Lee County Illinois Biography


Samuel Argraves, a resident of the village of Compton, is one of the pioneers of Lee County, who has been an important factor in developing its agricultural re­sources, and while thus materially contributing to its wealth, has acquired a handsome property, as but few of the farmers of his locality have met with more success than has attended his efforts. He is of English birth, born in the village of Bacup, Lancashire, May 4, 1825. His father, John Argraves, was also a native of that village, and there he grew to maturity. He learned the trade of a weaver, and carried it on in his old home until 1829, when he determined to emigrate to America with his wife, and six children, hoping thereby to improve his fortunes. He and his fam­ily set sail from Liverpool, and after a voyage of thirteen weeks landed at New York City. He went directly to Essex County, and located at Keyesville, where he secured the position of fore­man in a woolen factoiy, and was thus employed six years. He next went to the province of On­tario, Canada, and took up his residence in Hewton Township, three miles from Port Bur well. He then devoted his remaining years to farming, renting land for that purpose, and carrying on agricul­ture until his untimely death, in the year 1838. His widow, whose maiden name was Hannah Hayes, and who was a native of Scotland, married a second time, and spent her last years at Hewton, dying there in 1841. She reared sixteen children to good and useful lives.

Our subject was but four years old when he crossed the ocean with his parents to their new home in America, and consequently he has but little recollection of his birthplace in that far-off Lancashire village. He early acquired what Car-lyle terms "The glorious faculty of self-help," and though but a boy when his father died, he had to assist in the support of the family. He resided in Canada until the winter of 1845-46, and then came to Illinois, making the journey with a horse and cutter to Joliet, in company with Dennis Miller. At that place they traded for a buggy, and drove to Malugin's Grove, in this county. When he arrived at his destination, our subject's sole wealth, as far as money was concerned, was $1.50. But he had that, which, perhaps, stood him in better stead—good health and strong muscles, plenty of ambition and spirit, and a resolute de­termination to succeed. He at once found work as a farm hand, at $15 a month, and continued thus employed until 1850. During that time he made a claim to a tract of Government land on sections 25 and 26, of what is now Viola Township. He did not have the money to pay for the land at that time, so he went to Dixon and got a man to enter the land for him, promising to pay him one hundred per cent, interest.

In 1850, Mr. Argraves took up the march to California, whither so many had preceded him, after the discovery of gold in that State. He arranged with James Thompson to take him, agree­ing to give him one-half of his first year's earnings in the gold diggings. They started on their long journey with a pair of ponies, drove to Council Bluffs, where Mr. Thompson exchanged his ponies for oxen, and there joined a train about to cross the plains. At that time there were but very few, or no, white settlers between the Missouri River and California, with the exception of the Mor­mons at'Salt Lake. When our subject and his companion arrived on the 'shores of that inland sea the oxen were too exhausted to go further, and the provisions were nearly gone. In that emer­gency Mr. Thompson had no alternative but to ex­change his oxen for a pony, and Mr. Argraves had to look out for himself in the matter of transpor­tation the remainder of the long journey. Cyre-nus Sawyer, of Lee Center, was one of the party, and appealing to him for aid, he lent him $25. He then gave his note for $50 to two young men from Missouri to carry his provisions to California. On Sunday he attended church and heard Brigham Young preach, and was afterward a victim of one of the Prophet's shrewd deals, as knowing well that the Illinoisans would wish to replenish their supply of flour, he said that if any one had flour to sell for less than twenty-five cents a pound to bring it to him, and consequently every one had to pay that price for it. Provisions again gave out on their arrival at Carson Valley, but, fortu­nately, a Mr. Masterson met them at that point with a load of supplies, which he traded with the hungry travelers for whatsoever they had to ex­change. As our subject had nothing, lie let him­self to Mr. Masterson at $80 a month, until they reached San Francisco. He then gave him $100 per month until spring, when he went to the mountains and tried mining. He soon returned to Mr. Masterson, however, and was in his employ until January, 1852, and then, tired of frontier life, he set his face toward home, returning by the way of the Isthmus of Panama to Lee County. The first thing that he did to celebrate his arrival was to pay for his land with the money that he had brought back with him from his stay on the Pacific slope. He then entered upon a most pros­perous career as a farmer, invested his capital in other land from time to time, and was at one time the proprietor of fifteen hundred acres of as fine land as is to be found in this part of the State.

In the midst of his prosperity, our subject did not forget what was due from him to his adopted country, as a loyal citizen, and in February, 1865, he threw aside his work to help defend the stars and stripes in the great civil strife that was then being waged between the North and South. He enlisted in Company I, Fifteenth Illinois Infantry, and joined his regiment at Goldsborough, N. C. While there, unaccustomed to the privations of army life, he fell sick and was forced to spend eleven days in the hospital. He then re-entered the service, and was at Raleigh when Johnston surrendered. His army then started on the march to Washington, but he and others, who were dis­abled, went by water, and after their arrival at Washington took part with their regiment in the Grand Review of all the troops. They then went into camp three miles from the capital for two or three weeks, and at the end of that time were dis­patched to Parkersburg, Va., and from there by the way of the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, to Ft. Leaven worth, whence they marched across the country to Ft. Kearney, Neb. They staid there a short time, then returned to Ft. Leavenworth, whence they proceeded to Spring­field, 111., where they were honorably discharged, and took to their homes excellent records as brave and patriotic soldiers. Glad to be reunited with his family, and to be able to enjoy again the com­forts of his home^Mr. Argraves resumed his farm­ing operations with renewed vigor, and, as we have seen, was favored by fortune in all his un­dertakings, putting his whole energy into his work, which he carried on systematically, making every stroke tell, and using due caution and close calculation in all his dealings, while at the same time he displayed enterprise, and never was un­fair, or otherwise than just in money matters.

Our subject was married October 14, 1847, to Miss Martha Miller, and their marriage has been blessed to them by the birth of these four children: Winfield, Angelina, Martha, commonly known as May, and Samuel O. Mrs. Argraves was born in New York, March 20, 1832. Her father, John Miller, was born in Ontario, Canada, and was a son of Jacob Miller, who was a native of Ger­many. On coming to America, he settled near Ancaster, and was a pioneer of that part of Can­ada. He secured both timber and plains land, and improved a good farm, whicli was his dwell­ing place until his death. The maiden name of his wife was Elizabeth Martin. She survived her husband, and came to Illinois to spend her last years with her children in Lee County. Mrs. Ar-graves' father was reared and married in his na­tive place, taking as his wife Mary A. Hedges, a native of the State of New York. She died on the farm near Ancaster, in 1837, and, in 1842, Mr. Miller came to Illinois, and for a time was a resident of St. Charles. He then went back to Canada, and, in 1847, again came to Illinois, and bought a farm in this county, near Malugin's Grove. Some years after, he went to Kansas, and died there. The wife of our subject was a child when her mother died, and she lived with an aunt until she was fifteen years old, when she came to Illinois with her father. She is a woman of great worth, and a consistent Christian member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Portraits and Biographical Lee County IL 1892

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