Illinois Trails

Ford County, IL

THOMAS W. CAIN, a well-known livery man, is one of the prominent citizens of Gibson City. He claims Ohio as the State of his nativity, having been born in Fairfield County, November 5, 1842, unto Nehemiah C. and Rachel R. (Herron) Cain. His father, who was born in New York, is of Irish descent and in early life emigrated with his parents to Ohio, where he was afterward married. His wife, who was also descended from Irish ancestry, was born in the Buckeye State. In 1843, they came to DeWitt County, Ill., settling on an unimproved farm, but Mr. Cain soon began clearing and cultivating the land and became one of the prosperous farmers of the community. Both he and his wife were Methodists in religious sentiment, and he was a stalwart supporter of the Republican party. He died at the age of fifty-four years in De Witt County in 1863, and she also passed away in the same county at about the same age, in 1866. Their union was blessed by the birth of seven children, five of whom still survive.
Thomas W. Cain was the third child in order of birth in the family and received his education at the old-time district school. He was reared under the parental roof and, like a dutiful son, cared for his mother as long as she lived and after her death still had charge of the home place, assisting the younger members of the family until they were able to care for themselves.
A marriage ceremony performed on the 21st of September, 1876, united the destinies of Mr. Cain and Miss Palmyra M. Newman. The lady is a native of Knox County, Ohio, and a daughter of George Newman, who emigrated from Ohio to this State in an early day, settling in Knox County. Five children grace the union of our subject and his estimable wife, namely: Hattie, George I., Elva, Clinton and Myra, all of whom are still with their parents.
Religiously, Mr. Cain is a member of the Presbyterian Church, to which his wife belongs. He has held several public offices of trust, including those of Supervisor, Tax Collector, School Director and Road Commissioner of his township. He is a Republican in politics and takes an active interest in the success of that party. From 1869 until 1875, Mr. Cain bought and shipped stock quite extensively, three years of the time being engaged in that business in Kansas. He purchased one hundred and sixty-six acres of land in Rutledge Township, DeWitt County, Ill., in 1883, on which he resided until coming to Gibson City four years later. He here purchased the livery stable before alluded to, which he has carried on continuously since. He is a valued citizen and one of the successful business men of the community, where he is held in the highest esteem. (Contributed by Brenda Boyer)

John H. Leonard, who for eighteen years has resided upon his present farm on section 27, Dix Twp, was born in Roanoke Co., VA on the 30th of May 1842, and is one of seven children, whose parents were Jacob and Elizabeth Beazel Leonard. Both parents are now deceased. The mother died in 1867, and the father departed this life in 1882. Of the family, Eliza is now the wife of John Humphries; David died in 1887; Daniel died in 1856; Jacob is a resident farmer of Montgomery Co., MO.; Samuel, who enlisted in his country's service, was killed during the war in 1863; John H. is the next younger, and completes the family. Mr. Leonard of this sketch acquired his education in the common schools of the neighborhood, which he attended through the winter season, while in the summer months he aided in the labors of the home farm. He was still under the parental roof at the time of the braking out of the late war. At the age of twenty, he responded to the country's call for troops, enlisting in March, 1862, as a member of the Salem LightArtillery, of Virginia. The first engagement in which he participated was Crany Island. He afterwards fought in the battles of Richmond, Seven Pines, and in all the other engagements in which his regiment participated. On the close of the war he was honorably discharged and returned to his old home in Virginia, where he spent a short time.

JAMES ROBERTS, one of the honored pioneers of Ford County of 1858, is now residing in the village of Roberts, and none of its citizens are more worthy of representation in this volume than our subject. He was born in Sussex County, England, August 11, 1816, and is the seventh in a family of eleven children, numbering five sons and six daughters, whose parents were John and Elizabeth (Scott) Roberts. His father was a horticulturist and also a native of Sussex County, while his mother was born in Kent County. Both parents are now deceased. The members of the family who still survive are: Mary, widow of George Stace, of England; Mrs. Fannie Hall, a widow, residing in England; Jane, wife of Samuel Winchester, of the same county; James, of this sketch; William, Elizabeth, Sarah and Jesse, all of whom are still in their native land.
The subject of this sketch acquired a very limited education and spent his early life upon the farm. He has been twice married. In his native land he wedded Miss Elizabeth Gilbert, by whom he had three children, one son and two daughters: Mercy, who is now the wife of John Pierce, an agriculturist; Mary Jane , wife of William Hurst, a prominent farmer of Lyman Township; and John T., deceased. In 1851, Mr. Roberts emigrated with his family to America. He sailed from London, and, after one month spent upon the briny deep, landed at New York, made his way up the Hudson River, went by canal from Albany to Buffalo, and in the latter place secured employment in a brickyard, after which he worked upon a farm. Subsequently, he came to Princeton, Ill., where he worked at anything he could find to do, whereby he might earn an honest dollar. He there built a little home and remained in Princeton three years, when he sold out and went to Chicago and purchased some of the railroad land in Ford County. Since 1858, he has been a resident of this locality.
Mr. Roberts lost his first wife in New York, and December 27, 1859, married Miss Alice Hurst, a native of Lancashire, England. They have one son, Oscar J.and enterprising and industrious young man. In politics, the son is a Democrat, having cast his first vote for Grover Cleveland. He wedded Miss Mary Elizabeth Whorrall, and unto them were born three children: Alice Deborah, Ralph Oscar and Floss.
Uncle James Roberts, as he is known throughout the county, is an honored pioneer who has watched the entire growth and development of Ford County, and has ever borne his part in its upbuilding and advancement. He is a self-made man, who began life empty-handed, but determined to win success in the world. On coming here, he made claim of one hundred and sixty acres, but had to let eighty acres go, and in those early days found it hard work to pay for the other eighty acres. However, he worked on steadily and , as a result, is now the owner of two hundred and eighty acres of land, which yield to him a good income, besides his comfortable home in Roberts. He is public-spirited and progressive citizen who has ever manifested an interest in all that pertains to the welfare of the community and has given liberally to the promotion of those enterprises calculated to prove of public benefit. He cast his first Presidential vote for Franklin Pierce, and has since been a stalwart adherent of Democratic principles. He and his wife are members of the Congregational Church, and aided in the erection of the house of worship. They are benevolent and charitable, and throughout the community are held in high regard, of which they are well deserving. (Contributed by Brenda Boyer)

Return to the IL Trails Main Index Page for Ford County