The Past and Present of Woodford County

pages 232-35


Like every other portion of this great and glorious Country of ours, Woodford County can boast of some rather distinguished people, past and present. Of these we will mention William H. Delph, an old settler, who came to Illinois from Lexington, Kentucky, in 1830, and first located at Jacksonville. He had learned the trade of engineer in Kentucky, which vocation he followed after coming west, and was the first engineer to run a train of cars on an Illinois railroad — a road that extended from Jacksonville to Meredosia on the Illinois River, and was known as the “Great Western Railroad.” It is quite interesting to hear Mr. Delph describe this primitive engine, as well as the running of the trains on the road. Our descriptive powers are not sufficient to transfer the picture to these pages. He relates how, on a certain occasion, the train over took a man walking on the tack, whom he recognized as a deaf mute living near by, and without stopping or checking up his train, he walked round on the "deck" to the front of the engine, and, putting out his hand, pushed the man out of the way. Mr. Delph, while living at Lexington, Kentucky, remembers very distinctly the visit of General La Fayette to that place, during his tour of United States in 1825. He states that he had an introduction to the General, and in the evening sat in a Masonic Lodge with him. He claims to be one of the oldest Masons living in the State of Illinois, having belonged to the Fraternity nearly sixty years. He was made Postmaster at Metamora by Abraham Lincoln, an office be held until the inauguration of President Hayes, when he resigned.

John Brickler, a native of Lorraine, France, and one of the early settlers near the present town of Metamora, and who died a few years ago, on the place where his daughter, Mrs. Farver, now lives, was a soldier in the Grand Army of France in its ill-fated expedition into Russia, under the First Napoleon, and shared in the privations and miseries of the disastrous retreat from Moscow — an event in which there is probably embodied more of “glory and of gloom” than anything of its kind in the annals of man. Many of his old acquaintances are yet familiar with the stories he used to tell,
of that awful retreat and its accompaniment of horrors, when his starving, freezing comrades,
after struggling through the storm all the long dreary day, sunk down at night, many to rise no more, while the blinding storm rapidly wove its winding sheet, and the tall pines, swaying and roaring in the wind, howled their mournful requiem.

Louis Guibert, an old pioneer of the Spring Bay settlement, was born in France, and was a soldier of the Republic and of the First Empire, sharing in many of the great battles of Napoleon. At the battle of Austerlitz, he beheld one-half of his company shot down by a single discharge of an enemy’s battery; and in another engagement, was one of eight out of a company of seventy-one men who survived the battle. He received the grade of Captain from Napoleon himself, on the field
of Austerlitz, in acknowledgment of his bravery. He came to America in 1833, and settled near Spring Bay, in that portion of the settlement now in Partridge Township, where he peacefully. spent the remainder of his life, in striking contrast to the stormy scenes of his earlier years,

Jacob Banta, the old patriarch of the Banta family, many of whom are still living in Woodford County, was born in the State of New Jersey, almost in sight of the Empire City, and emigrated to Kentucky, with his father, when but fifteen years old. In 1832, he came to Illinois, and stopped in Tazewell County, but in 1835, settled within a mile of the village of Metamora, where he died February 26, 1861, in his 90th year. Born on the eve of the mighty struggle that resulted finally
in the independence of his country, and with a vivid remembrance of the roar of its battles, he died on the eve of another and mightier revolution, that for a time bade fair to crumble it into ruins, and it seems an act of mercy, that he was taken hence before the storm of civil war burst upon the land he loved so well.

John Page, Sr., already mentioned in this history, came from New Hampshire. He was a man of sterling honesty and noble aspirations, who Would have sacrificed his right arm rather than to stoop to a mean act. Often favored with public trusts — having once been sent to the Legislature from this district and three times from his old district, in New Hampshire — he took no delight in these honors, but always preferred the proud title of an honest farmer. In 1834, he made a trip through this Western country, with a view of seeking a new home. He traveled on horseback over this vast and wonderful country - wonderful in many respects to the quiet citizens of the “Old Granite Hill “ and in the latter part of the Summer returned home, well pleased with his trip to the West. As he was the first from the mountains of Gilmanton (his native town) to visit the “Prairie Land,” his neighbors gathered at his house, on his return, and listened, with deep interest, to his description of the country he had seen.
In May, 1835, with the little colony we alluded to in connection with the Metamora settlement, he started again for the Great West. They came, by wagons, to Troy, N. Y., thence, by canal, to Buffalo. Here they took a steamer to Cleveland, 0., thence, by canal, to Portsmouth, on the Ohio River, and by steamboat down the Ohio, and up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Pekin, Ill., and finally to the settlement near the present town of Metamora.
In proof of the estimation in which Mr. Page was held among those who knew him, we give the following, copied from the original:

DISTRICT OF New Hamphire, }
AT GILMANTON, April 16, 1885
This is to Certify, That I am Well acquainted with the bearer, John Page, Eaq., of said Gilmanton; that we were both born, bred and brought up in said town together, and have there resided up to this time. And as he is about to leave his native land, to settle in a sister State, I do most cheerfully and respectfully recommend him to the good people of the United States, wherever he may be, as a gentleman of the highest sense of honor, honesty and integrity, and whose character is unimpeachable; and who is as much beloved and respected by his friends and acquaintances (which are numerous) as any other gentleman of his age in the “Granite State. And may God, in His infinite mercy, prosper and protect him and his beloved family; in the great enterprise they have undertaken...PEARSON COGSWELL, Marshal of the United States for the District of New Hampshire.

By request, I hereby certify that I am well acquainted with Hon. Pearson Cogswell, Marshal of New Hampshire District, and know that the foregoing certificate is in his proper handwriting. In verification whereof, I have hereto subscribed my name and affixed the seal of the District Court of the United States, for New Hampshire District.....Charles W. Cutter, Clerk

That Mr. Page was all that was represented in the foregoing, can be attested by hundreds still living in Woodford County.
He was of the Society of Friends, or Quakers, of the broadest benevolence, and a man of peace.
“Peace folds her snowy pinions o’er his grave, And soft winds sigh the requiem of his soul, As he sleeps ‘neath flowers fair.” He died October 1, 1855, and the affection of his surviving sons, on whose shoulders the father’s mantle worthily rests, have placed a noble monument in the village cemetery to his memory.

Further mention of the Pages is made in the history of Metamora Township.

Thomas Bullock, familiarly known as “Uncle Tom” Bullock, and the very father of Woodford County, is a scion of the old Bullock stock of Kentucky, than whom none better exists in that proud old Commonwealth, so prolific of great men. To him, it may be said, the county owes its existence; he it was that took the initiative steps toward its formation, and he, after the preliminary steps were taken, engineered the project safely through all the forms of “red tape” in the General Assembly, until it came forth from the “Governmental furnace” a full-fledged county. He has always been an active and enterprising man — foremost in every enterprise intended to promote the welfare of the county in which he takes such a lively interest.

Count Clopiska, a native of Poland, who, for some state or political offense, was expatriated from his native land, came to the United States, and to Illinois, and for several years lived in the city of El Paso. He was a fine type of the polished gentleman, and his misfortunes were a key to the warm hearts of the American people. The citizens of El Paso took a strong interest in his welfare, and when he died, “a stranger in a strange land,” with no loved one nigh to smooth his dying pillow or wipe the cold, damp dews from his paling brow, Mr. W. M. Jenkins, an old and honored citizen of El Paso, had him neatly ,interred in his own lot in the city cemetery, where the distinguished old foreigner sleeps as peacefully, perhaps, as if he slumbered in the marble vaults of his ancestors.

There are many others of more or less prominence in the county, who will be particularized in the history of their respective townships, and the sections where their talents have been employed.