Lee County Biography


NELSON F. SWARTWOUT is at the head of an important industry as a manufacturer of tile and brick at Dixon, he is a native of Illinois, born at Rock Island, February 4, 1844, and is a worthy descendant of some the old pioneer stock of the State. He was one the many brave citizen-soldiers that this Common wealth sent to the front during the Civil War. Our subject is a son of Nelson J. Swartwout who was born in Otsego County, N. Y.,September 2, 1814, his father being Francis Swartwout. The father of our subject was reared and educated in the State of his birth, and served an apprenticeship to a blacksmith to learn that trade and that of wagon-making at Ballston Spa. In 1837 he came to Illinois, making the entire journey with a horse and carriage. He did not locate at that time in this State, however, but crossing the Mississippi found employment in the Government shop at Davenport, Iowa, He worked in that year, and then opened a shop of his own in that city, and carried on business there for a year, he then recrossed the Mississippi River, and took up his quarters at Rock Island, where he had previously bought property. He followed his trade in that place until 1845, and in that year came to Lee County, making the removal with teams, and bringing all his household goods along, as there were then no railways in Illinois, and he was thereafter numbered among; the most active and useful pioneers of this section. He bought a small farm at Lee Centre, and the family moved into the log house that stood on the place, and occupied it a few years until he erected a more commodious frame dwelling. Ho built a smith}-, and engaged at his trade in connection with farming, continuing to live on that farm until 1855, when he took up his residence on a farm that he purchased at Sublette. Tho ensuing two years he carried on a lumber business, and at the same time made some improvements on his farm, finally devoting his whole attention to it, and made his home there until he folded his hands in death in 1868. He and his good wife were stanch Christians, and were devoted members of the Baptist Church, and reared their children in that faith.

The venerable mother of our subject now make her home with her children, who care for her tenderly in her declining years, in grateful remembrance of her devotion to them in childhood. Her maiden name was Abigail Kicker, and she was born April 13,1811), in one of the early pioneer homes of this State, situated in Covington. Her father, Rufus Kicker, was a native of York County, Me., where lie grew to manhood and married in due season, Lydia Chitman, a native of tho city of Portland, Me., becoming his trusty companion and wife. At some period in the first quarter of this century, he migrated from the Pine Tree State to that part of the country that was then known as the Western frontier. Traveling slowly, as one must need in those days, ho finally arrived at the Monongahela River, and floated down that stream and the Ohio to Cincinnati, and there he penetrated the interior of the country, traveling through the wilderness to Illinois. He located at Covington, and had a hard struggle to maintain his family on his limited means in so sparsely settled a region. In 1823 he removed to Salem, Marion County, where he bought a tract of timber land, upon which he resided until 1836, when he became a pioneer of Scott County, Iowa, which has then but little inhabited, and where Davenport now is there were but two or three houses. He bought a farm two or three miles from that city, and engaged in farming there until his death in 1847. His wife survived him until 1873, when she too passed away, her death occurring at Davenport. Our subject's parents reared three other children besides himself. Their son Ahram L., who is now a clerk in the treasury department at Washington, D. C, and did good service in the war as a soldier. He was in Company D, Thirty-fourth Illinois Infantry three years, and for one year was a member of Hancock's Veteran Corps. Their daughter Hattie married Frank II. Wright, of Toronto, Canada. Their son Fred R., a resident of Stillman Valley, III., is a minister of the Baptist Church.

Nelson Swartwout, of this biography, was only a year old when his parents brought him to Lee County/and his earliest recollections are connected with the pioneer home of his childhood. He attended school in his younger days, assisted in the labors of the farm, and at the age of twenty years, in the fall of 1864, left the parental home for the first time to join the brave boys at the front to help fight his country's battles. He enlisted in Company D, Thirty-fourth Illinois Infantry, and in his experience of the vicissitudes of war, in the battle of Nashville he was wounded. He was confined in the hospital for a time, in consequence, and was then granted a furlough. At the expiration of his leave of absence, he rejoined his regiment at Goldsboro, N. C, with his ardor nothing damaged by what he had suffered, and marching with his comrades through Richmond to Washington, took part in the Grand Review. He was honorably discharged in July, I860, with a well-earned reputation as a soldier of true courage and fidelity to the cause for which he fought.

Mr. Swartwout resumed farming when he returned home from the army, and soon bought a farm in Sublette Township. He devoted himself to its management until 1883, when he sold it,and came to Dixon to engage in the manufacture of tile and brick, which he has carried on ever since very profitably. He has kilns here with a capacity of three hundred and sixty thousand bricks and twenty-five thousand tiles. At present he is making about fourteen thousand bricks a day, and has a good market for them, as they are of excellent quality and are durable. Ho is a good manager, keeps his money matters well regulated, and maintains good credit with all with whom he deals. He stands well in social and religious circles. He is a member of Dixon Post, No. 299, G. A. R.; and belongs to Lodge No. 56, M. W. A. He and his wife are exemplary members of the Baptist Church.

Mr. Swartwout was married October 5, 1869, to Miss Amelia Nettleton, who understands well how to make their home pleasant and inviting. Three children have been born to them, Walter R., Mina L. and Nellie A. Mi's. Swartwout is a native of Massachusetts, born in the pretty village of Stockbridge, among the hills of Berkshire County. Her father, Alfred Nettleton, was born in the town of Milford, Conn., and there grew to manhood. He was a carpenter by trade, and settling at Stockbridge, Mass., in 1819, he followed his calling there as a carpenter and builder. He rounded out a long life in that place in March, 1875. His wife bore the name of Maria Button, and she was a daughter of Gilbert Button. She died in 1859. Mrs. Swartwout was given the advantages of a good education, of which laid the foundation in the public schools of her native town. She then became a student at the Hudson River Institute and Ripley Female Seminary, in Vermont, and was there fitted for a teacher. She entered upon the duties of her profession when she was eighteen years old, and taught in Massachusetts until 1865, when she came to Illinois, and was successfully engaged in teaching in Lee County until her marriage.

Portraits and Biographical Lee County IL 1892

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