Location: Champaign County IL

Biography of Francis M. Avey

Francis M. Avey. Of the men whose ability, industry and forethought have added to the character, wealth and progress of Champaign County none stands higher than Francis M. Avey, now living retired at Rantoul, which has been his home for over forty-five years. Among other enviable distinctions Mr. Avey is one of the honored survivors of the great war of the rebellion, and he was a member of the first regiment that marched away from Illinois to fight in the South. His entire career has been in keeping with the high standards of patriotism which caused him to enter the army as a youth. He was born at Cincinnati, Ohio, January 24, 1835, and is now past four score. He is a son of Daniel and Hannah (Van Hise) Avey, the former a native of Pennsylvania and the latter of Maryland. Francis M. was the third of five children. His father was a farmer, and F. M. Avey grew up and obtained his early education in Butler County, Ohio. As a boy he heard much of the country of Illinois and Indiana, and at the age of sixteen his ambitions prompted him to go out to Fountain County, Indiana, where he had a brother. There he began an apprenticeship to the blacksmith’s trade. Having learned the trade, he took his accomplishments into western Missouri. At that time western Missouri...

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Biography of Chester Garfield Reynolds

Chester Garfield Reynolds is one of the enterprising young farmers of Harwood Township, his well cultivated and managed farm being in section 11 of that township, not far from the Village of Gifford. Mr. Reynolds was born in that township in 1881, the next to the youngest of the fifteen children of Hanford and Antoinette (Roberts) Reynolds. Two of the children died in infancy. A conspicuous factor in the early days of Illinois was Father Hanford Reynolds, who was born in Westchester County, New York. He was a surveyor by profession and followed that calling in the early days, laying out the City of Geneseo, Illinois. Before the war he also sold fruit trees in Missouri. He had a varied and active experience throughout the Middle West and came to Champaign County about 1866. In his early travels in Missouri he would come upon what was called a grocery store at every cross roads. Whiskey was one of the chief commodities sold in such stores. When he came to Champaign County the nearest railroad to his home was Ludlow. The land was all prairie, and deer and wild game of all kinds abounded. He hauled lumber from Ludlow to build a small house and moved in before the roof was completed. There were so many ducks, geese and brant in the country that he had to hire men to...

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Biography of Howard Ross

Howard Ross, has built up a large business as a retail meat dealer in Champaign, learned his trade in that city, and by good management and by making it a point to offer the best of service and goods he is now one of the leaders in his line in the county. Mr. Ross was born near Savoy, Illinois, August 29, 1874, a son of David I. and Mary Elizabeth (Bowers) Ross. His father was born in Newburgh, New York, and his mother in Indiana. David Ross came to Champaign County about 1869. He was an active farmer here until 1882, when he moved west to Topeka, Kansas, and followed the drug business, in that city four years. After returning to Champaign County he lived retired until his death on January 21, 1890. His wife died in Topeka, Kansas, in 1888. There were five children: A son who died in infancy; Howard; Grace, wife of Bert Thrasher, of Berryton, Kansas; Ella, wife of Ralph Yingling, of Kansas; and the fifth, a son, died in infancy. Howard Ross spent part of his early boyhood in the State of Kansas. He was educated in local schools, and when fourteen years of age he got a job driving a grocery wagon at Champaign. A year later. he found work with a meat market driving a wagon, and after about two years he...

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Biography of F. C. Amsbary

F. C. Amsbary, superintendent and manager of the Champaign Waterworks, has been superintending waterworks plants in different parts of the country for upwards of thirty years. It has in fact been his regular profession, though some of his younger years were devoted to railroading. Mr. Amsbary has numerous connections that identify him with the substantial interests of his home city. A native of Illinois, he was born at Pekin, January 24, 1863, a son of William Wallace and Harriet E. (Harlow) Amsbary, both of whom are natives of New York State. William W. Amsbary moved to Champaign in 1907, and for several years was connected with the waterworks here. He died in 1911, and his widow is still living at Champaign. Their five children are: George E., of Urbana; F. C.; Wallace Bruce, of Chicago; Don H., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Cordelia, still at home with her mother. When F. C. Amsbary was four years of age his parents removed to Delavan in Tazewell County, Illinois. He attended the local schools there, and at the age of fifteen he left home and worked as clerk in a store at Tremont in the same county for two years. He then went to Peoria and acquired his initial experience in railroad offices, where he remained about three years. He was next at Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the Chicago Northwestern Railway offices...

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Biography of William Keusink

William Keusink was for many years actively engaged in business in Champaign, but is now living retired in that city. His family came to Champaign County before the Civil War. Mr. Keusink was born in Schenectady, New York, August 19, 1856, a son of Benardus and Wilhelmina (Hall) Keusink. His parents were both natives of Holland, where they were married, and soon after their marriage they immigrated to America. About 1860 they came’ to Champaign, where the senior Keusink followed his trade as a machinist in the employ of the Illinois Central Railway Company. His death occurred in April, 1869. His widow survived him until July, 1913. Of their twelve children, six survived the father, and William Keusink was the third in age. William Keusink grew up in Champaign, attended the local schools, and in 1872, at the age of sixteen, began to learn the cabinet maker’s trade. He followed that as an occupation until 1884, and then entered the laundry business. For twenty years Mr. Keusink conducted the leading laundry of this city, known as the Champaign Steam Laundry Company. He sold out in May, 1914, and has since retired and has merely looked after his private interests. On June 28, 1879, he married Elizabeth Lynch, who was born in Cooperstown, New York, a daughter of William and Catherine (Lennon) Lynch. Her parents were both natives of Ireland,...

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Biography of Leland S. Fowler

Leland S. Fowler, of the Penfield community of Champaign County, is one of the young and progressive agriculturists of this section. He has the management of his father’s fine farm and he took hold of the business with such vigor as to bring results that are surprising even to himself. Mr. Fowler was born in Vermilion County, Illinois, and is a son of U. G. and Etta (Wolf) Fowler. His parents were also born in Illinois. There were two sons of the parents, Wylie M. and Leland S. Both of them were educated in the high school at Urbana and the state university. On October 22, 1914, Leland S. Fowler married Miss Atha Wood. She was born at Gifford in Champaign County, daughter of E. A. and Laura (Rowland) Wood. While the Fowler family had two sons there were two daughters in the Wood family, Edythe and Atha. Miss Atha graduated from the Gifford High School, from the Champaign High School, took up the study of domestic science in the University of Illinois, and also received much musical instruction. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Fowler started life on his father’s farm and he now has under his direct management 740 acres. The Fowler residence is one of the finest in the country district of Champaign County, a country home that does credit and is a monument to the...

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Biography of Thomas A. Little

Thomas A. Little. One of the most interesting homes of Rantoul is that of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. Little in the extreme northeast quarter of the town. They live there enjoying a happy combination of both the rural and the urban facilities. They have sufficient ground to afford Mr. Little an opportunity to indulge his favorite pastimes of agriculture, not without considerable profit, and they also have sufficient means to live comfortably without fear of the future and enjoy their many friends. Mr. Little was born in Licking County, Ohio, in 1851, a son of John and Charlotte (Coon) Little. His parents were natives of Ohio, and his mother was of an old and prominent family of that state. In 1916 Mr. and Mrs. Little attended the annual reunion in Ohio of the Coon family and spent two weeks in and around Newark renewing old acquaintances. Thomas A. Little was educated in the district schools of Vermilion and Champaign counties, Illinois, and became a practical farmer. He was also engaged in a mercantile business in Rantoul, from the spring of 1872 to 1905. At the age of thirty-five he married Lizzie Cole. Three children were born to their union, two of whom died in infancy. Lewis C., the only one to grow up, proved a boy of fine capacity and of studious ability. He was graduated with honors...

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Biography of John I. Groves, M. D.

John I. Groves, M. D., was born in Cass County, Illinois, May 2, 1854, a son of Isaac and Mary E. (Coal) Groves. His father was born in England and his mother in the State of Maryland. Isaac Groves was for many years an active minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1878 he removed to Champaign, and died there December 12, 1906. By his first marriage he had two children, Elizabeth J., wife of Hugh Mitchell, of Fisher, Illinois; and Harriet A., wife of Thomas M. Foster, of Dickens, Iowa. Rev. Mr. Groves’ second wife died March 22, 1905. She was the mother of two sons: Dr. John Groves; and Charles W. Doctor Groves remained at home with his father until he was twenty years of age. In the meantime he had acquired a substantial education, and he then took up teaching and followed that profession for four years in country districts. For three years he was a teacher in Vermilion County, Illinois. He then entered the Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago, from which he was graduated M. D. in 1880, and spent seven years. in the practice of medicine in Indiana and Illinois. His first practice was done in Indiana, and after two years he removed to Gibson City, where he practiced for four years before coming to Champaign, and since locating here he has devoted his...

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Biography of John J. Rea

John J. Rea. A member of the Champaign County bar for thirty-seven years, John J. Rea has during this period risen to be one of the most forceful attorneys of his native community, and at this time occupies a recognized position of eminence among the legists of Urbana, where his entire professional career has been passed. While his later years have been crowned with success, Mr. Rea is fully acquainted with the rough and stony paths which the young aspirant so often finds it necessary to trod, for in his own youth he found no royal road to success, but forced to carve out his own destiny and to make his own opportunities. Determination and persistency triumphed in the end, and the reward has been commensurate with the labor. John J. Rea is a product of the farming district of Mahomet Township, Champaign County, where he was born on his father’s farm October 11, 1852. His father, John J. Rea, was born in Lewis County, Kentucky, and first came to Champaign County as early as 1836, in which year he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of government land in what later became Mahomet Township. He did not remain here at that time, but returned to his Kentucky home, where he lived during the next thirteen years, and while there was united in marriage with Miss Sarah P. Henderson,...

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Biography of Fred Hess

Fred Hess. On the roster of the energetic men who are discharging the duties connected with public positions in Champaign County is found the name of Fred Hess, whose incumbency of the office of county clerk goes back over a period of more than six and one-half years. The county clerkship is an office which carries with it some of the heaviest responsibilities and most onerous duties, the important character of which demand the presence and labor of a man of strong intellect, who can combine accuracy with industry and fidelity. The fact that Mr. Hess has retained the office during the long period that he has should be sufficient proof that he is possessed of the qualities mentioned, or at least that he has satisfied the people in this respect. He is one of the native sons of the county who have made excellent records in public life. Fred Hess was born in the city of Champaign, Illinois, May 19, 1871, and is a son of Isaiah H. and Sarah A. (Hardin) Hess, the former a native of New Jersey and the latter of Pennsylvania. His father was still a young man when, in 1857, he left his native state and came to Illinois. As a youth he had learned the trade of plasterer, and after following this occupation as a journeyman for a number of years developed...

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Biography of William L. Sturdyvin

William L. Sturdyvin. A resident for more than forty-five years in Champaign County has made William L. Sturdyvin one of his community’s best known citizens, and the honorable and industrious life he has led has given him a substantial place among his people. The years have dealt kindly with him and with his efforts, and he and his good wife now reside in a comfortable and hospitable home in Rantoul. Theirs is one of the fine residences facing the park in Rantoul, and stands on a street corner about two blocks from the interurban station. Mr. Sturdyvin is a native of Illinois and was born in Tazewell County, twenty-two miles south of Peoria. He is a son of Obadiah and Cynthia (Musick) Sturdyvin. His parents were born in Ohio and in pioneer times migrated to Illinois, locating south of what was then an Indian trading post consisting of a single log cabin on the site of the present vigorous City of Peoria. In the Sturdyvin family there were the following children besides William L.: Grant, Abraham and James, deceased; Steven, Allen and Robert; and two deceased daughters. The children were able to attend school in their pioneer district of Illinois only about three months a year. The Sturdyvins lived forty-five miles from Springfield, and in the early days there were only two houses on the entire road. Besides farming...

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Biography of Theodore L. Block

Theodore L. Block. To accomplish as much as Theodore L. Block accomplished in Champaign County demands not only phenomenal energy but a ruggedness and integrity of character that in no small degree accounts for the esteem in which he is held as a citizen as well as a business man. Mr. Block was born in Poland, October 3, 1850. He is a son of William and Minnie (Cornelius) Block. Several generations before he was born the ancestor of the family moved from the district bordering on the Baltic Sea into Poland, and thereafter the family was identified with the agricultural interests of that unhappy country until William Block sold his possessions there and immigrated with his family to America in 1857. On the 18th of May in that year they landed in New York City and proceeded directly West until they arrived in Champaign County. Here William Block bought a farm three miles south of Sidney, and though a stranger in a strange land he was successfully identified with farm management and local affairs. He spent the last fifteen years of his life retired at Champaign, where both he and his wife died. Theodore L. Block was the only child of his mother, and his father by a previous marriage had a son August, who is still living at Sidney in Champaign County. Theodore L. Block was six years...

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Biography of J. H. Blue

J. H. Blue. Many years have passed since Mr. and Mrs. Blue took up their residence in Champaign County and began their careers as progressive farmers, and at the present time they live in the comforts of a good town home at Rantoul. In the meantime their children have grown up, most of them have married and have homes of their own, and Mr. and Mrs. Blue are able to take the greatest satisfaction out of the large family circle that surround them. Both of them are natives of Germany. J. H. Blue was born in the little Town of Leer on the River Ems near Hanover, Germany, one of the seven children of Henry A. and Alma J. (Buscher) Blue. His father was a sailor and lost his life at sea. At the age of thirteen J. H. Blue asked permission of his school teacher to leave school and begin an apprenticeship as a sailor. The family lived on the sea coast and the activities of the sea naturally appealed to all the boys of that district. Some time later he and a young Scotchman came to America for the purpose of entering the United States Navy. The North was then engaged in the struggle with the South over slavery. They landed at Boston from the sailing vessel Kensington, and the first news they heard was that peace...

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Biography of Archie Ernest Strode

Archie Ernest Strode. One of the important industries of Champaign is the tent and awning business which for a number of years has been carried on by the Strode family. The owner and proprietor of the business at present is Archie Ernest Strode, who gave up his active trade as a boiler maker to take charge of this business at the time of his fathers death. Mr. Strode was born in Bristol, England, May 11, 1879, but was brought to this country when a child of about four years. His parents, George and Elizabeth (Frank) Strode, were both natives of England. His father died March 4, 1915, and his mother in 1901. The family came to Champaign in 1883, and George Strode established the present tent and awning business in 1905. There were five children in the family: Frank, of Champaign; Celia, widow of Thomas Dodsworth of Champaign; William, who died in 1892; Bessie, wife of W. E. Lott, of Flint, Michigan; and A. E. Strode. In 1895, at the age of sixteen, and after completing his education in the local schools, Archie E. Strode began learning the boilermaker’s trade. He still has his card of active membership in the Boilermaker’s Union. He spent about four and a half years in the shops of the Illinois Central, one year with the Santa Fe, and two years with the Big...

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Biography of Joseph E. McGurty

Joseph E. McGurty is one of the successful business men of Champaign, where in the past seventeen years he has built up a large livery enterprise and also a well conducted automobile business. He comes from the country district and was a farmer prior to his business career. Mr. McGurty was born at Colfax, Illinois, December 11, 1869, a son of Hugh and Sarah (Reagan) McGurty. Both parents were natives of Ireland. His father when six years of age went with his parents to Canada, locating near Montreal, where he grew up, and about 1859 he came to Illinois and soon afterward located on a farm in Champaign County. In 1861 he enlisted in the Union Army, in Company E, Ninety-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served three years and six months. He lived a long, useful and honorable life and died at Champaign, June 2, 1897. The widowed mother is still living in Champaign. There were six children: Anna, of Champaign; Catherine, at home; John, deceased; Joseph E.; Agnes, at home; and James, deceased. Joseph E. McGurty grew up on the farm, was educated in the local schools, and was a practical farmer on the old homestead until he was twenty-five years of age. For three years he had some mercantile experience in the department store of F. K. Robeson, and then engaged in the livery business at Champaign....

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