Winnebago Co., IL Biography - Thatcher Blake

BLAKE, Thatcher
Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892, pp 539-540

In the suburbs of the beautiful city of Rockford [Winnebago County, IL] and overlooking the Rock River stands a palatial residence, one of the most elegant and attractive in the county, erected by Mr. BLAKE in 1870.  Nine happy years he passed within its walls and then, 08 Oct 1879, passed away.  His life of 71 years was a busy and useful one, filled with successes and crowned with the friendship of the best citizens of Rockford.

Born in Oxford County, ME, 29 Oct 1809, our subject was the son of Thatcher BLAKE, Sr.   The father was born in Taunton [Bristol County], MA, 22 Feb 1774, and died in ME, 29 Oct 1839.  On his mother's side he was a lineal descendant of the celebrated Edward WINSLOW, who came over in the *Mayflower* in 1620, and is known in history for the prudence, intelligence, and wisdom which provided a means of securing the confidence of, and intercourse with, the Indians during the early settlement of this country.  In the history of the development of the New England states, the family took an active part, and possessed the hardy and sturdy character that had enabled their forefathers to get a foothold in the New World.

Imbued with the spirit of his ancestors, it is not strange that our subject sought a home in the wild and sparsely settled West.  He was one of the oldest settlers in Rockford and Winnebago County, being associated with Stephen MACK and Germanicus KENT in the pioneer task of improving the land.  He possessed the courageous spirit which enabled him to undertake the hardships necessary to effect a settlement among not entirely peaceable Indians.  Prior to coming hither, he had gained a special knowledge of agriculture on the home farm, where he had been reared, and had also been a teacher during the winter season.

Upon attaining his majority, Mr. BLAKE came West to Galena [Jo Daviess County], IL, where he formed the acquaintance of Germanicus KENT, a native of VT, who had gone South, married a Southern lady, and returned North to Galena.  The two gentlemen became close friends and purchased an Indian canoe in which they journeyed down the Mississippi River and investigated lands on both sides, finally deciding to locate near the mouth of what is now called Kent Creek, a small stream emptying into the Rock River at Rockford.  The name given to this city was suggested by the fact that at low water there was a good fording place where the dam now is.

No better men could found a city than Messrs. KENT and BLAKE.  The latter gentleman had decided tastes for farming and made a claim to a large tract of land near the town.   After improving the land, he retired to the city, where he engaged to some extent as a real estate dealer and built some good houses.  A man of noble character, he had a host of warm personal friends who honored him as one of the best citizens of the place.   He was a member of the Unitarian Church, and in political belief was first a Whig and later a Republican.

The marriage of Mr. BLAKE in Freeport [Stephenson County, IL] united him with Miss Mary J. GOODHUE, and this wedding ceremony, which was solemnized in Nov 1836, was the first ever performed in Stephenson County, and the second in Northern IL.  To Mrs. BLAKE belongs the honor of being the oldest living settler in Rockford or Winnebago County.  She was born in Peterborough [Hillsborough County], NH, 29 Aug 1813, and belonged to a worthy New England family.  Her parents died when she was a child, and thus orphaned, she began to earn her living as a teacher when quite young.  She came to Stephenson County, IL, where her sister, Mrs. Elizabeth SANBORN, resided.  The venerable lady still survives and resides at the old homestead in Rockford.  [p 540]

A lady of courageous disposition and sincere character, Mrs. BLAKE occupies a warm place in the affection of all who have ever met her, and she delights to relate incidents of old pioneer days, when few comforts were in the reach of early settlers, and hardships and trials were innumerable.  She belongs to the Unitarian Church and is ever active in charitable and benevolent measures.  Her daugher Katie is the widow of Clarence BEAN, formerly a prominent druggist, who died in Rockford in 1888.  Mrs. BEAN makes her home with her mother, as do also her three sons:  Thatcher B., Winslow, and Clarence, bright lads who are the pride and hope of both mother and grandmother.

Submitted by Cathy Kubly.