ASA CROOK FAMILY
Contributed by: Bradford Matson Merry
Asa Crook Sr. was one of the most notable personalities of Whiteside County Illinois. He holds the distinction of being the first settler, in what would one day become known as Prophetstown, Whiteside County, Illinois. Arriving there, on a permanent basis, June 4, 1834. Asa Crook was one of the founders of the town of Prophetstown when it was laid out in 1838, South of the Rock River. Prophetstown did not become a village until 1859, long after Asa's death.
No history of Whiteside County would ever be complete without the mention of his name. It is here in Prophetstown, Whiteside County, Illinois, that he finally found a place he wanted to settle down in. The calm beauty of this quiet little town, nestled on the Rock River, remains much as it was when Asa first settled on it.
This is the house that Asa Crook built in 1839. It looks today, pretty much like it did back then. A spacious two-story home that would have been admired by friends and neighbors alike. The house didn't always sit in its present location. It has recently been moved from its original location, which was much further back from the road. It is now closer to the highway which is State Route 172. The original location was just behind where it sets now, but much. When funds permit, the home will be restored.
None of the Crook family are left here in Prophetstown - but we still feel their presence. The Whiteside County History Book by Bent-Wilson written in 1877 says it best and I quote from it.
On Page 304 it is referenced - "On the 4th of June, 1834, Asa Crook and his family, consisting of his wife, four sons and five daughters, and Norman and Alexander Seely, arrived at the mouth of Coon Creek, and made a claim where Wm. A. Taylor's farm now is." Further on it is related - "Mr. Crook lived in his wagon for thre weeks, and then made a lodge, covering it with hickory bark, in which he lived all summer. In the fall he erected a log house, calling in his neighbors, the Indians, to assist at the raising. Mr. Crook had come early in May on an exploring tour, and then went back. On his return he passed through Knox county where he hired one Benjamin Brown to come up and do some breaking. This was done and a piece planted to sod corn.
On page 375 a short biography:
Asa Crook (Sr) was born in Rutland county, Vermont, in (9 April) 1790. When nineteen years of age he moved to Erie county, New York, where he remained until 1831, when he came to Indiana, staying there only a year, and then moving to Michigan. His residence in the Wolverine State was of three years duration, and in May, 1834, he came to Prophetstown, and made a claim adjoining the present village. He then returned for his family, and going by the way of Knox county, engaged a Mr. Benjamin Brown there to go up to Prophetstown to do some breaking for him. He arrived with his family on the 4th of June, and as the breaking had been completed, planted it to sod corn, which produced a good crop. Mr. Crook erected a log house that season, and lived in it until 1839, when he built the large two-story frame house now owned by W.A. Taylor. In this house, he entertained many travelers. He was probably the first Justice of the Peace in the county, having been elected to that office in August 1835. He was also Postmaster early in 1836. He was always a farmer, but like many other of the early settlers, made some money in selling claims. Mr. Crook's family was a large one, and endowed with strong constitutions. The children are all still living, and enjoying excellent health. Mrs. Crook (Mary Dustin Crook b 23 April 1791) is with her son Timothy D., in Nebraska, and is now eighty-four years of age. Mr. Crook died in Sharon, Henry county, in 1854. Mr. and Mrs. Crook, the latter being a Miss Mary Dustin, were married in 1811. Their children have been: Theron, who married Miss Nancy Hamilton, and lives in Oregon; Timothy D, who married Miss Elizabeth Barker, and lives in Nebraska; Charles, living in Iowa; Asa, Jr., who married Miss Lucy Cole, and lives in Henry county, Illinois; Lydia, who married Norman B. Seely, and lives in California; Mary, who married Mr. Penwell, and after his death, Andrew T. Bracken, and lives in Portland; Cynthia, who married David Brown, and lives in Iowa; Lucy who married Robert Woodside, and lives in Portland; Sarah, who married P. Baachus Besse, and lives in Portland; Laura, who married Benjamin Mattson, and lives in Henry county, Illinois; and Caroline, who married David Vader, and lives in Iowa.
The History of Henry Co IL, Geneseo mentions - "The next spring, 1837, they laid out Geneseo, that certainly then was as one "crying in the wilderness." On the west, twenty-eight miles distant was Rock Island, to the south and east was the far away small Wethersfield Colony, just starting, and to the south and west was Andover, and forty miles away was Henderson's Grove, and fifty miles away was the little beginning of Galesburg, a log-cabin hamlet; to the east was Princeton, and to the north were three families on Rock River. There were lonely and isolated settlers' cabins at Hanna's, Brandenburg's and Gordon's on Green River and the Crooks and Seelys at Prophetstown."
I have found various accounts of Asa Crook and his children. Some say his children were all born in Hampstead, NH, but this Whiteside County history contradicts this, clearly stating that he lived in Erie County NY during the entire period of his children's births - except for the last child who was born during his time in Michigan. Many Crook Family researcher have also stated that he and his wife Mary both died in Hampstead, NH and I've seen at least one account that he died while living in IN. The Whiteside County History Book was written/published in 1877, so the chances are very good that the writer would have known the Crook family personally. It is my understanding, and belief, that Asa and his wife are both buried in Henry County IL. I have only been able to find Asa on the 1840 Whiteside Co Census as follows:
Children of Asa Crook & Mary Dustin
Lydia Crook 18 February 1813 - 26 August 1879
Mary Crook 8 September 1814
Theron Wells Crook 12 Mar 1816
Timothy Dustin Crook 25 April 1819
Charles Crook 3 February 1821 - 19 February 1883
Cynthia Crook 7 February 1823
Lucy Crook 4 October 1824
Sarah Crook 27 December 1825 - 21 Jul 1907
Asa Crook Jr. 27 January 1827
Laura Crook 4 October 1828 - 15 June 1914
Caroline Crook 1 January 1832 - 31 Dec 1906
Caroline Crook Vader, Laura Crook Matson, Cynthia Crook Brown and Louisa Besse.
Photo taken before 1906
Contributed by: Bradford Matson Merry, Great grandson of Laura Crook Matson: Not sure of the relationship of Louisa Besse
Lydia Crook born 18 February 1813, & her husband Norman B Seeley were probably married before they arrived in Whiteside Co Il. They were living in Jones Co IA in 1850 with six children: George 14, Sarah 12, Norman 10, Ellen 8, Mack 2 and Josephine 6 months. They had an older daughter Mary who married George W. Graft around 1849-50 so she was not on the 1850 Census and another son Charles Raymond Seeley who was born 29 December 1835 who wasn't on the census either. Lydia was born 18 February 1813 in Erie Co NY and died 26 August 1879 in CA. Norman was born 29 August 1808 and died in October 1874.
On page 350 of the Bent-Wilson History of Whiteside County there is this Biography: Norman B. SEELY was born in Genesee county, New York, in 1809. He married Miss Lydia Crook, and came to the Rock River country in June, 1834 with Asa Crook, locating where the village of Portland now is. He remained until 1839, when he went to Jones county, Iowa, where he laid out the town of Rome, built a saw mill, and engaged in farming for many years. He went twice to California, where he built another mill, and losing his health, returned to Portland. He died in October, 1874, aged 65 years. He was a good type of the pioneer, and made many friends wherever his enterprising spirit took him. He built the first house in Portland, merely a hole in the ground, in which he wintered in 1834, working meanwhile in Rock Island, on the Government works. He walked home from that place, a distance of 40 miles, every Saturday night bringing supplies for his family, and returned each Monday morning. His children are as follows; Mary, George, Sarah, Norman, Ellen, Mack, and Josephine. Mary and Norman are dead; George and Mack are in California; Sarah married J. B. Hagan, and resides in Henry county, Illinois; Ellen married James Stewart, and Josephine married H. Jones; they reside in California. Mrs. Norman B. Seely is still living, and is also a resident of California.
Mary S. Crook was born 8 September 1814 in Erie NY. She and her second husband Andrew J Bracken, married 15 November 1840 in Whiteside Co IL, Book A # 38, were living in District 37 of Whiteside Co. per the 1850 Census with three children listed; Nelson 12, James 6 and William age 4. Nelson was actually a son from her previous marriage to a Mr. Penwell (might have been John Penwell), who I can't find a marriage record for and who I have to assume was deceased by 1839/1840.
The Indiana State Library Genealogy Database: Marriages through 1850, the marriage of a David Penwell to a Mary Crook took place in Elkhart Co., IN on Aguust 19, 1832. The Bio of Asa Crook does indicate they were in Indiana 1831 and 1832 before moving to Michigan. Is it possible that this is the same Mary Crook? Her son Nelson Penwell is listed as a Bracken but its unknown whether or not he used that name permanently. Nelson might have acutally been John Nelson Penwell and there is a marriage on record for him to Ortencia Fones 16 June 1867 in Henry Co., IL. License #1867132 (Box A #8). And there is another marriage record for John Nelson Penwell's marriage to Hortense Frances Jones Penwell on 10 May 1909 also in Henry Co., IL. License #10109 (Box 3 #177).
Theron Wells Crook, born 12 Mar 1816, was in Henry Co IL in 1850 with his wife Nancy (Hamilton), born 6 May 1816, who he married in Knox Co IL on 2 March 1836, Book 1 Page 4. Children listed were Asa 13 , Ellen 8, Lucy 6 and Adam age 1. There was another son named Edward born 12 April 1851 (Portland, Whiteside Co IL).
The "Early Days of Smith River California" relates the following about Theron Crook and the Lockwood family: "Another Pioneer Family -- The Crooks, -- Theron Crook Sr. was born in New York in 1816 (12 Mar) and came to Oregon in 1852. They were the parents of eight children. One son, Asa, lived and died in his home next to our Hall where Chester, his grandson, and wife live today. How well I remember the little bench that was just outside the gate and "Uncle Ase" and his old friends used to sit and enjoy the sunshine and talk to their friends as they drove by--not at the pace people pass today, I assure you. Lucy, a sister, came here many years later and married the widowed Peter Maas--and Sister Ellen married George Jones and spent her last years in what is now known as the Brown Apartments, across from the Hall. It is her lovely old clock that you see on the mantel today and Lucy's equally lovely old lamp on the piano."
"The Lockwood Family was also in this great Caravan of Pioneers that crossed the plains together. Ellen Lockwood married Asa Crook and there are not many women who can boast that their mother cooked her Golden Wedding dinner, but her's did! Grandma Lockwood, as she was known by every one who lived here, celebrated her one hundredth birthday right here in this very room. I still can vision her sitting here, with her little lace cap and shawl. A bright little old lady, who still kept her own home and kept house for her son Cassius."
Many thanks to William H Crook, a direct descendant of Asa Crook, through his son Theron Wells Crook, who writes the following:
Asa Crook (Sr. born 27 Jan 1827) is my 3rd Gt Grampa. Gramma was Mary Dustin, born 1791, Mass, who left Illinois for Nebraska with their son Timothy. She is not buried in Nebraska-- likely brought back to Illinois via Union Pacific and buried with Grampa Asa in Henry County. Timothy Crooks descendants still live in Nebraska today and some in Lodi, California.
Theron Crook and Nancy Hamilton, daughter of Deacon Adam and Nancy (Miller) Hamilton of Lynden Township, Illinois, are my 2nd Gt Grandfolks. Grampa Theron on horseback, left Illinois for Oregon in 1852. Gramma Nancy passed away in Illinois 1853. Grampa Theron sent money back to eldest son Asa H. Crook who took his brothers and sisters down Mississippi to New Orleans, bought passage on board a sailing ship, sailed around Cape Horn South America in 1858 to San Francisco, then via coastal steamer to Crescent City, California, and met by father Theron Crook.
**Theron & Nancy had four children: Theron (Jr) 4 Dec 1863, Clara abt 1866, William H. and John b about 1874.
My Gt Grampa Asa H. Crook, (son of Theron) was born at Prophetstown in 1836, married Ellen Lockwood at Smith River Corners, Del Norte County, California, 1861. Ellen having been born in Illinois traveled with her brothers and folks, William and Rebecca (Wilcher) Lockwood via wagon in the 1852 wagon train with which Theron had ridden to the Oregon Country. Asa and Ellen Crook settled on the Pistol River in Curry County, Oregon, where their son William H. Crook was born in 1867.
William H. Crook (b abt 1868)is my Grampa whose 1st marriage of 1890 produced one son, Chester Asa Crook, but his mother Katie Woodruff Crook passed away. Widower William H. Crook, in 1896 married Julia M. Moore. Their youngest son Harvey D. Crook was born here at Pistol River in (28 August )1911 on the Crook Family Ranch. Harvey married Wilda R. Hickok and they produced William Crook. born at Gold Beach, Oregon, 1939, and Ron Crook born at Pistol River, Oregon, 1941.
** William H Crook and Julia Moore had 3 children - Harvey as mentioned above and Byrdie B Crook b 15 May 1902 and Herbert W Crook b 13 May 1905.
Timothy Dustin Crook born 25 April 1819 in Erie Co NY, married Elizabeth Mary Barker the 17th of November 1844 in Henry Co IL # 102. He was living in 1850 Henry Co IL with a daughter age 2. I couldn't read that census very well so didn't quite get the daughters name and didn't find the wife listed.
Charles Crook, born 3 February 1821, was living with his sister Lydia in Jones IA in 1850. I believe Charles returned to IL and married Eliza Newell in 1851. This is yet to be documented. Charles died in Lewis, Cass Co IA on 19 February 1883.
Cynthia Crook, born 7 February 1823 married David B. Brown. They had a son Frank Brown who had a son named Asa.
Lucy S Crook born 4 October 1824, & her husband Robert Woodside married 25 February 1841 in Whiteside County IL, Book A # 47, were living in District 37 in Whiteside County 1850, with no children of their own. But there was a Louisa Matson, age 7 was living with them at this time. She and Robert are both buried in the Shady Town Cemetery, Portland Twp, Whiteside IL.
Sarah Crook born 27 December 1825 in Erie NY, married Peter Bacchus Besse on 5 February 1843 in Whiteside Co Il, Book A # 88. They were living in District 37 Whiteside Co in 1850 with children Eugene 6, Josephine 4, Mariah and George both age 3. Sarah died 21 July 1907, the oldest living person in Whiteside County, at the time of her death. She was 82 years old. Peter was born 3 December 182 in NY and died 17 September 1890. Both are buried in the Shady Town Cemetery, Portland Twp, Whiteside IL
A direct descendant,June Showen tells the rest of the story of Sarah Crook Besse through her son George Bacchus Besse: "I am descended from George Bacchus Besse and his wife Emma Allen. I am still trying to discover how this Illinois man met and married Emma who was born in Raleigh, NC. They were married 9/25/1869 in Il. (I have copy of marriage license). Their daughter Sallie Esteal was born in Il. All in all they had seven daughters. George and family appear in the 1880 Census in Atlanta, Rice, Kansas where George is a farmer. They had moved back to Prophetstown by 1884 where their 7th daughter is born. Their daughters are Sallie Esteal (b) 1/24/1872 (She is my great grandmother), Louisa 1874, Lelia 1869, Daisy 1878, Georgianna, Myrtle and Irene. Family lore retells the story of all the girls sleeping in a large upstairs room. When the giggling got to be too much, their father would threaten to come up and then the girls would happily wait and all throw their pillows at their dad.
My great grandmother, Sallie Esteal Besse, born 1/24/1872 in Prophetstown. She married David Ellsworth Beers who was born in Henry County Il. 1867. They married 11/25/1890 in Geneseo, Il. Sallie was an accomplished pianist. Their children were: Besse Esteal Beers (my grandmother) born 12/31/1891, John Ellsworth Beers 5/21/1895, Emma Ellen Beers 3/11/1900 (named after her two grandmothers) and Paul Everett Beers 10/29/1905. When homesteading opened (after 1905 and pre 1910) in Alberta, Canada, the family moved there. This was not a successful enterprise. They eventually moved to Montana. Sallie was killed in an automobile accident in Great Falls, Montana 8/23/1925.
My grandmother Besse Esteal Beers, born 12/31/1891 in Geneseo, Il. Besse also played the piano. She married John Otto Pobanz (9/30/1901) in Geneseo. John (Jack) was born in Cornwall township, Henry County Il. They also went to Alberta, Canada and homesteaded directly across the road from Besse's parents. Their children were Ruby Irene (my mother) born 9/8/1910 in Moosejaw, Canada, Lillian Fern born 11/14/1912 in Moosejaw and Dale born 1915 in Moosejaw and died in 1918 flu epidemic. Besse and Jack divorced with Besse, eventually going to Auburn, Washington where she and daughter Lillian died of TB. Besse died 11/10/1945. (Mother) Ruby Irene Pobantz (spelling changed) married Arthur T. Eley 2/25/1931 in Choteau, Montana. Ruby was an excellent pianist and graduated top ten of her class and made a commencement address. Their children were: June Audrey Eley (me) born 6/28/1933 Great Falls, Montana, Carole Irene Eley born 10/09/1943 in Great Falls. They also raised Lillian's son, Don E. Johnson after Lillian's death from TB. I have marriage certificate, baptism record (baptized with daughter June with water from the River Jordan. The minister brought some back after his WW2 service in what is now Israel), birth certificate, school records, death certificate. June (me) married Clyde B. Showen, 7/7/1951 in Great Falls, Montana. We celebrated our 50th anniversary several years ago.
Asa Crook (Jr) was born 27 January 1827 in Erie Co NY. He married Lucy Cole on 1 January 1852, Book A # 452, Whiteside County IL. Asa was mentioned in the History of Atkinson Twp., Henry County IL in 1885. It was written that Asa was the oldest settler now living in the township and that he made his claim on Section 18. At first I thought this was in reference to Asa Crook Sr., but then remembering that the elder Asa died in 1854 - this would have to then mean it was Asa Jr.
Laura Crook born 4 October 1828, Erie Co NY, married Benjamin Matson on 11 January 1849 in Whiteside Co IL # 185. Benjamin was born 26 February 1817 NY, and died 4 March 1900 in Genesceo IL. Laura Crook Matson died several years later in State Center, Marshall Co IA on 15 Jun 1914. They had six sons - one of whom was Hartz Emmet Matson who married Bertha Ward on 28 August 1895 in Atkinson, Henry Co IL. Hartz was born in 1872 Henry Co. he died 1929 in AL. Their daughter Dorothy Matson (19 March 1913 -5 May 2001 AL) married William Bradford Merry (1 January 1911 - 5 March 1985). They were the parents of Bradford Matson Merry who contributed this wonderful picture. Following is a written biography for Benjamin Matson written by Bradford Merry
"Benjamin Matson and several brothers and sisters migrated from Rochester, NY via Michigan to Henry Co., IL at the same time as the Crook family was moving to Whiteside Co. Laura Crook and Benjamin Amos Matson produced six magnificent sons, one of whom is my grandfather Hartz Matson. In summary, Laura and Benjamin set up house in Sharon, Henry Co., and had six sons, Francis (Frank) Elwin, Anthony Julius, George Morton, James Braken, Albert Manley and Hartz Emmett Matson. To continue, I will use the words passed on to me by my grandfather Hartz with help from his older brother Frank (born 1850, Sharon, Henry Co., IL)"
"Benjamin Amos Morton Matson (called Ben), lived 83 years. Born Feb. 26, 1817, Pittsford, N.Y. to John and Mary Matson. Died March 4, 1900, Geneseo, Ill. When he was 12 years old they moved to Detroit. In 1835, he and his older brother John, walked to Henry Co., Ill. carrying their possessions in a big handkerchief. Stopped overnight at Fort Dearborn, a swamp on Lake Michigan, now Chicago. Then went to Sharon, Ill, Henry Co. Visited at the Crook home. The two brothers secured land from the U.S. Govt., now the George Matson farm. They lived in the one room log house, taking turns by the week in working away to earn money to run the farm. Finally, Benjamin bought his brother's share, married Laura Alsemina Crook, a neighbor girl on Jan. ll, 1849. They had six boys: Francis, Anthony, Julius, George, James, Albert and Hartz. Frank and Jule were born in the log house. Then they built the frame house where the other boys were born. The house, improved, is still in use. Son George bought the farm; the family still owns it. (This event perhaps can set the date of this writing.)"
"By working very hard through privations, they prospered. In 1888, they moved to a house in Geneseo where they lived until Benjamin's death in 1900. He had never been ill. The after effects of an accident caused his death. A nail flew in this eye years before, putting out the sight. Did not seem to affect his looks or his ability to work."
"Benjamin was Justice of Peace, always looked to as a prominent, exemplary citizen. They were members of the Methodist Church since early in married life, lived conscientiously. Celebrated their Golden Wedding at Manly Matson's in Dwight, Ala. with a number of friends and relatives. After Benjamin's death, his widow (Laura) lived with her children spending several years with sons in Alabama. Learned fancy embroidery after seventy. Beautiful hand sewing and quilting. Enjoyed travel, social events and was always interested in people. Read a great deal. She and her sisters, Cynthia, Lucy, Sally and Caroline had jolly visits together, as gay as young girls during their later years. Laura outlived them. She spent her last days in Huron, S. Dak. with James and family. She died with a long illness there - enlargement of the liver, June 15, 1914, three days before her son Julius's death (in State Center, IA). The sons were pall bearers at both parent's funerals in Geneseo. When anyone made a foolish wish, Benjamin often said, 'I wish I had the largest ship that sailed the seas filled with cambric needles, the eyes worn out of every needle making sacks and ever sack filled with gold."
"He was affectionate but stern in manner, less so in old age."
The above quotations are the only first hand information I have to contribute about Laura Crook and her offspring. Note that I copied the text they way I found it. It came to me in a typewritten form, probably copied from dictation or handwritten notes. I have much more on the Wards of Henry Co., ie Bertha Ward's parents, Joseph and Anna French Ward. Both were born in England. Joseph came over to IL and brought his 5 brothers and sisters, they liked it so much. The six of them did a lot to populate Illinois and the rest of the US. It's a great story.
Of the Matson sons, three moved to Citronelle, AL to homestead in 1895. George Matson stayed in Henry Co., Julius went to State Center, IA and James went to Huron, SD.
Information on Laura Crook Matson contributed by Bradford Merry
Caroline Crook was born on 1 Jan 1832, probably in Michigan. She died 31 December 1906 in State Center, Marshall Co IA. Caroline was married to David Winslow Vader who is believed to have been born in Edwardsburg, MI. He was a civil war vet and survivor of Andersonville, enlisted in Company I infantry 112th. David was captured and left Andersonville alive. His son William was born in Illinois before leaving for Iowa. William's son Delbert is the great grandpa of Tami Vader Bongolan, who contributed this information to us.
David and Caroline's son William lived in Iowa and his son Delbert later moved to McKenzie County North Dakota where Grandpa Alvin (grandpa of Tami) was born and lived his entire life. About the time that Delbert left for North Dakota, William, Uncle Frank and Uncle Jack, and another son, Uncle Lawrence moved to Penticton BC and worked on the Kettle Railroads. William's daughter Olive married a model T chauffer named Ernie and didn't have children
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