George S. and Elliott S. McCleary, Pennsylvania natives, have become key figures in Nelson Township as dairy farmers. Since their arrival in 1865, they’ve developed their farms into thriving businesses, focusing on quality cattle and dairy production. George’s 138-acre farm and Elliott’s adjoining property showcase their commitment to modern farming practices and community contribution. The brothers’ journey from Pennsylvania, influenced by their Scottish-Irish heritage and family’s pioneering spirit, reflects a legacy of hard work and dedication to agriculture. Their successful ventures in dairy farming underscore their significant role in the local agricultural community.
Ira S. Smith, an industrious farmer in Amboy Township, showcases his commitment to agriculture on a 163-acre farm rich with improvements and thriving under his management. Born in New Hampshire in 1829, Smith’s journey from a grocery clerk in Boston to a gold miner in California, and finally to Illinois, reflects a life of diverse experiences. Overcoming a severe accident, he ventured into farming, meat marketing, and even served as City Marshal before settling in Lee County in 1896. Married to Elizabeth Pearl, the couple has two children. Smith’s contributions extend beyond farming; he’s been active in local politics, education, and the Masonic fraternity, embodying the spirit of community service and resilience.
William H. Hilles, born in Western Pennsylvania and passing away in Dixon, Illinois, in 1882, led a life marked by diligence and principle. Moving from Pennsylvania to Ohio and then to Indiana during his youth, Hilles eventually settled in LaSalle County, Illinois, where he became a successful farmer. His life was characterized by intelligence, a love for horticulture, and a steadfast commitment to the abolition movement, leveraging his resources and influence for the cause of freedom. A Quaker by upbringing, Hilles embodied the values of honesty and integrity, contributing significantly to the development of Lee County and leaving behind a legacy of community betterment and moral fortitude.
Hon. Abijah Powers, a respected figure in Palmyra Township, passed away in 1891, leaving behind a legacy of dedication and community service. Arriving in Lee County in 1838 with just $5, Powers transformed his life through hard work, eventually owning extensive farmlands. A descendant of a family with historical significance, including Hiram Powers the sculptor, Abijah was deeply involved in politics as a Republican, served as Town Supervisor, and represented his district in the Illinois General Assembly. Known for his genial nature and commitment to the Congregational Church, Powers’ life story is a testament to perseverance, community contribution, and moral integrity.
Jacob Hepperlin, a German immigrant born in 1827, ventured to America in 1854, seeking opportunities. Overcoming initial hardships, Jacob’s resilience led him to success in farming and business. Settling in Paw Paw, Illinois, he now enjoys retirement, supported by significant investments in real estate and a productive farm. Married thrice, Jacob’s life is a testament to perseverance and adaptability. With his third wife, Cynthia, they are active in the Methodist Episcopal Church, embodying the spirit of community and faith. Jacob’s journey from a newcomer to a respected community member highlights his enduring legacy of hard work and determination.
Jacob Aschenbrenner, an established coal dealer in Amboy, Illinois, originates from Hesse-Cassel, Germany, born in 1825. After serving in the German army and participating in the 1848 Revolution, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1855, eventually settling in Lee County. Jacob transitioned from farming to coal dealing, making significant contributions to his community, including serving as Alderman and on the Board of Education. Married twice, he has three children from his first marriage. A founding member of the local Lutheran Church, Jacob’s life story is marked by resilience, entrepreneurship, and public service, underscoring his importance in Amboy’s history.
Stewart Wilson, a devoted farmer and stock-raiser in Palmyra Township, hails from Pennsylvania, born in 1849. His family, with Scottish and German roots, moved to Illinois in 1856. Stewart owns a farm passed down from his father, demonstrating significant cultivation and success in breeding Shetland ponies. Marrying Emma A. Fisk, they have a daughter, Lorena. A respected community member, Stewart’s integrity and commitment to his Presbyterian faith mirror his family’s values. Active in local governance as Road Commissioner, his life is a testament to dedicated agriculture, family heritage, and community service, reflecting a legacy of hard work and faith.
Dennis C. Harden is a prominent figure in Nelson Township, engaging in farming, stock-raising, and dairy business on his quarter-section farm. Born in Pennsylvania in 1849, he moved to Illinois at four, where he honed his agricultural skills on his family’s land. His successful farm, acquired in 1873, showcases his adeptness in cultivation and livestock management. Marrying Miss Kate McCleary, he’s recognized for his contributions to local development, holding various offices and supporting township improvements. A Republican and Lutheran, Harden’s life reflects a blend of hard work, community service, and family legacy, making him a respected citizen in Lee County.
George F. Stainbrook, serving as Lee County Sheriff, epitomizes the drive and determination of a successful young man from Dixon. Born in the county in 1858, he descends from a Pennsylvania Dutch lineage with roots stretching back to a German immigrant and a Revolutionary War hero. George’s life, deeply intertwined with farming, shifted towards law enforcement when he became Deputy Sheriff, leading to his election as Sheriff in 1890. Recognized for his youth and efficacy, George, alongside his wife Anna B. Mulkins, an accomplished artist, contributes to the community while adhering to Republican principles and participating in various civic organizations.
Cornelius Vroom, a dedicated farmer from Nelson Township, has made significant strides in agriculture on his 80-acre farm near Nelson Station. Born into a Dutch-descendant family on Staten Island in 1840, Cornelius moved to Illinois in 1859, where he has since prospered through hard work and thrifty habits. His farm, acquired in 1869, showcases his commitment to cultivation and stock-raising. Cornelius and his wife, Libby, actively support the Methodist Church and the community’s welfare. A Republican by political affiliation, Cornelius is respected for his honesty and steadfast character, embodying the enduring spirit of his Dutch ancestry and the foundational values instilled from a young age.