Carroll County Illinois


It is difficult to realize, after noting the advanced civilization of the people and the developed condition of both town and country in Carroll county, that there are those still living who can recall, not only the introduction of wonder-working farm machinery and scientific discoveries together with public utilities for comfort and well-being, but can also tell from their own experience that comparatively but a few years ago, deer and other wild creatures of the woods, roamed over a large portion of this now improved part of the state. William A. Dains, one of the county's most respected citizens, can speak thus with authority. His birth took place in Elkhorn Grove, Carroll county, March 5, 1840, and he is a son of Alvah and Martha (Frothingham) Dains.

Alvah Dains was born in Cortland county, N.Y., in October, 1800. His great-grandfather, who came to America direct from Ireland, met his death while gallantly fighting in the battle of Bunker Hill, being wounded so seriously that he could not be taken from the field alive. Alvah Dains was a tanner and furrier and also undertook boot and shoe making as well as carpentering. In fact he was a man who could profitably turn his hand to most anything. He was thus well equipped for life in a pioneer settlement and come to Carroll county, in 1837, where two year later he married Miss Martha Frothingham, of Worthington, O., the ceremony being performed by John M. Owens, a justice of the peace, from Mt. Carroll. Alvah Dains secured 160 acres of government land, by entry, and continued to reside on it until the time of his death, in October, 1877. His widow survived him many years, she passing away at Battle Creek, Mich., May 11, 1894. To them the following children were born: William A., Eliza, David, Florence, David M., and Mary E., the last named being the wife of John Bohner, who is a farmer living near Clarksville, Ia. The two survivors of the family are its youngest and oldest members.

William A. Dains spent a happy boyhood on the home farm, and helped his father until he was twenty-one years of age, in the meanwhile attending the district schools as opportunity was afforded and afterwards enjoyed four year of instruction at Mt. Carroll Seminary. He recalls that the first school he ever attended was held in a private house in Elkhorn Grove, the teacher being James McCready. While at home with his father he learned the carpenter trade, but has never depended on that for support although he has found this knowledge a desirable acquisition at many times.

On September 5, 1861, he enlisted for service in the Civil war, entering Company I, Thirty-fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, under Captain Heffelfinger, of Mt. Carroll, and was in Camp Butler, Springfield, for three weeks. The exposure of army life undermined his health and after being confined in Hospital No. 5, at Louisville, Ky., for three weeks he was honorably discharged at Nashville, Tenn., September 12, 1862. Mr. Dains then became a school teacher and taught six terms at Elkhorn Grove, one term at Brookville, Ill., two terms in Nebraska, and one near Bluffville, Ill. He became owner of the old homestead and continued to live there until he was fifty years of age, when he moved to the vicinity of Thomson, Ill., where he purchased 500 acres of land and lived for four years, when he moved to Mt. Carroll in 1894. For five years Mr. Dains continued to live in this place and then bought a farm of 100 acres near Grand Junction, Mich., where he remained for thirteen years, and then returned to Mt. Carroll, where he has since lived.

On April 25, 1868, Mr. Dains was married to Miss Mahala Hoover, who had come to Illinois in January of that year. She was a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Roushy) Hoover, natives of Wilkesbarre, Pa. Mrs. Dains died in Nebraska, in September, 1872. Two daughters were born to this marriage: Lillian May, who married John Reeder and lives with Mr. Dains; and Nellie V., who was the wife of Ernest M. Woolgar. Mrs. Woolgar died May 13, 1907, at Clyde, Ohio. Mr. Dains has nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was reared in the Baptist faith. Politically he is a Republican, a stanch party man, but he has never consented to serve in any office except that of school director. He is a member of the John H. Andrews Post, G.A.R., of Lacota, Mich.

In his recollections of the earlier days of this section, Mr. Dains refers to many interesting events in its history. He recalls the great excitement created when the first telegraph line was put through, in 1852, from Dixon to Galena. He recalls also when the founder of Davenport, Ia., met his death at the brutal hands of prairie banditte, being dragged up and down stairs by the hair of his head, until he succumbed. He tells stories of the days when nails of iron of any sort were scarcely available; when practically all manufactured articles were shipped from Pittsburgh, in steamboats, down the Ohio river; when cabins were decorated with the skins of wild animals and an out-hanging buckskin latchstring voiced the settler's hospitality. Many were the herds of wild deer browsing on the prairies that now compose a part of his well improved farm. He is, at this time, one of the oldest living settlers of Carroll county, and these, his silver years, are filled with the contentment of work well done, and the consciousness of having earned the respect and true friendship of a host of acquaintances.

Contributed by Carol Parrish Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Carroll County, Vol. II, Munsell Publishing Company, 1913, p. 766.

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