Lee County Biography



John Holdren, a wealthy farmer residing in the village of Compton, is honored as one of the pioneers of Lee County, whose work has helped in making it one of the richest and best developed agricultural counties of Northern Illinois. He was born February 4, 1825 in that part of Mt. Pleasant Township, Columbia County PA now included in Montour County. His father was Edward Holdren, and he was a native of New Jersey, of which his father was a life-long resident.

The father of our subject passed his youth in his native State, but when he attained manhood he went to PA and identified himself with the farmers of that State, buying a tract of partly improved land in Mt. pleasant Twp. That part of the country was then comparatively wild, there were no railways for several years after Mr. Holdren's settlement there, and Philadelphia, over one hundred miles away, was the nearest market to which the people could take their produce and stock to sell and obtain household neessities in return. Mr. Holdren made many improvements on his farm during his residence in Mt. Pleasant Twp., and then he sold it some years after locating on it and bought a place near White Hall, which was his home there­after until death removed him from the scene of his usefulness. He had married after going to Pennsylvania, taking as his wife Abigail DeMott, a native of Columbia County, that State, and a daughter of Richard DeMott, and she spent her last years with him on tlw home farm near White Hall.

John Holdren was educated in his native county and there grew to man's estate. He was early taught to be of use on his father's farm, and he continued to assist him in its management until after his marriage, remaining an inmate of the parental home until then. In 1851 he determined to emigrate to the fertile prairies of Northern Illinois, his father having landed interests here, and on the 15th of June he arrived in this county to make a permanent settlement here, and to ally his fortunes with those of the pioneers that had preceded him into this then sparsely settled wilderness. He located on a tract of land that his father had entered from the Government, situated one mile south of the present site of Compton. The prairies were then but little used for agricultural purposes, as the early settlers had not realized their value as land of surpassing fertility. There were no railways, and Aurora and Peru were the nearest market towns, though the farmers often took their grain and other products to Chicago.

Mr. Holdren erected suitable buildings on his land, and busily engaged in its improvement for some years. In 1863 he sold it and bought another on section 16, Brooklyn Township, upon which he lived until 1876, when he took up his residence in the village of Compton, and has remained here I since. He has acquired a handsome property by the exercise of those traits of character that mark him as a thrifty, sagacious man, with a full understanding of the best way to handle his affairs so as to make money. He is the owner of 400 hundred acres of fine farming land, conveniently divided into three farms, that are amply supplied with all the necessary buildings, and are under excellent tillage.

In what he has accomplished our subject has been greatly aided by his wife, who has been to him all that the term helpmate implies, as it was his good fortune to marry, in August, 1849, Miss Phebe A. Derr, a native of the same State as himself, her birthplace being in Northumberland County. They havc five children - William C. Holdren, Eleanora, Edward, Janet aud Sherman J. William married Miss Ellen Adrian, and they have two children - Fannie and John, Eleanora married Shepard Mannon, and they have three children - Emma C., Willard and Laura; Janet is the widow of Alonzo Davison and has two children - Gracie P. and R. Palmer. Edward married Miss Emma G. Swope, and they have two children - Emma C. and Calvin. Sherman married Miss Ellen N. Kline, and they have one child - Rosanna.

Lee County Portraits & Biographical Pg 279


Son of John Holdren

William C. Holdren is the owner of a farm of eighty acres on section 10, Brooklyn township, near the city limits of Compton. He came to this county in 1851, brought by his parents, John and Phoebe (Derr) Holdren. He was then but a year old, his birth having occurred in Pennsylvania, June 15, 1850. The father had purchased the property upon which the family settled in 1848. Three years later he brought his family to the middle west, and they took up their abode upon the tract of government land which he had secured, and which was still in its wild condition, not a furrow having been turned or an improvement made. With characteristic energy he began its development and converted the place into rich fields. He was a very popular man, and one who left the impress of his individuality for good upon the community in which he lived. He was at the head of the Union League and was therefore in thorough sympathy with the Union cause and the administration at Washington. One of his brothers was an enlisted soldier in the Union army. John Holdren died in 1898. having for two years survived his wife, who passed away in 1896. their remains being interred in Malugin Grove cemetery.

William C. Holdren was the eldest in his father's family. He had comparatively limited opportunities of attending school, having to put aside his text-books at the age of fifteen years in order to assist his father in the further cultivation and development of the home place. He was thus employed until he attained his majority, after which he learned the carpenter's trade with his uncle, Mathias, with whom he worked until 1881. In that year he secured a position as fireman on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and spent three years in that way. He next began building residences in this vicinity and erected many of the substantial homes of the district until 1907. In that year he accepted the position of salesman for the Acme Harvester Company and has found the business not only congenial but profitable. He seems almost intuitively to know how to approach a man and by square dealing and progressive methods has found no difficulty in disposing of the goods which he handles. He owns two farms which are now managed by his son, and Mr. Holdren is largely concentrating his attention upon commercial pursuits.

On the 28th of February, 1882, in Dixon, Mr. Holdren was united in marriage to Miss Marilla E. Adrian, a daughter of Evans and Mary Ann Adrian. Her father was a large stock-raiser and was the owner of the Glenwood farm. The mother died in March, 1912, and was laid to rest in the Malugin Grove cemetery. Mr. and Mrs. Holdren have become the parents of three children: Fannie, the wife of William Bird, a retired farmer; John, a representative farmer of Viola township; and Emma, who resides at home.

In politics Mr. Holdren is a progressive, while fraternally he is connected with the Masons, holding membership in the lodge at Compton and in the chapter and commandery at Mendota. He belongs to the United Brethren church, in which he is serving as a trustee. He attributes his success and justly so to his hard work, and his close application and energy constitute an example that others might profitably follow.

Transcribed by Karen Holt - 1914 History of Lee County Illinois Vol 2 by Frank E. Stevens.

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