and was reelected in 1886, 1889 and 1894, serving the people in that office from December 4, 1882, to December 4, 1898. By appointment of the board of supervisors he held the same office from December 1, 1891, to December 1, 1902. In recognition of his practical knowledge of school affairs he was appointed in the year 1885 by Governor Richard J. Oglesby a member of the state board of education, which position he held until March, 1893. He was reappointed in 1897 by Governor John R. Tanner and held the position until August, 1913.

Mr. Sandham was one of the organizers of the State Historical Society in 1899 and is still a member of that society. He has written numerous Illinois historical sketches for the Wyoming Post-Herald and a somewhat lengthy appreciation for the Illinois Historical Journal of the Hon. James H. Miller, of Stark county, who at the time of his death was speaker of the Illinois house of representatives and by whose efforts the Illinois Historical Library was established at Springfield.

After retiring from school work, Mr. Sandham was for six years assessor of the township of Toulon, one of the richest townships in central Illinois. He is a member of Wyoming Lodge, No. 479, A.F. & A. M., and was its secretary for six years. He was one of the principal workers in the establishment of the Wyoming public library and was the first president of the library board. He has also been secretary of the Stark County Telephone Company since 1905.

Mr. Sandham was married at Atkinson, Illinois, July 16, 1871, to Rhoda S. Tuttle, who was born in Naugatuck, New Haven county, Connecticut, January 17, 1849. They have had one child, Arthur, who was born December 13, 1874, and died May 15, 1883. On her father's side Mrs. Sandham traces her ancestry back to William Tuttle, one of the first English settlers in Connecticut, who at one time owned a part of what later became the grounds of Yale University in New Haven. On her mother's side she traces her ancestry to Andrew Sanford, who came to Connecticut from England in 1636. She is eligible on both sides for membership in the society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was one of the organizers of the Tuesday Club in Wyoming and was its president for six years.

In 1861 Mr. Sandham's mother married Joseph Schlosser, who in response to President Lincoln's call for volunteers to aid in putting down the rebellion, enlisted in the Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery and was killed at the battle of Weldon Railroad. Mrs. Schlosser was a United States pensioner until the time of her death at Annawan, Illinois, January 31, 1901. Mr. Sandham's brother John lives in Harlan, Iowa. He has two sons: Josiah Dow, of Omaha, Nebraska; and Ralph R., of Harlan, Iowa. His only sister, Mrs. Margaret McCartney, died in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in January, 1913.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 138-142. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


R.M. Scott

While engaged in general farming R. M. Scott also raises a good grade of stock, specializing in milch cows. His place embraces two hundred and fifteen acres of land on section 19, Osceola township, in addition to which he cultivates a rented tract of land. He is one of the worthy citizens that Scotland has furnished to Illinois, his birth having occurred in Roxburghshire on the 9th of September, 1849, his parents being Thomas and Jane Mitchell (Hill) Scott, who spent their entire lives in the land of hills and heather. R. M. Scott crossed the Atlantic to Canada with his grandparents in 1857 and there remained for two years, after which he returned to Scotland, continuing with his parents until 1868, in which year he secured work as a farm hand in that country.

Once more Mr. Scott left his native land in 1873, at which time he made the voyage to the United States and, continuing his journey into the interior of the country, settled in Stark county, Illinois. After working as a farm hand for about four months, he went to Toronto, Canada, where he spent nine months, and then returned to this country. Renting land he lived thereon for a year, after which he settled on section 19, Osceola township, and purchased eighty acres of land. He has since added all of the improvements to the place and now has a well kept farm, the boundaries of which he has extended from time to time until he now has two hundred and fifteen acres, all of which he carefully cultivates in the raising of grain, wheat and other cereals. He also operates eighty acres of land which he rents, and in addition to general farming, he is engaged in the raising of a good grade of stock.

On the 2d of March, 1877, Mr. Scott was married to Miss Mary M. Turnbull, and they have seven children: Maggie Mitchell, who is teaching school in the home district; Anna June, the wife of Earl Liggett, residing in Osceola township; J. W., living near the old home farm; Agnes, the wife of Fred Ferris, also in the same locality; Thomas, whose home is near Bradford; Julia Isabel, the wife of Floyd Dunn of Elmira township and John Henry, at home.

Mr. Scott votes with the republican party upon national questions and issues, but at local elections considers the capability of a candidate without regard to his party affiliations. He has served as road commissioner and school director but has had little ambition along the line of office holding. He and his wife are members of the United Presbyterian church of Elmira, and their influence is always on the side of right, progress and improvement. Three times since coming to the United States Mr. Scott has returned on a visit to his native country, renewing the acquaintances of his boyhood. He returns willingly, however, to America, for in this land he has found the opportunities which he sought and in their utilization has steadily advanced. He brought with him no false ideas concerning chances here offered but realized the fact that industry and perseverance are here unhampered by caste or class. Upon the foundation of diligence and determination, therefore, he built his success, and he is now justly accounted one of the representative and prosperous farmers of his community.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 83-84 Contributed by Karen Seeman]


The Seeley Family

{Stark County and Its Pioneers" by Mrs. E. H. Shallenberger Contributed by Karen Seeman]

Soon after we had entered on the task of collecting matierals for this work we had opportunity for a conversation with Mr. Henry Seeley at Bradford, and gathered therefrom the following reminiscences of early days in that part of the county:

Mr. Seeley was born in Ontario county, New York, in 1805, and so has already measured out his "three score years and ten," but at the date of this interview, was still hale and vigorous, in full possession of all his mental faculties. He has evidently enjoyed few educational advantages, but has naturally quick perceptions, and strong practical sense -- a man of nerve and resolution, well adapted to pioneer life.

When he was but eleven years of age his father removed from Ontario, New York, to Vermillion county, Indiana; here in the "Hoosier State" he grew to manhood, and married in 1831. In 1832, this young couple removed to Peoria county, Illinois, and in 1834, to what has ever since been known as "Seeley's Point," a beautiful grove, two and one-half miles from the present town of Bradford. By this, it will be seen that this man was among our very first settlers. General Thomas had not yet reached Wyoming, or Major Moore, Osceola. Not a settlement had yet been made at what we now call Kewanee, or Wetherfield, or Providence! Boyd, at his grove, eight miles east of Bradford was one of the nearest neighbors, and the old bachelor Grant, had a little hut on what has long been the Holgate farm, Penn township. One cabin near the present village of Wyanet, was the only habitation between "Seeley's Point" and the Winnebago Swamps.

It was in the spring of 1834 that Mr. Seeley built his cabin and established himself at the "Point." During the summers of 1834 and 1835, many adventurous travelers made their way here, looking for homes in this fertile region, and Mr. and Mrs. Seeley exercised with no sparing hand the rough but generous hospitality of those times. He says twenty persons at one time have found food and shelter in the single room he owned and occupied.

A portion of the tribe of Indians known as Pottawatomies still wintered regularly at Walnut grove; with these Mr. Seeley generally continued to sustain friendly relations, and traded quite extensively with them at times; he understood their language and could speak it fluently when in practice. During the latter part of 1835, when he was absent from home, attending to business in Peoria, an Indian came to his cabin, having with him a large bark bag or sack, which he wanted filled with shelled corn, offering therefor, a fifty cent silver piece -- less than half its value at that time. Mr. Seeley's father was the only man about the house, and being old and feeble, naturally shrank from having any altercation with the savage, so he promptly complied with the demand, and the purchaser rode away on his pony, doubtless well pleased with his success.

Not many days had passed until he again presented himself at the cabin door, with a similar bag and a similar piece of money. This time Mr. Seeley was at home, and not having the fear of Indians before his mind, said as plainly as he could that "unless Pottawatomie produced a bigger coin, viz: $1, he should not have the corn." He mounted his poney empty handed this time, and rode away very sullenly. The incident would sometimes recur to the settler's mind, for well he know the Indian would never forget him, or the affront, until in some way the account was balanced.

And it came about in this way. In the winter of 1836-7, when no work was going forward, Mr. Seeley proposed to a new neighbor (a Sturms) to ride with him over to Walnut grove and see what the Indians were doing.

Not far away (probably at Bulbona grove) there was a French trading post, where powder and whiskey, and such like adjuncts of civilization could be obtained, and as Mr. Seeley and his friend approached the grove it was evident the Indians had plenty of both. A truly hideous chorus of whoops and yells saluted their ears, interspersed at intervals with the sharp report of firearms. But the men were well mounted and carried trusty rifles, so nothing daunted they rode forward toward the scene of excitement, and found as is usual among Indians on such "sprees," only one sober man in the whole encampment; it would seem the redman is this much wiser than his "white brothers," they always keep one sober to look after the safety of the rest! On this occasion, the squaws were busy hiding arms and weapons of all sorts, lest their drunken masters should do themselves or others serious injury. Soon a group of desperate looking savages approached our horsemen, bearing among them a small keg or cask of liquor, veritable "fire-water," from which they drank by turns, without stint or measure. They first invited Sturms to partake, which he thought best to do very sparingly, the keg was raised to Seeley's saddle bow, who was preparing to follow the example of his friend, when, quick as the lightning's flash, and Indian sprang to his side, and snatching the precious keg, exclaimed in his own dialect, "mean white man, mean white man, he have no whiskey." Mr. Seeley, although startled for a moment, did not fail to recognize in the excited creature before him, the baffled trader in corn.

The coveted keg was swiftly borne into a neighboring thicket, followed by the howling savages. Mr. Seeley rode away, feeling satisfied that the fued was considered settled.

This gentleman also tells many characteristic tales of the time when he "hauled his crop to Chicago," and then sold his wheat at fifty cents per bushel, and other things in proportion. Mr. William Moore, another old settler was often his companion on these trips.

This Moore was what in common parlance is called "close fisted," and the amusing dilemmas into which this niggardliness sometimes led him, and his companions, furnish themes for many hearty laughs, even after the lapse of years. But as it is not so much fun as facts we are after, we merely record, on one of these expeditions that they traded their wheat for salt, a commodity so essential to the pioneer, yet sometimes difficult to obtain. This salt they sold for $8 per barrel, on Spoon river, "Elijah McClennahan paying ten bushels of as good winter wheat as he ever saw, for one barrel of salt!" Frontiersman as Seeley was, and unused to the modern luxuries of "laid out roads," bridges, and guide posts, he knew how to steer his course by the sun, through the day; by the stars through the night; and seldom lost "his bearings." But sometimes sun and stars would fail him, and when the snow lay deep over the trackless waste filling even the Indian trails to the level, he would become bewildered.

On one of these occasions when returning from the land office at Dixon (we belive,) he was relieved from suspense by blundering on the solitary cabin, referred to, near the present site of Wyanet. Hastily dismounting, he enquired of a woman who answered his summons at the door, "for the way to the head waters of Spoon river." The woman looked embarrassed for a moment, "did not think she could direct him there," but said, "from a rise of ground not far off he could see "Seeley's Point" which she supposed might be in that region somewhere." He did not say he was "the dweller at the point," but mounting his weary horse struck out again across the paririe and soon gaining the ridge now known as Bunker's hill, was cheered by a glimpse of his own grove. There he has lived more than forty years, years too every one of them rich in results; lived to see

"The wilderness rejoice and blossom as the rose,"

his old hunting grounds transformed into fruitful fields -- markets brought to his doors, all the evidences of wealth and cultivation occupying the waste places of old; such have been the experiences common to Stark county pioneers.

Mr. Seeley had a father and brother or brothers, also citizens of Stark county, from its organization. We often meet with their names in studying the old records, but have no further particulars of their lives to record.

And the subject of this little notice, has paid the debt of nature since this work has been in progress.

Very suddenly, we learn, he was called away! Thus they go, these old men, these faces once so familiar!

Soon another generation will possess the land and not an old settler be left to tell the story of the past -- then shall these simple mementos of our fathers acquire a value they possess not now.



Ashton C. Shallenberger
The Columbus journal., (Columbus, Neb.), August 22, 1906
Sketch of Mr. Shallenberger.
Ashton C. Shallenberger was born in Toulon, Stark County, Illinois in 1862. He received his education in the common schools of his town and at the university of Illinois. He moved to Nebraska in 1881, locating first in Polk county, removing in 1887 to Alma in Harlan county. There he engaged in banking and stock raising. In 1897 he was elected democratic member of the Nebraska bi-metallic league and was temporary chairman of the democratic state convention. He was elected to the Fifty-seventh league and was temporary chairman of the democratic state convention. He was elected to the Fifty-seventh congress, being the candidate of the entire fustion party in the Fifth district, defeating W. S. Morlan by only 409 votes. He was defeated by G. W. Norris.


William U. Sickles

No history of the commercial development and activity of Toulon would be complete were there failure to make reference to the record of William U. Sickles, who for thirty-eight years has been engaged in merchandising here and who enjoys in full measure the warm regard and confidence of his fellow townsmen. He was born in Marshall county, Illinois, September 24, 1861, a son of William Sickles, a native of New York. The father was there reared but in early manhood removed westward and settled in Marshall county, Illinois, accompany his father, Christopher Sickles, who was one of the pioneers of that region. William Sickles was married in that county to Abigail Freeman, a native of Dutchess co., New York, born near Poughkeepsie. Her father was a native of England, while her mother came of Scotch lineage. Following his marriage Mr. Sickles was actively engaged in farming in Marshall county and became the owner of two excellent tracts of land there. Upon the old homestead he reared his family but afterward removed to Wyoming, where he engaged in the grocery business for a short time. He met an accidental death, being struck by lightning in 1893. His wife survived him for more than two decades, passing away in the spring of 1914.

William U. Sickles was reared in this state, largely acquiring his education in the schools of Wyoming, although his opportunities in that direction were somewhat limited. When a youth of sixteen years he began providing for his own support by clerking in a store in Toulon and was employed in that manner for several years. In 1881 he removed to Peoria, where he became clerk in a wholesale dry goods house, but after a year he removed to Toulon and for about twelve months was a clerk in the grocery house of William F. Cox. Subsequently he spent several years in the employ of Starrett Brothers and in 1907 he embarked in business on his own account, opening a general store in which he carries dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes. He has built up a very gratifying trade and is regarded as one of the progressive merchants of the city.

On the 13th of December, 1883, Mr. Sickles was married to Miss Julianette Rhodes, a daughter of Charles Rhodes, who was one of the first settlers of this county and is now a well preserved man of eighty-two years yet living in Toulon. In the family are four children: Gertrude E., the wife of George Fell, a farmer living near Lamonte, in Pettis county, Missouri; Edith, the wife of Ray Sweat, a farmer of Peoria county; Charles R., who is opening up a new farm at Walker, Minnesota; Frank L., who is his father's assistant in business and who in April, 1915, married Miss Mabel Stanley, who was born and reared in the town of Wyoming.

Politically Mr. Sickles is an earnest republican and has filled the offices of alderman and city treasurer. He served as a delegate to county conventions and is recognized as one of the party leaders in this section of the state. In Masonic circles he has taken the degrees of blue lodge and chapter and is in thorough sympathy with the teachings of the order, which has as its basic principle a recognition of the brotherhood of mankind. He is one of the active and helpful members of the Congregational Church, as is his wife, who is also an earnest Sunday school worker. Both are widely esteemed in the community and Mr. Sickles, both as a business man and citizen, enjoys the confidence and goodwill of those with whom he has been brought in contact.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 101-102. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


Byron Smith

Byron Smith was born July 28, 1851, on the farm on which he now resides on section 31, Osceola township. He has lived in the county for sixty-five years, and is a representative of one of its old and respected pioneer families. His parents, Asher M. and Phoebe (Stark) Smith, were natives of Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, where they were reared and married. In the year 1835 they came west to Illinois, settling at Wyoming, this state, where they spent the winter, after which they took up their abode upon the tract of land on which their son Byron now resides. The father homesteaded this farm, and Byron Smith still has the original sheep skin deed, which shows the father's title to the property. He arrived in Illinois only three years after the Black Hawk war, which established the supremacy of the white man as rulers of these broad prairies. There were no railroads in the state, and the work of improvement and progress seemed scarcely begun. Chicago had not then been incorporated as a city, and many of the now thriving and populous towns, cities and villages had not then been founded. For a third of a century Asher M. Smith continued to reside upon his farm, there passing away in 1869, when he was laid to rest in the Smith cemetery, established on land which he had given for that purpose. He was a tanner by trade, following that pursuit in the east, and after his removal to the west he started a tannery but on account of the water which he had to use the work did not prove successful, and he then turned his attention to general farming, which he continued up to the time his life's labors were ended. His fellow townsmen appreciated his worth and ability, and frequently called him to serve in public positions. He occupied a number of township offices, including that of collector, while for seven terms he was assessor. His widow continued her residence on the old homestead until 1881, when she was laid by the side of her husband in Smith cemetery.

At the usual age Byron Smith began his education in the district schools, and later he spent one term as a student in the Michigan University at Ann Arbor, but he is largely a self-educated as well as a self-made man. He took over the business of his father when the latter died, being at that time a young man of eighteen years, and he has since given his attention to general agricultural pursuits, his labors being attended with excellent results. He has made all of the improvements upon the farm, save the building of the house. Here he has erected fine barns and a large silo, and he has the latest improved machinery to facilitate the work of the fields. He also raises high grade stock, and its sale brings to him a gratifying financial income. His place comprises three hundred and eight acres of land, and is one of the valuable properties of the county.

Politically Mr. Smith is a republican. For twenty years he has served as school director and for two terms was school trustee. He has no lodge connections, but he attends and supports the Methodist Episcopal church, and he is interested in all those forces which work for the development and improvement of the county along material, political and moral lines.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 104-105. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


Christie Sorenson

Christie Sorenson is the owner of Springdale Farm, a property of one hundred and ten acres situated a mile west of Toulon, on the Logan Lee highway. Forty-five years have come and gone since he arrived in Illinois, for he is a native of Denmark. He was born September 6, 1849, and in his childhood accompanied his parents on their emigration to the new world, the family home being established in Winnebago, Wisconsin. When he was a youth of fifteen he left home and went to Muskegon county, Michigan, where he was employed in the timber woods and sawmills and in fact worked at any employment that he could secure which would yield him an honest living and gain him a start in life. In time he became an expert sawyer and commanded high wages.

In Muskegon county, in 1869, when a young man of twenty years, Mr. Sorenson was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth Walling, who was born in Stark county, Illinois. In 1871 they came to this state, settling in Toulon, where Mr. Sorenson was employed in various ways. He afterward rented land for several years and during that period carefully saved his earnings until he was able to purchase a tract of one hundred and eighty acres on section 25. He took up his abode upon that place and with characteristic energy began its development, residing there for fifteen years, during which his labors wrought a marked transformation in the appearance of the place. He erected a good farm residence, also barns and sheds and in the work of the fields displayed unfaltering energy as well as practical knowledge of the best methods of tilling the soil. In 1908 he rented the farm and removed to Toulon, where he spent the succeeding five years, there purchasing a residence lot and erecting thereon a pleasant home which he still owns.

In 1898 Mr. Sorenson lost his wife, who passed away leaving two children: William H., a resident of Toulon; and Charles H., of Colorado. Both are married. On the 4th of March, 1891, in Toulon, Mr. Sorenson was again married, his second union being with Mrs. Levina Claybaugh, nee Kincade, a widow, who was born in Missouri. By this marriage there were three children, of whom two are living: Clara, the wife of William Goodwin, of Toulon, and Mary Leona, who is a student in the Toulon high school.

In 1913 Mr. Sorenson settled upon his present farm on section 23, Goshen township, and has already begun to make substantial improvements there. In politics he is identified with the republican party, and, while never an office seeker, has served as road commissioner. He belongs to the Odd Fellows lodge at Toulon, in which he has filled all of the chairs and is now a past grand. He is likewise identified with the Modern Woodmen of America and both he and his wife are members of the Toulon Baptist church, in the work of which he is deeply and helpfully interested. He is now serving as one of the officers of the church and he also has a Sunday school class of twenty-one boys, so that he is taking active part in promoting the moral progress of the community. Those who know him speak of him in terms of high regard, for his entire career has been guided by lofty principles and over his life record there falls no shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 269-270. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


I.M. Spencer

I. M. Spencer is to a considerable extent living retired although he still makes his home on his farm on section 11, Elmira township, where he owns two hundred acres of valuable land, and where he has now resided for the long period of seventy-six years. He has now passed the seventy-sixth milestone on life's journey, his birth having occurred on the 9th of June, 1840, about a half mile west of his present residence. There are few citizens of this section of the state who have so long resided here and through three-quarters of a century Mr. Spencer has been a witness of and a participant in the events which have shaped the history of Stark county.

He is a son of Isaac P. and Eunice Clarinda (Gardiner) Spencer, the former a native of Caledonia county, Vermont, and the latter of Onondaga county, New York. In the spring of 1835 Isaac P. Spencer arrived in Peoria county, Illinois, and it was in that county that he was married. The following year he came to Stark county and located a claim, whereon he took up his abode in 1837. He built the first brick house in the neighborhood, his home being on section 10, Osceola township. Not a furrow had been turned nor an improvement made upon his land, and he faced all the hardships and privations of pioneer life in attempting to establish himself in this locality.

While upon his first tract of land he also operated a brick kiln and he made the bricks which were used in the erection of the first brick house in Elmira township, built in 1842. His son afterward razed that house and upon the site erected his present residence. The father occupied the old home until his death, which occurred in 1884, and throughout the entire period of his residence in this county followed the occupation of farming. The work of development seemed scarcely begun at the time of his arrival. The forests were uncut and on the prairies grew the native grasses starred with millions of wild flowers in June, while in the winter seasons the entire countryside was covered with an unbroken sheet of snow. Comparatively few roads had been laid out and the greater part of the land was still in possession of the government, so that the family shared in all of the different phases of pioneer life and later development. The mother passed away in 1873 and was laid to rest in the Osceola cemetery.

I. M. Spencer pursued his early education in a little log school building erected in the midst of the timber, and later he had the benefit of a few terms' instruction in a school at Galesburg. He early began assisting in the work of the fields and was thus busily engaged until the outbreak of the Civil war. He watched with interest the progress of events which culminated in the attack on Fort Sumter and his patriotic spirit was at once aroused. On the 17th of June, 1861, he offered his services to the government and joined the boys in blue of Company B, Nineteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, to serve for three years, or during the war. He enlisted as a private and, possessing musical talent, was called upon to serve as fifer and bugler, being chief bugler of his regiment during the last two years of his service, which was terminated on the 9th of July, 1864, when he received his honorable discharge. He took part in every engagement with his regiment, including the battles of Stone River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Resaca and others.

With a most creditable military record Mr. Spencer returned to his home, having given valuable aid to the country in defending the Union. He had been reared to farm life and resumed agricultural pursuits but soon afterward went into a store at Osceola, where he remained for twelve years. This was one of the first stores of the town and the building occupied was one which had been erected by his father. At the end of his mercantile experience Mr. Spencer resumed farming, in which he continued until 1903, since which time he has lived retired to a greater or less extent, although he still occupies the old homestead, where he owns two hundred acres of valuable land that returns to him a gratifying annual income.

Mr. Spencer was married in 1871 to Miss Rose Franklin, and they have three children: Ralph, who is on a farm near his father's place; Dana, living in Santa Rosa, California, and Raymond, of Kewanee, Illinois.

In politics, Mr. Spencer has long been an earnest and stalwart republican, and he has served as tax collector, for several terms as school director and for many years as school trustee. His wife is a member of the Baptist church, and he attends religious services at different churches in his home locality. He belongs to the Grand Army post at Osceola, of which he is now commander, and he has nearly always attended the state and national encampments, finding great pleasure in this association with his old army comrades. He is a well read man, always keeping in touch with modern thought and progress and well informed on the leading questions and issues of the day. His life at all times has been active, upright and honorable, and there is not one more deserving of mention in this volume than this honored pioneer settler and war veteran.

[Stark County, Illinois and it's People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 10-14 Contributed by Karen Seeman]


George W. Springer

George W. Springer is now living retired in Toulon but for years was one of the active, progressive and successful farmers of the county. He was born in this county May 5, 1845, a son of George Springer, a native of Ohio, who in that state married Christina Fantz, a native of Germany, who was reared, however, in Ohio. After his marriage Mr. Springer followed farming in the Buckeye state for several years, but in 1841 left his old home and drove across the country with a team to Stark county, also brining with him a cow, which seemed in such a hurry to reach this county that she jumped off the ferry at Peoria and swam across the Illinois river, reaching the opposite bank before the ferry. Mr. Springer settled in Essex township, where he purchased some land, becoming owner of a raw tract of one hundred and sixty acres, but with characteristic energy he undertook the task of breaking the sod and tilling the fields. He split rails and fenced the entire place, brought his land under cultivation and erected thereon a good residence and substantial barns and outbuildings for the shelter of his stock. Upon that place he reared his family and spent his remaining days, his wife surviving him for ten years. He was one of the original members of the United Brethren church, of which he served as a trustee. His life was ever upright and honorable, and he left to his family not only a comfortable competence but also the priceless heritage of an untarnished name. His son, George W. Springer, was the fourth in a family of six sons and a daughter, of whom one died in infancy, the others being Noah, now of Toulon; Michael, who in 1862 joined Company E of the One Hundred and Twelfth Illinois Volunteer Infantry and was captured, his death occurring in Andersonville prison; Henry, who is now living retired in Princeville, Illinois; Elizabeth, the wife of James Estep, also of Princeville; and David, a farmer residing near Marshalltown, Iowa.

George W. Springer spent his youthful days in the usual manner of farm lads, early becoming familiar with the work of the fields, to which he devoted the summer months. He is largely a self-educated as well as a self-made man, for his opportunities of attending school were limited. He was married in Stark county, February 14, 1869, to Miss Sarah J. Eckley, who was born and reared in the county and is a daughter of Joseph Eckley, one of the pioneer settlers who came to this state from Ohio. Mr. Springer had up to that time remained upon his father's farm but following his marriage began farming on his own account in Peoria county, his father assisting him to purchase eighty acres of improved land upon which he lived for fourteen years. He made further improvements there, building a barn and otherwise adding to the value of the place. Subsequently he disposed of that property and invested in eighty-four acres of land in Essex township, Stark county, built a barn there and otherwise carried on until 1905, when he rented the place and purchased a residence in Toulon, where he has since lived retired, enjoying a rest that he has truly earned and richly deserves.

While living upon the farm Mr. Springer lost his first wife, who passed away in 1902. Of the three children born of that marriage Charles died at the age of twenty-one years and the youngest, Mary E., died at the age of seventeen months. The surviving daughter is Edith Jane, the wife of C. W. Sherman, of Peoria. Mr. Springer was married in Burlington Junction, Missouri, September 14, 1905, to Mrs. Barbara Barton, who was reared in this county, a daughter of John Barr, who after living in Stark county for some time removed to Nodaway county, Missouri, his home being near Burlington Junction. His daughter Barbara there became the wife of Nathan Barton, who followed farming in that locality.

In politics Mr. Springer is independent and for one term served as supervisor, while for a number of years he has been a member of the school board. Both he and his wife are members of the Baptist church, in which he is serving as a trustee. Diligence has characterized his career at every point. He has worked earnestly and persistently to win his success and he knows what hard labor means, but his efforts were crowned with prosperity and he is now the possessor of a handsome competence which he has justly earned and richly deserves. Those who know him entertain for him warm respect, and he has a large circle of friends in the county.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 114-116. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


I. F. Steward

I. F. Steward, who is devoting his attention to farming on section 4, Penn township, is a native of Stark county, his birth occurring in Osceola township on the 23d of February, 1866. He is a son of Nathan D. and Julia C. (Kinyan) Steward, natives respectively of Maine and Pennsylvania. They were married, however, in Stark county, Illinois, and the father engaged in farming land in Osceola township for many years. He still resides upon his land although he has now given the operation of his farm over to others.

I. F. Steward was reared under the parental roof and received his education in the common schools. He assisted his father until he was twenty-seven years old, when he removed to Penn township and rented land. At length he was able to buy one hundred and seventeen acres in that township, which he subsequently sold, however, buying his present farm, which adjoins his original holdings. He has remodeled the residence and barns and also made other improvements upon the place and keeps everything in excellent condition. His home farm comprises one hundred and twenty-five acres, and he also has an interest in an undivided sixty-five acre tract. He feeds a large number of cattle and hogs annually and derives a good income from the sale of his stock. The success which he has gained is doubly creditable in that it is due directly to his own well directed efforts.

In 1892 Mr. Steward was united in marriage to Miss Stella C. Sterling, and they have a son, Ross E., who is at home. Mr. Steward is a stanch republican and for twelve years held the office of road commissioner, while for many years he served as school director. He belongs to the Odd Fellows lodge of Castleton and to the Modern Woodmen of America at Bradford and is also identified with the Methodist Protestant church, of which his wife is likewise a member. He has thoroughly identified his interests with those of Stark county, in which he has passed his entire life, and his stanchest friends are those who have known him intimately since boyhood.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 270-271. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


The Sturms

"Stark County and Its Pioneers" by Mrs. E. H. Shallenberger Contributed by Karen Seeman]

This is a very large family. The writer had no convenient means of ascertaining how many of this name inhabited, and still do inhabit Stark county. One branch of this genealogical tree seems to have taken root on LaSalle Prairie, Peoria county, at an early day. From there (we think) came Lewis Sturms, among the first names mentioned in our annals, but who must have left again after a few years.

In September, 1834, came Matthias Sturms, or as he was familiarly called "Uncle Tias;" with him, from the state of Ohio came his wife and ten children, one son-in-law, Kirpatrick, and one daughter-in-law, the wife of my informant, Henry Sturms.

Of these children of Matthias, we can record but little, save their names. The sons as we recall them, were Henry, Nicholas, Samuel, Matthias and Simon. His daughters became Mrs. Kirkpatrick and Mrs. Peter Pratt.

Henry married a Miss Osborne, whose family also became residents of the Sturms settlement, and her father was noted among the first settlers as a successful bee hunter.

We have elsewhere had occasion to speak of the characteristics of this Sturms family; their very numbers rendered them of importance in a new county, and as we remember them in their prime; they were all stalwart, active men, of rough exterior but kind at heart.

At the date of our visit to Henry, now an old man, we found him greatly changed. He is in straightened circumstances, and this misfortune is heightened by the loss of sight. Confinement to the house in consequence of his blindness, has robbed him of his early vigor, and he seemed sadly depressed in spirits, asserting that "he knew nothing that could be of use to anyone." But as we strove to divert his thoughts from the sad realities of the present, to recollections of the past "when he was as well off as his neighbors," memory seemed to awake once more, and he discoursed freely of the "good old times."

He spoke of the encampment of Indians at Walnut grove much as Mr. Seeley had done; thought "he and his wife had seen five hundred pass their door in a single day; they were not afraid, had been used to Indians in Ohio, and these Pottawatomies were friendly to the whites." He told us of hunting adventures without end, thinks he has killed deer at all hours from sundown to sunrise, averaging, at a good season of the year, thirty a week. "He knew their licks," and climbing a tree convenient to them, waited their approach and shot them from his perch. "He would then tie them to the tail of his horse with ropes carried for the purpose, and haul them home."

Has dragged in three at a time in this way. To the youthful reader, this may sound like a very improbably tale; our horses would certainly object to such proceedings. But the Sturms were not the only men who brought their game home in this fashion, as plenty of witnesses yet living can testify. They say it required the knack of an experienced hunter to do it successfully, "there was a great deal in knowing just how to tie them on." Henry Sturms further said that one Sunday morning some thirty years ago, as he and a cousin were walking along the bluffs of Spoon river, he spied in the water a slightly wounded buck; he immediately sprang upon his back, jumping from an elevation of about ten feet, and seizing the animal by the horns "ducked him" till he was exhausted and breathless, falling an easy prety on the bank.

They considered it "bad luck" to carry fire arms on Sunday, and on this occasion had in their possession no weapon larger than a pen knife, so proceeded with great care and deliberation to dispatch the poor beast with that; and finally the two men dragged him home (but a short distance) in triumph.

These anecdotes will suffice to show something of the life they lived, and the metal of which they were made.

This man is among those who think the undergrowth or thickets with which our woods now abound are of quite recent growth. He is sure all in the vicinity of Osceola grove, have sprung up since his time. Grapes, plums and crab-apples, he says were very scarce when he first saw the Spoon river county, but wild strawberries were abundant.

It is curious that upon a matter so simple as this, different opinions should exist, some old settlers protesting that when they first saw these groves they were entirely clear of undergrowth, others, as confidently asserting the opposite state of facts.

Mr. Sturms remembers that in his early hunting excursions he frequently came upon the remains of buffalo, thinks they had once ranged through these parts in large herds, but had perished during "the winter of the deep snow," an era we can not date just now, but it occurred some ten or twelve years before the setttlement of the Spoon river country.

Our informant recalls several valleys containing acres of land literally covered with the bones of these animals; one of these lying between his own place and that of Mr. Searles, in Osceola township. He described particularly the peculiar construction of the shoulder bones, which produce the distinctive hump of this species of buffalo, and we conclude he must have gathered his facts from the observation of the remains, as it is not supposable he ever consulted books for such information.

He concludes the buffalo sheltered from the fierceness of the storm in these narrow wooded valleys, but the snow which fell to a depth of four feet on the level prairie, would drift up those gorges and down the hills, and actually bury them alive, and as the intense cold soon crusted it over, there would be no escape from starvation. That the deer perished in a similar manner, about the same time, is a fact well established, and in this connection it may not be inappropriate to remark that elk bones were also found by the early settlers. Dr. Hall remembers a huge skeleton of this animal that lay on the high prairie towards Providence, and served as a "land mark" for years -- its bones glittering in the sunlight, could be seen for miles. So Mr. Sturms' theories are not without collateral support.

Besides the large family of Matthias, senior, there was another Henry Sturms, brother of the former, whose children for the most part are residents of Stark county. Of this family we have even less knowledge. Peter, a local preacher of the Methodist faith, and a well to do farmer lives not far from Bradford in a locality known by the suggestive, but not euphonious appellation of "Hell street." Possibly his philanthropy led him there, that he might beseech of his neighbors to choose better ways. In conclusion we may say of these families, that although they have never been prominent in politics or claimed "high places in the synagogues," yet they have been by no means wanting in religious fervor.

The cabin of "Uncle Tias" was one of the first meeting places of the Methodist fraternity, and the Sturms' school house was remarkable for displays of "the power" and enthusiasm generally, that would astonish the most ardent advocate of camp meeting excitement, now-a-days.

But the present generations, the Sturms of to-day, is quite another being to the Sturms of forty years ago. They are losing the characteristics of backwoodsmen, or frontiersmen, and growing just like their neighbors.

In fact, public schools, equal rights, and Paris fashions are fast obliterating all differences among our western epople, reducing them to a dead level, or as near that as nature permits. This may be right and best, but after all, we rather enjoy contemplating the diversities in the genus homo, and can hardly see how society would be the gainer by making people all just alike, if that were possible.


Charles D. Sturm

An excellent farm of one hundred and sixty acres situated on section 5, Osceola township, pays tribute to the care and labor bestowed upon it by its owner, Charles D. Sturm, who has devoted his entire life to general agricultural pursuits, meeting with very desirable success in his undertakings. He is a representative of one of the old pioneer families of the county, his birth having occurred on section 16, Osceola township, on the 18th of May, 1855, his parents being Isaac and Jane (Stedham) Sturm. The father was born in Shelby county, Ohio, November 11, 1824, and was a son of Henry and Kathrine (Dalrimple) Sturm, both of whom were of German descent. Henry Sturm was born October 17, 1791, in Kentucky, and was married in Shelby county, Ohio, in 1814 to Kathrine Dalrimple, who was born in South Carolina, February 5, 1799. It was on the 25th of September, 1836, that they became residents of Illinois. Here Isaac Sturm grew to manhood and was married March 11, 1849, to Miss Jane Stedham, the wedding ceremony being performed by Joshua Gillfillen, justice of the peace. Mrs. Sturm was born in Wilmington, Delaware, February 7, 1830, and came to Illinois in 1839. Her parents were John and Maria (Robson) Stedham, both natives of Delaware, the former born in 1797 and the latter in 1806. They were married in New Jersey in 1825. Mr. Stedham was of Irish and Swedish descent. He came to Illinois in 1833.

After his marriage Isaac Sturm became a resident of Boyd's Grove, Illinois, but after two years removed to Osceola township, Stark county, settling upon a farm on section 16 in 1851. Mrs. Sturm had come to Illinois with an uncle from Wilmington, Delaware, traveling in a wagon drawn by a single horse. She was then a girl of about nine or ten years and to lighten the load she walked about half of the way. Her father gave her uncle a quarter section of land near the present home of Charles D. Sturm in payment for her rearing until she was fourteen years of age, after which she kept house for her father at the place where Charles D. Sturm now resides. In 1851 Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Sturm located on the farm where their son Charles was born. There they resided for a long period but eventually removed to the town of Bradford, where Mr. Sturm passed away December 11, 1901, at the age of seventy-seven years and one month. For sixty-five years he was a resident of Illinois, and for almost fifty-three years he and his wife traveled life's journey together. He was a democrat in his political views and was called upon to serve in many local offices, the duties of which he discharged with promptness, fidelity and capability. In his business affairs he displayed excellent management, keen discernment and unfaltering enterprise, and was a self-made man whose labors were attended with substantial success. Fraternally he was connected with the Masons, having membership in the lodge at Bradford.

Charles D. Sturm was educated in the common schools of Osceola township and remained upon the home farm until he reached the age of twenty-seven years, during which time his experience in all departments of farm work well prepared him for the conduct of farming interests on his own account. On leaving home he first settled on section 17, Osceola township, where he remained for nine years and then came to his present location on section 5. During the intervening period he has made excellent improvements upon the land, has remodeled the house and has built good barns and other outbuildings, personally doing the work of construction. He owns in the home farm one hundred and sixty acres of rich and productive land, all of which he has brought under a high state of cultivation, and he also has one hundred and sixty acres in Neponset township, Bureau county.

Mr. Sturm was married when twenty-six years of age to Miss Minerva J. Ames, a daughter of Major Andre and Maria (Barber) Ames. Her father was born in Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, in 1809, and came to La Salle county, Illinois, in 1831. He owned and operated a farm near Bradford, Stark county, and in the early days was well acquainted with the old Indian chief Shabbona, who was a great friend of the white people. To Mr. and Mrs. Ames were born seven children who reached man and womanhood and all are still living. The mother died when the children were small, but Mr. Ames reached an advanced age, passing away in 1888.

Mr. and Mrs. Sturm have a hospitable home whose good cheer is greatly enjoyed by their many friends. In politics Mr. Sturm is a republican and for one term he filled the office of assessor but otherwise has never sought nor held positions of political preferment, desiring rather to give his undivided time and attention to his business interests, which are carefully and wisely managed.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 173-175. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


John H. Sturm

John H. Sturm is numbered among the honored veterans of the Civil war who are now residing in Stark county and throughout the period of his connection with the Union army he made a most creditable military record in defense of the stars and stripes. He is now living in Bradford and is one of the native sons of Osceola township, his birth having occurred August 24, 1841. His parents were Samuel and Elizabeth (Phenix) Sturm. His paternal grandfather was Mathias Sturm, who was born in Rockingham county, Virginia, and in his boyhood removed to Kentucky and afterward to Ohio, where he remained until 1832, when he became a resident of Peoria county, Illinois. It was in that year that the Black Hawk war was waging, determining the right of the white man to the land comprised within the borders of this fair state, but there were still many evidences of Indian occupancy throughout Illinois when in 1833 Mathias Sturm came to Stark county. He located in that section now comprised within Osceola township, becoming one of the first settlers of this district.

Samuel Sturm, the father of John H., was born in Shelby county, Ohio, and accompanied his parents on their removal to Illinois. He was married in Stark county, October 4, 1838, to Elizabeth Phenix, a native of Luzerne county, Pennsylvania. Following their marriage they went with two other young couples to Peoria county to attend a camp meeting and all were converted, confessing their faith in Christianity. Mr. and Mrs. Sturm lived together for sixty years, their lives characterized by strict adherence to Christian principles. They settled on land in Osceola township and from the raw prairie he developed rich and productive fields, continuing to engage in active farming almost to the time of his death, which occurred when he was eighty-four years of age. His widow passed away at the age of eighty-eight, both dying in Bradford. Mr. Sturm served as school trustee and was greatly interested in the educational development of the county.

John H. Sturm attended the common schools near his father's home and worked upon the farm through the summer months, early becoming familiar with the best method of tilling the soil and caring for the crops. But with the outbreak of the Civil war he abandoned the plow in order to shoulder the musket and went to the front as a defender of the Union, having enlisted on the 12th of August, 1862, as a member of Company B., One Hundred and Twelfth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He served with that command until honorably discharged in Chicago on the 20th of June, 1865, and took part in many hotly contested engagements. During the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, he participated with his command in the four charges which were made by the Union troops and in that battle there was also much hand to hand fighting.

When the war was over and the country no longer needed his aid Mr. Sturm returned to Stark County and assisted in building the railroad through this part of the state. In 1869 he removed to Oakdale, Shelby county, Missouri, where he began farming, and he is still the owner of his place of eighty acres there, upon which he lived for thirty-two years. At the end of that time he returned to Bradford, where he now makes his home, having a good residence in the town.

On the 28th of March, 1869, Mr. Sturm married Miss Lucy A. Libby, and they have two sons: Oliver Perry, who is engaged in the real estate and life insurance business at Tulsa, Oklahoma; and George Wesley, a wholesale and retail merchant of Billings, Montana. Both of the sons have been very successful in business and are now well-to-do.

In politics Mr. Sturm follows an independent course, save where national issues are involved, when he votes with the democratic party. He has frequently been solicited to become a candidate for public office but has always refused. He has been a lifelong member of the Methodist church, to which his wife also belonged to the time of her death, which occurred five years ago. On the 20th of June, 1867, he took the Master Mason's degree and became a charter member of Bradford Lodge. He also is identified with the Royal Arch chapter at Wyoming, and he and his wife became members of the Order of the Eastern Star. He maintains pleasant relations with his old army comrades through his membership in the Grand Army post at Bradford and proudly wears the little bronze button that proclaims him to have been one of the defenders of the Union during the darkest hour in our country's history.

[Stark County, Illinois and its People: A record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, published 1916, p. 136-138. Contributed by Karen Seeman]


Back to Stark County Illinois History and Genealogy