Welcome to Illinois Genealogy Trails


Outline of Onarga

May, 1834. The second settler in Onarga, John Miller, was born in West Virginia on February 12, 1801. He married Peggy Stewart who also came from West Virginia. In May of 1834, John Miller and his family arrived at Jesse Amos' homestead. Liking the location, Miller made a claim and built a shelter about fourteen feet square. This shelter was open on one side, but he and his family lived in it for two seasons, returning to Covington, Indiana the first winter on account of sickness. The first spring, he broke about five acres and the second, about twenty. The latter year raised a good crop. Miller came with four good horses and when he came back from Covington, he brought three cows. In the fall of 1835 he moved into a comfortable cabin converting the first shelter into a stable. By trade, Miller was a wagon maker. He was a hale and hearty man and frontier life suited him.


Thomas M. Pangborn and Ransom B. Pangborn came to Spring Creek from Franklin County, OH. Purchased land for themselves and for brother Cyrus.


Loved Evans made a claim within Village limits.

First Generation

1. Loved EVANS was born in 1800 in VT. He died in KS. He was married to Mahala KYRK (daughter of John KYRK and Sarah ____) in OH. He passed his last days and died in Kansas. Mahala KYRK was born January 9, 1810. She died February 11, 1849 in Onarga. She was buried in Pangborn Cemetery, Onarga. They had the following children:

+2 i. Mahala EVANS (born on March 15, 1839).

3 ii. Ann EVANS was born in 1843 in OH.

4 iii. Owen EVANS was born in 1844 in IL. He died on January 4, 1863. He was buried in Onarga Cemetery, Onarga, Iroquois, IL.

5 iv. Lydia A. EVANS was born in 1850 in IL.

6 v. Jane EVANS was born in 1852 in IL.

7 vi. Earl EVANS was born in 1854 in IL.

8 vii. Joanna EVANS was born in 1856 in IL.

9 viii. Ellen EVANS was born in 1858 in IL.

10 ix. Lucretia EVANS was born in November 1859. She died on December 15, 1860 in Onarga, Iroquois, IL.

11 x. Frank EVANS was born in 1860 in IL.

Second Generation

2. Mahala EVANS was born March 15, 1839 in Iroquois Co. IL. She died June 12, 1924 in Onarga. She was married to Frederick (Horace) LOCKWOOD (son of Walter LOCKWOOD and Dorothy BARNES) April 28, 1870 in Onarga, Iroquois, IL. Frederick (Horace) LOCKWOOD was born August 14, 1824 in Dunham, Mississippi Co., Quebec, Canada. He died July 18, 1913 in Onarga. He was buried in Onarga Cemetery. They had the following children:

+12 i. Alma Dolly LOCKWOOD (born on September 10, 1871).

+13 ii. Grace May LOCKWOOD (born on May 10, 1880).

Third Generation:

12. Alma Dolly LOCKWOOD was born on September 10, 1871 in IL. She was married to Edward EVERETT on October 5, 1899. Edward EVERETT resided in 1907 in Benton Co., AR. They had the following children:

14 i. Frederick EVERETT.

15 ii. Marion EVERETT.

13. Grace May LOCKWOOD was born on May 10, 1880 in Onarga, Iroquois, IL. She died in 1966 in Onarga. She was buried in Onarga Cemetery, Onarga, Iroquois, IL. She was married to Charles HILDENBRAND (son of Heinrich [Henry] HILDENBRAND and Wilhelmina KREIS) on December 8, 1877 in Thawville, Iroquois, IL. He died November 9, 1953 in Onarga. He was buried in Onarga Cemetery. They had the following children:

16 i. Harold Lee HILDENBRAND was born on September 26, 1903 in Onarga, Iroquois, IL. He resided 104 N. Walnut, previous home of Moses H. Messer in Onarga.


Cyrus PANGBORN comes to Onarga from Ohio with other relatives: his parents John and Miranda (Miller) Pangborn, Miranda Miller (age 15) and William Hunter Miller (age 13, brother to Miranda), Sarah Miller (age 8, sister to Miranda and William), Truman Bishop Hall and his 7-mo-pregnant wife, Maria (Pangborn - sister to Thomas, Ransom & Cyrus) Hall. Cyrus Pangborn had married Mary Jane Gilmore on May 2, 1845 in Ohio. She had succumbed to typhoid and died on August 9, 1845, on the way to Illinois. They had only been married two months. He had to bury her in timber beside the trail. This party arrived at the Spring Creek settlement on August 25, 1845. John Pangborn, father of Thomas, Ransom and Cyrus, died in Onarga September, 1845 and was the second person buried in the Pangborn Cemetery.


John Shipley first blacksmith in Onarga; before that time people went to Milford. Teachers from 1840 to 1850: Rev. T. B. Hall, Mahlon Boyd. Overabundance of wild game begins to thin out; deer, wild fowl, brants, prairie chickens, wild hogs & turkeys. Numerous snakes; rattlesnakes. Corn bread special for Sundays.


Teachers from 1850 to 1860: Miranda Miller [Falkenburg], Addison Lockwood, Violetta Boswell, James Lindsey. Naming of Onarga? AmerIndian for "Lone Tree" is A-NAR-GA.


Addison Lockwood precedes his family in settling at Spring Creek. Son of Walter and Dorothy Barnes Lockwood, born in Canada in 1829. Spent childhood and youth in Columbus, Ohio. Went west at age 21, settled in Onarga. Married Ellen LASH between 1850 and 1853; she died and he married Rebecca E. SCOTT in 1853. They had no children known of. Addison died November, 1881 in Minneapolis, MN. at the age of 52. Parents and siblings moved from Ohio to Onarga in 1856.

(this information is contributed by The Lone Tree Leader of Onarga Vol. 3, No. 96 Friday August 20, 2004 page 6-reprinted with permission of Patricia Goff)

Onarga Review from The Lone Tree Leader

1855 - Moses Haynes Messer settled in Onarga on government land. Thomas A. Novell was keeper of the first hotel in Onarga - the "Onarga House."

1856 - First Methodist Church built in Onarga --one story, seating 75, cost about $1500 and sold in 1865. Thomas R. Barnes opened a saloon and erected a large building. T. B. Johnson opened a harness shop. Mr. Pond was the first photographer. Moses Haynes Messer Justice of the Peace 1856-1868. Walter Lockwood and wife Dolly, children Ellen, Amelia, Frederick, Elmer, moved from Union County, Ohio to Onarga and bought a farm. their son Addison had moved to Onarga in 1850. Also living nearby were three children of Walter's brother David: Silas C., Walter A., and Angeline Lockwood Dillon. Walter's brother David stayed behind in Union County, Ohio all of his life.

1857 - First Agricultural Fair in Onarga. D.B. Peck built second store building in Onarga.

1858 - Wooden school building erected at 100 North Evergreen, cost $1,025. Moses H. Messer, civil engineer and surveyor, built residence at 104 N. Walnut. Dr. William A. Babcock immigrated from CT to Onarga with others. Settled 1 and belonging to ICRR. Moses Haynes Messer was married to Lucinda Lehigh, daughter of Experience Lehigh. Schoolhouse built 30 x 48 12ft. high, built by Horace Pinney.

1859 - Presbyterian Church erected building at corner of Wilson and Maple; second building in 1881 at 309 W. Seminary, burned in 1905, rebuilt, remodeled in 1975. Moses Haynes Messer held office of County Surveyor 1859-1865.

1860 - Terrible prairie fire coming from the SW to Ridge. It had been set by deer hunters. William Hunter Miller married Ellen Lockwood in Onarga. Double wedding with William's sister, Miranda and Rev. D.A. Falkenburg. Wedding at the home of Ransom B. Pangborn performed by Hon. Moses H. Messer. [note: the reason information on William H. Miller and the Lockwoods is included here is because they are my ancestors. William came to Onarga with the Pangborns in 1845--he was only 13 years old. I have yet to discover the reason William emigrated with the Pangborns at such an early age. Patricia]

1860 - Home at 404 West Seminary built by Judge Charles H. Wood. Although Onarga was not incorporated until 1853, there were 273 residents of Onarga Township during the Civil War, 1861-1865.

1862 - First Library building erected.

1863 - Grand Prairie Seminary and Commercial College opened in Methodist Church. In 1880 had 327 students; peak enrollment 655 in 1904, but only 55 in 1917. February 9, the city voted to become incorporated.

1864 - Allan Pinkerton, detective, purchased the Larch Farm property north of Onarga; developed site and built dwelling house (still existing) between 1873-1880; named for 8500 larch trees he planted. (1550N 620E). Grand Prairie Seminary built.

1865 - Onarga Nursery Company started by R. B. Cultra, still family owned now in the 4th generation. The Onarga Nursery is the oldest existing Onarga Business. R. B. Cultra built his residence at 314 N. Poplar, currently (1998) residence of his great grandson.

1865-7 - Exploratory shaft for coal sunk 527 feet, 1 1/4 miles north of Onarga.

1866 - Hiram W. Lawhead opened Photography Gallery.

1867 - Brick two-story school building at 100 n. Evergreen built by R. B. Cultra. Construction began on two story brick schoolhouse 32x50. Finished by Dec. 1867. P.T. Rhodes and Isaac Amerman opened first bank; closed 1870, succeeded by Benjamin H. Durham in 1871. Onarga Horticultural Society promoted growing small fruit; for several years, nearly 100 acres of strawberries shipped to Chicago, St. Louis, Peoria; raspberries, etc.; some years more than 100 tons of grapes raised.

1868-9 - Block of six, two story with basement stores 20ft. wide built on Chestnut street.

1870s - Tile mill operated two miles east of town at Spring Creek. Ira Palmer, a civil war doctor, had his office in his home still extant at W. Lincoln and North Evergreen Street. Hedge apples (Osage Orange) sold for $50 per bushel to grow livestock-proof fences because of a state law "restraining all stock from being free commoners."

1870 - Peter Rissner and son built a two story 40' x 90' building with basement at 109 N. Chestnut. Sol Blotcky opened Onarga Mercantile Co. in this building in 1812; closed 1959. 1870 Census records show Walter and Dolly Lockwood living at the home of William Hunter Miller and his wife, Ellen Lockwood Miller.

1872 - Addition to north side of school building at 100 N. Evergreen. First newspaper published, continued 120 years, folded in 1992. Onarga Leader-Review: According to Beckwith's History of Iroquois County, the first issue of the newspaper that was to become the Onarga Leader-Review was published by John Low in the winter of 1872. It had been preceded by a number of other attempts to establish a newspaper in the village, on of which, The Times, moved to Watseka and became the Watseka Times. Little of the Leader-Review's history between 1872 and 1901 has been documented, but in 1901 the paper was purchased by the Carter Bros. In April of 1939, the Leader was purchased by Marvin M. Craig of fairbury who popularized the journal with his unique brand of humor through the vehicle of his column "Follow the Leader." The column highlighted the foibles of the local citizenry and local events as well as the trails and tribulations of a small town newspaper. Some time during the late 1960s, the paper ceased being printed in Onarga and was printed by "offset" in Fairbury. In August of 1968, the Onarga Leader Review became a member of the Cornbelt chain of newspapers owned by Mr. and Mrs. James Roberts of Fairbury. In 1991, the paper was purchased by Ron Zink who attempted to centralize the advertising and circulation. In 1992, the Leader passed into the hands of Leader Publishing at Pontiac who killed the Onarga Leader Review in November 1992 at the venerable age of 120 years. Residence at 308 W. Seminary built by Peter Risser who had a general store. Robert Blaine Cultra (who also was the founder of the Onarga Nursery) was the contractor; his grandson, Duane, is the present owner. Amy Lillian Miller born-daughter of William Hunter Miller and Ellen Lockwood Miller. She later married Jesse E. Morgan (Jesse actually a Soper; mother was Matildaa Burnham Soper Morgan and father was Eugene J. Soper. They were divorced in1872 and Jesse was raised as a Morgan).

1873 - Allan Pinkerton builds The Larch Farm. Miranda Miller Pangborn, mother of Judge Thomas, died in Onarga at age 89. Ellen Lockwood Miller dies at her own hand. Daughter Amy is only 1 year old.

(this information is contributed by The Lone Tree Leader of Onarga Vol. 3, No. 98 Friday September 3, 2004 page 6-reprinted with permission of Patricia Goff)

Onarga Newspaper

The Lone Tree Leader "Newspaper With Personality"

Based in Onarga; covers Onarga, Gilman, Crescent City, Ashkum, Danforth, Roberts, Piper City and Thawville. Recently, we're moving into Clifton and Buckley.

Sections in the newspaper include: the always popular "ArtNotes" which is a humorous column that sometimes borders on "racy"; "Onarga Review", which includes historical and genealogical information on people and places in the Onarga area; regular columns by correspondents in Piper City, Crescent City, Thawville and Danforth; and interesting happenings.

We pride ourselves on the number and quality of photographs we include. One of our goals is to get the younger people to READ a newspaper, and it is becoming increasingly popular with the high school students because of our extensive school events coverage.

The meaning behind the name of the newspaper:

"Onarga, by the red men named, Lone Tree, the Indian version." First line in a poem written by an ancestor of Durwood Shawl, a genealogical researcher with ties to Onarga. The poem was written at a 1906 Greene Family reunion at the home of Mrs. Sylvester Howard in Onarga. The "Leader" part comes from the old Onarga newspaper, "The Onarga Leader and Review".

Arthur C. Jones and Patricia Dissmeyer Goff, publishers 111 W. Seminary Ave., Onarga, IL 60955 Phone: 815-268-4770 Fax: 815-268-4771 Patricia Cell: 815-471-4790 Art Cell: 815-471-4791 email: LoneTreeLeader@sbcglobal.net

The Lone Tree Leader will be submitting genealogical information, data, and history about ONARGA to the Iroquois County site here at Illinois Trails so keep checking back for it!!!!

Check out their website too!! The Lone Tree Leader

Patton Family Bible

Attached is a letter and Bible record I recently received from the Patton family file from the Tippecanoe County Historical Society.

The Lewis family of record here is the family of Thomas and Anna Lewis, who moved to Sheffield Township around 1830. (land patent April, 1829). The land patent states that Thomas Lewis lived in Butler County, Ohio at the time of issue.

Thomas Lewis (a.1778-1870) Anna Lewis (a.1778-1870)
They are buried in Baker Cemetery, Sheffield Township, Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

Their children were

Henry B. Lewis (1797-1889) ( lived in Clinton County) Buried in Baker Cemetery
Lewis Miller (1803-1881) m. George Miller in Butler Co., Ohio. Buried in
Burr Oak, Kansas
Lewis Mattix ( 1808--??) m. Jacob Mattix---prob in Butler Co., Ohio
James Alpheus
Lewis (1811-1855) Buried in Iroquois County, Illinois

My line: James Alpehus Lewis and Lydia Patton were married in Tippecanoe County on August 7, 1834 (consent from her mother Abigail Patton and her brother Joseph Henry Patton). Lydia Patton Lewis was born in Butler County, Ohio and died in Burr Oak, Kansas (1818-1882)

The children of James and Lydia Lewis were all born in Sheffield Township, Tippecanoe County, Indiana.

Alpheus Lewis (1835-1872) buried in Ornarga, Illinois (m. Mary Louisa Brown)
Lewis (1837-1934) buried in Burr Oak, Kansas
Lewis (1840-1926) buried in Burr Oak, Kansas
Lewis (1842-1883) buried in Onarga, Illinois (m. Phoebe Brown)
Sarah A.
Lewis (1844-1910) buried in Kansas (m. Benjamin Brown)
Lewis (1847-1920) buried in Onarga, Illinois
Mary Jane (Jenny)
Lewis (1850-1944) buried in Burr Oak, Kansas (m. William
Riner, m. Ziby Aldrich)

* note: Mary Louisa and Phoebe Brown were sisters.

My grandmother Hazel Lewis Parsons (1895-1993) was the next to youngest child of Calvin Lewis (from his third marriage).


The letter and information about the Patton Family Bible from Mary Jane Lewis Riner Ziby was compiled by a Kansas researcher in 1944. The original letter along with the bible data is in the Patton file in the Tippecanoe County Historical Society in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. The Patton genealogy information from this file was printed in the Ohio Genealogy Magazine in 1962 and is all over the Internet. I mention this in case researchers are interested in the original documents.

The James Lewis family, James and Lydia Patton Lewis and their seven children, moved from Tippecanoe County, Indiana to Iroquois County, Illinois in 1853. I think they settled near Milford. James died in 1855. Three of their sons, Thomas, Calvin, and William, joined Company M of the 9th Regiment of the Illinois Cavalry and served from 1861-1864. After the Civil War, around 1870, Thomas and Calvin Lewis pioneered in Burr Oak, Kansas. The youngest daughter, Mary Jane Lewis, married William Riner, son of Daniel and Mary Riner of Onarga. Later Calvin Lewis married Belle Hunt Frye, daughter of Mary Riner Clayton and granddaughter of Daniel and Mary Riner. The children of the Patton family were born in Butler County, Ohio and the children of James and Lydia Patton Lewis were born in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Most of the surviving children of the Daniel Riner and James Lewis families settled in Burr Oak, Kansas in the 1870s-1880s.

Charlie Lewis is the son of Calvin and Belle Hunt Lewis.
Lewis is the son of Calvin and Belle Hunt Lewis
Lewis Tegley is the daughter of Charlie Lewis
Lewis is the son of James and Lydia Patton Lewis and the brother of Calvin Lewis.

Diana Skeels Harper lived in Onarga and is buried there.
Robert Richland
Skeels married Susannah Riner in Onarga. They later settled in Burr Oak, Kansas. Their children were Daniel Henry Skeels and Mary Skeels Grubbs.

John W.Grubbs had a large farm near Onarga from the 1850's on. Several of his children settled in Burr Oak, Kansas after 1870. I recently received the family picture album and am slowly scanning the pictures from the 1880's-1900. This album was the property of Susannah Riner Skeels and later her daughter Mary Skeels Grubbs, who married Harvey J. Grubbs, son of John W. Grubbs.
In a few months I hope to be able to share these photos with interested researchers, but don't have time to scan them yet.

Calvin and Belle Hunt Lewis were my great-grandparents. My great-aunt, Mattie Lewis Grubbs, pasted many of the oldest obits on pieces of cardboard, including the one of Daniel Riner from 1885. She sent them to my mother back in the 1970's and I found them in my mother's papers. It took me several years to figure out who all of these people were. Most of their photos are in the album above or in the 1965 History of the Burr Oak Methodist Church.

" Onarga was very dear to the Burr Oak folks and visited and mentioned with much fondness."

(Jeanne Shafer Bedwell (graciously submitted by Jeanne Bedwell jbedwell@blueriver.net )

Timothy Webster
History's Obscure Hero

His Body Lies Unappreciated in Onarga, Illinois Cemetery

by Patricia Dissmeyer Goff, November, 1999


"Unwept, unhonored and unsung."
---- Allan Pinkerton, 1868

A group of Onarga, Illinois citizens, led by David Danforth, intend to erect a monument to Timothy Webster at his gravesite on Memorial Day, 2000. Timothy Webster was instrumental in the shaping of our nation and should be remembered, recognized, and revered.


Timothy Webster has been recognized as Allan Pinkerton's most famous active agent in the Civil War. He is partially responsible for thwarting an assassination attempt on president-elect Abraham Lincoln. It is impossible to know exactly how events would have transpired at that time without Lincoln at the helm, but it is certainly true that the history of the United States would have been dramatically different if Pinkerton and Webster had failed in their mission and Lincoln had been killed before even entering the Presidency.
Webster was baptized on March 12, 1822 in New Haven, Sussex County, England. He immigrated to America in September or August, 1830 with his parents and settled in Princeton, New Jersey. After he finished school, in 1853 he became a policeman in New York City. He became very good at it and around 1854 was noticed by a friend of Allan Pinkerton's who recommended him for detective work. Webster went to work for Pinkerton and quickly became their best agent.
Timothy had married Charlotte
Sprowles on October 23, 1841 in Princeton, New Jersey. They had four children, two of whom died young. Their son, Timothy Jr., born in 1843, joined the Union Army from Onarga, Illinois on July 30, 1862 enlisting in Company D, 113th Infantry. Timothy Jr. married Ursula Treadway in March of 1864 in Olney, Illinois. He was wounded in a battle at Ripley, Mississippi on June 11, 1864 and his leg was amputated. He was taken to a confederate prison in Mobile, Alabama and died there on July 4, 1864.
At the beginning of the Civil War General George
McClellan asked Pinkerton to enter Federal service, which he readily agreed to. Timothy Webster went with him thereby changing from detective to Union Spy.
Because of the nature of his work,
Pinkerton suggested that Webster move his family to a safer place and work out of the Chicago office. Pinkerton suggested Onarga which was located right on the Illinois Central Railroad so Webster could commute easily and his family would be safe. Pinkerton was familiar with the area and had said that he would like to have a farm and house there someday-an ambition that was carried out later.
Webster was sent to pose as a Southern gentleman and managed to become a member of the rebel group "Knights of Liberty" in order to report on their plans and activities. In February of 1861 president-elect Lincoln was to travel from Harrisburg through Baltimore and on to Washington for his inauguration. While Webster was investigating rumors that secessionists were planning to blow up the steamers that ferried trains across the Susquehanna River, he uncovered a plan to assassinate Lincoln as he changed trains in Baltimore. Because Timothy Webster was able to send a warning, Pinkerton was able to foil the attempt on Lincoln's life.
In 1862,
Webster was continuing to gather information on the Confederacy in Richmond when he was stricken with inflammatory rheumatism which was a result of several previous crossings of the Potomac River in frigid weather. Because he was too ill to send reports back to Pinkerton, two men were sent to locate him. They were captured by the Confederacy and forced to reveal secret information incriminating Timothy Webster.
Confederate officers had trusted
Webster many times with valuable documents and information and the Confederacy was extremely embarrassed by Webster's betrayal. Webster was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by hanging.
Pinkerton heard the news of the sentence, he and President Lincoln sent a message to the Confederacy threatening that if Webster was put to death, the Union would reciprocate by hanging a Confederate spy. Previously, Union policy had been to keep spies in jail and eventually exchange them for Union prisoners.
The Confederacy ignored the threat and on April 29, 1862, Timothy
Webster climbed the gallows in Richmond, Virginia. The noose was put around his neck and a black hood was fitted over his face. The trap was sprung but the knot slipped and Webster fell to the ground. After being helped back up the steps and re-fitted with the noose and hood he said, "I suffer a double death!"
Timothy was buried hastily in Richmond. In 1871, at the pleadings of Timothy's widow, Charlotte, and to fulfill a promise he made to himself upon hearing of Timothy's death,
Pinkerton sent George Bangs and Thomas G. Robinson (Timothy's son-in-law) to Richmond to locate his body and bring it North for proper burial in "Northern soil." They were fortunate in locating Timothy's body and that of his son, and both were moved to their final resting place in Onarga, Illinois, next to Timothy Webster's father, who had died in Onarga in1860.
Timothy's widow, Charlotte, went to live with her daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Thomas
Robinson in Onarga. In August or September of 1874, this family moved to California where Charlotte received a pension and lived with her daughter until she died on December 1, 1907. She is buried in the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento. Sarah Webster Robinson is buried in the Masonic Cemetery on Riverside Boulevard in Sacramento. Sarah's children never married, therefore there are no descendants of Timothy Webster.
There are, however, many descendants of Timothy's siblings, and this author has been in touch with some of them. Those descendants have been extremely helpful in providing information on Timothy and his family.


 Back to the Town/Township Pages
Back to the Main
Index Page

©2005 Carrol Mick and Illinois Genealogy Trails