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People Of Interest

John Nelson



John Nelson was born April 5, 1830 in the parish of Karrakra, Westergoland, Sweden. At 22 years old Nelson left Sweden for America. The voyage took six weeks. After arriving in New York City, he traveled to Chicago, Elgin and Sycamore, where he worked in wood turning and model making. He was united in marriage on November 4, 1854 to Miss Eva Christina Person whose acquaintance formed on board the ship that carried them across the ocean. She also was a native of Vestergotland, born May 6. 1834. They had six sons, two of which died, Frithiof in early childhood and Alfred at age 33. They also had one daughter - Anna. After being employed as a wood worker for a time, he started a woodworking factory, which later developed into a furniture manufacturing plant. John Nelson began to ponder on various mechanical    problems. One of these was solved by the invention of a dovetailing machine, which was in use for many years, first in Nelson's own shop and afterwards in the sash, door and blind factory operated by John Nelson, A. C. Johnson and Gust Hollem about 1865 At a mechanical exhibit in Chicago, Nelson saw a circular type knitting machine that he later said "did a poor job making a sock". Automatic knitting machines at that time had to be stopped and the heel and the toe finished by hand making it a two part process. He became obsessed with the idea of a new form of sock and stocking manufacturing process that didn’t leave an uncomfortable seam along the heel. He sold the furniture factory, and his wife had to wash clothes to pay the bills. In 1866 John Nelson associated himself with William Worth Burson, inventor of the grain binder, after much tedious labor on the part of both men, a power machine was perfected, on which patents were issued in 1868, 1870 and 1875, and in July, 1870. The first sock was knit by an automatic machine in the city of Rockford. This was also the first practical automatic knitting machine. The socks came from this machine joined together and were separated by hand. Hand work was also required in closing the toe. This result did not satisfy Nelson, however, and he continued puzzling over the problem of producing a machine that would turn out a complete hose. In 1872- 73 the so-called parallel row machine was developed by him. This closed both heel and toe, producing a stocking ready to wear without hand work. The parallel row machine was the pioneer in seamless hosiery and superseded the old line of goods in every market reached on account both of greater durability and the cheaper cost of production and laid the groundwork for Rockford's knitting industry. This result did not satisfy Nelson, however, and he continued puzzling over the problem of producing a machine that would turn out a complete hose. In 1872- 73 the so-called parallel row machine was developed by him. This closed both heel and toe, producing a stocking ready to wear without hand work. The parallel row machine has since been brought to a much higher degree of perfection by successive improvements, but it was sufficiently practical even then to lay the foundation for Rockford's knitting industry. The Rockford product was the pioneer in seamless hosiery and superseded the old line of goods in every market reached on account both of greater durability and the cheaper cost of production. John Nelson is called the father of the "Sock Monkey" as they were made from Rockford Socks. John Nelson passed away at Rockford on April 15, 1883 at the age of 53.


Robert Hall Tinker was a son of Reverend and Mrs. Reuben Tinker, and was born at Honolulu, Sandwich Islands, now called Hawaii on December 31, 1836, and came to Rockford in 1856. He has been identified prominently in the manufacturing interests and substantial growth of Rockford, and was largely interested in the water-power, the source of Rockford's wealth and prosperity. He was promoter and president of the Chicago, Rockford & Northern Railway Co., which later merged with the Burlington system, he served as mayor of the city, (1875-1876), president of the Rockford Water Power Company, and of the Rockford Bolt works, and is connected officially with many other Rockford industries. Mr. Tinker is a connoisseur in art work and his aesthetic taste is conspicuously shown in and about his beautiful home. Nature has done much to make this spot romantic, and Mr. Tinker has so harmonized his improvements with the imprints of nature that the place is a "thing of beauty and a joy forever." In the home is a large collection of curio, obtained by Mr. Tinker in his foreign travels. It also contains a library, unique in construction and filled with rare and costly volumes. In 1870, Mr. Tinker was married to Mrs. Mary Manny, the widow of John H. Manny, the noted inventor and foreign travels. It also contains a library, unique in its construction and filled with rare and costly volumes. In 1870, Mr. Tinker was married to Mrs. Mary Manny, the widow of John H. Manny, the noted inventor and manufacturer of harvesting machines. His inventions paved the way for much of Rockford s wonderful growth and success. Later on, Mr. and Mrs. Tinker disposed of the beautiful Manny home on South Main street and made their permanent residence in the Swiss cottage, where, after years of happy wedded life, Mrs. Tinker was called home, leaving a devoted husband and a host of friends to mourn her loss. Mr. Tinker's skill and aesthetic taste will be called into service in the beautifying of the public Library and Memorial hall grounds. Robert H. Tinker would pass away on December 31, 1924 on his 88th birthday.


Liberty Walkup was born in Pine Creek Township, Ogle County, Illinois in 1844. Mr. Walkup's given name Liberty is an old family name, and was brought to this country by the Puritan fathers. The parents of Mr. Walkup in giving him this name conveyed an heirloom to him of high distinction, of which he has reason to be proud. He came to Rockford in 1881. Liberty Walkup patents the “Paint Distributor” in 1882. Thanks to some improvements like the revolutionary “walking bar” and a hard rubber handle to enhance appearance, the new and improved Walkup Airbrush was introduced and became an immediate success. In March of 1883, "The Rockford Manufacturing Co." was organized to produce the new "Air Brush." Within 6 months the name is changed to "The Airbrush Manufacturing Company". Color photography was decades away and if you wanted a color portrait, a black and white photograph had to be hand colored. It was a tedious, time consuming, and labor intensive. Art and photo retouching was easier and quicker and remained the primary use of the airbrush well into the first half of the twentieth century. In 1888 together with his wife Phoebe who was an accomplished water color artist, they opened the Illinois Art School in the same building as the Air Brush Manufacturing Company. In 1888 together with his wife Phoebe who was an accomplished water color artist, they opened the Illinois Art School in the same building as the Air Brush Manufacturing Company. The main purpose was to teach air brushing although other classes are taught as well. In 1891 he publishes "The Air Brush Journal," a quarterly publication promoting the airbrush and the school. The Walkup's residence was at 209 North Main Street. Liberty Walkup died in 1927 and was buried in Mt. Morris, Illinois.


William Worth Burson was born in Pennsylvania in 1832 and the family moved to Illinois in 1842.  In his business interests W. W. Burson has in substantial measure contributed to the welfare of Rockford along the lines of industrial activity, and his fame as an inventor has spread overseas. He invented and constructed a self-rake reaper in 1858, which was the first machine to regulate the size of the gavel by weight and was a pioneer in the invention of grain binders and obtained a patent on a twine binder in 1860. He followed this model with two machines using wire instead of twine, for the harvest of 1860. These machines were attached to the reaper and operated by hand. These were first brought into prominence by being operated at the great reaper trial at Dixon, Illinois, in the harvest of 1862. Emerson & Company contracted to make one thousand machines for Burson for the harvest of 1863, the first one thousand grain binders ever made. He came to Rockford for the purpose of carrying out this contract, where he resided until 1881, when he moved to Chicago. On account of imperfect workmanship, lack of field experts and other adverse circumstances, these machines were a failure financially and the venture disastrous, leaving a heavy debt upon Burson, which was not entirely liquidated until 1901. In 1866, along with John Nelson, under the firm name of Burson &. Nelson, the invention of a family knitting machine was jointly undertaken. Mr. Nelson was obliged to give his attention largely to his sash, door and blind factory for some time, but Mr. Burson applied himself to the business in hand and after much tedious labor by both, a power machine was perfected. On these machines patents were issued to Burson and Nelson in 1868. In 1869, the part now known as the "presser hook" was developed. In July 1870, the first sock was knit by an automatic machine at Rockford. The socks came from the machine joined together and were separated by hand, and the toes closed. This was the first practical automatic knitting machine. In 1872-3 the parallel row machine was developed. This was the beginning of Rockford's great knitting industry. These machines were automatic and closed to toe and heel, producing a stocking ready to wear, without hand work. "Rockford Seamless Socks" were pioneers in seamless hosiery, driving the old line of goods out of the market. In 1878 Burson, having withdrawn from participation with the Burson & Nelson business, built an automatic grain binding harvester, and a knitting machine with a mitten pattern having a double wrist. During 1879 to 1891 he developed a number of important harvesting inventions which were purchased by Whitely, Deering, McCormick, Walter A. Wood, and Milwaukee and Plano Harvesting Companies. In 1891 he applied himself again to the perfection of knitting machinery and in 1892 brought one of his machines to Rockford. These machines were modeled after those of 1878 and they were shipped from Rockford to all parts of the United States. Burson obtained 50 U. S. and foreign patents on grain binders, harvesters, automatic knitting machines, knit fabrics and other lines upon which he worked on. Mr. Burson died in 1913.


Charles Henry Richings was born on February 26, 1815 in Warwickshire, England. He was educated in Belgium, where he had an uncle. After finishing his medical education, Doctor Richings spent some time in hospitals at Brussels, Paris, London, etc., and in 1836 came to the United States, settling at first in Lysander, Illinois, and a few years later moved to Rockford. He attended a course of lectures in Rush Medical College, and received the degree of doctor of medicine from that institution. Doctor Richings has been in general practice in Rockford between thirty and forty years, and has long stood in the front rank in his profession in Winnebago County, and indeed in this section of the state. In the early part of the civil war, directly after the battles of Donelson and Shiloh, he was telegraphed to by Adjutant-General Fuller, and, obeying the summons, spent a few weeks each time in the hospitals. On the trip from Pittsburgh Landing to Saint Louis he had medical charge of the government boat and surgeons on board. Doctor Richings reached, many years ago, the scarlet degree in Odd-Fellowship, and is a Knight Templar in the Masonic order. He married, in 1838, Miss Mary Stevenson, of Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire, England, and they have one son, Henry Richings, M.D., a graduate of the Medical University of New York. His death occurred August 13, 1884.


Peterson was born in Västergötland, Sweden on September 8, 1846. In 1852 the Peterson family immigrated to America and Rockford, Illinois. After four years the family settled on a farm in nearby Cherry Valley, Illinois. Young Peterson worked on farms for years. Peterson set off on his own to work in Wisconsin in lumber camps and sawmills, as well as in Chicago as a bookkeeper. He later put himself through business College. In 1875 he moved back to Rockford and began his career in the city's growing furniture industry. By the early 1890s Rockford was the second-largest furniture-manufacturing city in the U. S. with over two dozen furniture companies, he directed over a quarter of them. He branched into leadership of several machine tool and other manufacturers, and banking. He became the most important figure in Rockford's industrial, commercial, and civic development for the next 31 years. Altogether, P. A. would come to own stock in fifty Rockford-based companies. He was one of the founders of the Swedish Building and Loan Association. Peterson served as president of Sundstrand Corporation. His diverse interests included Rockford Drop Forge, Rockford Class Bending Works, Rockford Life Insurance, Rockford Mitre Box, Mechanics' Machine, Haddorff Piano, Mechanics Tool, National Lock and Free Sewing Machine Company. P.A. Peterson was instrumental in building a new hospital on the East Side. Peterson was the chairman of the board of trustees of Swedish American Hospital when it opened its doors in July 1918 and remained in this capacity until June 23, 1919. P. A. and his wife, Ida, had no children of their own, but they adopted two girls. For years they lived at 1219 Seventh Street. P. A. never drove a car, so this location was ideal for walking: halfway between the heart of Rockford's  Swedish-American commercial center, farther north up Seventh Street, and the east-west line of factories (and railroad tracks) stretching across the south end of the East Side, fronting along 18th Avenue. In 1918 Peterson purchased the Lake-Peterson House at 1313 E. State St. as it is now known, as a private residence. The house was directly north of the new Swedish-American Hospital on Charles Street. This was at the time that P.A. was chairman of the hospital. Peterson donated the Lake-Peterson House to Swedish-American Hospital in 1919, provided he and his wife are allowed to remain in it until they died. He had an elementary school named after him. P. A. Peterson School long before Peterson died and he left half a million dollars to construct a home for the Swedish aged of Rockford. The P. A. Peterson Home for the Aged opened in 1941 in a beautiful building on Parkview Avenue, on what was then the city's northeast edge, overlooking Sinnissippi Golf Course. Peterson died in 1927 at age 80 but his legacy still lives on in Rockford from all of his contributions.


The Hon. Gilbert Woodruff. Mr. Woodruff was born November 20, 1817, in Watertown, New York. During his boyhood he attended the common school, winters, and spent his summers on his father's farm. He closed his studies at an early age, and with a small capital began the grocery business in Watertown. At the end of six months he sold his stock and opened a larger store, which he conducted for two and a half years. Having now, by careful management, increased his capital sufficiently, he began to invest in real estate, and soon had the management of an extensive business. He invested heavily in building, and among others, erected the Washington Hall block, of Watertown. In 1857, closing his business in the East, he moved to Dubuque, Iowa, and spent one year attending to his money interests, having previously loaned money in Wisconsin and Iowa, and also invested in lands. He moved to Rockford in 1858, and during three years spent the principal part of his time in the real estate business, exchanging his Iowa and Wisconsin lands for lands in and around Rockford, and within two or three years owned forty farms in Winnebago and Ogle counties, which he afterwards exchanged for city property. The Woodruff addition to Rockford was laid out by him. He always took an active interest in all public enterprises, and was associated with many city improvements. He was one of the originators of the Rockford National Bank, and in May 1871, was elected president of the same. He was also president of the Forest City Insurance Company, and one of the trustees of the Rockford Female Seminary. During the years 1873 and 1874 he held the office of Mayor of Rockford. At the present time (1875) he is engaged in the erection of a plow factory, which, when completed, will be one of the finest establishments of the city - the building being of stone 40 x 150 feet. He has taken an active interest in religious affairs, and is a leading member and trustee of the First Congregational Church of Rockford. In politics, he has been identified with the Republican Party since its organization. Mr. Woodruff was married in April 1842 to Miss Nancy Fay. Mr. Woodruff is an illustrious example of the class of men who by the employment of brain and energy have risen from obscurity to wealth and social position. needed was an exposition with a capital of a million dollars and offered to subscribe substantially to such a fund. The immense seed concern which he nurtured from a small beginning stands as a monument to his keen judgement and foresight. His small army of employees held him in almost adoration. None could come to know him well without loving him for his splendid attributes of character. Hiram H. Buckbee would pass away in 1921 and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery.


Seth Glanville Atwood was born in Rockford June 2, 1917 to Seth B. Atwood and Helen Mae (Glanville) Atwood. An industrialist and financier, he was a member of Rockford's pioneering Atwood family which in 1839 settled and built their homestead north of Rockford at what is now the popular Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve and Golf Course. He attended Carleton College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. from Stanford University in 1938. After a year at the University of Wisconsin, alma mater of both of his parents, he obtained an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1940. He served from 1942-1946 as an officer in the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of lieutenant commander. Returning to Rockford, he joined his father Seth B. Atwood and Uncle James T. Atwood in running Atwood Vacuum Machine Company, which they founded in 1909 to manufacture vacuum cleaners. By the 1920's, Atwood Vacuum had shifted from the manufacture of vacuum cleaners to door silencers for automobiles. Seth G. became president, when his father became chairman of the board. He also managed various family businesses involving banking, venture capital and real estate properties. An entrepreneur at heart, he was also involved in developing a three-wheeled energy efficient car, shown at the 1984 Chicago Auto Show, and had an avid interest in yacht designs, building his own boat in the 1980's. In 1971 he founded The Time Museum, which operated at The Clock Tower Resort and Conference Center in Rockford. In building the museum focused upon the history of time measurement, Seth Atwood enjoyed the challenge of learning about the history of science as well as the history of decorative arts. But what he most treasured from his monumental endeavor were the friendships, which developed out of this common interest shared with people from all walks of life from all over the world. The museum was closed in March 1999, when United Realty Corp., a company owned by Atwood family interests, announced the sale of the resort and the museum. Most of the other businesses were sold in the 1980's and 1990's. Atwood received various honorary awards and served numerous not-for-profit organizations, including past president of the International Young President's Organization, Rockford Public Service Television Corporation, Rockford Rotary Club, Rockford Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, Keith Country Day School, and Rockford Civic Orchestra. He was a past director of the Illinois Manufacturer's Association, Graduate School of Business at University of Chicago, Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, and the Second Congregational Church in Rockford. He served on the Rockford Community Task Force submitting a report on local educational issues and also served on the Rockford Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee. He was a fellow of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, a founding member of the American Section of the Antiquarian Horological Society (England), a founding member of the International Society for the Study of Time, and a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. Atwood was also a director of the Atwood Foundation. He gave major financial support to the construction of the floral clock in Sinnissippi Gardens, and he also made significant donations to the Nicholas Conservatory. Atwood was also an avid golfer, loving the game his whole life.


Hiram Wheeler Buckbee was born at the old homestead at 1405 Kishwaukee Street on September 6, 1860, son of Theodore E. and Catherine Allington Buckbee, pioneer residents of this city, and attended Rockford schools and embarked on selling cabbage plants in 1871 as a young boy and gradually expanded his business until the corporation of H. W. Buckbee seed farms-Forest City Greenhouses was formed.  The year of his death the company mailed out 750,000 catalogues. This in response to the requests provoked by the myriads of advertisements and which conducts farms for the growth of seeds and plants for all parts of the United States where the climate is suited for the cultivation of the various varieties in which the concern has found customers internationally.  Before the cares of his large business concerns absorbed his time, Mr Buckbee was a proficient cornet player and was a member of the Forest City band, under the leadership of the late August Deidrickson, and in 1880 accompanied the Rockford Rifles on a trip down south. This was an event of national note. He found relaxation from business in the ownership of a stable of trotters and pacers in which were horses capable of winning honors on the grand circuit for harness horses, one being Red Launcelet. During the world war Mr. Buckbee devoted a large share of his attention to welfare work in the hospitals at Camp Grant here in Rockford. The 108th Engineers made him an honorary captain before their departure for France and made a presentation to Mr. and Mrs. Buckbee in recognition of their efforts. He was intensely patriotic and being on a train on one occasion where proper arrangements had not been made for the subsistence of a company of soldiers he sent the whole company into the dining car on the train at his own expense. Mr. Buckbee was a member of Rockford Lodge No. 102, A. F & A.M., and belonged to Rockford Lodge of Elks. He held membership in the Chicago Athletic club, in the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, in the Society of American Florists, and in the American Seed Trade association, and was a director the Rockford National Bank. Generous almost to a fault and loyal to his friends through good and evil report, Hiram Buckbee performed countless deeds of benevolence, and for the joy of doing good. No project for the advancement of Rockford ever lacked his moral and financial support and he dearly loved the city which was the scene of his successful business career. He always advocated large things for Rockford, and when the project of a county fair was mooted he insisted that what the city needed was an exposition with a capital of a million dollars and offered to subscribe substantially to such a fund. The immense seed concern which he nurtured from a small beginning stands as a monument to his keen judgement and foresight. His small army of employees held him in almost adoration. None could come to know him well without loving him for his splendid attributes of character. Hiram H. Buckbee would pass away in 1921 and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery.


He was born in Ontario, Canada on March 23, 1859 to James John Martin and Maria Callaghan Martin. He would work with his father in Canada at a young age for six years and learned the sheet metal trade. He came to the United States when he was twenty years of age; although he was young he was well advanced in the art of sheet metal work. He first came to Michigan and worked in the principal cities in that state and then traveled, working at his trade in most of the larger cities  from Michigan to the Pacific in the west, and from Canada in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south. Having gained a wide experience in the sheet metal trade, through his travels, he decided to go into the business for himself. Coming to Rockford in 1892 and seeing a good opening for a cornice business, as there was no business of the kind here at that time, he established the Rockford Cornice Works at the corner of South Third and East State Streets. The business was carried on in this plant until 1901 when it became necessary to have larger quarters. Mr. Martin decided to have a factory of his own for the business, and had the building at 312 and 314 Market Street erected, where the business opened in 1902. The factory was one of the largest and best equipped of its kind in Northern Illinois at the time. A large quantity of the product was shipped to jobbers in Illinois and Wisconsin. They manufactured and contracted for sheet metal fronts and cornices, skylights, ventilators, steel ceilings, eaves troughs, conductor pipes, rain water filters, and metal, slate and tile roofing, and just about anything else that could be manufactured from sheet metal. Mr. Martin personally oversaw all work done by the firm. This company had furnished the work in their line for many important buildings in Rockford and vicinity, among which includes Turner School, Blake School, Rockford High school, Rockford Brewery, Memorial Hall, the Carnegie Library Building, Saint Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church at Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin and Saint Mary's Catholic School, Freeport, Illinois. They also did work for neighboring Trinity Lutheran Church, who later on would purchase and demolish the Rockford Cornice Works building for expansion. Mr. Martin patented the Perfection Rain Water Filter which has a large sale over a wide area of country, and is well known in Rockford as there are hundreds of them in use in the city. Mr. Martin would pass away on December 29, 1948 and was buried at Cedar Bluff Cemetery.


Henry W. Price was born in Lakeville, New York on May 22, 1837. His parents moved to Chicago while he was an infant and remained until he was twelve years old. His family then started for California in 1849. His father who planned on making a fortune in the gold fields of that state, died on the way. The family then returned to Lakeville and Henry made his home with his grandfather, Deacon John Holmes, and attended school at the Temple academy in Geneseo. When Henry was eighteen years old he went to Buffalo and bought a stock of shoes, where he remained in trade until coming to Rockford in 1858. Upon his arrival in the Forest City he at once entered a business career which grew to such proportions as to place him in the front ranks of financiers and masters in giant business enterprises. His life was his business which was conducted upon a scale that would cause one less timid to hesitate. Mr. Price never faltered. His plans in all business enterprises were well laid and carried out with mathematical precision. If they failed, it was not due to any lack on his part, but to circumstances beyond his control. He relied upon his own resources in planning for future success for himself and the city he loved so well. When first coming to Rockford he engaged n the shoe business, but in 1860 he started the manufacture of gloves. Price married Frances Irene Warner of Milan, Pennsylvania in 1863 and would have one daughter, Maude, and they made a home at 929 North Main Street.  He had the credit of instituting some of Rockford's most valuable industries and improvements. Mr. Price was one of its early settlers and became one of Rockford's prominent citizens. He inspired the creation of the Rockford Watch Company, Rockford Silver Plate Company, Rockford Bolt Works, Rockford Tack factory, Rockford City Railway Company, and the Ingersoll Milling Machine Company. He invested large sums of money in these industries, and in some instances large sums were lost, but he pushed all the harder to win success for the good of the city. Among other public enterprises in which he was a moving spirit, was the North End addition in which he invested $250,000.00. Mr. Price was the president of the H. W. Price Glove Company, president of the Rockford Silver Plate Company, and vice-president of the Rockford City Railway Company, in all of which institutions he was a heavy investor. Mr. Price experienced heavy losses in some of his enterprises, but at this he did not falter.  New energy was thrown into his business and much of the losses recovered. After spending the best part of his most active and valuable life in the up-building of the city of his adoption and of his best love, he died in the afternoon of May 20, 1903 at the age of 66.


C. F. Henry was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts on March 15, 1854, and was educated in the schools of Plymouth and Rockford, having come to Rockford when ten years of age with his sister, Mrs. Joseph Schmauss. Mr. Henry's first employment was in a fruit and confectionery store at a salary of one dollar per week with board and washing, where he remained two years. He was next employed by Isaac Bacharach in the clothing business, where he remained nine and one-half years. He then went into business on his own account, forming a partnership with H. W. Allen and engaged in the crockery business. At the end of one year he sold his interest to Charles W. Haskell and formed a partnership with Henry Stern in the clothing business in a store on the corner of State and Wyman Streets. In March, 1881, the business was moved to the corner of State and Main streets, where Mr. Henry's where he occupied the entire building and would conduct business for many years there.  By fair dealing and generous treatment of his patrons his business increased so rapidly that it soon outgrew its environments, and he was forced to enlarge his facilities by establishing branch stores. Accordingly, a fine clothing emporium was established at 347 East Bridge Street in Beloit, Wisconsin, and another at 417 Fifteenth Street in Moline, Illinois, where he is meeting with merited success.  Mr. Henry married Miss Fannie S. Skinner, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James B. Skinner in May 1878 and had two children, Rupert J. and Charlotte E. Henry.


Elijah Whittier Blaisdell was born on July 18, 1826 in Montpelier, Vermont. He attended the public schools, and later, when his father moved to Vergennes, Vermont, where he published the Vergennes Vermonter, he attended the classical school in that village. After leaving school he entered his father's printing office, and with this experience and extensive reading, in later years, he acquired a broad and general education that surpassed that of many a university bred man. He shortly assumed the editorship of the paper, and was also appointed postmaster of Vergennes by President Taylor. To a man of his ambition his environments soon became too narrow, and he resolved to seek a home in the west. Acting upon this determination he came to Rockford and purchased the Forum, which he published for ten years. Changing the name to the Republican he again resumed editorial work and this at a time when vital questions of public concern were being agitated. He was soon recognized as a power in the community and acquired an extended reputation. Activity in public affairs brought him in contact with Lincoln, Palmer, Schneider, Browning and others at the meeting in Springfield when the Republican party was organized. He made a strong speech in favor of the new principles at this meeting, and upon his return to Rockford he placed the name of Abraham Lincoln at the head of the columns of his paper as the new party's candidate for the presidency. It is a matter of history that the Rockford Republican was the first paper to suggest the name of Lincoln for president. Blaisdell called a convention in Rockford for the purpose of nominating a Republican candidate for Congress, and as a result Elihu B. Washburn was the first man nominated for Congress by the Republican Party. Blaisdell vigorously espoused the interests of the farmer in behalf of a lower rate of interest, as they were obliged to pay as high as twenty per cent, to the money leaner. Upon this issue he was elected a member of the Illinois legislature in 1859, where he continued the fight. In behalf of his measure he made one of the most noted speeches ever delivered in the house, which attracted widespread attention. The measure was enacted into law, and was a blessing to the people of the state. He was also instrumental in securing the enactment of a law giving to a wife the right to use her own property under certain circumstances without regard to her husband's wishes. Having accomplished his desires at Springfield he refused a renomination and disposed of his paper, which then became known as the Register, and later the Register-Gazette. Blaisdell then took up the study of law, and after reading thirty or forty of the best textbooks on the subject, made application for admission to the bar. Judge Peck, one of the examining committee, having heard his speech in the legislature, expressed surprise that he was not already a member of the bar. Such was the effect of this speech that he was admitted to practice without examination a most graceful compliment to his ability. His success as an attorney was pronounced from the beginning, and his business netted him, the first year between three and four thousand dollars and he was equally successful during his thirteen years of practice. In 1884 he changed his political views and supported Mr. Cleveland for the presidency. He was a staunch friend of John M. Palmer, and did much to advance his political interests. After leaving the bar he gave much of his time to literary pursuits. The Peterson's published one of his novels, which elicited favorable comment from the New York Sun, World, Evening Post and Boston Journal. He also wrote a political burlesque entitled, "The Rajah," which met with great success. He also wrote a number of poems of much merit, and a play entitled, “Eva, the General's Daughter," founded on incidents of the Black Hawk War, which was well received by A. M Palmer, the well-known theatrical manager of New York. Blaisdell was twice married. His first wife, Frances Robinson, died soon after coming to Rockford; the second wife was Miss Elizabeth J. Lawrence, daughter of Judge Ville Lawrence of Vermont, and a sister of the late Chief Justice C. B. Lawrence of Illinois. Mr. Blaisdell died January 14, 1901, and left a widow and five children, Byron Richard of Chicago ; Henry, a lawyer of Chicago; Elijah W., an artist of New York, and George and Shelly Pierpont at home. The family resided at 1240 Council Hill.


John C. Carver was born November 16, 1843. Judge Carver spent his boyhood days upon his father's farm near Pecatonica, and received his primary education in the public schools. He took a course at the Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio, where he received his degree. He studied law under the tutorship of General Keifer of Ohio, who was at one time Speaker of the House of Congress. He was admitted to the bar in 1871, and commenced the practice of his profession in Rockford. He quickly gained the confidence of the people and the bar, and rose rapidly in his profession. He was elected States Attorney, which office he filled two terms with marked ability. In 1882 Judge Carver was a candidate for Congress, and would have received the nomination and election but for the sudden death of Major Hawk, which occurred shortly before the meeting of the convention which occasioned its adjournment without action. At its next meeting Robert R. Hitt and Colonel B. F. Sheets both entered the race and Mr. Hitt was nominated, although Winnebago County stood by Judge Carver. In 1886 Mr. Carver was elected to the Circuit bench to succeed Judge James Cartwright who had been elevated to the Supreme bench to succeed Judge Bailey who had died. After filling out the unexpired term of Judge Cartwright, he was elected to the office for the full term. He served frequently upon the bench in Chicago with great acceptance. Judge Carver was a hard, conscientious worker as a lawyer and an exemplary and upright judge. Socially he was a Past Master of E. F. W. Ellis Lodge of Masons, Past Commander of Crusader Commandery, a member of the Consistory and Shrine, Knights of the Globe, Forest City Lodge of United Workmen, Odd Fellows and Woodmen. He was married to Miss Sarah A. Segur, of Rockford, November 25, 1875. Mrs. Garver is the daughter of John Segur. Six children were born to Judge and Mrs. Carver, five of whom are now living ; Laura. M., Lewis C., Earl, Eva and Howell. The family residence was at 1103 South Main Street. Judge Garver died November 27, 1901, loved and mourned by the entire community.

Duncan Ferguson

Duncan Ferguson was born in Glasgow, Scotland on November 15, 1810. When he was ten years old, his father died and he went to reside with his grandfather. His grandfather furnished him with the means to receive a liberal education at the University of Glasgow in mathematics and engineering. For some years he was engaged in a land survey of Great Britain, spending most of his time employed in Ireland. In 1829 he married Agnes M. Hope. They would have seven children, William, John, Duncan, Lillie, Mary, Charles and Emma. In 1837 he left his native land and came to America first settling in Erie, Pennsylvania and two years later in 1839 came to Rockford and took a contract for surveying government lands in the counties of Ogle, Lee, DeKalb, Whiteside and Winnebago. In 1840 he was elected county surveyor of Winnebago County, and also a justice of the peace for the La Prairie precinct, that formed part of the present towns of Winnebago and Seward. He held this position until 1856, when he moved to Charles City, Iowa and engaged in the banking business and in 1859 he returned to Rockford and engaged in the real estate and loan business in connection with Daniel Dow. In 1862 after the creation of the United States Internal Revenue service, he was appointed United States Assessor for the second district of Illinois, then composed of the counties of Winnebago, Boone, DeKalb, McHenry and Kane. He held this position for ten years until the office was abolished by consolidation with another district. In 1871 he was elected supervisor of the seventh ward of the city which he filled for ten years with a good part of the time acting as chairman of the board of supervisors. He was heavily involved in getting the old courthouse built.  In 1877 he was elected Mayor of Rockford and served a one year term. He was instrumental in helping form the Old Settler's Association in 1870, and at the first meeting he was elected secretary and held the office continuously for twelve years, until his death. He died at the residence of his son, Duncan H. Ferguson on North Church Street on May 14, 1882. For several months he had been suffering with a complication of diseases.

John Lake

John Lake was born on Blackford Farm, Selworthy Parish, England on March 27, 1821. The farm was the property of his paternal grandfather, who was a farmer, dairyman, miller, malster, and a dealer in all kinds of seeds. William Lake, the father of John Lake, was also born on Blackford Farm in 1798, and died when John was only six months old. John's mother married again, and he was reared by his grandmother in the old home. Mr. Lake was given excellent educational advantages by private teachers. He commenced to earn his own living when 14 years of age by working on a farm. In May 1836, he proposed going United States, but was opposed by his family. He told them he had resolved to go the following year, and they finally gave their consent. The first week in May 1837, when he was 16 years of age, he left his beautiful English home to gain a competence for himself in the United States. He secured passage on the "Severn", a sailing vessel, loaded with iron for Philadelphia. The voyage was beset by fearful storms and continued through seven long weeks before arrival at Philadelphia. He immediately set out for Rockford, where he expected to join his uncle Thomas, but was detained by illness at Rockport, a small town on the Ohio River, and did not arrive in Rockford until December 1, 1837. He did farm work three years, and then apprenticed himself to Thomas Thatcher, a joiner, carpenter and architect, with wages at five dollars per month and board. At the end of one year he felt competent to start a business for himself in the same line. He worked by day and did contract work until 1853, when he formed a partnership with P. Howes to engage in the lumber trade. Their yard was located where the East Rockford, Chicago Northwestern passenger station stood on Seventh Street and Sixth Avenue, at that time, the terminal of the Chicago & Galena railway. When the railway was extended across the river in 1853 they removed the yard to the west side, where they did business until 1856, when they sold out to Mr. Freeman. In November 1856, Mr. Lake visited his old home returning to Rockford in February 1857, and engaged in the lumber business again on the corner of Third and State Street's, where he did business until 1859, when he sold out to Cook & Brother. In 1863 he formed a partnership with Henry Fisher on the west side, he carried on the lumber business until 1867, when he again sold out and revisited England, extending his journey to Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, returning to Rockford in the fall. In 1868 he formed a five-year partnership with Seely Perry, which was terminated in 1874, after which he spent three years in Europe. He visited California in 1885. He was vice president of the Rockford Fire Insurance Company from 1866 to 1886, when he was made president. The Rockford Fire Insurance Company was later sold to the Western Division of the American Insurance Company. He was a director of the Winnebago National Bank from 1865, the date at which it was made a national bank. In 1873 he was elected as Alderman from the Second ward, and served continuously for 10 years, a part of this time he was also its supervisor. In 1877 he was chairman of the Board of Education. He was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the I..O. O .F. and representative to the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the United States for six consecutive years. Mr. Lake was married twice. His first wife was Miss Almeda M. Danley, she passed away May 5, 1893. He was married May 25, 1895 to Mrs. Phoebe E. Benjamin, a sister of his first wife. With his first wife they had seven children, although three died young. Though he left England as a poor boy without connection's or influences, Lake amassed a fortune and was counted as one of the wealthiest citizens of Rockford. His tax bill was among the largest and his investments always were for the good of the city, and in public spirit he was excelled by none. In his partnership with Seely Perry they erected the Perry and Lake Block located at East State and Second Streets. Mr. Lake was a Democrat and was a delegate to the national convention of 1883 in St. Louis which nominated Grover Cleveland for president. Mr. Lake built a Victorian Gothic Revival style house at 1313 East State Street in 1873. After residing in Rockford for seventy nine years, Lake passed away in 1907. The house Lake resided in eventually became the residence of P. A. Peterson, and is now known as a Lake-Peterson house on the grounds of Swedish American Hospital.

P. Byron Thomas

Peter Byron Thomas was born in Belvidere, Illinois on May 4, 1851. He was of Welsh descent with his family tracing its history back to 1753 to the beautiful Isle of Wales. Peter Cruth and Sarah Watson Thomas and son John A. Thomas moved from Ontario, Canada and settled upon a farm near Belvidere in 1849. Peter Thomas spent his boyhood days upon the farm and was educated in the public schools of Belvidere. He came to Rockford in 1886, he became involved in real estate and convinced his brother John to move from the Thomas family farm in Boone County around 1890 to an 80 acre farm at 3000 East State Street, and later in life he inherited this farm and a considerable amount of money. He conducted a large loan and real estate business. He placed loans to the satisfaction of the borrower and safe to the investor. He had several thousand acres of land, situated in Illinois and South Dakota, and was also engaged extensively in farming and stock raising, especially in South Dakota, where he had done much in promoting the development of a fine grade of stock. He married Blanche Hovey of Cherry Valley on September 28, 1907. They would reside at 1707 East State Street.  P. Byron Thomas died on September 19, 1932 and he was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Miss Jessie M. Porter

Jessie M. Porter was born in Mason City, Illinois in 1867, the daughter of Royal and Martha Baker Porter. She was one of only three students in her high school graduating class, two boys and her. She went on to Northwestern University College of Pharmacy and was the only female in a class of 60 when she graduated from the college. She began her career in Chicago, where she sought a salary commensurate with that paid men pharmacists, so she refused to accept the special considerations usually accorded to women. She insisted on taking her turn at night work and slept in the rear of the Chicago store to be available to those who needed prescriptions filled during the night. After Chicago she worked in a pharmacy in Lincoln, Illinois before coming to Rockford in 1904. Her plan was to open a drug store in south Rockford, although the property owner was hesitant at first about granting a lease to a woman figuring a woman might fail in the business world more rapidly than a man. The lease was granted and she purchased the pharmacy of W. R. McDannell at the corner of Main and Morgan Streets. She would become the first woman druggist in Rockford. Miss Porter made her home above the store and was on call for the sick 24 hours a day. For years she refrained from putting in a soda fountain. Her explanation was simple and definite: “When I start serving lunches, I’ll hang up a restaurant sign”. Her store was temporarily relocated to 217 Morgan Street during the construction of the Rialto Theater building and her store remodeled along with it. It was not until the late 1920’s when the Rialto Theater building was erected that she would install a soda fountain in her store. She continued to operate her store until she sold it in 1944 and would pass away six years later at the age of 83. She was not related to the Porter family who operated Porter’s Drug Store at State and Main Streets.

Jeremiah Davis

Jeremiah Davis was born in Hornellsville, New York on June 12, 1826. When thirteen years of age he moved with his parents to Milton, Wisconsin, where he attended the public schools. Upon graduating he purchased eighty acres of land which he farmed until 1850, when he made an overland trip to California in company with L. P. Knowlton of Waterloo, Wisconsin to take part in the California Gold Rush. He located a gold vein near Georgetown, California, which he worked successfully for one year and became quite wealthy. Having established a residence in the territory, he voted for the adoption of the first constitution for California, in September, 1850, after which he returned to Milton, Wisconsin. Davis married Jane Goodrich on April 20, 1852, and co-founded Milton Academy with her father, Joseph Goodrich in 1853. He moved to Ogle County, Illinois in 1859 and with the proceeds from his mining adventures he purchased 1,200 acres of land. He served on the Scott Township Board of Supervisors for ten years. In 1870, he was elected as a Republican to the Illinois House of Representatives, serving one two-year term.  Davis managed to convince the Chicago & Iowa Railroad and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific railroad to run their tracks through his land and he donated farm land so that the railroad would have right of way. In 1874 he he laid out and founded the town of Davis Junction, which bears his name. In 1881, Davis moved to Rockford and purchased a large house located at 216 North Second Street. He became director of the Forest City Insurance Company and the Rockford National Bank. Davis also served as treasurer of the Rock River Butter Company. He was elected to the Rockford city council as alderman from the first ward in 1885. He served on the original board of Rockford Memorial Hospital. Davis had eight children. He was active in Freemasonry and was a member of the Western Society of California Pioneers. He died on September 22, 1910.

Dr. Elisha C. Dunn

Elisha C. Dunn was born in Bethel, New York on July 27, 1840. When nearly three years old he was taken by his parents to Sandusky, Ohio, where they lived until he was nine years old. When a mere boy he manifested a roving disposition and a spirit of investigation. They then moved to Battle Creek and at age of nineteen he was married to Carrie Etts in Marshall, Michigan on July 27, 1859. Four years later in 1863 they moved to Rockford. His first residence was replaced by the Blakeman and Dobson planing mill so he bought up a good sized tract of what was low creek bottom on West State Street near Fair Grounds Park which was later filled in and became exceedingly valuable property. Dr. Dunn's big boost in a worldly way, however came in 1871 when J. M. Peebles of Battle Creek became ambassador to Turkey and he gave his old townsman the position of secretary of legation. E. C. Dunn left Rockford with about all his ready money on his person, and it was not a big pile. Before he returned to his town again he had circled the globe, had lectured in nearly every important town in Australia, had made ventures in ostrich feathers and other fortunate deals so that when he next appeared before banker N. E. Lyman of the People's Bank he made a deposit of $10,000 in gold. From the hour Dr. Dunn's shrewd management of his affairs bore ample fruit. For ten years Dunn was a lecturer and traveling doctor in Illinois and was successful to a remarkable degree in this field. He retired from active practice of medicine eventually but was of such active energetic temperament that he could not rest on his oars. He entered ward politics and had no difficulty in becoming a member of the council - he served his constituents long and to the best of his ability. He was later a candidate for mayor. His palatial home in Rockford was one of the most beautiful of the many beautiful homes in the city. Externally it was of oriental design, and its internal arrangement and finish was one of the most artistic of the Queen Ann pattern. The parlors were finished in ebony and gold. The dining room being octagon in shape, and was finished in walnut and cherry and lighted by windows of opalized glass. The house was fitted with the most modern and convenient appliances and is a model of beauty. Although Dr. Dunn established a home in Rockford he had spent much of the time traveling and upon the lecture platform. His lecture themes covered a wide range of subjects, being equally at home in matters of science, religion, art and politics. He had lectured in many of the largest cities in the world, and had spoken to audiences ranging from a few hundred in number to many thousands. In later years Dr. Dunn lived a retired life, devoting his attention largely to a study of the habits and characteristics of the lower animals, especially the horse and dog. Elisha Dunn passed away in Rockford on March 23, 1914 at his West State Street home.

Robert Rew

Robert Rew was born in 1855, a native of Luscombe, Somersetshire, England. When eight years old he went to work on a farm continuing for four years.  At that time there were no free public schools in England, and young Rew acquired the first rudiments of education at night school and Sunday school. In 1867 at the age of 12 he came to the United States and Rockford. He first lived with the family of Hon. John Lake, attending school at the old East side high school. Professor Freeman, who was then principal, placed him in the Intermediate department, but he did so well that he reached the high school level in three years, about half the time usually required. In 1871 he went to work on the farm owned by Reuben Sovereign, just east of the city, after working about five months he returned to Rockford, determined to continue his course in school. Rew graduated from Rockford High school in 1873, valedictorian of his class. Mr. Rew went to the Northwestern University at Evanston, returning to Rockford in the fall he taught school during the winter, at the same time keeping up with his class in the University, and by hard work and hard study he succeeded in completing the three years of the college course. He returned to Rockford and taught in the schools of Rockford, in the high school on the East Side, under Professor Freeman, and in the high school on the West Side under Professor Blodgett. He not only taught in the schools, but as a tutor of Latin and mathematics after school hours, preparing pupils for entrance to the universities. In 1879 Mr. Rew was united in marriage to Miss Nellie T. Goodwin, a former classmate at Rockford High School who also graduated in 1873. After teaching for some years Mr. Rew would turn to law and in 1882 was admitted to the Illinois bar, the following spring he was elected Justice of the Peace to complete the term of the late Justice Works. As a city official he served under Mayor Mark Jardine as corporation counsel and later as legal advisor for the Rockford Park district. His biggest job however was that of Mayor of Rockford during war time. He served as Mayor from 1917 to 1921. With the city torn and upset by war preparations, the constant flood of troops into and out of Camp Grant, and the excitements and sorrows of wholesale leave-takings, the task of the Mayor was often a difficult and trying one, and Rew earned citywide approval for the way he handled it. Both his wife and he traveled extensively here and abroad. Robert Rew died of a heart attack on February 25, 1934 at age 80. In November 1936 his former home at 304 North Fifth Street was sold and turned into the McAllistor - Julian Funeral Home after extensive remodeling, known today as Julian-Poorman-Welte Funeral Home.

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