Francis Marion Skiles

From: "Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois Illustrated 1908, edited by Newton Bateman, LL. D. and Paul Selby, A. M., Volume II, Schuyler County", edited by Howard F. Dyson, pages 928-929, a Reprinted by Stevens Publishing Company, Astoria, Illinois 61501, 1970, is sold by the Schulyer County Historical Society, Rushville, Illinois.
  Skiles, Francis M. - The frontiersmen who settled in Schuyler County in the immediate wake of the Indian, reared large claims for themselves and splendid hopes for their progeny.  Although the majority of their characters and labors are mistily set in the framework of history, they yet live in those who bear their name, and who represent in many instances the acme of purpose, endeavor and vitality of the early part of another century.  George Skiles, who arrived when the last century was a quarter old, was born in Pennsylvania, settled in his youth in Kentucky, and hearing the call of the prairies, undertook the arduous journey to Wayne County, Mo., then an unhindered wilderness.  About 1825, accompanied by his wife, who formerly was Mary Justus, and several of their children, he came to Browning Township, Schuyler County, taking up government land shortly after on what the was called Rushville prairie, in what is now the township of that name.  Here he encountered all of the crudities and deprivations of the frontier, and upon arising in the morning could see the smoke arising from the cabins of all the settlers for miles around.  The buffalo trails still were clearly defined, and although the rough outlines of the wigwam had disappeared, the former owners of these quaint habitations frequently returned to what, for centuries, had been the happy hunting grounds of their sires.  For the most part they were subdued and harmless redmen, but the settlers had many disagreeable experiences with those who could not forget their wrongs, and who bitterly resented the encroachments of the palefaced brethren.  This early arrival cleared considerable of his land and advanced from dire poverty to comparative affluence, his useful life coming to an end while bitter warfare raged between the North and South in 1863.  The wife, who survived him until 1874,  was the mother of thirteen children, two of whom are still living; Mary widow of Hiram Scott, who has kindly contributed the facts of this biography, and James Skiles, a resident of Alma, Neb.  At the age of ninety-three, Mrs. Scott, in the enjoyment of excellent health and retaining her faculties to an unusual degree, is now making her home with her daughter, Mrs. Sarah Robertson, wife of Alexander Robertson, son of William Robertson, the latter one of the first settlers of Browning Township.
  Rev. William Skiles, son of George Skiles, was born in Wayne County, Mo., and was a small boy when the family came to Illinois.  He had few opportunities on Rushville Prairie, but he had ambitions and great religious zeal, early in life becoming converted to the Union Baptist faith, in which he prepared for the ministry.  He had a quarter-section of land offered him on the prairie, but he preferred to settle in the timber along the stream, and with the cultivation of this land as one of his life objects, he became a circuit-rider with his brother John, the latter having prepared for the ministry in the Methodist Episcopal Church.  These two self-sacrificing brothers rode together over Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, enduing all of the hardships known to the circuit-riders of the frontier and accomplishing a world of good among the isolated settlers.  Really lofty and grand traits of character are attributed to William Skiles, traits which grew in strength up to the time of his death, April 12, 1907,  at the age of eighty-six years.  Of his nine children, three died in infancy and six are still living, Francis M. Skiles, whose name heads this sketch, being the oldest; Elizabeth is the wife of Frank Heathers, of Seattle, Wash.; George lives in Republic City, Neb.; Sarah is the wife of A. Russell, of Alma, Neb.; William P. lives near Republic City, Neb.; and Nettie is the wife of Jackson Gildersleeve, of Huntley, Neb. The mother of these children formerly was Sarah Luttrell, more extended mention of whom may be found in the sketch of William C. Skiles.
  Born in Browning Township, Schuyler County, Ill., December 2, 1843, Francis M. Skiles was reared to the life of the farm, and always has made this the setting of his life occupation.  His education was acquired in the district schools, often under great difficulties, and the foundation thus supplied has been strengthened and enlarged by almost continuous later research.  His early financial status became apparent at the time of his marriage to Malinda Geer, a native of Browning Township, and daughter of Dyer Geer, one of the early settlers of this part of the State.  Mr. Skiles had to borrow the money of his father for his marriage certificate, and so poor were both of the parties to the alliance, that they continued to live with their respective parents until better times dawned.  Finally the bridegroom succeeded in saving thirty dollars, with which he bought a simple housekeeping outfit, and rented a log cabin from Roswell Brines, the bridal gifts including a colt from the elder Skiles and a heifer from the bride’s father.  The farm was bottom land, damp and illy drained, and as Mr. Skiles was soon taken with chills and fever, it became necessary to abandon his first field of independent endeavor.  With an old plug team which had been added to his possessions, he moved to McDonough County about 1864, and there succeeded beyond all expectation in general farming and stock raising.  His wife’s father dying in 1879, the couple returned to the old Geer farm in Schuyler County where Mrs. Skiles was born, and to the entire possession of which Mr. Skiles succeeded by right of purchase soon after.  This remained his home until 1905, and in its cultivation few men in the county have achieved more satisfactory general results.  Today he is the owner of 380 acres of as fine land as the county contains, having the best of modern improvements, and lying admirably adapted to all purposes of Central Western farming.
  In political affiliation Mr. Skiles is a Democrat and, in addition to several other township offices, he has for many years been a member of the Board of Education.  With his family he is a member and active worker in the Union Baptist Church.  To him and his wife have been born six children, of whom Laura and Bertie died in infancy; Julius died at the age of twenty-one years and four days; Maggie is the wife of William Alembaugh, of Browning Township, and the mother of Bert, Nellie, and Beulah Alembaugh; Effie is the wife of Henry Trone, a farmer of Browning Township, and mother of nine children; Ellen is the wife of Miles Schlisler {Schisler}, and mother of Hattie Schlisler {Schisler}, and lives on one of her father’s farms.  Mr. Skiles may well regard his life as a success, both financially and personally, for in addition to substantial wealth he is one of the most honored and  highly respected men in the community.  No man is more emphatically the architect of his own fortunes, for all his possessions have come from his pay, an old rifle, which then was the pride and hope of his life.
  { } are corrections by Sara Hemp

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