Excerpt taken from "Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County"
Published in 1908 and edited by Newton Bateman, LLD and Paul Selby, AM
Bilderback, William M. - An extensive landholder and a well-to-do agriculturist,
Mr. Bilderback is prosperously engaged in his Independent occupation on one of the pleasantest and most desirable
homesteads in Schuyler County. His home farm is finely located on Section 28, Birmingham Township and comprises
183 1-3 acres of as fine land as is to be found in the country, all of which is under a high state of cultivation.
While he carries on general farming, raising the usual grains and commodities to be found on an Illinois farm,
it is in the raising of stock that he takes his chief pleasure and on his farm may be seen a fine herd of Doroc
red Jersey hogs which are eligible for registration. In his choice of cattle he is partial to the black breed,
and has from twenty-five to sixty head on his farm.
Mr. Bilderback is a descendant of German forefathers, although the family, for a number of
generations, has been represented in America. The records state that the grandfather Bilderback died in Kentucky,
where he reared a large family of sons, among whom was Charles, the father of William M. At the death of
their father the sons (Charles, Alex, William, James and John) left the South to take up life in what at that time
(1846) was considered the frontier, coming to Schuyler County, Ill.
Charles made his choice of land in Section 28, Birmingham Township, where he purchased about
300 acres of wild, uncultivated prairie land, far removed from any other white settler. The brothers, not
quite so venturesome, selected a spot close to the timber, and here they worked together to improve their property,
all the time fearing for the safety of their brother Charles, whose bleak location in the open prairie made him
an easy prey to the blasts of win and storm which were no uncommon visitors even in the more sheltered parts.
On the land which he had selected and purchased, Charles Bilderback at once began the work
of improvement, erecting a hewed frame building, material for which he hauled from Pulaski, Adams County.
In the meantime he had formed domestic ties by his marriage with Sarah L. Crawford (who proved a helpmate in every
sense of the word) and together they labored to make a comfortable home for their children of whom there were five
in number. Namely: Thomas, who died in infancy; William M., whose name heads this article: Charles E, and
John F., both farmers in this township; and Ida B., the wife of S. P. Foster, their home being at St. Mary, Hancock
County, Ill. The mother of these children passed to her reward in 1881, and ten years later, in 1891, the
father was laid to rest, after a life of many years spent in the up building of the community where in young manhood
he selected his future home.
The second child in the family, William M. Bilderback was born on the home farm on Section
28, Birmingham Township, October 15, 1860; and in fact he has never known any other home, for after the death of
the mother, the farm was placed under his management. His educational training was meager, consisting only
of such advantages as were offered in the schools of the Huntsville district, but nevertheless he was alert and
observing, and by well-selected reading has become well informed generally, and is an agreeable conversationalist.
When his school days were over, he turned his attention to assisting in the duties of the farm, and upon the death
of his father, he purchased the old homestead property. No opportunity to improve upon the older methods
of farming have been lost sight of by Mr. Bilderback, and as a result his property is not only in appearance, but
in reality one of the most prosperous and productive in this part of Schuyler County.
Mr. Bilderback was married, May 5, 1885, to Miss Emma Z. Harkness, who was born in Kahoka,
Missouri, August 31, 1861, the daughter of James C. and Elizabeth (Stauffer) Harkness, natives of Pennsylvania,
who as early as 1842 established their home in the wilds of Missouri. Of the nine children born to Mr. and
Mrs. Harkness, those besides Mrs. Bilderback now living are as follows: Abraham, of Clark County, Mo.; John of
Lake City, Colo.; George, a farmer of Clark County, Mo.; James and Frank, both residents of Kahoka, Mo.; Jane,
the wife of Henry Strickler, of Farmington, Iowa; and Annie, the wife of Jasper Stover, of Lake County, Cal.
The mother of these children passed away in 1900, but the father is still living in Kahoka, Mo., at the ripe old
age of ninety-four years.
Eight children blessed the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bilderback, as follows: Arthur Glenn,
who died when seven years of age; Tivis E., who was born August 18, 1888, and is now a student in the State Normal
University, Normal, Ill.; Troy P., who was born January 19, 1890; William R., born April 30, 1892; Quintin B.,
born October 22, 1895; Herman H., born February 9, 1897; Charles S., born December 7, 1898; and James Clifford,
born December 28, 1901.
While not associated with any denomination, Mr. Bilderback gives with a liberal hand to the
support of the Presbyterian Church, of which his wife is a member, and in fact throughout his life has contributed
generously to both church and Sunday school work, regardless of denomination.
Politically he is a believer in Democratic principles, and carries out
his belief by supporting the candidates of that party. Socially he is a member of the Odd
Fellows lodge at Huntsville, Ill., and of Augusta Camp, Modern Woodmen of America.
The fact that Mr. Bilderback has spent his entire life in his present locality makes him guard
its interests with a jealous eye, and it is safe to say that no project which has for its object the betterment
of the community, fails to receive his support, in fact, he has, himself, inaugurated many beneficial measures.
He has a hospitable nature, and both himself and wife are surrounded by many friends and well-wishers."
by Karen Beda <email@example.com>