Carroll County Biographies

Janes Bennett

Nearly thirty-four years ago the subject of this sketch might have been seen setting out from his native State of Vermont for the Far West. The first stage of the journey was made by boat from Ogdensburg, N. Y., to the then unimportant hamlet of Chicago, Ill., where he arrived on the 7th of October, 1855. Thence he made his way overland by wagon westward over the wild waste of uncultivated and uninhabited prairie. On the night of the 10th there occurred a blinding rain-storm, and the travelers, himself and brother, Thurston, lost their bearings and wandered around in considerable trepidation and no small amount of anxiety. Finally they discovered a dim light in the distance, and, driving to it, found an old bachelor, who lived in a little plank house, and they hired him to pilot them to the house of Monroe Bailey, of York Township, which they reached about midnight.

This was the first introduction of our subject to York Township and Carroll County. Notwithstanding the forbidding outlook, he determined to allow no slight difficulties to discourage him, and in due time had made such arrangements that it seemed quite possible he could stay and be contented. As time passed on, he became fully identified with the interests of this county, and now occupies that position of one of its leading men – one who has borne no unimportant part in its growth and development. In the early days he was soon recognized as a valued addition to the community, and it was not long before he was fully established in the esteem and confidence of his fellow-citizens. This position he has since maintained, and he is now looked upon as a fixture which York Township would be sorry to part with.

Our subject was born in Cambridge, Vt., June 8, 1829, and is the son of Otis and Nancy (Thurston) Bennett, natives of the same place as their son. The mother’s people, however, were formerly from Massachusetts, her parents being Moses T. and Esther Thurston, who spent their last years in Cambridge, Vt. Otis Bennett from many years lived on a farm near Cambridge, Vt., where his son, Janes, was reared to manhood and received a good, practical, education in the district school. The whole family came to this State in the year of 1834 or 1835, but, on account of the mother’s health, the parents only remained two years, returning then to Vermont. In 1837 he returned West, settled on a tract of land above Lyons, in Clinton County, Iowa, and died in a few years.

To the parents of our subject there were born three children, of whom Janes was the eldest. Mr. Thurston removed to Marshall County, Kan., about 1864, where he still lives, and the mother makes her home with him. The daughter, Delia, died where Grand Detour now is, in Ogle County, Ill., in 1835, when a mere child.

Janes, our subject, was married in Vermont, on the 29th of April, 1851, to Miss Jane, daughter of Jonathon T. and Leah (Thomson) Dunshee, of whom mention is made in the sketch of Robert Dunshee elsewhere in this volume. Of this union there were born three sons – Heber, who died at the age of twenty-one years; Wayland F., and Robert D.

In the fall of 1855 Janes Bennett located on the farm which he now owns and occupies. About thirty acres were broken, and there was upon it a little log house. Here he has since lived, with the exception of two years spent on another farm South. The first rude dwelling was replaced by a modern frame residence in 1871. The land has all been brought to a good state of cultivation, and Mr. Bennett has put up a commodious barn, granaries, corn-cribs, wagon-sheds, etc.; in fact, has gathered together all the appurtenances of the modern country estate. He has prospered in his farming operations and invested his capital in additional land, so that he is now the owner of 1,100 acres, the most of which is in York Township, and largely devoted to dairying. His 320 acres in Fulton Township, however, is utilized mostly for hay and corn. He keeps over 100 cows, besides 200 head of young cattle, and has two creameries.

Janes Bennett, when reaching his majority, had only two common suits of clothes and no cash to speak of. Soon after his father’s death he was bound out and was under a severe task-master a number of years. That which nature had planted within him, however, was not to be uprooted – his latent energy and perseverance, and his determination to do something, to be somebody in the world. As soon as coming to the West he found a wide, open field, and availed himself at every opportunity for advancement in every way. Although working early and late for the improvement of his land and the accumulation of the competence he determined to possess, he read as he had opportunity and kept himself posted upon events of interest and importance to the intelligent citizen. This he has kept up to the present day, and in him we find a man of more than ordinary intelligence, with a first-class business head, and the integrity without which he could not have arisen to his present position.

For several years after coming to this county the market nearest the farm of Mr. Bennett was at Fulton, and to this place he hauled his grain mostly during the winter season. Not being able to buy an overcoat for three or four winters, he kept himself from freezing by walking beside his wagon. He went into debt at the time of purchasing his first eighty acres, upon which his residence still stands, and was obliged to pay the high rates of interest, varying from 36, 30 and 25 percent. For several seasons he could only obtain thirty to thirty-five cents per bushel for his wheat, and we can well imagine the close economy and good management which must have been exercised in order to liquidate this debt, the principal of which was $300.

Though Mr. Bennett has himself been usually vigorous and healthy, he has paid out hundreds of dollars to physicians on account of the illness of his family. Upon one occasion he sold his last cow to pay a doctor’s bill, but the life of his wife was spared, and thus this was no sacrifice. Politically, Mr. Bennett is a supporter of Republican principles, but he has never had very much time for office-seeking, serving only as Road Commissioner and in such positions as would not demand too much of his attention. Both he and his estimable wife are members in good standing of the Baptist Church, in which Mr. Bennett has been Deacon many years and is a most earnest worker. He has watched the growth and development of his adopted county with unalloyed interest, and, by the cultivation of a large portion of its soil and the influence which he has uniformly exerted around him, has contributed his full quota toward bringing it to its present condition.

Transcribed & Contributed by Carol Parrish from Portraits and Biographical Album for Jo Daviess and Carroll Counties, IL (1889), p. 820-822

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