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Carroll County Biographies

ALLEN BENHAM SPENCER

Those who came to Elkhorn Grove with Naaman Spencer, Sr., and his son, Allen, were Charles Bowen and Chauncey Grant. Allen's mother and the children came in the spring of 1838. Mrs. Newman, who then resided on the land now owned by John Coffey, remarked when the Spencers arrived that "them Connecticut Yankees was comin' so thick that they would run all the white folks outen the country."

Small of stature, yet there were few men who could perform more labor in a year than Allen B. Spencer. Especially was this so when using the grain cradle, or broad-ax. He stated to the writer that on one occasion he counted the number of shocks of oats that he cut, bound and set up in one day. They numbered 52, and there were twelve bundles in a shock, or 624 bundles. The children carried the bundles together.

He was not given to boasting and seldom mentioned aught concerning his skill as a marksman or hunter. The accompanying "target" was made by "Uncle Allen" after he was 90 years old. He used a .22 Remington and the distance was about seven rods. Seven shots were fired; (only) two missed the paper a little above and to the right.

In his boyhood days in Connecticut, the "Blue Laws" were in force, and woe to the boy that was caught by the officers of the law running races, playing ball, or engaging in any kind of amusement on Sunday. Sunday was the most dismal and dreary of all days, and the tidy-men and Old Deacon Pettibone were cordially hated by nearly all the young folks.

Slavery existed in Connecticut then and the last slave in Hartford was a black boy, and the buyer paid "a bushel of wheat for a pound of nigger." The slave weighed eighty pounds, or eighty bushels of wheat for the slave. "In my opinion," said Uncle Allen. "the Connecticut people would not have voted to abolish slavery in the state had the soil and climate been such that slaves could have been worked at a profit."

On November 19, 1843, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Copper who was a daughter of Abel and Anna Copper, who resided near Freeport, Illinois. Mr. Copper was one of Judge Ford's strong supporters when the "prairie pirates" caused so much trouble to law abiding citizens. He was with the party that captured and shot the Driscolls. "Aunt Eliza," as she was generally called, kept house for years where the floors were made of split logs (puncheons) and she kept them clean with a splint (hickory) broom. The young couple were married by Justice Fuller in Freeport and moved onto the Chambers farm in Lima Township, now owned by Mr. George Franks, where they lived for three years.

They saw frontier life in Crawford county, Wisconsin, for a few years, returning to Illinois in 1865. Their married life covered a period of 69 years, during which time they experienced hardships and pleasures, each striving to make home the happiest place on earth. With them, as with all our race, "Joy and despondency, pleasure and pain, follow each other like sunshine and rain." Allen B. Spencer loved children and flowers and music and song. He was a firm friend of the birds and had studied the habits of many of our native songsters and it was with feelings of sorrow and regret that he witnessed the passing away of our native song and game birds and the grand old groves that once gave them shelter. The popular dogma that there is but two reasons why mankind should obey Divine Law, i.e., the fear of punishment and the hope of reward, was repugnant to him. He held that all should do right for right's sake. Because it is right! He is a dangerous citizen that obeys the laws of the state through fear of the gallows and penitentiary. With joy he accepted the teachings of Paul who makes it clear that punishment is and must always be "reformatory" in its nature, otherwise it would be but gratification of a cruel and malignant disposition. With General Lew Wallace, "Uncle Allen" believed that "Beyond the arts, above the sciences, above commerce, above any and all other human concerns religion is the superlative interest." the study of it is worship. Knowledge of it is the knowledge of God. With Lowell he held that "God sends his teachers into every age, to every clime and every race of men, with revelations fitted to their growth, and shape of mind, nor gives the realm of Truth, Into the selfish rule of one sole race." - Henry Elsey

This was taken from an article written after Allen's death in the Mr. Carroll, Illinois, Daily Democrat, 16 May 1914. It contained photographs of Allen and Elizabeth Spencer and the target he shot at.

Editor Democrat: The Democrat of April 18th contained a notice of the death of Allen B. Spencer at the age of 94 years and 6 months and that he became a resident of Carroll county in 1837 or 77 years ago. Knowing that many readers of the Democrat would like to look upon the features of Uncle Allen and Aunt Eliza again, we enclose photographs together with some of the events of the lives of the aged couple and especially will it be of interest to the nearly 200 members of the "Spencer-Benham Reunion Association", of which Mr. Spencer was for several years the oldest member. It is unnecessary to repeat that which was published on April 18. We will make mention only of the story of pioneer days as told by "Uncle Allen," when in reminiscent mood.

Photo and Article - Contributed by Steve Schack
Headstone Photo from Dave & Pam Jindrich at Find-A-Grave

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