William "Billy"
 T. Aten II


Portrait and Biographical Album of Fulton County, Illinois: containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county: together with portraits and biographies of all the presidents of the United States, and governors of the state; Biographical Pub. Co., Chicago, IL; 1890; page 276–277; The Biography of William Aten
  William Aten was a pioneer of this county, and is one of the most highly esteemed residents of Woodland Township, with whose agricultural growth he has been closely connected for more than forty years. In the meantime he has developed a choice farm, pleasantly located on section 7, from the wilderness that he found when he came here, and has placed it under substantinal improvement.
    Our subject was born in that section of West Virginia known as the Pan Handle, October 8, 1821. His father, William Aten, was a native of New Jersey, while his grandfather, Aaron Aten, is supposed to have been a native of Delaware. Richard Aten, the great-grandfather of our subject, was probably a native of Long Island. The first representative of the Aten family to come to America came from Belgium, and landed on these shores in 1741. The great-grandfather of our subject ran a ferry on the Delaware River, and lived to be quite an old man. Aaron Aten served in the Revolutionary War six months, and took part in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. He was once wounded in the leg. He farmed in Delaware until 1792, and then moved to Western Pennsylvania, and settled at the point where Beaver, Washington and Allegheny Counties come together. He made the trip over the mountains with a team and wagon, and was one of the very first settlers in that part of the State. He erected a log cabin and cleared a farm, on which he spent the remnant of his life, dying at the age of eighty-two years. He was a very religious man, and was first a member of the Dutch Reformed Church and later of the Presbyterian.
    The father of our subject passed his early life on a farm in Pennsylvania, and after marriage moved across the line into West Virginia. He bought two hundred acres of land there, and cleared half of it. He was a man of persevering industry, and by thrift and economy became quite well-to-do. He was a faithful member of the Presbyterian Church. His death occurred on his homestead in West Virginia at the age of eighty-four years. Jane (Anderson) Aten, his wife, was, so far as known, a native of Virginia. She was a kind motherly woman, and a member of the Seceders' Church. She died at the age of fifty-two years. Seven of the eight children whom she bore grew to maturity: Aaron H., John C., Richard, Robert, William, Mary (Mrs. McClurg) and Nancy. William Anderson, the maternal grandfather of our subject, was a native of Ireland, and when a young man came to this country and settled in Pennsylvania, where he engaged in his occupation as a farmer. He was a member of the Seceders' Church. He died in Pennsylvania, just as he had attained the meridian of his life.
    William Aten, of this sketch, was reared on his father's farm in Hancock County, Va., and attended the pioneer schools of the period, taught in log schoolhouses, with slab benches, open fireplaces and greased paper windows. When a young man he served two years at the tailor's bench, and so injured his health that he made a trip South to recuperate. He spent two years in that region, and then returned Northward. At the age of twenty-one he began life for himself, and after that spent one year on the old home place, and then came Westward. He landed in this county in the month of March, 1844, and entered three forty-acre tracts, walking to Quincy, Ill., a distance of ninety miles, to make the entry at the land-office. Two of these forty-acre tracts were in Vermont Township, and one in Astoria. He erected a hewed log house on his land in the former place, and cleared several acres of his homestead. Four years later he sold out, and bought the one hundred and sixty acres on section 7, in Woodland Township on which he now resides. A log cabin, a log barn, and a few acres cleared, constituted all the improvements, and all else that has been done to make it what it is to-day, one of the neatest and most attractive farms in the locality, is the work of his own hand. He lived in the old log cabin four years, and then replaced it by another more commodious, in which he dwelt until 1873, when he erected his present substantial, roomy brick residence. He has been an indefatigable worker, and has prospered abundantly. He has always kept a book account of his sales of produce, stock, etc., and in the forty years he has lived on this place has sold over $40,000 worth of produce.
    May 14, 1846, was the date of the marriage of our subject, with Elizabeth Pittenger, who was born in Virginia in 1824. They have had ten children, namely: Melissa J., Sarah C., Elizabeth, Emma, John P., William N., Frank, Henry M., Ida M. and Mary E. Mr. Aten and his wife have been connected with the Presbyterian Church since 1841, and he has been an Elder since 1854. The sincerity of their Christian faith is exemplified in their daily lives, which are guided by the highest principles of right. Politically, Mr. Aten was reared a Democrat, and was a follower of that party until 1860. He then changed to Republicanism on account of his hatred of slavery, and remained with the Republican party until six years ago, when he identified himself with the Prohibitionists. He is a thoroughly upright, moral man, and is zealous in all good works to promote the religious and social welfare of his township. Mr. Aten has a wide acquaintance on account of his many years residence in this county, and occupies a warm place in the hearts of the entire community, by whom he is affectionately known as "Uncle Billy."

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