Vermillion Co., IL Biography - Hiram Williams Beckwith

From the "Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois,


BECKWITH, HIRAM WILLIAMS, lawyer and author, was born at Danville, Ill, March 5, 1833. Mr. Beckwith's father, Dan W. Beckwith, a pioneer settler of eastern Illinois and one of the founders of the city of Danville, was a native of Wyalusing, Pa., where he was born about 1789, his mother being, in her girlhood, Hannah York, one of the survivors of the famous Wyoming massacre of 1778. In 1817, the senior Beckwith, in company with his brother George, descended the Ohio River, afterwards ascending the Wabash to where Terre Haute now stands, but finally locating in what is now a part of Edgar County, Ill. A year later he removed to the vicinity of the present site of the city of Danville. Having been employed for a time in a surveyor's corps, he finally became a surveyor himself, and, on the organization of Vermilion County, served for a time as County Surveyor by appointment of the Governor, and was also employed by the General Government in surveying lands in the eastern part of the State, some of the Indian reservations in that section of the State being set off by him. In connection with Guy W. Smith, then Receiver of Public Moneys in the Land Office at Palestine, Ill., he donated the ground on which the county-seat of Vermilion County was located, and it took the name of Danville from his first name-"Dan." In 1830 he was elected Representative in the State Legislature for the District composed of Clark, Edgar, and Vermilion Counties, then including all that section of the State between Crawford County and the Kankakee River. He died in 1835.

Hiram, the subject of this sketch, thus left fatherless at less than three years of age, received only such education as was afforded in the common schools of that period. Nevertheless, he began the study of law in the Danville office of Lincoln & Lamon, and was admitted to practice in 1854, about the time of reaching his majority. He continued in their office and, on the removal of Lamon to Bloomington in 1859, he succeeded to the business of the firm at Danville. Mr. Lamon-who, on Mr. Lincoln's accession to the Presidency in 1861, became Marshal of the District of Columbia-was distantly related to Mr. Beckwith by a second marriage of the mother of the latter. While engaged in the practice of his profession, Mr. Beckwith has been over thirty years a zealous collector of records and other material bearing upon the early history of Illinois and the Northwest, and is probably now the owner of one of the most complete and valuable collections of Americana in Illinois. He is also the author of several monographs on historic themes, including "The Winnebago War," "The Illinois and Indiana Indians," and "Historic Notes of the Northwest," published in the "Fergus Series," besides having edited an edition of "Reynolds' History of Illinois" (published by the same firm), which he has enriched by the addition of valuable notes. During 1895-96 he contributed a series of valuable articles to "The Chicago Tribune" on various features of early Illinois and Northwest history. In 1890 he was appointed by Governor Fifer a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Illinois State Historical Library, serving until the expiration of his term in 1894, and was re-appointed to the same position by Governor Tanner in 1897, in each case being chosen President of the Board.


Our family connection
Wilson, born Nov. 21, 1825, died Oct. 1912, married Judith Burroughs.
Daughter married Charles Allen.

           Major Wilson Burroughs.   Among the self-made men of Vermilion County none deserve greater credit than the subject of this notice who is in possession of a comfortable amount of this world’s goods, obtained by downright hard labor and wise management.  At the beginning, when he started out in life for him-self, he made it a rule to live within his income, and this resolve closely followed has given him that independence than which, there is no more comfortable feeling in the world.  In possession of a fine home and a splendid family, together with the respect of his fellow men, he surely has much to make life desirable.  His occupation through life has been principally agriculture, but he is now retired from active labor and has wisely determined to spend his remaining years in the comfort and quiet which he so justly deserves.

            The ancestors of the Major were Southern people mostly, and his father, Jesse Burroughs, a native of Kentucky, was born in 1803.  Early in life he married May 8, 1823, to Miss Mary C. Wilson who was born in 1804 in Pennsylvania, the wedding taking place in Dearborn County, Ind., to which place the young people had emigrated with their parents.  They resided in that county for sixteen years, then coming to Illinois, in 1839, settled on a farm near Catlin  this county, where they lived a number of years, then changed their residence to Fairmount.  The father died on the 5th of March, 1880, aged seventy-six years, ten months and sixteen days.  The mother survived her partner less than a year passing away February 25, 1881, age seventy-six years, three months and twenty-four days.

            To the parents of our subject were born nine children, six sons and three daughters, five of whom are living and whom Wilson was the second child.  He was born Nov. 21, 1825, in Dearborn County, Ind.  His early education was conducted in a log school-house with greased paper for window panes and other finishings and furnishings common to the buildings of that place and time.  It was never his privilege to attend a higher school.  He had the ordinary experience of a farmer’s boy in a new country, assisting in the development of the farm, plowing, sowing and reaping, becoming inured to hard work at an early age.   There were very few settlers in this region at the time of the arrival of the Burroughs family, there being a few Indians and French on the Sault fort of the Vermilion River.

            Four days before attaining the nineteenth year of his age young Burroughs was married Nov. 17, 1844 to Miss Martha Ann Thompson, daughter of John and Esther (Payne) Thompson, who came to Illinois from Dearborn County, Ind., in 1830, and settled on a farm in Vance Township, this county.   Their family included eight children, four of whom are living and of whom Mrs. Burroughs the second child was born May 11, 1827, in Dearborn County, Ind.  Her early education was conducted in a similar manner to that of her husband, and her father officiated as a pedagogue for several years.   After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Burroughs settled on a rented farm near Catlin, and like their neighbors frequently had difficulty to make both ends meet.  There was an abundance of labor and with but very little return.  They raised their own flax and wool, and Mrs. Burroughs spun and wove the fashioned the garments for her family.  Mr. Burroughs often thinks of the time when he went to church dressed in home-made line shirt and pants and a straw hat.  He maintains, however, that those were happy days, during which mutual affection and mutual

purposes enabled them to bear with courage the burdens of life and sustain their hopes for the future.

            Our subject operated five years upon rented land to such good advantage that at the expiration of this time he was enabled to purchase 100 acres – eighty acres of prairie at $5 per acre and twenty acres of timer at $4 per acre.  He paid cash down for the timber but was obliged to go into debt for the other.  He put up a frame house and haled the finishing lumber for it from a point east of Eugene, Ind., the trip occupying three days.  He lived at this place seven years then traded it for a tract of raw land, three and one-half miles southwest of Fairmount.  Removing to this he went through the same process as before, bringing the new soil to a state of cultivation, putting up another house and hauling the lumber as before from the same place.  This continued the home of our subject and his little family until after the outbreak of the late Civil War.

            Although there was much to engross the time and thoughts of Mr. Burroughs in connection with his personal interest he, nevertheless, responded to the call of his country and in August 1862, entered the army as Captain of Company E 73d Illinois Infantry.  He participated with one exception, in all the battles of his regiment, being prevented by illness from taking part in the fight at Murfreesboro, Tenn.  On the 18th of December, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of Major.  Although in many of the important engagements which followed he was never wounded except, as he expressed it, “in the hat.”  He has a vivid recollection of the battles of Perryville, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Rocky Face, Burnt Hickory, Kenesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Cree, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Lovejoy’s Station, Franklin, the two days at Nashville and the fight at Dalton and Resaca.   After Lee’s surrender he was mustered out in June 1865, at Camp Butler, Ill.

            Upon retiring from the army Major Burroughs returned to his farm which he occupied until 1867.  Then, removing to Fairmount, he purchased a home and has since lived retired from active labor.   After giving to his two children each a farm he still has 324 acres left.   There were born to him and his excellent wife of four children, of whom Melissa, the eldest daughter, became the wife of I. N. Wilcox, who died Sept. 19, 1887, leaving his widow with one child, Harry B; Elsworth Thompson Burroughs, the eldest son of our subject, married Miss Laura Custer, and is the father of two – Fred and Frank—living near Westville:  Esther M., is the wife of William P. Witherspoon and the mother of three children—Stella, Wilson W. and Myrtle; they live in a home adjoining that of Mr. Burroughs.  The youngest child Newton W. remains at home with his parents.

            Mr. Burroughs usually votes the straight Republican ticket but further than this takes no active part in politics and has avoided the responsibilities of office, although serving as Director and Trustee in his district.  He has been a member of Town Council and as ex-soldier, belonged to George N. Neville, Post, and G.A.R. until its discontinuance.  Major and Mrs. Burroughs together with all their children, are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Fairmount.  This was organized in 1869 and the Major has been one of its Elders since that time.  He has always entertained an active interest in the Sunday-school in which he has held the office of Superintendent many years.  He ranks among the foremost temperance men of this community and in all his dealings has preserved that honest and upright course in life which as been the unrest guaranteed of a substantial success and paved the way to a position in the front ranks among the responsible men of his community.  He knows by what toil and struggle his possessions were accumulated, and has a faculty of investing his capital to the best advantage.