Putnam County


John TAYLOR, now living retired in Wenona, presents in his life a splendid example of downright hard labor, close application to business and perseverance. He commenced life at the foot of the ladder, but is now able to live comfortably in the enjoyment of the fruits of his early industry. He has met with many trials and adversities, but being an industrious, temperate and moral man has risen above these and now in his declining days is peacefully waiting the time when he shall be called to join the loved ones gone before.

Samuel TAYLOR, his father, was a native of Pennsylvania, and a son of Berial TAYLOR, whose birth occurred in new Jersey, but was of Welsh descent. In the keystone state the father wedded Eleanor THIRKEEL, also a native of Pennsylvania. He followed the cooper’s trade in early life, but later turned his attention almost exclusively to farming, and in 1842 brought his family to Illinois, locating in Putnam county, about three miles south of Florid, where he purchased an improved farm. At the end of three years, however, he sold out and became the owner of a tract of raw prairie land one and a half miles north of Magnolia, and there spent his remaining days. His loving wife, who was a faithful member of the Methodist church, died at the home of her eldest daughter, in Bureau county, and they both lie buried in the cemetery at Magnolia. He was an upright, moral man, who attended strictly to his own affairs and was the architect of his own fortune. In the family were eight children, namely: Charles, and Mrs. Louisa WILSON, both deceased; John, of this sketch; Samuel J., of Wenona; Mrs. Eleanor KIMBER, of Dade county, Missouri; William Henry, deceased; Mrs. Emily FULLERTON, of Page county, Iowa, and Mrs. Clarissa KENYON, deceased.

Our subject was born in Fayette county, Pennsylvania, June 29, 1817, was there entered in the district schools, learned the trades of a cooper, tanner, blacksmith and shoemaker, doing his own smithing and shoemaking for many years, and proving himself a genius in many lines. He also engaged in farm and carpenter work during his early years. His life has been an eventful one and during his long and busy career he has met with several painful accidents, in several of which he nearly lost his life. The first of these was caused by disobedience when at the age of fourteen years. His father had told him not to take up the ax during his absence, but he did so and in striking a blow it struck a knot, slipped and cut him at the knee joint. On the outside it healed up, but gathered inside, confining him to his bed for three months, and the doctor said the limb would have to be amputated. A woman of the neighborhood persuaded them to try a slippery elm poultice, which healed the wound, but the knee remained stiff. However, he later fell upon it, and it was relieved somewhat. During his apprenticeship in a tan yard, while pulling a hide to the vat, he slipped and fell in, dislocating his right shoulder, which several times since has been thrown out of joint. While living in Pennsylvania, his horse ran away and in jumping from the wagon, he became entangled in the lines and was dragged a considerable distance, and badly bruised before the horse stopped. At another time, while in a sleigh, his horse ran away, going through an apple orchard, and when passing under a tree a limb struck him in the mouth, knocking out three of his upper teeth and causing him to lose consciousness. He was thought to be dead, but finally revived. At one time he was caught in the fly-wheel of the engine and only escaped instant death by accidentally putting his hand on the cut-off rod, which shut off the steam and stopped the engine. Now, at the ripe old age of seventy-nine years, he is in almost perfect health and in the possession of all his faculties. This he attributes to his temperate, religious and upright life.

In 1840 Mr. TAYLOR was united in marriage with Miss Isabel Ann MURPHY, who was born near Uniontown, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, but after a happy married life of ten months he was called to her final rest. At the time of his parents’ removal to this state, he accompanied them, and on June 26, 1844, was here joined in wedlock with Miss Mary Ann MILLS, who was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, June 15, 1819, and was the daughter of Joseph and Sarah (RAILEY) MILLS, who located in Magnolia township, Putnam county in 1840. By birthright, Mrs. TAYLOR was a Friend, and at her death February 16, 1891, was laid to rest in the Friends cemetery at Clear Creek, Putnam county. However, for many years she had been a devoted member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church.

Six children graced the second union: Albert R., president of the Kansas state normal school at Emporia, Kansas, married Minerva DENT, by whom he has two children. Martha Isabel is the wife of Owen M. SCOTT, of Portland, Oregon, and they have two children. Joseph M. married Kittie CONANT, by whom he has two children, and is now residing at North Marshfield, Massachusetts. John Franklin married Lillian CRAM, and lives at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Sarah is the wife of George EWING, of Kansas City, Missouri, and they have three children. William Henry wedded Ettie BARBER, by whom he has four children, and they also make their home in Kansas City.

After his marriage he lived near the old Griffith’s sawmill, running it for six months, then moved into the old Mills cabin just north of Magnolia for a couple of years, then moved on to the George Griffith prairie farm for two years and finally located upon an unimproved prairie farm a mile and a half north of Magnolia, in Putnam county, which he at once developed, erecting good buildings, setting out a fine orchard. During all these years he ran a threshing machine, which he built himself, and did all the threshing for miles around. In 1860, however, he removed to Wenona for the purpose of manufacturing a self-raking reaping machine, which he had patented. Business thrived and for several years he manufactured wagons, buggies and cultivators also, doing a general repair business in connection with it. He disposed of his business in 1885, and is now living a retired life. He owns several houses and some twenty acres of land adjoining the city. He was the first man in the community to use a cultivator with a tongue, and two horses. During the first season spent in Putnam county, he took a load of wheat to Chicago by team, camping out along the road, and on reaching there only received forty-eight cents per bushel for it. He is emphatically a self-made man.

Mr. TAYLOR has invented many highly-prized agricultural implements, including a self-rake on a harvester; a cylinder corn sheller; a self-cleaner attachment for threshing machines; a riding cultivator, dodged by an adjustable frame in fount; a walking cultivator of four shovels; a self-feed to a corn sheller, called a direct feed; a window balancer, with spring stops; a swinging wing windmill, which needed no regulator, and an adjustable roller for rolling ground. He has some ideas peculiar to himself, one of which is his belief that the earth does not pass around the sun, but has an orb of its own, in which it makes its daily and yearly motions.

Mr. TAYLOR is an earnest and consistent member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, in which he has served as elder for half a century, and has always taken an active part in its work, as well as in the work of the Sunday school, acting for a long time as teacher and superintendent. The cause of temperance has ever found in him an earnest advocate; he has been a member of the Red Ribbon society and the Sons of Temperance, was one of the founders of the Good Templars lodge at Wenona, and now on account of his views on that important question, since 1872 has been a stalwart supporter of the prohibition party. He has done all in his power to remove the evils of the liquor traffic, which has injured so many worthy citizens in this fair land of ours. He was born a democrat, but voted for Lincoln for president and for twelve years affiliated with the republican party. Although he has never cared for political preferment, he has served as a member of the city council of Wenona.

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois  published in 1896, page 507.

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