Lee County Biography

Wyoming Township

Abel J. Harrington is one of the pioneers of Lee County, who has witnessed almost its entire growth from the wilderness, and has had a hand in bringing about the great change that makes it a rich and thriving community of beautiful homes, valuable farms and busy towns. He is quietly passing his declining years on his farm in Wyoming Township, which has been in his possession many years, and has been highly improved.

Mr. Harrington is a native of St. Lawrence County, N.Y., and was born amid its pleasant scenes March 20, 1828. His father was Amasa Harrington, and he too was born in New York, his birthplace being in that part of the State now included in Genesee County, of which his father was a pioneer. The latter was a native of the northern part of Ireland, and coming to America some time during the last century he spent the remainder of his life as a farmer in Genesee County.

Amasa Harrington was a young man when he went to St. Lawrence County to live. He married and resided in that county about twenty years, being employed a part of the time as a carpenter. In 1839 he started for what was then the Far West, going with his wife and six children, with a team, to Missouri, which was then on the furthest frontier. He lived in Macon County, that State, some five years, and then coming to Lee County, was one of its early settlers, locating on the present site of Paw Paw. There were but few inhabitants throughout the length and breadth of the county, and the land was owned by the Government. Mr. Harrington operated a threshing machine some years, and then took a contract to carry the mail from Troy Grove to Rockford at which he was engaged eight years. He became well known, and when he died at Paw Paw during the war, he left a most worthy life record.

Abel Harrington, who forms the subject of this brief biography, was a boy of eleven years when the family went to Missouri, and he remembers well the wildness of the country, the primitive modes of life it necessitated, and many pioneer incidents connected with their stay there. There were no railways or other than rough roads as a means of communication with the outside world, and Hannibal was the nearest point at which supplies could be obtained, and where the people sold their produce. When the Harringtons returned Eastward as far as the country, they found it in very much the same wild condition as the region that they had just left, and in the absence of railways the settlers had to haul their grain with teams all the way to Chicago, the nearest market. Our subject assisted his father until he attained his majority, and then for two seasons he worked on a farm by the month. He wisely invested his money in a tract of wild prairie land containing forty acres, for which he paid $3 an acre, the same being included in his present farm. In 1851 he worked for Evans Adrian, and bought of him eighty acres of land in the vicinity of Malugin's Grove, paying $81 for the entire tract. The investment netted him a large sum of money in after years, as in 1864 he sold the land for $16,000.

Our subject was a victim of the gold fever that sent so many thousands of people journeying across the plains and mountains, or by water to California, and in 1852 he made the trip with team, starting from home the 2nd of March and arriving at Downersville, in the Golden State, September 28. The Mormons and soldiers and trappers were the only white settlers at that time between the Missouri River and the Pacific Slope, and the journey was a wild and dangerous one, fraught with many hardships. Indians roamed at will over the plains and lurked in the mountains, and wild animals such as buffaloes, deer, antelopes, etc., were to be seen in large numbers. Mr. Harrington engaged in mining with varied success until the winter of 1854-55, and then he departed homeward with his gains and traveling by the way of the Isthmus of Panama and New York, he at length found himself among his old friends. He settled on his land at Malugin's Grove, but two years later he rented it and removed to the farm that he now occupies in Wyoming Township, subsequently selling his Malugin's Grove property as before mentioned. In 1867 he rented his farm, and took up his residence at Paw Paw, where he bought ten acres of land, including the present site of the railway station. He resided in the village twenty years, and during that time sold much of his land in lots at a good profit. In 1887 he erected a commodious brick house on his farm, and returning to it, has since made it his home. He has here a fine place, everything about it neat and well-ordered and well-tilled fields and rich pastures yield a good income.

Mr. Harrington was married in 1856 to Miss Melvina Britton, a native of Pennsylvania, and through her has come much of his prosperity and happiness in life. They have three children; Earl, William b. and Jane Elizabeth. Our subject is a man of sturdy principle and good habits, and capacity for well-directed and persistent label, seconded by close calculation and good sense in regard to money matters are the characteristics that have been most potent in the acquirement of his property. As a good citizen should be, he is interested in politics, and is a decided Republican.

Portraits and Biographical Lee County IL


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