Lee County Biography
Jacob Epla
Wyoming Twp.


Too much honor cannot be paid to the early pioneers of this county who braved the hardships and privationsof frontier life to build up a home on the rich virgin soil of Northern IL and thus helped to develop its great agricultural resources, or in other ways contributed to its development. Jacob Epla is one of that class, and he holds a worthy place in the history of Wyoming Twp. as one of its earliest settlers and most industrious farmers, who has been living on the farm that he now owns and occupies ever since 1845.

Our subject was born in Rockingham County VA January 9, 1819. His father, John Epla, is supposed ot have been a Virginian by birth also. He was a son ofJacob Epla, who duirng some period of the last century was employed at an iron forge near Luray, VA where he spent the last part of his life. John Epla was a shoemaker, and carried on his trade in his native state until 1837, when he removed to Ohio and passed his remainng days in Champaign County, that State. The maiden name of his wife was Elizabeth Derr, who was born in England and died in Ohio.

He of whom this life record is written resided with his fatheru ntil he attained the age of 20 years and 6 months, when he gave his sire $30 for his time and commenced life for himself $30 in debt. The first six months thereafter he was employed on a farm at $10 a month, and he paid one-half that amount ot his father. Although he had no capital with which to begin his struggle with the world, he had what is better, health, strength, industrious habits and sufficient resolution to accomplish whatever he tried to do, and thus equipped, he went form Ohio to Vigo County IN in 1838 and sought and found employment on a farm. In 1844 he paid his first visit to Lee County, journeying to and from Vigo County with a team. He was favorably impressed with what he saw, and in 1845 he came again to make a permanent settlement in this then sparsely settled, wild region. He entered 40 acres of Government land on section 9 of what is now Wyoming Twp. and at once erected a substantial log house, which was the first building ever put up between Paw Paw and Malugin's Grove on the Chicago & DIxon Road.

Mr. Epla's land being in a wild state, with never a furrow turned when it came into his possession, he rented an improved tract the first year of his residence here. At that time there were but few inhabitants throughout the length and breadth of the county, and deer, wolves and other kinds of game were abundant, which showed that the pioneers had made but little headway against the rude forces of nature. The land was nearly all owned by the Government. The nearest mills were at Aurora and Ottawa, wher the people obtained a poor quality of flour from the wheat that they carried to those points to be ground. Chicago was the principal market and thithere the farmers carried their grain, which often sold at a low rate, wheat bringing .40 cents a bushel. They generally used oxen for transportation, to do their farming, and even in making social visits, as but few were provided iwth horses, and it would take from five to ten days to make the round trip, which is now performed in a few hours. Primitive machinery was used on the farms and household affairs and were carried on after old-fashioned methods.

The good wife of our subject and the other pioneer women of that day used to cook appetizing meals before the fire in the rude fireplace ofolden times, and their deft hands wove the garments wherewithal their families were clothed. The life that these early settlers led, while it was often one of sacrifice and much was lacking that they had enjoyed in theirold homes, yet had its compensations. The people, though living far apart, were drawn nearer together by their commonlot, were very friendly and helpful towards each other, and were true neighbors to all who were in trouble, no matter how great the distance. Their hospitality was proverbial,the "latch string was always out" and friend or stranger rarely sought food and shelter without being kindly welcomed to both, however humble the pioneer home.

Our subject still retains possession of the old homestead on which he settled 46 years ago. He has added to hislanded estate at different times, and at one time had 200 acres of choice farming land. His farm is well-improved and its fields are under admirable tillage, yielding abundant harvests.

For those many years the capable assistance and companionship of a good wife has made our subject's life more prosperous and pleasant. Mrs. Epla was formerly Catherine Farnham and her union with Mr. Epla was solemnized in Edgar Co IL. It has been blessed by three children - Sarah E. wife of E.N. Babbitt; Josiah T; and Mary A. wife of J.B. Christie. Mr. Epla has witnessed almost the entire growth of the county. When a young man he was an ardent supporter of the Whig party - but is now a Republican. He cast his first vote for W.H. Harrison, grandfather of our present President.

Portraits & Biograhpical 1892 Lee County Pg 412

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