Biography - WILLIAM HOWE

History first relates of William Howe, grandfather of the late William Howe, as a native of Virginia. Whether this is correct, we are not able to say. But he afterward emigrated to Kentucky when it was yet a wilderness. He formed a member of Daniel Boone's first colony and participated in the dangers incident to "the dark and bloody ground." His son, George W. Howe, was born in Kentucky and there married Angeline Hildreth, a native of that state, but of English descent also, and in Bourbon county, Kentucky, William Howe, Jr., was born on November 23, 1829.

In 1832 George Howe and family emigrated to the southeastern part of Missouri. On the breaking out of the Black Hawk war he joined the forces sent against the Indians, and was supposed to have been killed by them near Galena, Illinois, for no word came from him afterward. The mother then moved with her children, five in number, back to her old home in Kentucky in 1835. Here she stayed for three years, when she and her family moved to Vermilion county, Illinois, arriving there on the 6th of April, 1838. Mr. Howe was at this time nine years old. He continued with his mother for almost two years, when he was indentured to the service of William J. West, who resided on a farm in Sargent township. It was in the spring of 1840 when he first came to West's and he remained with him nine years, until in his twentieth year, in the spring of 1849. During this time his board was the only compensation he received for his service. He was signed to school about thirteen months, but out of this he only received about nine months' regular schooling, and this was scattered over a long period of years so as to be of but little service. The good general education he possessed was principally picked up by his own ingenious industry. After his term of service with Mr. West had expired he worked a year by the month, still having his headquarters at West's. At this time the excitement consequent upon the discovery of gold in California was spreading over the country. Mr. Howe, as we have seen, comes from an adventurous race of men, his earlier ancestors having fought gallantly for King George, while his later ones had many a skirmish with the Indians, his father dying by their hands, and led by the same spirit of adventure and hardihood he determined to try his fortunes in the new El Dorado. In March, 1850, in company with West and others, eleven in all, he started overland for California. Before starting all promised that unless in case of illness none should be allowed to ride, and on all that long and rough journey Mr. Howe kept his place by the side of the oxen. The spring of 1850 was one of deep mud and high water, so their journey was made doubly difficult. The party passed through Quincy and across the state of Missouri, following very nearly the same route now traversed by the Hannibal & St. Jo railroad. The Missouri river in the southwest corner of the state of Iowa was crossed; the northern route was taken, through the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains; north of Salt Lake; by the Oregon trail to the Soda Springs; then over to the St. Mary's river, down which they traveled to the Sink. The Sierra Nevadas were crossed by the Carson trail, and the party arrived August 27, 1850, at Nebbervllle, only losing, in accomplishing the journey, one man, who died of disease and whom they buried by the way. The men went to mining gold in this region. Mr. Howe remained nine months, during which time he got together a considerable quantity of gold dust. The Klamath excitement then came up and he joined a party to go to Oregon. His experience here was very adventurous, but there were no flattering results. In company with two others, he was robbed by a party of Modoc Indians. He lost about twelve hundred dollars, including everything he had, even to a greater part of his clothing. He returned to the mines on the Yuba river in destitute condition, without clothes or money. Here prospects brightened, the gold panning out sometimes to the amount of eighty dollars a day. But he could only remain two weeks. High water came and Mr. Howe went to California, where he followed "teaming" from Stockton out to the mines and during his eighteen months sojourn here he accumulated some money. In 1853 he decided to return to Illinois, and in February of the same year he left California, taking a vessel from San Francisco, crossing the Isthmus of Panama, sailing from there to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi to his old home in Coles county, as it then was. During his three years stay in California he learned the Spanish language and could converse fluently in it.

Mr. Howe now turned his attention to the peaceful pursuit of agriculture, hoping in that 1853, he married Harriett Anne Lester/Lister, a native of Douglas, whose ancestors, like those of Mr. Howe, were of English and Kentucky blood and birth. In December he started his long and prosperous career as a farmer, and at the time of his death he was in the possession of almost eighteen hundred acres of land in the neighborhood of his residence. Hunting was his favorite amusement, and every year he made a trip to Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas, where he indulged in the exciting sport. He was celebrated for his skill as a marksman and seldom failed to bring down his game.

He was the father of eight children: James M., who now resides on a large farm in Nebraska; John S., living now on the old homestead; Perry N., who lives, also, on part of his father's farm; Mary E., wife of James Drennen, living on an Iowa farm; Charles R., residing on the first farm that Mr. Howe owned; Effie A., wife of James C. Reed, a lawyer in Kansas City; Leona M., wife of William Joseph, assistant manager in the firm of Bradley Manufacturing Company; and Lora A., who lives with her mother in Tuscola; William Howe died January 27, 1892, at his country home near Ficklin.

Extracted 09 Jun 2019 by Norma Hass from the Historical and Biographical Record of Douglas County, Illinois, published in 1900, pages 202-204.

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