Robert Aten
Biography

Robert Aten was born in West Virginia in 1818, in what was then Brooke county. of the old Dominion, a son of William and Jane (Anderson) Aten; his mother died in 1834, leaving a family of seven children.  William Aten was a prosperous farmer, and was noted throughout the country for the excellent grade of horses he kept.  He married a second time to Catherine Wycoff, who bore him four children.  He died in 1866 (should be 1860), leaving an estate of fair value.  Five of the children are still living: Robert, the subject of this biographical sketch; William, a resident of Fulton county; Mary, wife of William K. McClurg; Nancy Lester, a widow residing in McDonough county, Illinois; and Martha Beale, a widow in West Virginia; Aaron H. , died in McDonough county, Illinois, at the age of eighty-two years; John C., died in Fulton county; Richard died in the same county; he was a pioneer of Illinois, coming in 1840, accompanied by Richard Aten.  The latter returned to Virginia in 1842, and was back and forth until 1854, when he settled here permanently.
 He was married in 1850 to Sarah Beale, a daughter of Benjamin Beale and a member of the prominent families of Virginia; she died one year later, to a day, leaving a daughter who died in infancy.  Mr. Aten was married again in 1852 to Mary Jane Allison, who belonged to a well-known family.  Of this union were born nine children, all of whom are living.  Nancy L., now Mrs. Morris; Henry C. , W. A. F. , Robert Burns, Sarah, wife of Thomas Ashwood; James Grant, Daniel Webster, Flora Ann and John Q.


 Mr. Aten's first purchase of land was eighty acres, for which he paid $600, he soon added another tract for which he paid $1,100, and at one time owned 700 acres; he has disposed of all but 400 acres.  He carried on a general agricultural business.  He makes a specialty of raising live-stock, and ships from two to three car-loads of hogs and as many cattle during the year.  He began life with a small capital, but this was strongly supplemented with will and determination to succeed, and has arisen to a position of financial independence. Politically he has affiliated with the Whigs and then the Republicans.  He and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, and give liberal support to the cause of Christianity.  They have lived a useful life, and have borne their share of the burden assumed by the pioneers in their undertaking to redeem the wild prairie and bring it to a high state of cultivation, making of Illinois one of the leading agricultural State of the Union.
 Taken from: Biographical Review of Schuyler and Brown Counties,  1892
 Grandfather Robert Aten often told of three or five brothers who came to Illinois.  He always said we therefore could consider being related to anyone with the "Aten" name.  Robert was born in 1818, the year that Illinois was admitted to the Union.  James Monroe was then President of the United States.  Grandmother was born on Independence Day ten years later when John Quincy Adams was President.
 Grandfather first married Sarah Beale, (on 15 May 1850), but she died one day before their first wedding anniversary.  Then on 16 October 1851 Grandfather married Grandmother Mary Jane.  They didn't stay in West Virginia.  Instead, in 1854, they came to Illinois, locating in Oakland Township, Schuyler County.  No doubt they traveled some of the way to their new home by boat or raft for the Ohio River is the border of Hancock County on the west.
 Grandfather owned a lot of land in Oakland Township and engaged extensively in stock raising and some trading.  In his later years, his sons took over the farm work, but he never did consider himself on the retired list.  At one time he had been a public school teacher.  He could name many teachers, preachers in the family filling worthwhile places in life.  He didn't fight in the Civil War, but being an honest and upright man, he helped widows and other less fortunate.
 After coming to Illinois Robert and Mary Jane united with the Presbyterian Church in Vermont.  On 17 July 1870 they transferred their membership to the Oak Valley Presbyterian Church.  They remained faithful members until their deaths.  They were great Sunday school workers.  Nine days before their deaths Mary Jane presented the Arlington Sunday school with a Bible, requesting the school learn the 23rd Psalm.  Firm in her belief, Mary Jane, with one or two of the children, would ride six miles on horseback to attend services.  Much later, Clarence Linn, drove her and his sister Goldie to occasional day services.  She was proud to relate she had all her children dedicated and baptized and felt they, could never stray too far away from her faith.
 
On Tuesday afternoon, 13 November 1900, both Robert and Mary Jane were hurled to instant death when struck by the north-bound afternoon passenger train at the Page crossing about two miles north of Vermont in Fulton County.  They had driven that morning to Vermont and had stopped and eaten dinner with their daughter, Flora, before proceeding on to visit their son, Henry, living in Table Grove (Fulton County, Illinois).
 
The strong wind was blowing from the opposite direction and the approaching train could be heard only a short distance.  They were driving a buggy with all the curtains on.  It was a cold day and they were well bundled.  Mary Jane wore a hood; Robert, a cap with the ear flaps down.  Both were active physically and mentally, but slightly hard of hearing.  In all probability they did not hear the train.
 
The train was traveling downgrade at about 40 miles an hour.  The engineer sounded his whistle, and as soon as he notice them, applied the air brakes so hard as to throw many of the passengers from their seats.  However, they had driven onto the track from the fireman's side and were not noticed until the train was upon them. (At the point where the accident happened the wagon road runs almost parallel with the track for a distance of a mile and then makes a right angle turn of the crossing.
 
The horse stood still in fright.  The buggy, across the two rails,  struck about center, was smashed into kindling.  The front wheels remained on the track, but the top and bed wedged on the pilot of the engine and remained there until the train was brought to a stop about a quarter of a mile away.
 
The bodies, found just inside the fence along the 'IQ" right-of -way 100 feet from the crossing, were lying side by side.  Mary Jane's head was resting on Robert's arm.  The remains were picked up and taken to Table Grove to Henry's residence.  Later they were removed to the family home six miles southwest of Vermont.
 
Robert had his neck, left hip and right shoulder broken and the bone of his right leg shattered.  Mary Jane had her neck broken, left shoulder smashed, both legs broken above the ankle, and her skull fractured at the base.  Oddly enough, though they sustained so many fractures, there were only one or two abrasions of the skin.
 
The horse, entirely unharmed, was caught within 40 feet of the crossing.  The harness was stripped from it, excepting for the head-stall of the bridle and the collar.
 
R. T. Quin of Macomb, a passenger aboard the " No. 47, " related that "the countenances of both were both were peaceful, as though they had gone to sleep instead of meeting death by violence.  They were fine looking, were nicely and warmly clothed, showing their well-to-do conditions in life."
 
Gasper Potter, the engineer, was one of the old and trusted employees of the road.  It was the first time his engine had ever inflicted death and he cried like a child. (No blame was attached to him.)
 
Daniel Webster Aten and his son Clarence were plowing in the bottom when the word reached them about the accident.  Clarence had a sulky and his dad a walking plow.  A neighbor brought the word, he helped the two unhitch.  Then his father went off in the buggy, leaving Clarence, just twelve,  to bring the horses to the house.  He managed all right until the skittish colt broke away at the gate.  Fortunately he did follow along--on the inside of the fence, so at the corner he took down the rails and caught him.
 
Word was sent to James Grant living on the "Mullett" farm (in the New Era neighborhood) southeast of Fandon.  The folks wondered why he didn't come.  He had gotten dressed up and started across the ditch to the barn to get the horse and buggy when a skunk sprayed him.  He had to change, drive through Macomb, and buy a new outfit.
 
Robert and Mary Jane were a "well known and highly respected couple,  they survived by 9 of their 10 children, 33 grandchildren and 7 (9)? great-grandchildren.  At this time Robert Burns was living in Macomb where he had a paint store, north of the present Union National Bank.  Grant lived in Fandon, of course, and Henry in Table Grove.  The others were in the Vermont-Ray area.
 
The funeral service was conducted in the Vermont M. E. Church at 12 o'clock on Thursday.  Rev.  Allison of Rushville was assisted by the Revs.  Hood, Ross and Leach of Vermont.  Burial was in the Vermont Cemetery {Vermont, Fulton County, Illinois}.  Pall bearers were Misses Kate Montooth, Gertie Stockton, Gertie Ashwood, Minnie Markell, Lizzie Ashwood and Clara Ritchey and Messrs.  Chas. Thompson, Samuel Phillips, Eddie Brown, George Gory, Porter Sanridge and Sam Moore.
   
Family History by Ruth Black Aten  1960
 
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Aten, who were killed by the afternoon train November 13, were well known and highly respected in this community and will be greatly missed.  Mr. Aten was born Aug. 8, 1818, and Mary Jane Allison was born July 4, 1828.  Both were born in Hancock county, West Virginia; were married October 16, 1851 in their native state and soon after came to Illinois, locating in Oakland township, where they have since resided.  To this union were born ten children, nine of whom are living, three daughters and six sons.  There are thirty-three grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Aten were members of the Presbyterian church.  Funeral services were held on Thursday at Vermont in the M. E. church conducted by Rev.  Allison of Rushville, assisted by Revs.  Ross and Hoods, after which the remains were laid to rest in the Vermont cemetery, followed by a large crowd of friends and relatives.  The bereaved children and relatives have the sympathy of their many friends.  Those who attended the funeral from a distance were T. M. Allison of Bloomington; Frank and Lee Aten, Mrs. Adkinson and Miss Morris of Swan Creek, and Mr. and Mrs. Aten of Macomb.
 
The Rushville Times--dated Nov. 22, 1900

From: "Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois 1892", by Biographical Review Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois; page 391, a reprinted by Stevens Publishing Co., Astoria, Ill, 1971, is sold by the Schuyler County Historical Society, Rushville, Illinois.
  Robert Aten was born in West Virginia in 1818, in what was then Brooke county of the old Dominion, a son of William and Jane (Anderson) Aten; his mother died in 1834, leaving a family of seven children. William Aten was a prosperous farmer, and was noted throughout the country for the excellent grade of horses he kept. He was married a second time to Catherine Wycoff, who bore him four children. He died in 1866, leaving an estate of fair value. Five of the children are still living: Robert, the subject of this biographical sketch; William, a resident of Fulton county; Mary, wife of William K. McClurg; Nancy Lester, a widow residing in McDonough county, Illinois; and Martha Beale, a widow in West Virginia; Aaron H., died in McDonough county, Illinois, at the age of eighty-two years; John C., died in Fulton county; Richard died in the same county; he was a pioneer of Illinois, coming in 1840, accompanied by Richard Aten. The latter returned to Virginia in 1842, and was back and forth until 1854, when he settled here permanently.
  He was married in 1850 to Sarah Beale, a daughter of Benjamin Beal and a member of the prominent families of Virginia; she died one year later, to a day, leaving a daughter who died in infancy. Mr. Aten was married again in 1852 to Mary Jane Allison, who belonged to a well-known family. Of this union were born nine children, all of whom are living: Nancy L., now Mrs. Morris; Henry C., W. A. F., Robert Burns, Sarah, wife of Thomas Ashwood; James Grant, Daniel Webster, Flora Ann and John Q.
  Mr. Aten's first purchase of land was eighty acres, for which he paid $600, he soon added another tract for which he paid $1,100, and at one time owned 700 acres; he has disposed of all but 400 acres. He carried on a general agricultural business. He makes a specialty of raising live-stock, and ships from two to three car-loads of hogs and as many cattle during the year. He began life with a small capital, but this was strongly supplemented with will and determination to succeed, and has arisen to a position of financial independence. Politically he has affiliated with the Whigs and then the Republicans. He and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, and give liberal support to the cause of Christianity. They have lived a useful life, and have borne their share of the burden assumed by the pioneers in their undertaking to redeem the wild prairie and bring it to a high state of cultivation, making of Illinois one of the leading agricultural States of the Union.

 
1861 Militia Roll



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