Lee County Biography

Charles F. Welty

Charles F. Welty is a wide-awake, progressive farmer and stock-raiser, carrying on an extensive business in Marion Township, where he has a valuable farm and large herds of cattle; an able and public-spirited official, representing his township as a member of the County Board of Supervisors, Charles F. Welty stands among the foremost of the sons of Lee County, who were born within its boundaries, and are now among its most useful and enterprising citizens. The city of Dixon is the birthplace of our subject, and November 3, 1858, the date of his birth into one of the oldest and most highly respected pioneer families of that city and the county. His father, the late Judge David Welty, was for years widely and favorably known throughout Northern Illinois, as a man of large business enterprise, as an incorruptible judge while he sat on the bench, and as a noble citizen, who wielded a powerful influence in advancing the educational, moral and social interests of his community. The Judge was a native of New York,and for some years, during his early manhood, was engaged in the mercantile business in the city of Buffalo. In 1833, his health became impaired, and he came to Illinois to recuperate, making the journey hither on horseback, and from that time until the day of his death in January, 1885, at a venerable age, was a resident of Dixon. He was a man of means, a gentleman-farmer, and dealt largely in real estate. In politics, he was a Republican, and he was a prominent figure in public life. He was at one time Drainage Commissioner, and he served as Probate Judge for eight years. He was for many years one of the leading Odd Fellows of this part of the State, being a charter member of Dixon Lodge, No. 39. The following biographical record of Judge Welty's life and eloquent tribute to his memory is taken from the Dixon Telegraph:


"With a heart of grief we are again called on to register the death of another of our old and much respected citizens. Mr. David Welty quietly passed from this life last evening at half-past ten o'clock, after a lingering illness of many years. Mr. Welty was born in Williamsville, Erie County, N. Y., September 30,1811. When he was twelve years of age, he moved to Buffalo, N. Y., where he acquired the greater part of his education. On arriving at the age of maturity, he engaged in the dry-goods business, .which he followed a number of years. During the patriot war in Canada, Mr. Welty served as Aid on the staff of Gen. Burt. He moved to Dixon in the year of 1833, and has ever since resided in this county. He was elected Probate Judge in 1854 and served two terms. He also held the office of Drainage Commissioner for several years. Judge Welty was married to Miss Seraphina Scott, at Buffalo, N. Y., in 1834. David Welty leaves nine surviving children, namely: Emily, now Mrs. Devine; Ellen, married to E. K. Sibley; John, now in the Government employ; Maxwell, Adeline, Anna, Charles, William and George. Mr. Welty has been a member of the Odd Fellows fraternity, and, until his health became so shattered that he was unable to do so, he was a regular and an active member. We understand that he was insured in a reliable life insurance company for the sum of $10,000. "In his day he was a good business man, and he has always been honored and respected for his honesty and integrity as a citizen and official.

"In the death of Judge Welty, whose funeral takes place tomorrow afternoon, another old "landmark," so to speak, in the history of Dixon and Lee County, has passed away. For a man who had so strong a character, such a marked ability for business, and strict integrity, it would appear to those who knew David Welty that the brief and formal notice of his death that appeared in the Evening Telegraph, yesterday, was not what is due to such a man from a public journal. So we thought, in our haste, and, therefore, we write this in way of apology. Judge Welty, for many years, was known as a prominent citizen of Dixon and Lee County; held offices of public trust, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were in his hands, and where great temptation for speculation—even without injury to the public service, save in example—would arise; but those who knew the man would not have had the impudence or temerity to hint to him concerning a proposition of using his public office for personal gain in anyway what­ever. While it is true that "an honest man 's the noblest work of God," still there are men who have not the good sense always to carry out that principle, though possessing a wish to do so; but David Welty was a man who knew enough to be honest. He was a man who despised meanness, in whatever shape it came, and he had that force of character which aided him in refusing his recognition, coming in any shape it might. As an indication of "how strong he was armed in honesty," the Telegraph cannot better illustrate his character than by relating one of his official acts. As a requisite for admission to the bar, a certificate of "good moral character" was then, as now, required by the law student from the county judge. A man of a doubtful reputation from one of the towns in the county undertook to smuggle in as a lawyer. No particular examination as to qualifications was required in those days and a part of the general plan of the trick, of which we speak, was that of securing the required certificate by taking the court by storm. The would-be lawyer sent to Judge Welty's house late at night and requested his presence at the office. When the court arrived, the business was not very important, and, in fact, only that of a certificate of good moral character for the party in waiting. Judge Welty, probably not in good humor, immediately wrote and signed the following: "I hereby certify that is a man of character," and with it the would-be lawyer departed for Ottawa. The fact that he took such a paper was sufficient evidence that he was not a fit man to have a better one. When a courier returned with the document and suggested to Judge Welty that he had omitted the essential words, "good moral," which were required to make the certificate of any avail, the court firmly informed him that it was just as he intended it should be. It was, we believe, after Judge Welty had retired from office that the bar was disgraced with an unworthy member. He was an officer who in all sincerity looked upon "a public office as a public trust," and his entire course in all the years that he served the people was marked by a determination to hew to that line. For several years he has been in very feeble health, and has been for many years since lie retired from active business. Those who have known him only in the last decade knew not the man of whom we have written. The four-score years, aided by impaired health in early youth, ended his days of usefulness about the time suggested. Since then he has not been in any way the Judge Welty of other days. He was a remarkable man in many respects and we shall not, taking him all in all, "look upon his like again." We knew him well, honored and respected him for the sterling qualities of head and heart that were characteristic of the man."

Judge Welty's wife, with whom he lived in wedded happiness for more than a half-century, did not long survive him, her death occurring July 26, 1886. They were the parents of thirteen children, of whom these ten grew to maturity: John M., who is employed in the Pension Office, at Washington, D. C; Emily, wife of L. A. Devine, of Dixon; Elizabeth, deceased; Addie, a stenographer, of Kansas City; Anna, deceased; Ella, wife of E. K. Sibley, a banker in New York City; Maxwell, a station-agent, at Beebe, Ark.; George, a traveling man, of Chicago; Charles F.; and William A., a telegraph operator in Colorado.

Charles F. Welty received a substantial education in the excellent schools of Dixon, and after he had attained manhood took charge of his father's land. In 1881, he went to South Dakota and took up three hundred and twenty acres of land, and was engaged in its cultivation for two years. He then sold it, and returning to Illinois in 1883, took upon himself the responsibilities of domestic life by marrying Miss Mary A. McKevitt, a native of Bureau County, in whom he has found a true wife, who has made his interests her own, and has materially contributed to his well-being. Three children have been born unto them: George, Frances and Anna.

Mr. and Mrs. Welty passed the first year of their wedded life in Franklin County, Iowa. They then came back to Illinois, and he purchased from his father three hundred and forty-five acres of land in Marion Township, which he has since devoted to stock-raising, for which it is admirably adapted. His operations are by no means confined to the limits of his farm, but he rents some two thousand acres of land, on which he pastures nearly two thousand head of cattle, and from his stock interests he derives a large revenue.

Our subject's fellow-citizens, keenly appreciating his manifest talent for carrying on a large business with a cool head, a steady hand, with close calculation, and never-failing, far-seeing judgment, have chosen him to represent the interests of Mar­ion Township as a member of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, and he is now serving his second year in that capacity. His popularity is attested by the fact that his constituency is strongly Democratic, while he is a thorough Republican.

Back Home