Stephenson County, Illinois Genealogy
Sons of the "Ould Sod"
Stephenson county early came in favor in the New England States for those enterprising spirits who desired to escape the crowded con dition prevailing in the east, and a large proportion of the early settlers came from that region as well as from Pennsylvania and New York, and brought with them the sterling principles of morality and religion that had their first footing in the east on Plymouth Rock. Some years later a thrifty class of Germans from East Friesland and other provinces of the Fatherland began settlements in the southeastern part of the county and by their energy and enterprise have developed the prairies into a garden and accumulated fortunes that are the envy of a less frugal and energetic race. In recounting the elements that have entered into the unusual material prosperity that Stephenson county enjoys, we must not forget to give a prominent place to the natives of the Emerald Isle-those sons of the "Ould Sod" that oppression has driven to seek new homes in a foreign land. Bringing with them a religious fervor born in their ancestors centuries ago, they early establish churches and schools wherever their lot may be cast, even in the wilderness. So it was with the sons of Erin that began their new life on the boundless prairies when Stephenson county was young.
In making personal mention of those who contributed to the development of the county and its later growth in material wealth, Dexter A. Knowlton, Sr., must not be forgotten. Starting with nothing he paid his own way through schools of higher education and coming to the west soon embarked in a mercantile career. Through superior judgment everything he undertook proved to be a success. He was one of the prominent promoters of the first railroad to reach out from Chicago to the west and was for years a director in the organization. He accepted the nomination for Governor by the Free Soil party knowing full well that he would not be called from his business to preside in the governor's chair.
George Purinton was another of the early comers that made his presence felt. He was one of the first attorneys that took up his abode in Stephenson county and he made it his permanent home. He held a prominent place in the bar of the state and served the county a number of terms on the bench of the County Court. Thomas J. Turner who came to the county in '36, after enduring many privations in earliest days of settlement, became one of the most brilliant members of the Stephenson county bar. As a carpenter and millwright he established one of the first mills in the county and took the contract for building the first courthouse and jail. As member of congress and the legislature he took a prominent place in legislation both in nation and state.
Hon. John H. Addams was another of the men of brain and energy that contributed to the rapid growth of the county in wealth and influence. Coming in '44 he purchased a mill at Cedarville and soon became interested in everything that was conducive to the public good. He has been called the father of the railroad in Stephenson county and was one of the leading spirits that first set the enterprise on foot and saved its turning aside when influences were at work to leave the county far to one side. He was prominent in financial and manufacturing circles and in politics as well, serving the district in the State Senate sixteen consecutive years.
Martin P. Sweet was one of the early members of the Freeport bar that won distinction as an orator and advocate at a time when the genius of Lincoln and Douglas set the standard of oratory at a high mark. Mention will be made of him elsewhere in this work.
Pells Manny is another of the early pioneers that has left his impress on the history of the state, and not on the state alone but on the agricultural and political conditions of the nation. Coming to the county in '36, he early saw the need of greater facilities in harvesting the bountiful products of the fertile soil and set his Yankee ingenuity to work to meet the conditions that confronted him. After a number of experiments, trying to perfect a heading machine, his efforts on a reaper had more success. But like all new ideas it required time to take root in the brain of the average man and it was not until '52 that the reaper was fully perfected and came into general use. The right to manufacture was sold to Walter A. Wood of New York, and the largest manufactory of reapers in the world was the result. The famous law suit with the McCormick company, in which Mr. Manny won, bad a wider effect on the destinies of the country than at that time was ever dreamed. The Manny side of the case was defended by Lincoln, then in the zenith of his career as a practitioner at the western bar, while for the prosecution were such men as Seward, Evarts and Chase. It was here that Lincoln came to know and measure them, and later called them to his official family when the nation raised him to safely guide it through the most perilous crisis it was ever called upon to face.
Charles Waterman was another of the early comers that did much in the upbuilding of the community. A successful merchant, miller, manufacturer and land owner, his liberality and public spiritedness were powerful factors in securing the building of the early railroads in this section of the northwest.
Many others are worthy of special mention here but space forbids. More extended accounts of many of them will be found in the biographical section of our work.
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