Lee County Biography


But few of the pioneers of Lee County have met with more genuine success as farmers than our subject, who is distinguished as being the oldest settler now living in Alto Township, in agricultural development he has played an important part, and where he has large landed interests, and is extensively engaged in farming.

Mr. Southard was born in the town of Windom, Greene County, N. Y., April 4, 1825, while his father, whose name was John Southard, is thought to have been born in Dutchess County, in the same State. He was a son of Henry Southard, who was a farmer, and spent the latter part of his life in Greene County. The father of our subject was reared on a farm. He accompanied his parents in their migration to Greene County, and subsequently bought a tract of timber land in what is now Sempronius Township, cleared it, and lived upon it until 1830, when he removed to Cayuga County, after disposing of his farm. He bought a tract of land fourteen miles from Auburn, which was partly improved, and a forest growth stood on the remainder of it. There were no railways there for some years, and the towns on the Erie Canal were the markets for produce.

In 1883 the father of our subject left Cayuga County for the wilds of Michigan, taking with him his wife and five children, and making the entire journey overland with a team. He bought a tract of Government land in the primeval forests four miles south of the present site of Bangor. At that time Michigan was a territory, and a literal wilderness, in which deer, bears, wolves and other wild animals, had their home. There were no rail­ways, and the roads, where there were any, were poor. Paw Paw and St. Joseph were the nearest markets. The people lived in the most primitive manner; the wives and daughters of the pioneers cooked by the open fireplace, and the children were clad in garments of home manufacture, the cloth being made of flax or wool raised on the place, and carded, spun and woven by the women. Mr. Southard built a typical pioneer habitation of logs, splitting shakes to cover the roof, and boards for the floor and to make a door, no sawed timber entering into the construction of the house, and the chimney was made of earth and sticks. The father died on the farm he had hewn from the Michigan forests, and left behind him a good record as a serviceable pioneer and a good citizen. His wife, who survived him some years, died in the village of Bangor. She was a native of New Jersey—Harriet Helen Height, her maiden name—and she was a daughter of Caleb and Keturah Height. She was the mother of these seven children: Henry, Oscar, Julia A., David, Charles, James and John.

Henry Southard was a lad of twelve years when his parents went to Michigan, and his education was conducted in the pioneer schools of Van Buren County, which were taught in log houses, that were furnished with rude slab benches, and had none of the modern conveniences of the school houses of today. He was very young when he began to assist with the farm work, and on his father's homestead he gained an experience in farming that has been useful to him in his after career as an independent farmer. In 1847 he left the shelter of the parental roof to try life in Illinois. He secured work on a farm in Kane County at $12 a month, and continued thus employed until the following year, when he came to Lee County and bought a quarter of a section of land at Malugin's Grove, Brooklyn Township, and became one of the early settlers of that region, which was then sparsely inhabited, and deer and other game were numerous. In the absence of railways, he had to take his grain to Chicago with ox teams.

The spring of 1852 finds our subject wending his way to the gold diggings of California. He started from Lee County with two others, April 13, and made the journey across the plains and mountains with six Indian ponies and a pair of mules, arriving in the Golden State August 13. At that time there were no white settlers between the Missouri River and Salt Lake, with the exception of soldiers stationed at one or two points, and some Mormons. Buffaloes were very numerous, and our subject had the pleasure of killing the first one he saw. After his arrival in California, he devoted himself to mining with good success, and live years later returned to Illinois, coming by the way of the Isthmus, and invested in eighty acres of land, which is included in his present farm. He has bought other land at different times, and is now the proprietor of seven hundred and eighty-three acres of choice land, the greater part of which is improved. He has risen to his present position as one of the substantial, well-to-do citizens of the county solely through his own efforts. He has applied himself closely to his business, devoting his whole energies to the successful accomplishment of what­ever he has undertaken, carrying out his well laid plans systematically, promptly and in a business­like manner, exercising forethought and that wise economy that knows how to spend money where it is needed as well as how to save it. He is, in short, a fine type of our self-made men, who have made a success in life, and his career is worthy of emulation by the young men of to-day, who are beginning where he began so long ago.

January 25, 1850, Mr. Southard was married to Miss Susan Reed, to whose devotion to his interests he is much indebted for the comforts of the pleasant home that he shares with her. They have five children living, namely: Charles M., Emmett M., Adeline, Cecilia A. and James M. Emmett married Arabella Gallagher. Adeline has been twice married, first to George Merrill and the second time to Charles Flint. Cecilia married Eugene Johnson, and they have one child, Esther Adeline. James married Margaret McNany, and they have two children. Mabel Gertrude and Florence May.

The wife of our subject was born January 29, 1826, in Hume, Allegany County, N. Y. Her father, Ahimaaz Reed, was a native of Vermont, and was a son of John Reed, who was of English birth, and came to America in Colonial times. He served in the Revolution, and passed the last part of his life in Vermont. Mrs. Southard's father went to New York when he was a young man, and was a pioneer of Hume, where he was married, to Adeline Johnson, a native of Vermont, and a daughter of Hezekiah and Hannah (French) John­son. In 1831 Mr. Reed removed to the Territory of Michigan. He went ahead, rented a farm in Kalamazoo County, and then sent for his family. They set out for their new home with a team, with which they went to Dunkirk, where they embarked, team and all, on board a vessel, and proceeded by water to Detroit, and then made their way with the team through the wilderness to their destination. In 1833 Mr. Reed located in Van Buren County, and during his residence there improved the land that he bought in a wild condition into a good farm, which he sold in 1843, in order to remove to Illinois. He and his family came hither with an ox-team, and camped and cooked by the wayside at night while on the journey. Mr. Reed settled at Big Rock, in Kane County, where he purchased two hundred acres of wild land, which he developed into a fine farm—his home until his death at a ripe age.

Portraits and Biographical Lee County IL 1892

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