Lee County Biography

George L. Richardson

Aunt Florence's Farm - 1940 - contributed by Ed Cleary
The elderly lady in the center of the photo is “Grandma Harden” a.k.a. Margaret Alice (Gruver) Harden, wife of William Winfield Harden (see Biography page). Behind Grandma Harden is her sister, Florence Bollman. Florence’s son Bill is leaning on the pump. The man behind Bill (with his face covered) is my grandfather, Edward Lawton Cleary. The two ladies on the steps are Helen and Winnie Richardson, granddaughters of George Richardson (see Biography page). Helen (on the lower step) is my Grandmother (married to Ed Lawton Cleary). The little girl on the top step is their daughter Janet. My father, Edward Harden Cleary, was 8 years old and he took this photo. This was Sunday after church and everyone has just finished lunch.

While George L. Richardson is now a resident of Burke, South Dakota, he is numbered among the pioneer settlers of Lee county, where he has a wide and favorable acquaintance. He was born in Cheshire county, New Hampshire, on the 2d of December, 1842, and comes of genuine old New England stock. He is proud, however, to claim that his boyhood days were passed in Dixon, for he was brought to the west by his parents in 1849, when a lad of seven years. They arrived at Daysville, Illinois, in the month of November and from that time forward George L. Richardson was an interested witness of the growth of the county and of the events which have shaped its history. Even at the early age of seven years he took groat pleasure in assisting his grandfather, James Hatch, Sr., helping to swing the ox goad over two yoke of fine oxen which had been brought to this district from Chicago. As there were no railroads in those days and comparatively few horses in the county, oxen were in great demand. In the winter of 1849-50 George L. Richardson came to Dixon and lived for a time with his uncle, James Hatch, Jr., who was then conducting the only bakery in this part of the state nearer than Peru. James and Charles Hatch had the credit of operating the first bakery in Dixon, distributing their hand-made crackers and bread to nearby settlements.

At the age of seven years George L. Richardson was sent to a select or subscription school taught by a Mrs. Cotton in what was known as the stone schoolhouse directly west of the Nachusa house. The lamented Major L. Levanway of the Thirty-fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, who was killed at the battle of Shiloh on the 7th of April, 1862, was the next teacher. He was followed by Henry T. Noble, who was a member of the Thirteenth Illinois Infantry. In the early '50s the demand for a better school system became imperative and the public schools were established.

With advancing years George L. Richardson passed from one school to another of higher grade and at the time of the outbreak of the Civil war in 1861 was a student in the high school which was then conducted in the building now occupied by Dr. Marion L. White, on Second street, where Alexander and James Gow were the efficient instructors. In September of 1861, Mr. Richardson, who could no longer content himself to remain at home while the country was engaged in war, enlisted in the Thirty-fourth Illinois Infantry in which he served for three years and was then honorably discharged at Jonesboro, Georgia, September 12, 1864, when but twenty-two years of age. He went back to Nashville, Tennessee, with General Thomas and while at that point in the winter of 1865, the battle of Nashville occurred, the troops of General Thomas being confronted with the rebel forces under General Hood. Mr. Richardson was in the service at that time in the Ninth Regiment quartermaster forces, having been appointed first lieutenant of Company D of that regiment. During his military experience he participated in many hotly contested engagements, including the battle of Shiloh, April, 7, 1862; the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in May, 1862; the battle of Perryville, Kentucky, in October of the same year, on which occasion he was recommended to his superiors for promotion in recognition of gallant conduct on the field of action, as told in Major General A. McD. McCook's report of the battle. He was held as a prisoner of war during the month of December, 1862, having been captured near Nashville, Tennessee, while acting as messenger for General McCook. Subsequently he was exchanged and participated in the battle of Chicka- mauga in October, 1863, and Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge in December, 1863. The balance of his service until September, 1864, was in the army blank and record office at Nashville, Tennessee.

After the close of the war Mr. Richardson returned to Dixon and later went to Woodstock, Illinois, where he pursued a three years' course in the Woodstock Academy. He also took a semi- collegiate course in Carroll College at Waukesha, Wisconsin. For a number of years he engaged in teaching in Lee county and his last three years in this profession were spent as principal of the Lee Center schools.

He then withdrew from the educational field to turn his attention to merchandising in Lee Center, Illinois, where he established a store which he successfully conducted for fourteen consecutive years, enjoying a good and profitable trade throughout that period. He then retired from business in 1899 and returned to his old home in Dixon. During his residence in Lee Center he held many offices of public trust, serving as justice of the peace and notary public for four years and as assessor for seven years.

Mr. Richardson was married in Lee Center in 1874, to Miss Millie C. De Wolf and unto them were born the following named: Mae D., the wife of Mark C. Keller, city attorney of Dixon; Nelson F., who is now manager of the grocery department for the I. B. Countryman Company at Dixon; John G., who is now employed in the postoffice of Dixon; and Marguerite, who is living in this city. Mr. Richardson gave all of his children excellent educational opportunities. He is a comrade in G. A. R. Post, No. 299, of Dixon, Illinois, and is active in Masonry, being a member of the blue lodge, chapter and commandery. As a mark of esteem and in recognition of his splendid work in the chapter he was exalted to the chair of most excellent high priest of Nachusa Chapter, No. 56, of Dixon, which office he filled with honor to the fraternity and credit to himself.

On account of ill health Mr. Richardson went west in 1906 and filed on a claim near Burke, South Dakota, in the Indian Rosebud reservation. He was on the ground and selected the quarter section which he now owns and occupies in 1904, at which time he liked the climate so well that he decided to locate there. There are few of the war veterans of the '60s who are now living in the far west country. The Indians are fast disappearing and the work of civilization and general improvement is rapidly advancing. Mr Richardson now has his farm in a fine state of cultivation and it is divided into fields of convenient size by well kept fences. It compares favorably with Illinois farms in its buildings and improvements, the climate is fine, the people are of the best type of American citizenship and yet there are often times when Mr. Richardson longs for his old home in Illinois, where he resided for so many years, during which time he formed a strong attachment for the state and its people.

History of Lee County 1914 by Frank E. Stevens

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