William W Davis.

History of Whiteside County, Illinois from its earliest settlement to 1908 : illustrated, with biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume v.1) online

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Online LibraryWilliam W DavisHistory of Whiteside County, Illinois from its earliest settlement to 1908 : illustrated, with biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume v.1) → online text (page 53 of 72)
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years he has confined his attention to office practice.

When ambition is satisfied every ultimate aim accomplished, satiety fol-
lows, effort languishes and industry becomes futile. It is the man who is not
satisfied with present conditions who delights in doing, who finds pleasure in
exerting his powers and in solving intricate problems that becomes a forceful
factor in the world's development. From early youth Dr. Mosher has been
one of the world's workers and his success, so great as to seem almost magical,
is attributable entirely to his own labors. There have been difficulties and ob-
stacles in his path but he has overcome these by determined purpose and
laudable endeavor, and by unfaltering industry, integrity and wise investment
has gradually advanced to the goal of prosperity.


Leander Smith, now deceased, was for many years a well known banker
of Morrison and one of the most prominent business men of northern Illinois.
His business interests, wide in scope and important in character, brought to
him notable success and at the same time proved a factor in the rapid and
substantial development of the localities in which he operated. He arrived
in Whiteside county in 1856 and was identified with its interests until his
demise. He was born February 10, 1819, at Templeton, Massachusetts, and
was descended from Puritan ancestry. The early home of the family was at
Ipswich, Massachusetts, but Nathan and Nancy (Lampson) Smith, the
parents of our subject, were both born at Mount Vernon, New Hampshire,
the former in 1777 and the latter in 1782. They had but two sons, Nathan
and Leander. The father, a woolen manufacturer and farmer, removed to
Templeton, Massachusetts, in an early day and in 1838 took up his abode at
Royalston, where he died in 1849, while his wife passed away there in 1854.

Leander Smith remained upon the home farm until sixteen years of
age, when he became a student in the academy at Ipswich, Massachusetts,
and acquired a good education. At seventeen years of age he taught school,
following the profession for s_ix years. In the meantime he took up the
study of medicine, matriculating in the medical department of Dartmouth
College, from which he was graduated in 1842, at the age of twenty-three
years. He practiced his profession successfully for three years at Richmond,
Vermont, and thence went to Tioga county, Pennsylvania, where the lumber
resources of the district were being developed. He located at Elkland and
from 1845 until 1853 was identified with various interests in the county.
His professional skill won him a large and lucrative practice and his energy
and keen business insight proved strong elements in the success that attended
other business ventures. He became successfully engaged in the lumber
business and was also connected with mercantile projects of considerable


"wtyrnciTV OF ILL'.MC!"


Attracted by the reports concerning the gold discoveries on the Pacific
coast, in March, 1849, he started for California, participating in the life of
the state at the time when the present capital city was but a village of tents
and San Francisco contained only a few houses. There was no well organ-
ized government and many desperate and criminal characters were found in
that region, drawn thither by the opportunities afforded for carrying on their
depredations. Mr. Smith engaged in prospecting on the north fork of the
American river for a year and rendered efficient aid to the administration of
measures to secure protection to the people. He met with good success during
the year of his residence in California and in 1850 returned to Pennsylvania,
where he resumed his former duties and business connection. He afterward
went to Vinton, Iowa, where in 1853 he opened an office for the practice of
his profession, also becoming an active factor in the general business life of
the place. He owned a large tract of government land upon which he platted
a part of the town.

After a year he removed to Lyons, Iowa, and was identified with its
professional and commercial interests until 1856, when he arrived in Fulton,
Whiteside county, Illinois. He was a man of keen business discernment,
readily recognizing and utilizing opportunities; 'and here he devoted his time
to financial projects and enterprises and was also engaged extensively in the
manufacture and sale of lumber for ten years. He also purchased large tracts
of government land in Wisconsin and Minnesota, from which he cut the
timber and then sold the land to those who wished to become permanent
settlers. In 1856 he established the banking house of Smith, Root & Com-
pany, owning a controlling interest therein until 1864, in which year the
financial institution of L. Smith & Company was established at Morrison.
The following year it was converted into the First National Bank, of which
Mr. Smith became president and A. J. Jackson cashier. In 1876 Mr. Smith
took up his abode in Morrison and two years later founded the banking house
of Smith & Mackay, an institution which soon took rank with the leading
financial enterprises of this part of the state. Mr. Smith was also interested
in the real-estate business and owned and assisted in the improvement of two
thousand acres of land in Whiteside county, besides several thousand acres
in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota. He was considered to be the
financial head of Whiteside county and he belonged to that class of typical
American citizens who in advancing individual interests also contribute to the
public welfare.

'In August, 1843, at Richmond, New Hampshire, Leander Smith wedded
Miss Elizabeth Parkhurst, a daughter of Dr. John Parkhurst, of that place.
Her death occurred at Elkland, Pennsylvania, January 31, 1851, and on the
2d of May, 1855, Mr. Smith wedded Miss Dolly A. Allen, a native of Cort-
land, New York. They became the parents of six children, Alice, Anna E..
Frank L., Lewis W., Edward A. and Harry W. The mother was a daughter
of Edward Allen, a granddaughter of Joseph Allen, a soldier of the Revolu-
tionary war, and a great-granddaughter of Zebulon Allen, who was the first
lieutenant in the Colonial army in the struggle for independence. One of the
sons of Leander and Dolly A. (Allen) Smith, Frank L., was born June 26,


1861, at Fulton, Illinois, and attended the public schools and the University
at Champaign. At the age of twenty he entered his father's bank as cashier
and remained in that position until his death, which occurred at Pasadena,
California, in February, 1887. He married Gertrude Thatcher, a daughter
of W. H. Thatcher, a pioneer of this county. He made his home in Sterling
and for many years was county treasurer, but now resides in Morrison. The
marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Frank L. Smith was celebrated in 1886 and his
death occurred the following year.

In 1868 Leander Smith again visited California and noted with interest
the many changes that had occurred in business conditions, in the govern-
ment and in the social and moral life of the city. He belonged to the Masonic
fraternity and was a Baptist in religious belief, in which connection he
accorded to all the right to their individual opinions. He gave his political
allegiance to Jeffersonian democracy until 1848, when he cast his ballot for
Martin Van Buren, the presidential candidate of the free-soil party. From
1858 until his death he was one of the stalwart advocates of the republican
party, and was deeply interested in its success and growth. While at Fulton
he was elected to represent the district in the state legislature from 1862 until
1864 and while a member of the house served on the committee on banks,
corporations, state institutions and others of less importance. He also intro-
duced a number of important bills, including the one for the building of the
Rockford, Rock Island & St. Louis Railroad, now a part of the Chicago,
Burlington & Quincy system. He filled the office of city councilman in Ful-
ton for a number of years, was also city treasurer and for a time was alder-
man at Morrison. In all of these official positions his labors were marked by
a singleness of purpose that never left room for question as to his loyalty or
his patriotism. On the organization of the college of northern Illinois at
Fulton he became a member of its board of trustees and served as its treasurer
until his death, having entire charge of the endowment fund. He died
August 7, 1889, and Whiteside county lost one of its most distinguished citi-
zens a man whom to know was to respect and honor and who, though
eminently successful in business life, ever followed methods which were above
reproach or suspicion.


Edward Behrens, whose business career was ever active, honorable and
upright, left to his family, at his death, an untarnished name. He was born
in Oldenburg, Germany, August 30, 1850, and was a son of Frederick and
Rinsty (Wilms) Behrens, also natives of Germany. In their family were
two children, one of whom died in infancy. After losing his first wife the
father married again and there were two children of that union: Bernard,
who died when a young man ; and August, who lives in Montmorency town-
ship, this county. In 1866 the father came to America with his second wife
and settled in Whiteside county, Illinois, near Dinsmoor. A few years later


he bought a farm in Montmorency township, comprising one hundred and
sixty acres of land, which he brought under a high state of cultivation, suc-
cessfully carrying on the work of the fields for many years. He was born
February 27, 1819, and died April 6, 1891, at the age of seventy-two years,
having for some time survived his second wife.

Edward Behrens acquired a good education in the schools of Germany,
manifesting special aptitude in his studies, and for one season he was a student
in an English school in this country. He was reared on his father's farm,
making his home with his parents until he attained his majority, although
he occasionally worked out by the month. He was a youth of fifteen years
when the family crossed the Atlantic to the new world and for forty-years
was a resident of Whiteside county and an interested witness of the events
which have shaped its policy and formulated its history.

On the 2d of May, 1878, Mr. Behrens was married to Miss Catharine Bon-
gartz, a daughter of Wilhelm and Gertrude (Evan) Bongartz. Mrs. Behrens
was born at Cologne, Germany, and came to America with her widowed
mother and two brothers in 1870, after the French war, her father having died
in Germany when she was six years of age. The death of her mother occurred
in Sterling in 1890 when she was about seventy-two years of age. The family
numbered two sons and four daughters : Elizabeth, the widow of Adam Hut-
ton, of Sterling; Maria, the widow of Martin Roff, of Chicago; Frank Bon-
gartz, who makes his home in Sterling; Agnes, the deceased wife of Robert
Babelick, her death occurring in Germany; Mrs. Behrens; and Henry Bon-
gartz, who lives in Sterling. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Behrens were born three
sons, but all died in infancy.

Following his marriage Mr. Behrens worked for a time in the wire mill
in Sterling and subsequently bought a farm of eighty acres in Montmorency
township. There he lived for seven years and afterward bought another
farm of forty acres. Subsequently he disposed of both of those places and
invested in one hundred and fifty-six acres in Montmorency township but
removed to Sterling, where he established a coal business. After his father's
death Edward Behrens became administrator of the estate and, withdrawing
from the coal trade, took up his abode upon his father's farm, which he con-
ducted for a year. He then sold his interest in the place to his brother and
became a dealer in agricultural implements at Rock Falls in partnership with
Jacob Hoffman under the firm style of Hoffman & Behrens. They continued
together for several years with good success, after which Mr. Behrens retired.
During all this time he retained the ownership of his farm of one hundred
and sixty acres but since his death Mrs. Behrens has sold it to his brother

It was on the 10th of May, 1906, that Mr. Behrens passed away, when
nearly fifty-six years of age. He belonged to St. John's Lutheran church,
having been confirmed in the Lutheran faith at the age of fourteen years. He
became a charter member of the organization of that denomination at Rock
Falls and when he removed to Sterling transferred his membership here. He
was a highly respected citizen, who in every relation of life was found true
to his duties and to any trust reposed in him. He held membership with


the Knights of the Globe and was president of the local organization at the
time of his death. He served as a school director in Montmorency township
and the cause of education ever found in him a warm friend. He was a manly
man, who held to high ideals in citizenship and in business, while friendship
with him was inviolable. Those who knew him entertained for him the warm-
est regard in recognition of his genuine worth, and his death was the occasion
of deep sorrow to many who had known him and had learned to appreciate
his good qualities of heart and mind. Mrs. Behrens still survives her hus-
band and owns a good home at No. 310 Fourth avenue, where she now resides
amid the many friends whom she has made in Sterling.


Man's worth in the world is determined by his usefulness by what he
has accomplished for his fellowmen and he is certainly deserving of the
greatest honor and regard whose efforts have been of the greatest benefit to
his fellow citizens. Judged by this standard, Dr. Lott Southard Pennington
could well be accounted one of the distinguished citizens of Sterling. His
life was ever helpful in its nature whether as a physician, in other business
lines or in the public service. He met, too, with a measure of success that
made him one of the leading landowners of Whiteside county and the strong
determination, laudable purpose and unfaltering perseverance which he man-
ifested constitute an example that is well worthy of emulation.

Dr. Pennington was born at Somerset, New Jersey, November 12, 1812,
his parents being Elijah and Martha (Todd) Pennington, who were likewise
natives of that state. The family numbered three sons and two daughters,
but all are now deceased. Dr. Pennington acquired his early education at
Somerville, Somerset county, New Jersey, attending a private academy there,
while later he pursued his studies in an educational institution at Basking-
ridge, New Jersey. His more specifically literary education was supplemented
by preparation for the practice of medicine and surgery in New York city
and in 1836 he came to the middle west, establishing his home in Jerseyville,
Jersey county, Illinois, where he engaged in the active practice of medicine
until 1839.

Through the following year he was a practitioner in Sterling and in
1840 he purchased a tract of land and turned his attention to general agri-
cultural pursuits. In 1841 he began the cultivation of fruit and ornamental
trees and in this connection did an important work, demonstrating the possi-
bilities for horticultural development in the state. Gradually he built up a
nursery business, in which he continued for fifteen years, having the second
nursery in northern Illinois. He sent out only the best nursery stock and
did much toward promoting the attractiveness of Illinois by reason of its fine
orchards and the shade and ornamental trees used in adorning town, village
and country seat. Along legitimate lines he conducted his business, year
after year adding to his profits and as his financial resources increased he
made purchases of land from time to time until he was the owner of eight

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hundred acres of as fine land as could be found in Illinois, all under cultiva-
tion. He devoted the latter part of his life to scientific farming and kindred
pursuits. He studied closely the conditions of soil and climate and plant
food, made experiments and proved his theories to be practical ideas. He was
not only interested in the conditions of the country as seen at the present
time, but also in the study of geology the construction of the earth's surface
and those periods known in scientific parlance as the coal, glacial and other
periods. He was always a student, carrying his investigations far and wide
into various realms of knowledge. For many years he was a member of the
State Horticultural Society and thoroughly informed himself concerning the
cultivation of fruit, the soil required for its propagation and the climatic
conditions necessary to bring it to perfection. He believed in progress and
realized that there is no such thing as standing still that one must either
advance or go backward and his course was ever forward. He was always
willing to give a bit of advice or speak a word of encouragement when the
opportune moment came and his broad scientific as well as practical knowl-
edge made his counsel of recognized worth in the community.

Dr. Pennington also figured prominently in community affairs as a
public-spirited citizen who withheld his support from no measure or move-
ment calculated to prove of public benefit. In 1861 he was appointed a
member of the county board of supervisors and acceptably filled that posi-
tion for a number of years.

In 1837 Dr. Pennington was married to Miss Ann P. Barnett, a daughter
of John Barnett, of Brighton, Illinois. She died in 1866. On the 1st of
September, 1868, Dr. Pennington was married to Mrs. Ruth A; Morrison,
widow of Dr. William Morrison, of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and a
daughter of William and Mary Ann (Thomas) Gait. Her first husband had
died in 1867. Mrs. Pennington was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania,
was reared to womanhood in that state and was married there the first time.
In March, 1866, she came to Sterling and has made her home in Whiteside
county to the present time. Her education was largely acquired in the
academy at Strasburg, Pennsylvania. Her father, William Gait, died when
she was but three years of age, while her mother afterward came with her
daughter, Mrs. Pennington, to Whiteside county in 1866 and died in Sterling
at the age of seventy years.

The parental grandparents of Mrs. Pennington were James and Mary
(Martin) Gait. The family is an old one in this country, dating its con-
nection with America from 1710. The maternal grandfather of Mrs. Pen-
nington was Zaddock Thomas, who married Ruth Thomas. They were
natives of Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, and lived in Norristown. The
Thomas family traces the ancestry back through several generations in Penn-

In the family of Mr. and Mrs. William Gait were ten children, six sons
and four daughters, of whom four are now living: Thomas A.; Mrs. Amanda
Crawford, of Sterling; Azeriah, of Chicago, and Mrs. Ruth Pennington.

The death of Dr. Pennington occurred July 21. 1906, when he had
attained the remarkable old age of ninety-three years and eight month?. He


was one of the most honored of the pioneer settlers, prominent in the early
devlopment of the community. The first house which he erected was a little
log cabin on the Elkhorn creek and there he lived in true pioneer style,
courageously facing all the hardships and privations incident to the settle-
ment of the frontier. He purchased his farm from the government and the
land came into his possession a wild and unbroken tract, upon which not a
furrow had been turned or a rod of fence built. The place is pleasantly
situated about four miles from Sterling in Jordan township. With char-
acteristic energy he began to clear the land, break the sod and cultivate the
fields. This involved much arduous labor, but his work was soon manifest
in the changed appearance of the place, which was converted into an excellent
farm. As the years passed he not only cultivated his land with good success
but also opened a stone quarry upon his place, using the stone for the build-
ing of foundations, many of which are the support for substantial homes in
Sterling. As the years passed his labors overcame all the privations and
hardships of pioneer life and, as stated, he became one of the extensive land-
owners of the county and one of its most prominent and resourceful farmers,
whose agricultural interests were carried on in accordance with the most
scientific methods as well as in accord with the knowledge that he had gained
through practical experience. For several years prior to his death he was
blind. He was a member of the Presbyterian church, to which Mrs. Pen-
nington also belongs. While a man of strong character and marked indi-
viduality, he possessed also a most kindly disposition and long ranked with
the most prominent residents of Sterling and of Whiteside county. As the
day, with its morning of hope and promise, its noontide of activity, its even-
ing of completed and successful effort, ending in the grateful rest and quiet
of the night so was the life of this good man. Full of years and honors
have passed away, but many more years will be added to the cycle of the
centuries ere he will cease to be remembered by those among whom he lived
and labored.


Robert E. Johnston, secretary and treasurer of the Johnston Lumber
Company, doing business at Rock Falls, was born near Galva, Henry county,
Illinois, April 21, 1877. His father, John S. Johnston, was born in October,
1827 in Draperstown, Londonderry, Ireland, of Scotch-Irish parentage, being
a son of Robert and Jane Johnston, who spent their entire lives on the Emer-
ald isle. They were farming people and were among the peasant landholders
of northern Ireland, poor with little hope of betterment.

When about fifteen or sixteen years of age John S. Johnston came to
America to seek his fortune, the voyage bjeing made on a sailing vessel which
was five weeks in reaching New York, where he landed a stranger in a strange
land with only fourteen dollars in his possession. On two different occasions
in later years he returned to his native land to visit his mother. After living


for some time in Connecticut, he came to Illinois in 1854 and located near
Galva in Henry county. He subsequently bought eighty acres of land two
and a half miles north of that city, it being the nucleus of the present home-
stead, on which he continued to reside until called to his final rest May 6,
1889. After coming to this state he married Miss Lucy Maria Sellon, who
was born at Frakers Grove, Stark county, Illinois, November 1, 1843, and is
a daughter of Henry and Phebe (Stoddard) Sellon. Her father was born in
London, England, and was about three or four years of age when brought
to the United States by his parents, the family locating at Skaneateles, New
York. His father had left the pulpit of St. Paul's cathedral, London, to
come to America, several generations back having held that position. Henry
Sellon married Phebe Stoddard, who was born in Goshen, Litchfield county,
Connecticut, June 11, 1820, and died in Round Grove, Henry county, Illinois,
August 7, 1846. His death also occurred at that place. Her parents were
Israel and Irene (Frigbie) Stoddard, and the latter was a daughter of Phile-
mon and Rhoda (Butler) Frisbie. The father of Rhoda Butler was a soldier
of the Revolutionary war. The Frisbie family were Quakers. Mrs. Lucy
(Sellon) Johnston still survives her husband. Unto them were born six chil-
dren, five sons and one daughter: Thomas H., who is living in Kewanee,
Illinois, and is president of the Johnston Lumber Company of Rock Falls;
Edward I., of Kewanee; Phebe J., who is living in the same city; William J.,
a resident of Toulon, Illinois; Robert E., of this review; and George E., also
of Kewanee.

Robert E. Johnston was reared upon the farm in Henry county, Illinois.
No event of special importance occurred to vary the routine of farm life for
him during the period of his boyhood and youth. He attended the district
schools and afterward became a pupil in the Galva high school, while subse-
quently he continued his studies in the Brown Business College at Galesburg,
Illinois. In 1892 he accompanied his parents on their removal to Galva,
where he continued his education.

Online LibraryWilliam W DavisHistory of Whiteside County, Illinois from its earliest settlement to 1908 : illustrated, with biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume v.1) → online text (page 53 of 72)