GEORGE CHAMPION, the leading hardware and agricultural implement dealer of Normal, Illinois, established his present business here in 1867, almost a third of a century ago. He was born in Bristol, England, February 24, 1840, and is the son of George and Eleanor (Ellis) Champion, both of whom were natives of the same country. George Champion, Sr., for many years made the city of Bristol his home, and from that port followed the sea, engaging in business as a merchantman, owning his own vessels and visiting many foreign ports. He died on the coast of Africa when our subject was but four years old. His wife, who was a daughter of Thomas Ellis, was born in Bridgewater, England, which place she made her home until her marriage with Mr. Champion, when they settled in Bristol. Thomas Ellis was the owner of a farm near Bridgewater, and while he gave a part of his time to overseeing its cultivation, the greater part of his active life was spent as superintendent of a large bridge foundry. His wife was a Miss Bright, an own cousin of the well-known John Bright.
After the death of her husband, Mrs. Eleanor Champion remained in Bristol, until her removal to the United States in 1854. The death of her husband left her with four children, as follows: Philip, a half brother of our subject, became a seaman, and was a mate on a ship running from Boston to Vera Cruz, Mexico. He came to the United States prior to the removal of the rest of the family. While returning from a trip to Vera Cruz, his death occurred, and he was buried at sea, in the Gulf of Mexico. Athaliah Victoria Bright is now making her home with her mother in Elgin, Illinois. George is the subject of this sketch. Thomas E. is now living in Normal. On coming to the United States, the family located at Elgin, Illinois, taking up their home there on the 4th of October, 1854, and there the mother and daughter have since continued to reside. She is a member of the Methodist-Episcopal church.
The subject of this sketch received his education at Bristol, and was a graduate of a military school there. Immediately upon his graduation the family emigrated to the United States, and soon after their [move to] Elgin he commenced to learn the ... maker's trade, but not liking it, he left his employer and commenced the carpenter's trade, serving a regular apprenticeship. After completing his trade, and still residing in Elgin, he worked for eighteen months as a journeyman. Being able, however, to stand the hot weather, while working out in the sun, he compelled to abandon his trade. This being the panic of 1857, and the hard ... succeeding, and there was very little employment for any one. He secured a position in a grocery store, and his employer being taken sick soon after, the charge of the store devolved upon him about sixteen months. This was the first opportunity that he had to demonstrate his business ability, and his administration of affairs was such as to commend him to his employer and give him a little reputation in the business world. He continued in the store until just prior to the breaking out of the civil war, when he took a position with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company as brakeman, and later as baggage-master, continuing to be thus employed for a year and a half. He remained on the road until he was in a collision in which the engineer was killed, which sickened him of railroad life. He then went into the shops of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company, at Chicago, working under instruction in the machine shops. He remained with the company until his removal to Normal. Previous to this, however, in 1862, he enlisted in Company B, Sixty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, for one hundred days, his regiment being assigned to garrison duty, guarding rebel prisoners at Fort Douglas, Chicago.
On the 8th of May, 1867, Mr. Champion located in Normal, and engaged in the agricultural implement business, in connection with the hardware and tinware trade, having as a partner his brother Thomas, the firm being known as Champion Brothers. They were among the first to engage in business in Normal, and probably the first in their line. They had a good business from the start. In 1877 Mr. Champion purchased the interest of his brother and has since continued alone, and having one of the largest establishments of its kind in this section, and doing a very successful business. After about seven years, the firm abandoned the agricultural implement part of the business, in consequence of the ruinous competition following the organization of the granges, or Patrons of Husbandry. During the present year the agricultural implement business was resumed to give employment to his sons.
On the 6th of January, 1869, Mr. Champion was united in marriage with Miss Hattie Baker, daughter of Hiram Baker, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work, and by this union there were five children, one of whom, Ralph, died November 2, 1880, at the age of fourteen months. Gertie B. married William J. Burwell, and they have four children Clyde C., Alice May, Harold Baker and Clarence Goodfellow. They reside in Normal. George, Jr., married Miss Emily Moore and they have one child, Esther Frances. He is now associated with his father in business. Frank baker married Miss Virgie Fisher, and they make their home in Bloomington. Myrtle Marie yet remains at home. Mrs. Champion was called to her reward December 17, 1898, and her death was calm and sweet, for "she knew in whom she believeth." She was a devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and had the utmost faith in the teachings of the Divine Master. In all departments of church work she took an active interest, and for some time was president of the Foreign Missionary Society of her church. She was also a member of Felicity Chapter, No. 387, O.E.S., and served as worthy matron of the order. The chapter passed a series of resolutions on her death which appeared in the Bloomington Bulletin. The G.A.R. Post, of Normal, also passed resolutions of condolence, she being an active member of the Relief Corps. A kind, Christian woman, she was a friend to all her neighbors, and to any one who needed her help. Her happy, cheerful disposition endeared her to a large circle of friends who deeply mourn her loss. A loving wife and affectionate mother, her death is a sad blow to the loved ones left behind, but they sorrow not as one without hope, but look forward to the re-union of in the "sweet by and bye."
Fraternally Mr. Champion is a member of Normal Lodge, F.&A.M., No. 673, of which he was master for four years, and representative to the grand lodge seven terms, and secretary of the lodge for eleven years. He is also a member of the Bloomington Chapter, NO. 26, R.A.M., and of DeMolay Commandery, No. 24, K.T. In each of the latter organizations he was refused office on account of lack of time. He is a member of the Charles E. Hovey Post, No. 786, G.A.R., of which he is past commander. Since attaining his majority, he has been a strong Republican, and an earnest advocate of the principles of the party. He served one term as alderman of the city, and was three times mayor of Normal. He also served four years as clerk of the town council, and was treasurer of the corporation for three years. While serving as mayor of the city he was instrumental in securing the electric light system for street lighting, and also in making a number of needed improvements. For one year he served as collector of the city of Normal, and the following year was deputy collector, during which time he did all the business connected with the office. He was also a member of the board of education for five years, two years and a half of the time being president of the board. It was during his incumbency of the office that the primary school building was erected, and the question of fraudulent bonds that had been issued by former school boards came up for consideration. It was decided by the board to contest the payment of the bonds and the question was carried up and the bonds declared null and void by the United States District Courts. Much credit for the result is due to the efforts of Mr. Champion. In addition to the public offices mentioned in which he has served, he was filled other important positions and been on a number of important committees.
For many years Mr. Champion has been a member of the Methodist Episcopal church in Normal, and since his first connection with that body has been a member of the board of trustees, and for years chairman of the board. He has also been secretary of the official board of the church since the board was organized. When the present house of worship was being erected be served as chairman of the building committee, a position which he was well qualified to fill. It is probable that no man in Normal has been more active in promoting the business interests and moral welfare of the community, and where best known he is held in the highest respect.
George Cheney, son of Jonathan and Catherine Cheney, was born February 18, 1819, in Champaign County, Ohio. When in the sixth year of his age his parents came to Illinois. He received his common school education at Cheney's Grove. He was very little of a hunter, but could chase wolves, as this was really part of the business of the settlers. At the age of twenty-two he married Miss Cynthia Ann Hall, daughter of Prior and Mary Hall, of Old Town timber. Prior Hall was an old settler, but in 1850 he went to Sacramento, California, where he died in the fall. When George Cheney was married he settled on a farm, now known as the Harpster farm and occupied at present by Amos Bay. But George Cheney's family afterwards went to live on the Cheney homestead, which was afterwards divided, William Haines Cheney taking one-half and George Cheney the other. In the spring of 1866, George Cheney's house was burned, and he immediately began to build anew; but when he had only commenced the work, he died. His death occurred August 17,1866, after a three weeks illness with typhoid fever. He had eight children, of whom six are living. They are:
Mary Eliza, born January 28, 1842, died July 19, 1845.
Almira, born September 21, 1844, wife of J. W. Lowry, lives at Saybrook.
Owen Cheney, born November 2, 1848, is married and lives at Saybrook.
Orval Cheney, born December 8, 1852, lives at home and works the farm.
Thomas Cheney, born February 5, 1856, Hellen Cheney, born May 31, 1858, and Lincoln Cheney, born December 24, 1860, live at home.
William Cheney, born July 18, 1864, died July 28, 1866.
George Cheney was of medium stature and rather slim, but was rather fleshy a few years previous to his death. His eyes were dark brown and expressive. He was very quick in his movements, but was quickly exhausted. His constitution was never rugged, as he had the typhoid fever, when fourteen years of age and never fully recovered from the effects of the disease. He was a very kind husband and a very indulgent father. He believed in universal salvation, but did not belong to any particular church. He was buried in the old cemetery, but removed to the new cemetery, which forms a part of his farm.
James H. Conaway was born July 14, 1819, in Bourbon County, Kentucky, within three miles of Millersburg. His father's name was Aquilla Conaway and his mother's name was Rachel Barnett. His father and mother were American born citizens. Aquilla Conaway came to Kentucky from Maryland at a very early day. The Conaway family left Kentucky when James was only eight years of age, and he does not remember much of that State. The only thing, which impressed his boyish imagination was a little incident which happened while a negro woman was "toting" water from a spring. Her bucket of water was on her head, and as she passed under a tree, a squirrel, which was jumping from one branch to another, missed its hold and fell on the edge of the bucket and was killed.
In the fall of 1827 Aquilla Conaway brought his family to Illinois. He came very near being swamped in the quicksands of White River. His wagon was driven by an obstinate negro named Moses. When the journey was ended, Moses was sent back to Kentucky with the wagon and team, and instructed to take care of everything and not to steal from the people on the route. Moses faithfully obeyed all instructions except those with regard to stealing.
Mr. Conaway came first to Vermilion County, where he remained a few months, and then came to Buckels' Grove, McLean County, Illinois, where he arrived February 8, 1828.
The first notable event which James Conaway remembers, was that some of the Buckles boys caught a large black wolf in a trap and fastened the wolf to the middle of a pole and showed it alive to the new-comers. He has often seen the black wolves play on the snow where Leroy now stands. This was during the winter of the deep snow. During that winter he saw several deer frozen to death standing in their tracks. The deer lived during that winter on the bark of sumach, and in the following spring the groves of sumach were completely skinned of bark. Mr. Conaway has often chased wolves and deer and has sometimes run down two or three in a day. He remembers when a party chased a deer until it was so exhausted that one of their number, John Knott, jumped on its back and cut its throat.
James H. Conaway is about five feet and five inches high. His head is a little bald and his eyes are dark and bright. He has a pleasant, smiling countenance, and seems a very straightforward man. He is a very hardy, active man, and enjoys the best of health. He married, December 6, 1849, Axey Deffenbaugh and has six children. He has never lost any of his children by sickness and never called a doctor on their account.
Frederick R. Cowden was born November 30, 1811, in Allen County, Kentucky. His father's name was James Cowden, and his mother's name before her marriage was Lucy Rives. He is partly of Irish descent. He was raised on a farm and worked in a tobacco field, but had no particular adventure. When he be came twenty years of age he went to Warren County, Kentucky. There he became acquainted with Mr. John Price, whose sketch appears in this volume. They often hunted together, and killed a great deal of game. They frequently shot at game, both at once, and tramped on each other's toes to know when to pull the trigger. If only one shot took effect it was supposed that Price had missed!
In the fall of 1833 Mr. Cowden came to Greene County, Illinois, where he lived until 1834, when he came to McLean County. He started with Elias Wall and James B. Price, but left them at Ranellville, Kentucky. After traveling two days, he met two of his cousins going to Illinois, and he went in company with them. When he arrived in McLean County, he went to work sawing lumber with a whip saw. This lumber, sawed by hand, was sold to John Rhodes for two dollars per hundred, and is now a part of his barn. Mr. Cowden sawed finishing lumber of white walnut for parties in Bloomington, and also for the first hotel at Mt. Pleasant (Farmer City). He hunted occasionally with John Price, and killed a great many deer and turkeys. Mr. Cowden tells some jokes on John Price, which caused great amusement. Price was a good hunter, but for some unexplained reason he, at times, could scarcely kill anything. Mr. Cowden says that Price once shot some thirty times in one day at deer without hitting a single one. The latter complained of a flaw in the gun, but Mr. Cowden killed three deer in one adv with it, and said that the flaw was now gone. Mr. Price could kill Blame afterwards. Mr. Cowden says that Price was very cautious about approaching a wounded deer, and once killed a buck, which ran into a clump of brush and died; but as Mr. Price had some suspicion as to whether the buck was really dead, he rode around the thicket and fired at it seven or eight times! Mr. Cowden once wounded a deer, but would not shoot again, for fear of being laughed at, and grappled it. The struggle which followed was so severe that Cowden wished he had given the deer another shot.
He has had great difficulty with the fires on the prairie, which came so swiftly and were so hot that the danger from them was very great.
Mr. Cowden has a lively recollection of the sudden change in the weather in December, 1836, and says that at the time when the ice suddenly formed on the Kickapoo, three travelers came along and attempted to cross, but one of them lost his horse under the ice, as the, creek was very high and the water flowed rapidly. Mr. Cowden broke the ice during the following day and assisted the travelers over.
Mr. Cowden married, August 17, 1842, Miss Polly G. Price. He has seven children, all of whom have grown to years of discretion. They are:
John James Cowden lives half a mile south of his father's.
Mrs. Amanda Jane Dooley, wife of Obadiah G. Dooley, lives two miles northeast of her parents.
William Rives Cowden lives about four miles southeast of his father's, in Downs township.
Mrs. Eliza Ann Downs, wife of John D. Downs, live two miles and a half southwest of her father's.
Matilda Burrell Cowden, Frank Cowden and Elizabeth Gillem Cowden, live at home with their father.
Mr. Cowden is about six feet in height, is rather solidly built, has blue eyes, and hair and whiskers perfectly white. His head is becoming a little bald. In his younger days he was very strong, and a good hunter. He is a man of good business qualifications. He is rather humorous, and particularly enjoys a good joke on his respected father-in-law, John Price. Mr. Cowden was for two years supervisor. He has been in poor health for some time, and thinks this is due to the exposure and fatigue which he endured in his younger days. While hunting he seldom stopped for any obstacle, but waded or swam creeks and bore every form of hardship, and now he thinks he is paying the penalty.
Alexander P. Craig was born June 30, 1817, in the territory of Illinois, in what is at present White County. His father was of Scotch descent, and his mother of Irish. They were both born and reared in Abbeyville District, South Carolina. Mrs. Craig died in 1853, and her husband died the following year. The Craig family moved from Illinois to Alabama in about the year 1822. No very important event occurred there. Porter Craig there received his early education, which was somewhat limited. In the fall of 1830 the family went to Graves County, Kentucky, where they remained four years. In the fall of 1834 they came to Illinois and settled in Old Town timber, McLean County a little south of the present dividing line between Downs and Old Town, near the present residence of A. P. Craig. There they opened a farm. Mr. Craig has done his share of hunting and has chased wolves, deer and turkeys, but had no dangerous adventure. In 1836 the family moved to about three miles north of Leroy, but in the spring of 1840 returned near his present residence. He made his home for three or four years on the farm of his mother-in-law, Mrs. Weaver. In 1864 he built a house on land adjoining this place and has lived there ever since.
He has had his experience with fires on the prairie. In the fall of 1834 he and his father fixed a log heap on which was piled some stone to be burnt into lime. Soon a fire came sweeping over the prairie and burnt up the log heap, leaving the lime in good condition. The fires in that section of county nearly always came up from Salt Creek or Randolph Grove.
Mr. Craig is about five feet and ten inches in height and rather slim. His whiskers are gray, and his hair is turning white. His eyes are gray. He is pretty firm and decided in his manner. He possesses the confidence of his neighbors and is perfectly straightforward in his dealings.
Mr. Craig married, July 30, 1835, Lora Weaver. He has had ten children, eight of whom are now living, four sons and four daughters. They are:
Lucinda Maria, who died in infancy.
Silva Dorinda, born July 29, 1837, widow of Henry Mannan, a soldier in the 94th Illinois, who died in the army.
William Davis Craig, born February 15, 1839, died in infancy.
Mary Jane, born April 6, 1840, was married first to Captain C. Williams, of the 39th Illinois, who was killed at the battle of Deep Run. She is now the wife of D. C. Kazar, of Downs township.
Martha Rebecca, born December 21, 1841, wife of John Gardner, lives in Downs township.
Nancie Caroline, born May 28, 1844, wife of John Cowden, lives near Gillem Station.
John James Craig, born October 21, 1846, lives in Downs township.
Alexander Berry Craig, born July 18, 1849, lives in Old Town township.
Joseph Johnson, born December 13, 1851, and Jesse Washington Craig, born October 2, 1854, live at home.
Mr. A. P. Craig died February 7, 1874.
William Crose was born September 12, 1814, in Pickaway County, Ohio. His father's name was Philip Crose, and his mother's maiden name was Priscilla Becks. Philip Crose was a soldier of the Revolutionary war, being old enough to go into the army during the last six months of the struggle. He drew a pension until his death, which occurred in about the year 1837. When William Crose was about three years old, the family came to Shawneetown, Illinois, but after a few years moved to Eel River, Indiana, then after a few years went to where Crawfordsville, Ind., now stands. Whe William Crose was thirteen years of age, he was bound out to Elijah Funk, a farmer, in Warren County, Indiana, but at the age of twenty, became his own man. He went to Pickaway County, where he was a farm laborer and drover. He drove one hundred and forty cattle five hundred and thirty-three miles, to Philadelphia. He forty-seven days on the road, and when he had disposed of his cattle he returned in elev3en days and a half.
He married, November 13, 1833, Eliza Ann Busick. He lived there nearly a year, then in Indiana three years, and in 1837 came to Randolph Grove, McLean County, Illinois. After working hard for eight or nine years he accumulated some little property, began to think himself rich, and wished to take the world easy. He took a great interest in sporting, and kept the finest and fleetest hounds for running wolves and deer. Mr. Crose says that deer, when chased by dogs, will actually run themselves to death. He knows this by actual experiment; he once chased a buck until it laid down and ided before being touched. He has had great sport with wolves,a nd once tried to tame one of these vicious animals, but could not even break it to be led. He tied a chain to its neck and fastened the other end of the chain to his wagon, but the wolf would allow itself to be dragged for miles without walking. He has hunted the otter, and found it an exceedingly cunning animal, which goes into its hole under water and works up under the bank above the waters mark. He once broke into an otter's hole when twenty feet from the pond, where it lived. The routine of the year then was--in the winter time hunting wolves and deer, in the spring ploughing and planting, and in the fall going to Chicago and selling oats for twelve and a half cents per bushel. After hunting for a few years, Mr. crose saw that he must let his gun and dogs alone, and pay more attention to business.
Eighteen years ago he sold out and went ot Iowa, but there his health failed him, and he returned to Illinois, and bought the land where he now live, midway between Lexington and Towanda, and has since succeeded pretty well. He has had eleven children altogether, of whom ten are living. They are:
Harriet, wife of John Padgett, lives in the Upper Mackinaw timber.
Lawisa, wife of Peter Janes, lives in Money Creek township.
Elijah Crose lives in Towanda.
Termin Crose is a farmer, and lives in Money Creek.
Eliza Ann, wife of George Janes, lives in Lexington township.
William Crose lives at home with his father.
Emma, wife of David Turnipseed, lives in the Upper Mackinaw timber.
George Crose lives in Towanda.
Sarah Jane, wife of David Wisner, lives in Indiana.
Philip Crose lives at home with his father.
Mr. Crose is about five feet and nine inches in height, has reddish-brown hair and whiskers, a slightly Roman nose, and rather small eyes. He seems pretty muscular, and is a man of good temper. If he has difficulty with anyone, it is pretty certain that he has good cause for it, for his disposition is peaceable and he wished to be on good terms with his neighbors. He is a very fair-minded man, is open to argument and has none of that obstinacy of opinion, which induces men to shut their ears to new ideas.
King Solomon Cunningham was born December 26, 1823, in Clark County, Indiana. His father's name was Robert Cunningham, and his mother's name was Aphia Cleveland. His father, who was born about the year 1780, was of Irish descent, and his mother was a Yankee. Robert Cunningham was a soldier of the war of 1812, and fought under Harrison at Tippecanoe.
In 1829 the Cunningham family came to Cheney's Grove from Clark County, Indiana, where Robert Cunningham had lived for twenty years. At Cheney's Grove the family went to farming, and a few years afterwards Robert Cunningham built a water mill on Sangamon Creek. The stones for grinding were the nigger-heads from the prairie, but they did very good work. The water at that time was usually high enough to run the mill all summer. Mr. Cunningham was obliged to work, and his boys were obliged to do the same, for the West was no place for idlers.
Mr. King Solomon Cunningham is particularly eloquent concerning the sudden change in the weather, which took place in December, 1836, and says that as the cold wind rolled on, it froze the air so rapidly that the frost seemed a moving cloud of smoke. He speaks of the two rainy seasons, when the water in the creeks and rivers rose to enormous heights. In 1844, the Mackinaw was higher than it had ever been known before or since. The Sangamon Creek was too high for Cunningham's mill to run. The year 1858 was another rainy season, and Sangamon Creek was higher than in 1844.
King Solomon Cunningham married February 29, 1849, Cyrena J. Thompson, who lived on the Mackinaw, five miles from Lexington. Her father, John B. Thompson, was one of the oldest settlers of McLean County. They have had six children, three of whom are living. They are:
Mr. Eliza Jane McFarland, wife of J.B. McFarland, lives six miles north of her father's in Cropsey township.
Henry B. Cunningham lives in Sonoma County, California. He is an active, industrious young man, and his father feels justly proud of him.
John W. Cunningham, the youngest of the family, is the pet and lives at home.
King Solomon Cunningham is five feet ten inches in height, is rather slim in build, is bald-headed, has a bright, clear eye and straight features. He is very kind in his manner, has been obliged to work hard, but has been successful in life, and is a settler who does credit to McLean County.
Thomas Cunningham was born November 18, 1818, in Clark County, Indiana. (For ancestry of the family see sketch of King S. Cunningham.) The parents of Thomas Cunningham were good people and very kind to their children, but were careful to enforce strict obedience and always set a good example. They are both buried in Saybrook Cemetery.
The Cunningham family settled at Cheney's Grove in October, 1829. There Robert Cunningham entered four hundred acres of land. The old gentleman lived to see his family of fifteen children grow up to manhood and womanhood. All of them were married and settled in life; twelve of these children are yet living and six are in McLean County. Thomas Cunningham, the subject of this sketch, was the sixth child. His education was necessarily limited. He attended school in Cheney's Grove every winter after the family moved there, until he was twenty-one years of age. During his last year's schooling he went to Old Town timber. This school was conducted with as much noise as possible. The teacher walked across the floor and whistled and sang, and the scholars exercised their vocal powers in a similar way. The books used were few. Mr. Cunningham only remembers McArthur's History of the United States. Thomas only obtained the rudiments of an education.
Mr. Cunningham was never much of a hunter, and only killed one deer, and that was one which came up near his door. But he often chased wolves, and when he came near one he would jump from his horse, catch the vicious wold by the hindquarters and thrash it on the ground, before it could curl up to bite.
Thomas Cunningham married, February 21, 1841, Miss Minerva Ann Spencer, daughter of James and Susannah Spencer, of Livingston County, Illinois. Mrs. Cunningham is an exceedingly kind lady and her pleasant manner makes the stranger feel easy in her presence. She wears spectacles now, as women sometimes must as well as men. She is a lady of fine sense and her husband always listens to her with respect.
They have had a family of six children, four of whom are living. They are:
Phoebe Ann, born December 10, 1841, was married to Henry Warrick of Livingston County, and some time after his death to Granville Michaels.
Lucinda Jane, born April 28, 1844, was married to John Armstrong of Livingston County, and some time after his death to William Vanhorn.
James William Cunningham, born July 6, 1851, is married and lives in Livingston County.
Ellen Catherine died when nine months old.
Harvey Johnson Cunningham, born November 26, 1854, lives at home.
Lewis Harrison Ballard Cunningham, born June 14, 1859, lives at home.
Mr. Cunningham is about five feet ten inches in height, weighs one hundred and eighty pounds and is broad shouldered. His beard is gray and his hair is turning, but is heavy, showing ing great vitality. His eyes are hazel, and he seems to be a quiet, good-natured gentleman, a man who never does things in a hurry, but always takes time to think.