Capt. Joseph Pence

From the Portrait and biographical record of Hancock, McDonough and Henderson counties, Illinois : containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county (1894)
May, 1894. Lake City Publishing Co.

CPT. JOHN A. PENCE, a well-known citizen of Oquawka, and one of the honored veterans of the late war who wore the blue in defense of the Union, is numbered among Henderson County's native sons. He is not only one of the honored pioneers, but also bears the distinction of being the first white child born in the county, the date being August 12, 1830. His father, John Pence, was born in the Shenandoah Valley, in Virginia, and during the greater part of his life followed farming, but at different times was interested in other business enterprises, including that of milling. In 1827 he emigrated westward to Illinois, locating near Rock Island, where he lived in a bark house for a year. In 1828 he came to Henderson County and purchased a farm three and a-half miles northeast of Oquawka, on the Henderson River, where he carried on agricultural pursuits for thirteen years, his death occurring in 1841. He had married Mrs. Elizabeth (Heaton) Record, and to them were born three sons and two daughters: Andrew J., who died in California in 1854; John A., of this sketch; William H., deceased; Caroline, wife of George Shores, of Swan Creek, Ill.; and Charlotte, wife of John Madden, a Government employee located in San Francisco, Cal.

Upon the old homestead farm in Judge Pence's fort, which was erected for the protection of the settlers against the Indians, Capt. Pence of this sketch was born. In 1843 his mother died, leaving him an orphan at the age of thirteen years. He then went to live with some older half-brothers, and later spent about four years in Jackson County, Iowa. His mother had left a farm to be divided among the five children, but Mr. Pence turned his attention not to agricultural pursuits, but to tailoring, which he began at the age of eighteen. After a short time, however, he embarked in the carding business in Mercer County, Ill., having charge of the carding-machines in a woolen-mill owned by Joseph Glaucey.

On the 20th of March, 1850, Capt. Pence started for California, making the trip with ox-teams, and on the 18th of August reached Placerville, then called Hangtown. He there engaged in mining for about a year, after which he spent two years in prospecting on the American River, at Shasta City and elsewhere. In 1853 he went to Pescadero, Cal, about forty miles below San Francisco, where he engaged in raising potatoes for three years. In 1855 he returned to the mines and was engaged in freighting with a team in the mountains until June, 1859, when he returned home by way of the Panama route and New York. The following winter was to him a season of rest, but in 1860 he embarked in the livery business, which he carried on until the spring of 1865.

In the mean time, however, he entered his country's service, enlisting September 1,1861, as a member of Company D, Seventh Missouri Cavalry. He enlisted as a private, but was elected Second Lieutenant before going into service. At Independence, Mo., he was wounded in the right thigh by a minie-ball, and for more than a month was unfitted for service. At the time of the battle he was serving as Post Quartermaster and Commissary of Subsistence, so that his duties did not call him to the field; but nevertheless he entered the engagement and was wounded, captured and paroled. When he had recovered he went to St. Louis and was mustered out, for a person captured by guerrillas could not be exchanged, the guerrillas not being recognized as Confederate troops; so in the fall of 1862 he returned home.

On the 19th of December of the same year, Mr. Pence wedded Miss Mary A. Chapin, a daughter of Ebenezer and Catherine (Dagget) Chapin. They have no children of their own, but reared an adopted daughter. On his return from the war Capt. Pence resumed the livery business, which he carried on until the spring of 1865, when he began farming, having purchased land three miles northeast of Oquawka. He carried on agricultural pursuits until 1871, when he became a traveling salesman. In the fall of 1874, he embarked in the greenhouse and nursery business in Oquawka, and continued the same until the spring of 1884, when he accepted a position as manager of the springs owned by the Kirkwood Mineral Springs Company. The succeeding four seasons were thus passed, and in the summer of 1888 he went to Biggsville, Ill., spending one year in a store in that place.

Capt. Pence has also traveled to a considerable extent in the West. In March, 1877, he started for the Black Hills, making the trip from Cheyenne by the ''Fast Freight Line'' of mule-teams. He spent some five months prospecting in the Black Hills, and, returning by way of Ft. Pierre, reached home in August, 1877. In 1873, he made an extensive trip through Texas and purchased and shipped to Kansas thirty-five hundred head of cattle. In the winter of 1889, Capt. Pence was in Springfield, and had charge of the janitors in the House of Representatives. Shortly after he returned to his old home in Oquawka, and has since been in the employ of Robert Hodson.

Our subject cast his first Presidential vote for Winfield Scott, and was a Whig until 1860, since which time he has been a stanch supporter of the Republican party and its principles. He has served as a member of the Town Board three terms, and was elected Justice of the Peace, but after a few months resigned on account of pressing business interests. He belongs to Oquawka Lodge No. 122, A. F. & A. M.; and to Ellsworth Post No. 172, G. A. R., in which he has filled nearly all the offices, including that of Commander. He well deserves representation in this volume, for he has witnessed the entire growth and development of the county, and has long been numbered among its valued citizens.