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Album of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) online

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such sturdy, self-reliant and hopeful young men
as he that began the development of her great-
ness, and carried forward her growth in middle
and later life. Ever since the little band of Pil-
grims established a home on the rocky and frost-
locked shores of Massachusetts, New England has
been peopled by a race of enterprising and adven-
turous men, whose habits of industry and high
moral character have shaped the destinies of the
Nation. It is not strange, then, that the hamlet
planted by their descendants on the swampy shore
of Lake Michigan in the 303' should become the
commercial, industrial and philanthropical me-
tropolis of America.

Silas W. Cobb, father of the subject of this
sketch, gained a livelihood by various occupa-
tions, being in turn a farmer, a tanner and a tav-
ern-keeper, and the son was early engaged in
giving such assistance to his father as he was able.
When other boys were applying themselves to
their books, he was obliged to employ his strength
iu support of the family. His mother, whose
maiden name was Hawkes, died when he was an
infant, and he knew little of maternal love or care,
growing up in the habit of self-reliance which
carried him through many difficult enterprises
and made him a successful man. He was born
in Montpelier, Vermont, January 23, 1812, and

is now entering upon the eighty-fourth year of
his age. He is keenly active in mind and sound
in body, taking a participating interest in all the
affairs of life.

At the age of seventeen, young Cobb was regu-
larly "bound out," according to the custom of
those days, for a term of years, as apprentice to a
harness-maker, having previously made a begin-
ning as a shoemaker, which did not suit his taste.
Within a twelvemonth after he was "articled" to
the harness-maker, his employer sold out, and the
new proprietor endeavored to keep the lad as an
appurtenance to his purchase. Against this the
manly independence of the youth rebelled, and the
new proprietor was obliged to give him more ad-
vantageous terms than he had before enjoyed.
Having become a journeyman, he found employ-
ment in his native State, but he was not satisfied
with the conditions surrounding him. After nine
months of continuous toil and frugal living, he
was enabled to save only $ 60, and he resolved to
try his fortune in the new country to the then
far West.

Joining a company then being formed at Mont-
pelier to take up land previously located by
Oliver Goss, the young man having but just at-
tained his majority iu spite of his father's re-
monstrance, set out. From Albany, the trip to
Buffalo was made by canal packet, and iu the
journey from home to this point all his little sav-
ings, except $7, were exhausted. The schooner
' 'Atlanta' ' was about to leave Buffalo for Chicago,
and Mr. Cobb at once explained to the captain
his predicament. The fare to Chicago was just
$7, but this did not include board, and Mr. Cobb



was delighted, as well as surprised, when the
captain told him to secure provisions for the jour-
ney and he would carry him to Chicago for the
balance. After a boisterous voyage of five weeks,
anchor was dropped opposite the little settlement
called Chicago. Its hundred white and half-breed
inhabitants were sheltered by log huts, while the
seventy soldiers forming the garrison occupied
Fort Dearborn. And now a new hardship assailed
the young pioneer. Disregarding the bargain
made in Buffalo, the tricky commander of the
schooner refused to let him leave its deck until
his passage money had been paid in full. For
three days he was detained in sight of the promised
land, until he was delivered by a generous
stranger, who came on board to secure passage to
Buffalo. His first earnings on shore were applied
by Mr. Cobb in repaying the sum advanced by
his kind deliverer. Before the boat sailed he
found employment on a building which James
Kinzie was erecting for a hotel. He knew noth-
ing of the builder's trade, but had pluck and
shrewdness, and took hold with such will that he
was placed in charge of the work, at a salary of
$2.75 per day a very liberal remuneration in his
estimation. The building was constructed of logs
and unplaned boards, and did not require a very
high order of architectural skill, but within a
few days a man, seeking the position, called at-
tention to the lack of experience on the part of
the youthful superintendent, and clinched the
matter by offering to do the work for fifty cents
less per day.

Mr. Cobb now invested his earnings in a stock
of trinkets and began to trade with the Indians,
by which he secured a little capital, and resolved
to erect a building of his own and go into busi-
ness. The nearest sawmill was at Plainfield, forty
miles southwest of Chicago, across unbroken
prairies. Getting his directions from an Indian,
Mr. Cobb set out on foot to purchase the lumber
for his building. There being no trail, he was
guided solely by the groves which grew at long
intervals, and found only one human habitation
on the way. From one of the settlers at Plain-
field he secured the use of three yoke of oxen and
a wagon, with which to bring home his purchase

of lumber. He was but fairly started when a
three-days rain set in, and the surface of the
prairies became so soft that the wagon sank deep
in the mud, making progress almost impossible
and compelling an occasional lightening of the
load by throwing off a part. After sleeping three
nights on the wagon with such shelter as could
be made with boards from the load, with the rain
beating down pitilessly and the wolves' howling
the only accompaniment, he arrived at the Des
Plaines River, still twelve miles from his destina-
tion. The stream was so swollen by the rains
that it was impossible to cross with the wagon,
and the balance of the load was thrown off and
the oxen turned loose to find their way back to
their owner, which they did without accident.
After the rains were over and the ground became
settled, the trip was repeated, the lumber recov-
ered and brought safely to Chicago. These are
some of the experiences of the pioneer, and can
never be forgotten by those who pass through

When Mr. Cobb had completed his building,
which was two stories in height, he rented the
upper story, and began business on the ground
floor. The capital consisted of $30, furnished by
Mr. Goss, who was a partner in the venture, and
was invested in stock for a harness shop. The
industry and business ability of the working part-
ner caused the enterprise to prosper and grow,
and at the end of a year he withdrew and set
up business on his individual account in larger
quarters. His business continued to grow, and
in 1848 he sold out at a good advance. He then
engaged in the general boot and shoe, hide and
leather trade, in partnership with William Os-
borne, and found success beyond his fondest an-
ticipations, and in 1852 he retired from mercan-
tile operations. About the same time, he was
appointed executor of the estate of Joel Matteson
and guardian of the latter's five children. When
this trust closed in 1866, the estate was found to
have been vastly benefited by his shrewd man-
agement of the trust.

With characteristic foresight, Mr. Cobb early
began to invest in Chicago realty, and the wisdom
of his calculations has been abundantly demon-


strated. He has also been identified with semi-
public enterprises, or those which largely con-
cerned and benefited the city, while yielding a
return to the investors. In 1855 he was elected
a Director of the Chicago Gas Light and Coke
Company, and subsequently one of the Board of
Managers. This position he held until he sold
his interest and retired from the company in 1887.
It was his executive ability which was largely re-
sponsible for the establishment of cable roads in
the city, those on State Street and Wabash Ave-
nue being constructed under his advice and direc-
tion, while President of the Chicago City Railway.
He is still active in the councils of that company,
as well as of the West Division horse railway.
For many years he was among the controlling
members of the Chicago & Galena Union and
Beloit & Madison Railroads, now a part of the
Northwestern System (see biography of John B.
Turner). Mr. Cobb is a Director of the National
Bank of Illinois, and several blocks of fine build-
ings in the business district contribute to his in-
come, as the result of his faith in the city and
sagacity in selection.

While being prospered, he has not forgotten to
add to his own felicity by contributing to the happi-
ness of others. He has been one of the kindest
husbands and fathers, and not only his family but
the city of his home have often shared in his bene-
factions. When the effort to raise $1,000,000 for
the buildings of the new University of Chicago
was straining every resource of the Trustees, Mr.
Cobb came forward unsolicited and donated $150,-
ooo, assuring the success of the movement. The
"History of Chicago," by John Moses, says: "It
is believed that up to the time when this subscrip-
tion was made, few, if any, greater ones had ever
been made to education by a Chicago citizen at
one time. A noble building, the Cobb Lecture
Hall, now stands on the University campus, a
monument of the builder's liberality and public
spirit. As long as the great university endures,
this memorial of Silas B. Cobb's life will stand,
the corporation having pledged to rebuild the hall
if it should be destroyed." The Presbyterian
Hospital and Humane Society of Chicago are also
among the beneficiaries of his generosity, and Mr.

Cobb will be remembered as one of the city's
largest benefactors, as well as a successful busi-
ness man.

In 1840 Mr. Cobb married Miss Maria, daugh-
ter of Daniel Warren, whose biography appears
elsewhere in this work. He thus describes his
first meeting with his future bride: "I arrived
in Chicago in the spring of 1833. In October of
the same year I was occupying my new shop op-
posite the Kinzie Hotel in the building of which
my first dollar was earned in Chicago. Standing
at my shop one afternoon, talking with a neigh-
bor, my attention was attracted by the arrival at
the hotel of a settler's wagon from the East. With
my apron on and sleeves rolled up, I went with
my neighbor to greet the weary travelers and to
welcome them to the hospitalities of Fort Dear-
born, in accordance with the free and easy cus-
toms of 'high society' in those days. * * * *
There were several young women in the party,
two of them twin sisters, whom I thought partic-
ularly attractive, so much so that I remarked to
my friend, after they had departed, that when I
was prosperous enough so that my pantaloons and
brogans could be made to meet, I was going to
look up those twin sisters and marry one of them
or die in trying." The same pertinacity and
acumen which characterized his every undertak-
ing carried him through seven years of toil and
privation until he had won the prize, which in-
deed she proved to be. Their wedding took place
on the zyth of October. Her twin sister married
Jerome Beecher (for sketch of whom see another

Mrs. Cobb passed away on the loth of May,
1888. Of her six children, only two survive.
Two daughters died in infancy, and Walter, the
first-born and only son, and Lenore, wife of Joseph
G. Coleman, are also deceased. The others are:
Maria Louisa, wife of William B. Walker, and
Bertha, widow of the late William Armour.

Being a man of firm principle, Mr. Cobb has
always adhered to a few simple rules of conduct,
in the adoption of which any youth may hope to
win moderate success, at least. He early discov-
ered the disadvantage of being in debt, and made
it a rule as soon as he got out to stay out. The



other words forming his motto are: Inaustry,
economy, temperate habits and unswerving in-
tegrity. A few more words from the pen of Mr.
Cobb will fittingly close this brief article. On
the guests' register in the Vermont State Build-
ing at the World's Columbian Exposition, ap-
peared this entry over his signature: ' 'A native

of Vermont, I left Montpelier in April, 1833, and
arrived at Fort Dearborn, now the city of Chicago,
May 29th of the same year. I have lived in Chi-
cago from that time to the present day. Every
building in Chicago has been erected during my
residence here."


\ A I known citizen of Chicago and a veteran
Y V underwriter, having been engaged in that
line of business since 1850. He was born in the
Parish of Gilead, Hebron Township, Tolland
County, Connecticut, January 3, 1851. His par-
ents, Ralph R. Rollo and Sibyl Post, were natives
of South Windsor, Connecticut. The former was
a fanner by occupation, and a son of William
Rollo, who, in addition to his agricultural inter-
ests, carried on the business of a tanner and cur-
rier. Their progenitors were among the earliest
colonists of Connecticut, and traced their lineage,
through a long line of English ancestry, from the
famous William Rollo, better known in history
as William the Conqueror.

Ralph R. Rollo died in 1869, at the extreme
old age of eighty-eight years. Mrs. Sibyl Rollo
passed away in 1833, in her fifty-first year. They
were strict adherents of the Congregational faith,
and observed most rigidly the rules of its creed.
The names of their children were: Lucy A., who
died in South Windsor, Connecticut, in 1858;
Evelyn S., who died in Chicago in 1882, while
the wife of Elizur W. Drake; Ralph R., who be-
came a resident of Chicago in 1870, and died in
1872; Henry, who died in childhood; Lucinda
F., Mrs. Solyman W. Grant, who departed this
life at Conneaut, Ohio, in 1845; Samuel A.,

whose death occurred in New Jersey in 1864; and
William E., whose name heads this notice.

The last-named became a student at East Wind-
sor Academy, and completed his education at a
similar institution at East Hartford, graduating
therefrom at the age of eighteen years. It had
been his intention to take up the study of law,
but his father sternly forbade that plan, declaring
that no man could simultaneously be a lawyer
and a Christian. Accordingly he abandoned his
cherished hopes, and in 1850 he went to Colum-
bus, Ohio, as a representative of the Hartford
Fire Insurance Company. While in that city he
was also the agent of the Springfield Fire and
Marine Insurance Company of Springfield, Mass-
achusetts, the State Mutual Fire of Pennsylvania,
and the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Com-
panies. His faithful and efficient management of
the business in his hands soon caused other cor-
porations to seek his services, and in 1858 he be-
came the General Agent of the Girard Fire and
Marine Insurance Company, and during the next
two years established agencies in Chicago and all
the principal cities of the West.

Since 1860 he has been permanently located in
Chicago. In 1863 he organized the Merchants'
Insurance Company of Chicago, which included
among its stockholders many of the most substan-
tial citizens and business men of the city. This


corporation had become well established, and was
doing a most flattering, lucrative business, when
it was overtaken by the great holocaust of 1871,
going down in company with many other or-
dinarily invincible companies before the un-
dreamed-of assault upon its assets. The year fol-
lowing that disaster, through Mr. Rollo's efforts,
the Traders' Insurance Company was re-estab-
lished and made a successful and solid institution.
After two years, owing to failing health and other
great demands upon his time, he turned over the
enterprise to other parties. Since that time he
has been carrying on the insurance agency of
William E. Rollo & Son. This firm manages the

Western Department of the Girard Insurance
Company, and represents a number of other lead-
ing underwriting concerns.

Mr. Rollo was married, in October, 1845, to
Miss Jane T. Fuller, daughter of Gen. Asa Ful-
ler, of Ellington, Connecticut. Mrs. Rollo is a
native of the same state, born at Somers. They
are the parents of two daughters and a son, Jen-
nie Sibyl, Evelyn Lavinia and William Fuller,
the last-named being a member of the firm of
William E. Rollo & Son. Mr. Rollo has adhered
strictly to the business of underwriting, meeting
with success where men of less energy and perse-
verance would have despaired.


many years one of the ablest and most popu-
lar jurists in Chicago, has been thus de-
scribed by previous writers:

' 'Nature designed him for a Judge. His mind
was of the judicial order, and he would in almost
any community have been sought for to occupy a
place on the Bench. The high esteem in which
he was held as a jurist among the entire profession
was the result of a rare combination of fine legal
ability and culture and incorruptible integrity,
with the dignified presence, absolute courage, and
graceful urbanity which characterized all his offi-
cial acts. Like the poet, the Judge is born, not
made. To wear the ermine worthily, it is not
enough for one to possess legal acumen, be learned
in the principles of jurisprudence, familiar with
precedents and thoroughly honest. Most men
are unable wholly to divest themselves of preju-
dice, even when acting uprightly, and are uncon-
sciously warped in their judgment by their own
mental characteristics or the peculiarities of their
education. This unconscious influence is a dis-

turbing force, a variable factor, which more or less
enters into the final judgment of all men. In
this ideal jurist this factor was not discernible,
and practically did not exist. ' '

Judge Rogers traced his ancestry from some of
the most honorable families of Virginia, being de-
scended from Giles Rogers, who emigrated from
Worcestershire, England, to Virginia in the sev-
enteenth century. He settled at the present vil-
lage of Dunkirk, on the Mattapony River, in King
and Queen County. The maiden name of his
wife, whom he is supposed to have married in
Virginia, was Easdn, or Eastham. They were
the parents of three sons and three daughters.
One of the sons, John Rogers, married Mary
Byrd, daughter of Captain William Byrd, who
came from England to Virginia late in the seven-
teenth century. Captain Byrd was a native of
Cheshire, and received from the Crown a grant
of land embracing most of the site of the present
city of Richmond and of Manchester, on the op-
posite side of the James River. John Rogers was
a farmer and surveyor, and lived in King and



Queen County. He also took up land on the
border between Carolina and Spottsylvania Coun-
ties. His initials, with the date 1712, are carved
upon a rock there. Among the descendants
of John and Mary (Byrd) Rogers may be men-
tioned General George Rogers Clark, the noted
Kentucky frontiersman, and his brother, William
Clark, the explorer of the American Northwest,
beside a number of prominent military men, in-
cluding Colonel George Grogham, of Fort Meigs
and Sandusky memory, as well as several emi-
nent statesmen and jurists. Among the latter
was Hon. John Semple, who became a United
States Senator from Illinois.

In the first year of the present century, Byrd
Rogers, a son of John and Mary Rogers, moved
to Fayette County, Kentucky, where he soon aft-
erward died. He had four sons and two daugh-
ters. One of the sons, George Rogers, became
an eminent physician, and died at Glasgow, Ken-
tucky, in March, 1860. He married Sarah Hen-
sley Gorin, a daughter of General John Gorin,
who served in the Continental army, and rose to
the rank of Major during the War of 1812. Mrs.
Sarah H. Rogers was born December n, 1800,
and died in 1870. Dr. and Mrs. Rogers had four
sons and five daughters, and two of the former
became Judges. These were John Gorin Rogers,
the subject of this notice, and George Clark Rog-
ers, who became a Circuit Judge at Bowling
Green, Kentucky, and died there about 1870.

John Gorin Rogers was born at Glasgow, Ken-
tucky, December 28, 1818, and died in Chicago,
January 10, 1887. His primary education was
obtained at the village school, and at the age of
sixteen years he entered Center College at Dan-
ville, Kentucky, an institution famous for its lect-
ures on law, in which he acquired the founda-
tion of his professional knowledge. Thence he
went to Transylvania University at Lexington,
from which he graduated in 1841, with the de-
gree of Bachelor of Arts. He began his practice
in his native town, being a part of the time asso-
ciated with his uncle, Hon. Franklin Gorin, one
of the oldest lawyers of the State.

In 1857 he became a resident of Chicago, where
his talents and ability soon won him a prominent

position at the Bar. In 1870 he was chosen one
of the five Judges of the Circuit Court of Cook
County, a position to which he was repeatedly
re-elected and continued to hold during the bal-
ance of his life. He commanded the universal re-
spect of the people and the members of the Bar,
and, though he was always nominated as a Dem-
ocrat, he received the support of many leading

Judge Rogers always took an active interest
in public affairs, and previous to his elevation to
the Bench he was interested in many prominent
political movements, though he was never a vio-
lent partisan. In early life he was an old-line
Henry Clay Whig, and in 1848, and again in
1852, he was placed on the electoral ticket of that
party in Kentucky. In 1860 he became identi-
fied with the Democratic party, and was placed
on the Bell and Everett electoral ticket of Illinois.
In 1856 he was a member of the convention which
nominated Millard Fillmore for President of the
United States. Had he chosen to pursue a polit-
ical career, he could, no doubt, have held some
of the highest offices in the Nation; but after his
election to the Bench he refrained from taking
any active part in politics, contending that a
Judge should be in all things strictly non-partisan,
and should not lower the dignity of his office, or
subject himself to a charge of prejudice or favor-
itism, or place himself in any position where any
one might think that he had a claim on him for
special favors.

Though not a total abstainer, Judge Rogers
was always an advocate of the temperance cause,
and at one time was Grand Worthy Patriarch of
the Sons of Temperance of the State of Kentucky.
In 1849 he joined the Independent Order of Odd
Fellows, and from that time until his death was
the recipient of numerous honors from the order.
In 1863 he was elected Grand Master of Illinois,
and in 1869 was Grand Representative to the
Sovereign Grand Lodge of the United States. Aft-
er the great Chicago fire, he was selected as one
of the Chicago Odd Fellows' Relief Committee,
and as treasurer of that body received and dis-
bursed $i 25,000. He helped to organize the Char-
ity Organization Society, which was formed to



promote the co-operation of all the charitable or-
ganizations of the city in 1883. In 1878 he was
elected the first President of the Illinois Club, and
was re-elected to that position in 1882. He was
also a prominent member of the Iroquois Club.

Judge Rogers was always popular in society,
where his genial love for humanity and sincerity
of purpose won him a host of friends, and his
name came to be a household word among the
older residents of Chicago. He always manifest-
ed a deep interest in the poor and humble of his
fellow-citizens, and would often stop to grasp the
hand of a man of no social position, while he
might merely pass with a pleasant bow a million-
aire or social leader.

In 1844 Mr. Rogers was married to Miss Ara-

bella E. Crenshaw, daughter of Hon. B. Mills
Crenshaw, who afterward became Chief Justice
of the State of Kentucky. Mrs. Rogers, who
still survives her noble husband, is a lady of high
culture and many accomplishments, and to her
loving thoughtfulness and kindly assistance may
be attributed much of the success achieved by her
husband. They were the parents of four chil-
dren, all of whom reside in Chicago. Henry, the
eldest son, though finely endowed intellectually,
owing to ill-health has not been actively engaged
in business for many years; and George Mills
Rogers, the second son, is a well known attorney
and Master in Chancery; the eldest daughter is
the wife of Joseph M. Rogers; and Sarah is the
wife of ex -Judge Samuel P. McConnell.

Online LibraryJohn MorleyAlbum of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) → online text (page 22 of 111)