Winnebago County, Illinois
The first Wetherells to settle in Rockford were Samuel C. Wetherell and his wife Emma Elisebeth. Though he was born and later married in New York State he was from a Vermont family and lived some of his early life there like Rockton’s founder Stephen Mack. Like him they moved west to seek a new life in clean new territories and arrived in Rockton in 1868 having come west from NY State to Belvidere, Ill. 2 years earlier. They lived in Rockton for 20 years before moving into 207, South Chicago Ave, Rockford. Samuel’s ancestry can be traced with certainty back to William Wetherell an early settler in Taunton, Mass. in the late 17 century. However, both his paternal grandparents’ ancestors can be traced back to Mayflower pilgrims through each of their grandmothers (Anna and Sarah Samson) who were half-sisters. Samuel came from a line of farmers. The 1870 census records him as being a farm labourer and by 1880 he was employed by the paper mill in Rockford. At some point he became a teacher and continued to be active in retirement helping neighbours. He was recorded in a newspaper as having fallen out of a tree at the age of 72!
As their arrival in America suggests, the family came from Puritan stock and this trend in religion continued through the generations. Four generations of Wetherells lived their lives in Massachusetts until Simeon b. 1753 in Norton, Bristol, Mass. moved to Grand Isle, Vt. Simeon and his wife Hannah (Presho) had a large family. Levi Wetherell, their fourth child, was Samuel’s father. Levi lived for a time in N.Y. State where he married Nancy Wright. Samuel was born there but the family moved back to Vermont where other children were born.
Samuel and Elisebeth produced 7 children. Mary the eldest was born in Belvidere, Ill. before the family moved to Rockton. She remain unmarried and subsequently moved with the family to Rockford and was still there at the 1900 census but later moved to work at the Sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan. No record has come to light of the date or place of her death.
A son Charles Bryant was born next in 1868. He became a minister of the Metropolitan Church Assoc. (MCA), a holiness movement that was an offshoot of the Methodist Church, pastoring a congregation in Rockford for a number of years at the turn of the 20th century. In 1904 it was recorded in the Rockford Republic that he had become disillusioned with the direction taken by the MCA, particularly the "hysterical movements", under the leadership of Duke Farson and E.L. Harvey. He left Rockford taking many of the congregation with him founding a new independent church in Danville, Ill. He married Golda Thompson, also a minister, of Rockville, Indiana in 1908. The marriage seems to have failed as in 1920 he was alone in Jacksonville, Florida and she was with her parents in Indiana. Subsequently he worked for the ‘Near East Relief Foundation’ a charity set up to assist the victims of the Armenian persecution. He died in Chicago in 1923 having just returned from a working trip to Istanbul and Paris.
Grace b. 1869 and Paul b. 1877 – both died in infancy and are buried in the Rockton Cemetery. A small headstone with name "Grace" marks the grave.
Edward was born in 1872 and moved to Rockford with the family where he spent the rest of his life. He was a printer who moved into newspaper advertising and also edited the DeKalb County Democrat of which he was the proprietor. He married Nettie Lane in 1893 and they had a son Osborne Edward born 1894. Osborne married Hazel Wilcox in 1923. There were no children and they subsequently divorced. Hazel remained a well-respected member of the community serving in the Centennial United Methodist Church nursery where she was known as ‘Aunt Hazel’. She also taught Sunday school and was a counsellor to the youth group. By profession she worked in the insurance business for 50 years becoming one of the first women underwriters in the country. She and Osborne met when they both worked for the American Insurance Company. Osborne remarried to Dorothea St. John in 1941 and there were no children. He died in 1963. Edward and Nettie divorced and in 1903 he married Margaret O’Neil and set up home at 418 Albert Avenue, Rockford. They had two daughters Eileen b.1905 and Miriam b. 1909 the latter living in Rockford until her death in 1998. Edward died suddenly of Myocarditis in 1918. Margaret and the girls lived at 2325 – 10th Street, Rockford. Eileen married Clifford Bietau a local business man (sign writing) in 1921.They had 2 children, Elizabeth (Bette) and Karl. Bette married Robert Dudley Hiner in 1951 and their son Stephen (Steve) still lives in Rockford with his wife, Gloria. They have children and grandchildren. Steve has a sister, Cheryl. Karl married Marilyn Thoren in 1944 and had 3 children; Susan, Robert and Katherine. Katherine lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. Miriam was a prominent Rockford business woman. In 1975 at the age of 65 she married her childhood friend Martin Hawkinson a local developer and realtor. They were responsible for much of Rockford’s development.
William Cullen Wetherell was born in Rockton in 1875. At age five he is recorded as living with the family in Rockford where he grew up becoming a pressman/printer in that town. In 1902 he married Maude Martin of Oskaloosa, Iowa. They had one son Paul Stanley born in Quincy, Illinois. William died in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1909 age 33. Paul Stanley lived to the ripe old age of 101 having spent most of his working life with Walgreen Drug Stores serving in nine states. He retired to S. Carolina with his wife Mary to be near his son Stanley. Stanley is the last to bear the Wetherell surname and is married to Jullie. They live in Chapin, S. Carolina.
The youngest to be born was Miriam Louise the grandmother of this compiler. She was born in Rockton in 1880 moving to Rockford with the family where she grew up. She attended college in Greenville, Illinois for one academic year but the sudden death of her mother prevented her from returning for further study. Instead she attended Mrs Carpenter’s Academy for a term. Sometime between the ages of sixteen and twenty she became involved with the MCA in which her brother Charles was a minister. She served as a missionary in the Gold Coast, now called Ghana, in Africa where she met her husband to be, Charles Wesley Fordham who had been born in Canada. At the time he was married to Ella deTurk who died of malaria in 1911. Charles and Miriam were both sent to Glamorgan, Wales (U.K.) to participate in a revival. They married there in 1913. They had several trans-Atlantic journeys between Britain and MCA headquarters by this time located in Waukesha, Wis. Their final journey to the U.K. was in 1921 when they set up a branch of the MCA in Glasgow, Scotland. Apart from one missionary journey to Africa in the 1920’s they remained in Scotland until their deaths, Charles in 1943 and Miriam in 1956. They had three children, twins Norman and Wesley b. 1915 and Mildred Elizabeth b. 1923. Norman was killed tragically, age 5 during a visit to MCA headquarters in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Wesley and Mildred both settled in California, U.S.A. The living descendants of Miriam and Charles are their grandchildren Norma the daughter of Wesley living in Los Angeles and the children of Mildred, Muriel Ellis living in Scotland, Norman living in Arundel, England, Dona Hagedorn living in Auburn, California, James Smith living in Hollister, California and Norma Jean Clapper living in Riverside, California.
[This history is as complete as its compiler can ascertain. If anyone reading this has further knowledge or photographs of the Rockford Wetherells, it would be appreciated if they contact Mrs. Muriel Ellis email@example.com or by post at "Westlins", Langbank Drive, Kilmacolm, Renfreshire PA13 4PL Scotland, UK]
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