Henry header


Biographies O

 Following are some biographies of families who at one time or another lived in Henry Co. Illinois. In some cases it is the grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse or child who was a Henry Co. resident so please read carefully!


THOMAS O'DAY, attorney at law, was born in Litchfield County, Conn. When a boy he came to Henry County, Ill., with his parents. In 1872, he came to Page County, Iowa; then took up the study of law; graduated from the Iowa State University in 1877, and has since been actively engaged in the practice of his profession. He came to Neligh in 1879.

Source: Andreas' History of Nebraska, 1883, Antelope County, Town of Neligh.


John Offerle, who has passed the eightieth milestone on life's journey, is a retired shoemaker living in Geneseo. He was born in Alsace, France, September 30, 1829, and is a son of John Jacob and Saloma (Peter) Offerle, both of whom were also natives of Alsace. The ancestors of the family lived in Normandy, France, and were of the faith of the Waldenses. In the time of the Catholic persecution they fled from Normandy to Switzerland, and thence their descendants went to Alsace, settling in Baldenheim, in the Department of Du-Pas-Rhine near Schlestadt. The great-great-grandfather of our subject was John Jacob Offerle, who was born in 1705 and died November 17,1773. He was married in 1730 to Sarah Meinold, whose mother bore the maiden name of Adam Peter, a native of Alsace, France, and a linen weaver by trade. Both he and his wife died in that country. John Jacob Offerle, who was a farmer by occupation, died in Baldenheim on September 20, 1845, at the age of forty-eight years, his birth having occurred April 20, 1797. His first wife, who was born in Baldenheim in 1798, passed away November 27, 1841. He afterward married again, his second union being with Saloma Hertzel. He and both of his wives were members of the Lutheran Church. By his first marriage there were five sons and two daughters, but only two are now living, the sister of our subject being Mrs. Mary Hessel, the wife of Charles Hessel, of London, Ontario. The two children of the father's second marriage were Catherine and Christian.

John Offerle was educated in the schools of his native province in both the French and German languages and when sixteen years of age began learning the shoemaker's trade. In 1847 at the age of eighteen years he came to America, settling in Warren, Pennsylvania, where he engaged in shoemaking. Since 1864 he has resided continuously in Geneseo, where he and his brother George established a shoe store, which they conducted together for three or four years. On the expiration of that period they dissolved partnership and John Offerle continued to make boots and shoes, enjoying a good patronage in that line until 1900, since which time he has lived retired. He remained an active factor in the world's work until after his seventy-first year, and the rest which he has since enjoyed has been well merited, for his competence was honorably earned.

On the 23d of December, 1852, Mr. Offerle was united in marriage to Miss Catherine Fisher, a daughter of Andrew and Mary (Eisler) Fisher. Mrs. Offerle was born in Warren, Pennsylvania, April 12, 1836, but her parents were natives of Alsace, France, and her father was one of Napoleon's body guards. He was tall and handsome, and moreover, a man of high character, who led a consistent Christian life. He died in Warren, Pennsylvania, in 1848 at the age of fifty-three years, and his wife, long surviving him, passed away in 1891 at the age of eighty-four years, her death occurring in Geneseo. Unto Mr. And Mrs. Offerle have been born seven children: Josephine, the wife of John Minsch, of Hooppole, Illinois, by whom she has six children—Lora, Charles, Florence, Alice, Cora and Warren; Henry of Lane county, Kansas, who married Hattie McKinley and has four children—John, Eva, Charles and Freddie; Diana, the wife of Philip Sommers of Abilene, Kansas, who has three children—Stacy, Lynn and Lorena; Lorena the wife of Richard Arnold, of Geneseo and the mother of one daughter, Oneida; Cora, who died at the age of twenty-five years; Alfred, a farmer of Munson Township, who married Lulu Wildermuth and has two children—Earl and Della; and Aaron, who resides in Enid, Oklahoma.

Mr. Offerle is a stanch advocate of all that he believes to be right and manifests his views in the temperance question by the loyal support which he gives the Prohibition Party. Both he and his wife are members of the Evangelical Church and are good Christian people, active in the church work. They are highly esteemed for their genuine worth and have lived exemplary lives before their children and before all of the world. Because of this they can look back over the past without regret and forward to the future without fear.

Source: "History of Henry County Illinois", by Henry L. Kiner, Volume II, Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co 1910

Submitted by:Alice Gless


Roy G. F. Offerle is well-known in Geneseo, where he has spent his entire life, his birth having here occurred on the 3d of December, 1882. He is a son of Albert F. and Caroline J. (Dannenfelser) Offerle. His paternal grandfather, George J. Offerle, came to America from Alsace, which was then under the dominion of France, but the family were of German lineage and spoke both the German and French tongues. George J. Offerle settled in Warren, Pennsylvania, and was there united in marriage to Miss Magdalene Reig, who was also a native of Germany. Removing westward they spent their last days in Geneseo where both died when more than sixty years of age. They were the parents of nine children who reached years of maturity. Albert F.; Lena, the wife of Philip Rapp; Edward, deceased; Patrick; Belle; Anna, the wife of J. V. Laver; Louis; Freeman; and Hattie, the wife of C. E. Hapgood. The maternal grandfather of our subject was Frederick Dannenfelser, who came from Lorraine and at a very early day settled in Phenix Township, Henry County, Illinois. There he built a log cabin in which he began life in true pioneer style but later improved his farm with good buildings. A number of years afterward he removed to Geneseo where he died at the age of eighty-one years, while his wife was eighty-four years of age at the time of her death. They had a large family; Jacob, deceased; William; Elizabeth, the wife of John O. Freed; Fred; Christina, the wife of F. E. Gresser; Caroline J., who became Mrs. Offerle; and Julia, the wife of S. S. Ott.

Albert F. Offerle, the father of our subject, was a shoemaker of Warren, Pennsylvania, and when a young man came with his parents to Geneseo, where he spent the remainder of his life, saving the last few years, which were passed in Helena, Montana. There he died in the '90s. His widow still survives and is a member of the German Evangelical Church, to which Mr. Offerle also belonged. For a short time he was proprietor of a boot and shoe store in Geneseo. In their family were two children, William Albert and Roy G. F.

The younger was reared in Geneseo and lives in the house where he was born. He attended the public and high schools, and after putting aside his text-books he began clerking in the grocery store of George Drehmer, by whom he was employed for six or seven years. He afterward accepted a clerkship in the clothing store of Lagfer & Offerle, where he has continued to the present time, and he is well known in the business circles of the city.

Politically, Mr. Offerle is a Republican, and fraternally he is connected with the Improved Order of Redmen. He lives at home with his mother on Center Street, and is well known in the social circles of the city, having many warm friends in Geneseo where his life has been passed.

Source: "History of Henry County Illinois", by Henry L. Kiner, Volume II, Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co, 1910

Submitted by: Alice Gless


William Albert Offerle is well known as a member of the firm of Lager & Offerle, successful clothing merchants. He was born in this city, October 1, 1872, and is a son of Albert F. and Caroline J. (Dannenfelser) Offerle, who were natives of Pennsylvania and Geneseo, Illinois, respectively. The paternal grandfather was George J. Offerle, who came to America from Alsace, which was then under the dominion of France, but the family was of German lineage and the members of the household spoke both the German and French languages. Having crossed the Atlantic, George J. Offerle settled in Warren, Pennsylvania, where he was married, the lady of his choice being Magdalene Reig. Both he and his wife died in Geneseo when more than sixty years of age. They had a family of nine children who reached mature years, namely: Albert; Lena, the wife of Philip Rapp; Edward, deceased; Frank; Belle; Anna, the wife of J. V. Laver; Louis; Freeman; and Hattie, the wife of C. E. Hapgood.

Tracing back the maternal ancestry of Mr. Offerle, it is found that he comes fin that line from ancestors who lived in Lorraine, also one of the border provinces which at times has belonged to Germany and again to France. The grandfather was Frederick Dannenfelser, who cast in his lot with the early settlers of Phenix Township, Henry County, Illinois. His original home there was built of logs and he lived in true frontier style but as the years passed he added good buildings to his place and improved it according to more modern methods. A number of years later he removed with his family to Geneseo where he died at the age of eighty-one years, while his wife passed away at the age of eighty-four. They had a large family, as follows: Jacob, deceased; William; Elizabeth, the wife of John O. Freed; Fred; Christina, the wife of F. E. Gresser; Caroline J., the mother of our subject; and Julia, the wife of S. S. Ott.

Albert F. Offerle, the father of William A. Offerle, became a shoemaker in Warren, Pennsylvania, and when a young man accompanied his parents on their removal to Geneseo, where he continued to reside until the closing years of his life which were passed in Helena, Montana. He died in the '90s and is still survived by his wife. They belonged to the German Evangelical Association and their many substantial qualities won for them high regard wherever they were known. There were three children in the family and the younger son, Roy G. F., is represented elsewhere in this volume. Another son, Perry, died in infancy.

William A. Offerle was reared in Geneseo where he has made his home to the present time. The public schools afforded him his educational privileges until he had mastered the branches of learning therein taught and later he pursued a business course in Northwestern Normal. He then began clerking in the store of E. A. Cragin, spending little more than a year in that employ, after which he secured a clerkship in the clothing store of M. Nusbaum & Company in 1890. In 1893, he formed a partnership with Carl J. Lager and they purchased the business of Nusbaum & Company. In 1897 they erected what is known as the Lager & Offerle block, a fine brick structure in which they now carry on their clothing business. They have, however, two fine stores in Geneseo, one of them being conducted under the name of the Model, while the other is carried on under the firm style of Lager & Offerle. They are enterprising merchants whose business ability is manifest in the success which is attending their efforts, their patronage being extensive and desirable.

On the 1st of June, 1898, Mr. Offerle was united in marriage to Miss Lois J. Hall, a daughter of William H. and Naomi (Brush) Hall. There is one son of that marriage, Robert Hall Offerle. The parents are members of the Unitarian Church and Mr. Offerle is prominent in Masonry, having attained high degree in the craft. He belongs to Stewart Lodge, No. 92, F. & A. M.; Geneseo Chapter, No. 12, R. A. M.; Rock Island commandery, No. 18, K. T.; and Kaaba Temple of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Mystic Shrine at Davenport.

His political endorsement is given to the Republican Party and while he does not seek office he is interested in matters of citizenship to the extent of giving generous support to every measure or movement calculated to prove of public good. He has always lived in Geneseo and the fact that many of his stanchest friends are numbered among those who have known him from his boyhood to the present time is an indication of the fact that his life has displayed many sterling characteristics, being in conformity with the high principles of honorable manhood. A genial manner, unfailing courtesy and social disposition have also rendered him popular with all with whom he has been brought in contact.

Source: "History of Henry County Illinois", by Henry L. Kiner, Volume II, Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co 1910

Submitted by:Alice Gless


In the years of his residence in Henry county John Ogden was known as a worthy citizen, and his name is now on the roll of Geneseo's honored dead.  He was born in Pennsylvania, November 12, 1836, his parents being John and Remembrance (Evans) Ogden, who were early settlers of Phenix township, Henry county.  His father secured a tract of land here and began farming but was not permitted long to enjoy his new home, his death occurring soon after his arrival.  Unto him and his wife were born six children, four sons and two daughters, four of whom married and had children, namely: Elizabeth, who became the the wife of John Taylor; Samuel; Emeline, who married James Dawson; and John.  The mother of these children continued a resident of the county until her demise, which occurred when she was in middle life.

John Ogden was only a small child when brought by his parents to Illinois, and upon the old home farm in Phenix township he was reared, experiencing the usual routine of the life of the agriculturalist.  He attended the district schools and also the Geneseo public schools and was thus well qualified by thorough mental discipline to meet and solve life's problems.  His education complete, he began working at farm labor by the month and his practical experience well qualified him to take charge of a farm of his own, when his industry and economy enabled him to purchase one hundred and ten acres. thus he improved and added to the property from time to time until he was the owner of two hundred and forty acres, while his wife had two hundred and eighty acres received from her father's estate.  Mr. Ogden had managed both properties and in so doing had displayed excellent business ability, knowing what crops were best adapted to soil and climate and understanding the methods which could be most successfully utilized in the cultivation of his fields.

On the 1st of January, 1867, Mr. Ogden was united in marriage to Miss Mary Elizabeth Graf, a daughter of Gustavus and Barbara (Artman) Graf. Her paternal grandparents were George and Elizabeth Graf. Her parents were both natives of Germany, her father coming to America when about twenty-nine years of age, while her mother was only a little maiden of eight summers at the time of her arrival on this side  the Atlantic. They were married in Maryland and afterward removed to Warren, Trumbull county, Ohio.  In 1852 they made a long and arduous journey across the plains and through the mountain passes to California, and four years later they returned as far as Illinois, at which time they settled in Phenix township, Henry county, where Mr. Graf engaged in farming. In early manhood he had learned and followed the tailor's trade but here took up general agricultural pursuits and purchased a large tract of land, having at his death four hundred and eighty acres. He was born in Eisenach, Saxe-Weimar, Germany, November 10,1813, and died in Phenix township at the age of sixty-nine years, while his wife was born in Milhausen, Koenigreich Preussen, Germany, March 27,1825, and passed away in Sterling, Nebraska, in the spring of 1889 at the age of sixty-four years. Their daughter, Mrs. Ogden, was born in Maryland, January 2, 1846, and by her marriage has become the mother of nine children: Anna R., now the wife of A. K. Clark, of Geneseo, by whom she has two children---Mary Ethel and Grace Elizabeth; John Otis, who married Elizabeth Beck; Lucy E., who died December 22, 1874, at the age of twenty-six months; Louis G., who married Effie Caffal, and has five children---John, Louise, Henry, Robert and Effie; Nellie M., who died February 17, 1894, at the age of seventeen years and ten months; James E., who married Helen Walker and has four children---Stuart, Cheston, Florence, and John; Hulda, who for several terms was a teacher in the public schools and is now the wife of Charles W. Farber; Willis R. who married Hazel Limle; and Grace Elizabeth, who was also a teacher in the public schools.

The death of the husband and father occurred January 2, 1887, when he had reached the age of fifty years and two months. He was a member of the Methodist church and wife, who survives him, is of the Presbyterian faith. Fraternally he was connected with the Odd Fellows, and his life embodied the sterling principles which underlie that order as well as the Christian teachings of the church. He endeavored to live peaceably with all men, sought success along honorable methods and made a record which at all times measured up to the highest standard of honorable manhood.

Source: History of Henry County, Illinois; by Henry L. Kiner; The Pioneer Publishing Company; Chicago; 1910 p 386-387.

This biography describes the family as it was in 1909.

Submitted by his great-granddaughter, Mary Zirkelbach


James Orr is now living retired in Geneseo, but for a long period he was closely associated with agricultural interests, and his business methods were so practical, his enterprise so keen and his energy so unabating that he won a place among the men of affluence in Henry County. He is one of the native sons of the county, his birth having occurred in Cornwall Township, May 11, 1855. His parents were James and Mary (Shale) Orr, both of whom were natives of County Down, Ireland. The paternal grandfather was a Scotchman but removed to the Emerald isle, where he spent his last few days. Mr. And Mrs. James Orr, Sr., were reared, educated and married in Ireland, and coming to the United States, took up their abode at Safe Harbor, near Philadelphia, where Mr. Orr was employed for a number of years in the iron works. About 1850 he came to Illinois and spent a few months in Peoria, after which he arrived in Henry County and purchased a farm of eighty acres in Cornwall Township. His capital was then limited, and that he prospered in his undertakings was indicated in the fact that he added to his original holdings until his farming interests aggregated four hundred and eighty acres. He died upon his home farm in Cornwall Township in 1883 at the age of seventy-two years, and his wife, who survived him for two years, passed away at the age of seventy-three years. Their religious faith was indicated in their membership in the Presbyterian Church.

James Orr, whose name introduces this review, spent his youthful days as do most farm boys, being reared in the old homestead in Henry County. The district schools afforded him his educational opportunities, and the periods of vacation were devoted to the work of the fields, while at times he was just as busily employed with the games and pastimes in which the youth of the period indulged. After attaining his majority he married and carried on farming in a part of his father'' land for several years. His life has been that of an energetic agriculturist who carefully tills the soil, utilizing such modern, progressive and scientific methods as produce the best results in the cultivation of crops. In 1888 he removed to Geneseo where he purchased a good residence on South State Street where he still lives. He derives a substantial income from two hundred acres of land which is his old homestead, and has also a half section of land in Manitoba, Canada.

On the 20th of December, 1882, Mr. Orr was united in marriage to Miss Mary Elizabeth Terpening, who was born in Munson Township, this county, May 17, 1864. She is a daughter of William H. and Eliza Ann (Mason) Terpening. The former was a son of Henry Terpening, a native of New York and a farmer by occupation. His father was Levi Terpening, a native of Holland and the founder of the family in the New World. Henry Terpening married a Miss Gee, and both lived to an old age. Their children included William H. Terpening, who removed from Cortland County, New York, to Illinois in 1851. He had previously wedded Eliza Ann Mason, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was a daughter of George and Catherine (Sloop) Mason. Her father was a wheelwright by trade and conducted a large shop in Cincinnati at a time when everything was made by hand. He removed to Illinois when an old man, settling near Maryland City. Unto him and his wife were born three sons and three daughters, including Eliza Ann, who became Mrs. Terpening. As stated, the year 1851 witnessed the arrival of Mr. And Mrs. Terpening in Illinois, at which time they settled in Munson Township, Henry County. Subsequently they removed to Iowa and lived near Creston for nine years. They then returned to Henry County in 1864 and the father died in 1902 at the age of eighty-four years. He had for about two years survived his wife, who passed away in 1900 and was also eighty-four years of age at the time of her demise. Their children were ten in number: George A., a resident of Seattle, Washington; Martha A., the wife of Samuel Wilson, who is living near Belleville, Kansas; Missoura A., the widow of George Terpening of Mokena, Illinois; Clinton W. of Bedford, Iowa; Francis A., whose home is in Albia, Kansas; Melissa, the wife of George Dorflinger, of Bryn Mawr, Washington; Minnie, the deceased wife of William Hutchinson; Marion C., whose home is near Larimore, North Dakota; Charles S., who is located at Pendleton, Oregon; and Mary E. now Mrs. Orr.

The marriage of Mr. And Mrs. Orr has been blessed with two children, Ona E. and Elbert G. The former is the wife of Albert Sheldon Bradley, and they reside with Mr. And Mrs. Orr. The parents are members of the Unitarian Church, and Mr. Orr belongs to Stewart Lodge, No. 92, A. F. & A. M.; Geneseo Chapter, No. 12, R. A. M.; the Modern Woodmen camp and the Knights of Pythias Lodge. Both he and his wife hold membership in Geneseo Chapter, No. 175, O. E. S. His political endorsement is given to the democracy, but he neither seeks nor desires office as a reward for party fealty. He receives from his fellow townsmen the respect and confidence which the world instinctively yields as its tribute to genuine worth. He has long lived in this county, and his business enterprise is manifest in the success which has crowned his labors.

Source: "History of Henry County Illinois", by Henry L. Kiner, Volume II, Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co, 1910

Submitted by:Alice Gless


OSSIAN, A. J., section 24, P. O. Stanton; was born in Sweden, August 25, 1840, emigrated in 1865 to Henry County, Illinois; was married in Sweden to Matilda Anderson, in March, 1865. They have had nine children, six still living: Louisa M., age sixteen; Emma C., eleven; Galhard E., six; Anotelia, four; Lida M., three; Esther J., one. Mr. Ossian was educated in the common schools of Sweden, and has always followed farming. He now owns 320 acres of land in good cultivation. Mr. and Mrs. Ossian are both members of the Lutheran church. Mr. Ossian only had ten dollars when he landed in New York, and had no friends to assist him; he now has his farm of 320 acres all in cultivation and well stocked with horses, cattle, hogs and sheep.

Source: History of Montgomery County Iowa, 1881 Grant Twp


OSSIAN, MRS. ANNA L., section 24, P. O. Stanton; she was born in Sweden, December 5, 1818; was married in April in 1840, and emigrated with her husband, Mr. Andrew Ossian, to this country in May, 1869, landing in Henry County, Illinois; April 2, 1870, came to Montgomery County, Iowa. Mr. Ossian died October 7, 1875, leaving Mrs. Ossian with seven children still living. John A., born August 25, 1841; Gustaf, October 6, 1843; Carl Fredrick, May 28, 1847; Jonas L., October 2, 1849; Swan L., July 19, 1852; Clara Albertina, December 1, 1854; Emma S., July 5, 1860. Mrs. Ossian owns eighty acres of land in a high state of cultivation. She is a consistent member of the Lutheran church and has been for many years; she is now sixty-two years old and enjoys perfect health; five of her children are married; she has twenty-one grandchildren. Her children all live in Montgomery County except one, who lives in Henry County, Illinois. They have lost three crops by hail and grasshoppers. Mr. Ossian served in the army in Sweden sixteen years. He always followed farming except while he was in the army. He died a consistent member of the Lutheran church.

Source: History of Montgomery County Iowa, 1881 Grant Twp


OSSIAN, G. A., section 24, P. O. Stanton; he was born in Sweden, October 6, 1843. He emigrated in 1867. Was married May 23, 1867, to Miss Caroline M. Lantry. They have had seven children, six living: Emma M., born March 17, 1868; Albert, born April 2, 1870; Oscar, died at the age of eight years; Clara, born March 4, 1874; Johanna, born May 4, 1876; John Samuel, born June 6, 1878; Esther Otelia, October 13, 1880. Mr. Ossian has 160 acres of land where he lives, and forty acres in Scott township. They are both members of the Swedish Lutheran church. When he emigrated to this country he stopped in Henry County, Illinois, from 1867 to 1870, when he came to this county. He served as trustee of the church for three years and will have been deacon nine years when he has completed his present term. He is an active man both in church and in the Sunday school.

Source: History of Montgomery County Iowa, 1881 Grant Twp


OSSIAN, Jonas L., farmer, section 19, P. O. Stanton; he was born in Sweden, October 2, 1849, and emigrated May 1, 1869, to Henry County, Illinois. He remained there eighteen months and then came to Montgomery County, Iowa. In 1871 he was married to Miss Ida Almquist. She was born in Sweden, August 8, 1856; by this marriage they have three children: Emily M., born January 19, 1875; Swan A., born March 23, 1877; Lida M., April 7, 1879. Mr. And Mrs. Ossian are both members of the church. He is now the owner of 160 acres of improved land with a fine orchard of 200 trees. Mr. Ossian has his farm well stocked with horses, cattle and hogs. When seventeen years old Mr. Ossian had his right hand shot by accident, and so injured as to render it almost useless. He, with this disadvantage, started in life without a dollar, but enterprise and economy have overcome the difficulties, and he now has an excellent home, "the work of his own hands.

Source: History of Montgomery County Iowa, 1881 Scott Twp


OTIS, MERRILL, physician and surgeon, P. O. Tabor; born in Holmes county, Ohio, May 16, 1830. When seven years of age moved with his father's family to Henry county, Illinois,where he was educated in the common school and at Oxford Academy.

At the age of nineteen years he entered Rush Medical College, Chicago, and read medicine under the celebrated English physician, Thomas Hall. He graduated from the St. Joseph College of Physician and Surgeons, and commenced the practice of medicine in Henry county, Iowa, in 1852. At the commencement of the war with the confederacy, he offered his services in the volunteer corps, but was rejected because the quota had been filled. He remained at home and filled the offices of county supervisor, and filled the office of a member of the state board of the registration, and had charge of the distribution of the funds to the county - an office filled with entire satisfaction to all parties concerned. Dr. Otis came to Tabor in the year 1866, and entered at once upon the practice of medicine. He has been eminently successful as a practitioner, and owns some of the most valuable sites in the city. Without ostentation, he has planted himself firmly in this community. His skill as a physician is widely recognized, and his ability and reliability have alone contributed to this result. His portrait, which appears in this volume, shows him to be a man of strict integrity, and one who will ot compromise the right.

Source: History of Fremont Co IA; Iowa History Co, Des Moines IA 1881


Robert Otley follows farming on section 34, Kewanee township, and has contributed in substantial measure toward the agricultural development of the district. He has also taken an active part in the substantial growth of Kewanee in that he has laid out three different additions to the city and has operated quite largely in real estate. His sound business judgment and enterprise are recognized as salient features in his life work, bringing to him creditable success which is today his. He was born in Westow, Yorkshire, England, June 13, 1831.

His father, John Otley, was also a native of Yorkshire, where he engaged in farming until 1840, when he came to the United States and settled near Winchester, Scott county, Illinois, where he purchased a tract of unimproved land of three hundred acres. With characteristic energy he began its development and successfully carried on the work of the fields until his death, which occurred August 5, 184, when he was seventy-eight years of age. He organized and built the first log schoolhouse of the district and also organized the first religious congregation, which held its services in the schoolhouse. It was through his instrumentality that the first circuit rider came to this district and in the early years the visiting ministers here were always entertained in his home. Thus, while carefully conducting his business interest, he also contributed to the intellectual and moral progress of the community and his labors were a valuable factor in the early progress of the county. He married Jane Chapman, also a native of Yorkshire, and her death occurred October 29, 1875, at the age of seventy-nine years, in the home which is now occupied by her son Robert. The children of the faimly (sic) were George, John, Robert, Thomas C., Richard, William and four daughters who died in England. Only two are now living, Robert, and Thomas, the latter a retired farmer of Neponset, Illinois.

Robert Otley acquired his education in the old log schoolhouse which his father built near Winchester, mastering the branches of learning through the winter months, while with the return of spring he took his place in the fields to aid in the cultivation of the crops, and not until the harvests were gathered in the autumn did he again have the privilege of attending school. When twenty-four years of age, upon his father's retirement, he took charge of the home farm and conducted it until he purchased his present farm of two hundred and fifty-four acres on the south line of Kewanee township and just southeast of the village. The former owner of the property was Sullivan Howard. The purchase was made in March, 1865, and Mr. Otley removed to the farm on which he has since lived. Later he bought forty acres in the village, adjoining his original tract on the west. In 1874 he erected a fine house of the first tract to replace the old dwelling. He brought with him from Scott county to this farm in 1865 forty head of cattle, a part of which were thoroughbred shorthorns, and for fifteen years he engaged extensively in the breeding of fine cattle and also Berkshire and Chester White hogs and high grade horses. He was the first to introduce thoroughbred shorthorns in this and some of the neighboring counties. He became widely known as a breeder throughout this section of the state and on the 10th of June, 1874, he held a sale which brought him over sixteen thousand dollars. He also engaged extensively in buying and shipping stock and was recognized as one of the foremost live-stock dealers of central Illinois. Since 1874 he has confined his attention to fine stock raising and general farming. At different times during the past fourteen years, especially in 1895, 1900 and 1902, he has operated quite extensively in real estate, laying out three additions to the city, comprising in all forty acres of land. Mr. Otley also, at his own expense, laid out one-half mile of East Prospect street, which is considered one of the finest streets in the city. he has also been interested in other real estate and now owns other farm lands and city property.

On the 28th of January, 1858, in Scott county, Illinois, Mr. Otley was married to Miss Rebecca Gibbs, a daughter of Robert and Rebecca Gibbs, who also came from England and were early settlers of Scott county, Illinois. Mrs. Otley died April 21, 1863 at the age of twenty-seven years, leaving three children: Ellen Jane who was born in 1858; Mrs. Mary May Bunton, who was born in 1861 and lives in Kewanee; and George Thomas, who was born in 1863 and follows farming near Kewanee. Alice Ann, who was born June 23, 1860, passed away on the 15th of August, 1860. Mr. Otley was married a second time in Canandaigua, New York, on the 30th of March, 1876 to Miss Mary A. Hayes, of that place. She died April 4, 1877, at the age of thirty-nine years, leaving one son, Robert Hayes Otley who was born February 23, 1877, and died on the 16th of August, of the same year.

Mr. Otley cast his first presidential vote for John C. Fremont in 1856, cheered for him in the parade at Jacksonville, Illinois, and in 1860 supported Abraham Lincoln, with whom he had a personal acquaintance. He was in the grand rally and parade at Springfield, Illinois, cheering for Lincoln and against slavery. He has since been a stanch republican, and in early life was an active worker in the ranks of the party. He served as highway commissioner for several years and assisted in laying out some of the roads here. He has always been interested in the work of public progress and his aid and influence have ever been given on the side of improvement and advancement. He is respcted (sic) by all because of his upright life, fidelity to duty and reliability in business affairs, and well deserves mention in this volume.

Source: History of Henry County, published 1910, by Kiner, Vol 2, Pioneer Publishing, Chicago Il, p. 387-389


The various lines of merchandising are well represented in Geneseo, and connected with the commercial interests of the city is Henry R. Ott, a harness manufacturer and dealer, who has lived within the borders of the county for more than a half century. He therefore needs no introduction to the readers of this volume who know him as a citizen of worth and a business man of ability and enterprise. He was born in Lake county, Illinois, October 26, 1849, and is one of the ten children of Casper and Mary Elizabeth (Trier) Ott, both of whom were natives of Germany. The former was a son of John Jacob Ott who spent the days of his youth and early manhood in Germany and then sought a home in the new world. He wedded Mary Urban and died six miles west of Highland Park, in Lake County, Illinois, at the venerable age of eighty-three years, while his wife had passed the eighty-fourth milestone on life's journey at the time of her demise. Their family included five sons and two daughters. The maternal grandfather of Mr. Ott died in Lake County, Illinois, at the age of thirty years. His wife, Charlotte Segmueller in her maidenhood, also died in Lake County, when forth years of age. Their family numbered one son and three daughters.

Casper Ott, the father of Henry R. Ott, was a tailor by trade, becoming familiar with that line of business in the land of his nativity. Crossing the Atlantic in 1831, he settled in Warren, Pennsylvania, and in 1837 removed to Lake county, Ilinois, where he engaged in farming. He was for seventeen years identified with agricultural pursuits there, after which he removed to Henry County, Illinois, in 1854, and began farming in Loraine Township, where he resided until 1871. In that year he took up his abode in Geneseo, where he continued to make his home until called to his final rest in 1876, when sixty-four years of age. His wife survived him until 1891 and passed away at the age of seventy-four years. They were earnest Christian people identified with the German Evangelical Association. In their family were six sons and four daughters but only four are now living: Casper, who makes his home in Hooppole, Illinois; Henry R.; Adolph; and Sophia, the wife of Louis Sand, of Spokane, Washington.

Henry R. Ott was a little lad of four and a half years when his parents came to this county and upon the home farm he was reared, early becoming familiar with the work of the fields and also with the pleasures in which farm boys usually indulge. His early education, acquired in the district school, was supplemented by study in the Geneseo Seminary, and when seventeen years of age he began learning the harness maker's trade, which he has followed continuously since. For the past twenty-nine years he has been in business for himself, conducting a well equipped shop and enjoying liberal trade.

On the 17th of April, 1872, Mr. Ott was married to Miss Catharine E. Wolf, who was born near Washington, Tazewell County, Illinois, while her parents were Jacob and Margaret (Schaeffer) Wolf, who were natives of Germany. Her father died in 1883, but her mother is still living, making her home with her daughter in Hooppole, Illinois. The marriage of Mr. And Mrs. Ott was blessed with five children, but they lost the first two, Hermann Henry and Arthus, in infancy, while the third son, Ferrel Alonzo, was killed by the cars when thirteen and a half years of age. The youngest child, John Wesley, died at the age of nine years, so that the only surviving member of the family is Ethel M., now the wife of Albert J. Smith, a resident of Colorado, by whom she has four children, Catharine, Ferrel, Clarence and Dwight.

Mr. And Mrs. Ott are people of religious faith. Mr. Ott holds membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church, while his wife is allied with the movement known as the Apostolic faith. To the church Mr. Ott is a liberal contributor and is an active worker, teaching the Bible class in the Sunday school. He is one of the most highly respected citizens of Geneseo, his record being at all times in harmony with the principles of honorable and upright manhood. His success in business in undoubtedly largely due to the fact that he has continued in the line of activity in which he embarked as a young tradesman, winning his success by reason of his good work, his perseverance and his honorable business methods.

Source: "History of Henry County Illinois", by Henry L. Kiner, Volume II, Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co, 1910

Submitted by:Alice Gless