James Hartford

EARLY DAYS IN GREENBUSH

James Hartford


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James F. Hartford was horn in Beaver county, Pennsylvania, May 19, 1824. His father, James Hartford, was a descendant of Scotch-Irish parentage who had settled in the state of Pennsylvania in the early years of colonial occupation. His mother, Ann Nicholson, was of Irish descent, her parents also coming from their native land to try the fortunes of the new world and settling in Beaver county, Pennsylvania, in early times. Here they were united in marriage; and of a family of ten children, James F. Hartford was the eldest. From his father, who was a contractor and builder, he learned the carpenter trade, at which he worked for many years in the pioneer days when the labor of hewing the rough timbers of the forest into building material was accomplished by the hand of man, and the rude log-house was the home alike of the prosperous and those in less-favored circumstances. With the advancement of settlement, the times demanded laborers more skilled in the architectural art; and he studied his trade to meet the demand, until his work which yet stands in Greenbush and Swan townships of Warren county, Illinois, testify to his ability as a builder of worth in the years which he spent at this work. As a child James F. Hartford was of a studious disposition; and although often compelled by ill-health to abandon his studies under a teacher, he availed himself of every possible opportunity to become educated, and at the age of sixteen years he was chosen as teacher for the winter term in a school not far distant from his home. From that time until the spring of 1851, he taught school during the winter months, working with his father through the vacation times. In the schoolroom, he labored during the first years of his work as a teacher for the sum of $10 per month, boarding with the patrons of the school. His wages were afterwards raised to $15 per month, and finally he was paid the sum of $18 per month, that being the highest wages ever paid to a teacher in that vicinity at that time. He was especially strong in the studies of arithmetic and grammar, and so completely had he mastered the principles of those branches that his services were sought as assistant to teachers in schools for miles around his home and he had charge of these classes in several schools long before he had undertaken the responsibility of the schoolroom. In the spring of 1851 he left his home and with four associates he traveled by water from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Vicksburg, Miss. The journey was one of hardships; and the climatic conditions, being so vastly different from that which they were accustomed to, brought on an epidemic of malarial fever from which all suffered and one of their number died. After working four months in the lumber camps near Vicksburg, they started for the north, locating at Fairview, Ill., where Mr. Hartford was engaged to teach the school. At the close of the term, he again began working at the trade which he had mastered in his fathers workshop and for several years he followed the carpenter trade during the season of the year in which he could work at it, teaching school in the winter months. In the year of 1853, he came to Swan Creek, Ill., and several landmarks of his labors arc still to be seen throughout that section, among which are a house in Swan Creek owned at present by Mr. Wm. Clark, a house owned by Mr. Ratekin, and a barn on the Austin Cornell farm south of Swan Creek. During the winter months he again engaged in teaching, in what was known as the Union schoolhouse west of the McMahill corner. June 13, 1856, he was united in marriage with Ann Eliza Hand, daughter of Moses T. and Elizabeth Hand, who were among the earliest settlers of Greenbush township. Moses T. Hand and family were moving that fall to Prairie City, Ill., there to engage in the mercantile business, and Mr. Hartford and his wife were left on the farm, residing there until the spring of 1858, when they moved to Prairie City, Ill., and until the following spring Mr. Hartford clerked in the store owned by M. T. Hand. In the spring of 58, he began buying grain from the old elevator in Prairie City. For ten years he followed that business in Prairie City, his family residing just across the county line in Greenbush township. Then a field for greater business activities being opened for him in Macomb, Ill., in the fall of 1868, he moved with his family to that city and for three years he continued buying grain from the elevator in that place. In 1871, he accepted a position in the telegraph office and baggage-room at the C., B. & Q. depot at Macomb, and soon after being given the office at Eubanks, Ill., his family removed to the old home in Greenbush township, Warren county, and Mr. Hartford took up his work at Eubanks, where he labored but for a few months when ill health caused him to abandon his work and return home. After his recovery, he was again engaged in the grain office at Prairie City for several years, but poor health again caused him to give up his position, and the remaining years of his life were given up to the quiet pursuits of home life, gardening and fruit raising being the occupations which claimed most of his attention. To James and Eliza Hartford nine children were born, three of whom died in infancy; those remaining are residents of Greenbush township, Warren county, Illinois. In politics Mr. Hartford was a life-long republican, advocating earnestly and firmly teaching the principles of the party which he believed to be in the right. For eight years he held the office of justice of the peace in Greenbush township, was once the assessor; and in the years of 1880, and ten years later (in 1890), he was census officer of the township. As school director in District No. 7, be for many years faithfully performed the duties of that office, being always interested in the education of the youth and recognizing the great advancement that was being made in the public-school system since the time in which he labored in the schoolroom. His early religious training was that of a Presbyterian home. but with the erection of the Methodist church in Prairie City, Illinois, He became a member of that denomination. As a reader and student of all questions of interest and research, he became more active as age began to tell upon his physical powers. Endowed with a mind capable of retaining much that he read, he enjoyed the quiet perusal of the topics of the day, or the deeper study of subjects upon which public interest centered, and was well-posted on all the happenings of the time.

After a serious illness of but a few short days, James F. Hartford died February 27, 1902, at his home in Greenbush township, Warren county, Illinois, and March first, he was lovingly laid to rest, near the old home, in the cemetery in Prairie City, Illinois.

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