From: "Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and
Brown Counties, Illinois 1892", by Biographical Review Publishing
Company, Chicago, Illinois; page 324, a reprinted by Stevens Publishing
Co., Astoria, Ill., 1971, is sold by the Schuyler County Historical
Society, Rushville, Illinois.
Robert Nelson McFarland, the oldest settler of Brown county, is
now residing in Versailles. He was born in Harrison county, Kentucky,
April 1, 1818. His father, William McFarland was born in the same
county. There is little known of his grandfather except that he spent
his last years in Harrison, Kentucky. His father was reared and married
in Ohio, but resided in Kentucky until 1819, when his nearest neighbor
was ten miles distant. He next moved to Green county, Ohio, and was one
of the earliest settlers there. He lived there until 1822, when, with
his wife and four children he made the journey to Illinois, cooking and
camping by the way. He located in Sangamon and died there. At the time
of their location there, this county was sparsely settled. The greater
portion was owned by the Government. Springfield was but a hamlet, the
capital of the State then being Vandalia.
His mother continued to live in Sangamon county until 1824. She
accompanied her sister and her sister's husband, Cornelius Van
Deventer, whom she afterward married, to what is now Brown county,
where she resided until her death.
Mr. McFarland was six years old when he came to Brown county,
and remembers well many of the incidents of its settlement. At that
time their nearest neighbors, the Indians, wee more numerous than the
When Mr. Van Deventer came he laid claim to a tract of
Government land, two and one half miles east of the present site of
Versailles, and there built a log cabin in which was taught the first
school in Brown county, Hannah Burbank being the teacher. For some
years after they came here there were no mills convenient, and during
one winter the family subsisted entirely on lye hominy. In time there
was a mill, operated by horse-power, introduced into the county, and
Mr. McFarland used to go, in common with others, and during the long
ride would subsist on parched corn, wild game and wild honey. There
were no railroads, no steamers on the Illinois river and no markets.
Of course our subject was reared to agricultural pursuits. His
first farm was a tract of 100 acres, which he occupied until 1865, when
he sold and purchased a farm of 210 acres, and at the present time he
is living retired in the pleasant village of Versailles.
He was married December 31, 1839, to Margaret W. McFarland, who
died in 1879, leaving four living children; Lucinda Van Deventer; Mary
Whitehead; Robert N., who married Ann Augusta Van Deventer; and Louis,
who is still single.