Joshua R. Fell, eldest son of Jesse and Rebecca R. Fell, was born January 21, 1804, in East Caln township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. The Fell family lived in various places in that vicinity. About the first of January, 1821, Mr. Fell was apprenticed to learn the blacksmith's trade in Dowingtown, Chester County, Pa., where the family then lived. While Mr. Fell lived in Downingtown, the first survey was made for the Pennsylvania Centrail Railroad, running from Philadelphia to Pittsburg. But it was not until the year 1834 that locomotives commenced running, some ten years after its actual construction was commenced. Joshua Fell lived in many places in Pennsylvania. In the year 1831 he moved to Salisbury in Pequay Valley, where he married Sarah Harlin, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Harlin. The ceremony was performed after the manner of the Friends, in Old Kennett Meeting House, on the 16th of June, 1831. Joshua Fell lived in Pequay Valley about six years after his marriage.
In the middle of May, 1837, they commenced their move to Bloomington, Illinois. Their journey lasted forty days and was remarkable for a freak of the weather never heard of before nor since. On the twenty-third of June they arrived at Hickory Grove, between Paris and Urbana, Illinois. During that night a rain began to fall, but it was afterwards changed to snow. The snow storm was so heavy that it bent down bushes and trees, for the snow lodged in the foliage which was full and perfect, as would be expected in the month of June. Mr. Fell says: "As this was my first experience with the State of Illinois, the prospect was by no means encouraging; but having lived for thirty-six years in Bloomington and never having experienced such peculiar phenomena since, I have become reconciled to the climate of the West."
On Christmas day, 1837, Mr. Fell had the misfortune to lose the sight of his left eye. He was killing pigs for his winter supply of meat, and during a scuffle with a lively pig, which had some objections to being turned into pork, Mr. Fell was drawn against the end of a fence rail, which was pressed against his eye. He was confined in a dark room until the following April, and the sight of his left eye was destroyed.
Mr. Fell has, since 1837, lived a quiet life in Bloomington; has been one of the most honest and fair-minded of American citizens. He has one fault, which the author takes liberty to criticise. It is one which is far from common-it is his exceeding modesty. He always underrates himself and his influence, and seems always anxious that others shall receive the credit of that which impartial observers would award to him. This old gentleman is as worthy and fair-minded as he is modest. He has the spirit of the Society of Friends, of which his father was a member, and his feeling towards others is that of peace and good will.
Mr. Fell had three children born to him in Pennsylvania. They are Charles E., Mary E., and Thomas H. Fell. He had three children born in Illinois: Lucretia M., Sarah Ellen and Rebecca. Three of his children are dead. They are Thomas H., Lucretia M., and Rebecca.
Mr. Fell is about five feet and ten inches in height. His features are somewhat prominent, but while looking at him one does not think of his features, but rather of the man's simplicity and worth, of his modesty and kindness of heart. He thinks a great deal of his brothers, Thomas, Kersey and Jesse, and seems more anxious for them than for himself.
Kersey H. Fell was born May 1, 1815, on a farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. His ancestors were of old English Quaker stock, and Mr. Fell is himself a Quaker. All of the Fells in the United States are descended from Judge Fell, who came to this country from England in the year 1705.
About forty years ago the Society of Friends was divided into two sects by the question of slavery. A man named Elias Hicks, a Unitarian Quaker preacher, agitated for the abolition of slavery, and was in favor of taking all legal and moral measures for the purpose of bringing about this result. Those who believed in this doctrine formed themselves into a separate organization, and were called "Hicksites," and it was to this denomination that the Fell family belonged. The other division, called "Orthodox" Friends, also wished for the abolition of slavery, but did not think it right to interfere in the matter. They believed that the Lord would in his own good time bring the wicked system to an end, but they did not wish to hasten the decrees of Providence. Although slavery has been abolished the division among the Friends still continues. A small organization of Orthodox Friends exists at Normal and one of the Hicksite or Liberal order at Benjaminville, but their numbers are few. Mr. Fell thinks their numbers are decreasing. Mr. Fell's father was a Friend, and was know as ""Honest Jesse Fell," and his mother, whose maiden name was Rebecca Roman, was known as a ministering angel, not only in her own society but among all with whom she became acquainted.
There were nine children in the Fell family, seven boys and two girls, and it may well be supposed that great exertion was required to provide for them and educate them properly. Mr. Fell attended a common school three months in the year until he was seventeen. At this time he had the misfortune to dislocate his shoulder which unfitted him for farm work, and he determined to obtain more schooling. Jonathan Gause, a noble hearted Friend, kept the West Bradford boarding school in Pennsylvania, and to him Mr. Fell made application for admission, but was poor and could not pay his tuition. But Jonathan took the poor student into his establishment for six months, though it was contrary to his custom. Mr. Fell promised to pay some time in the future, and Jonathan answered: "I will trust thee." Mr. Fell afterwards taught school and earned money to pay this obligation, and also to obtain money to come West.
He came to Bloomington, Illinois, in the spring of 1836, about six months before Judge David Davis came. It was his purpose to visit his brothers Jesse and Thomas, who had arrived some time previous, and then go to a Manual Labor College near Hannibal, Missouri, started by a certain Dr. Stiles Ely, of Philadelphia. Dr. Stiles Ely was a Presbyterian minister and a great theorist and his pamphlet, which was widely circulated, caused a great sensation. But his theory was better than his practice. He selected the location for his college during a dry season and did not guard against the chances of rain. During the following season "the rains descended and the floods came" and washed his college away, and the people who had gathered there were obliged to flee to save themselves from drowning. Dr. Ely lost a fortune in this undertaking, which promised fair had he selected a better location.
Mr. Fell learned while in Bloomington of the disaster which overtook Dr. Ely, and, as his plans were broken up, took a situation as clerk with Messrs. O. Covel and A. Gridley, merchants. But it was Mr. Fell's intention to study law and he had by no means given up his plan. He had occasion to go to Springfield in the interest of his employers and while there called at the office of the Hon. J. T. Stuart who was practicing law. Here he met Abraham Lincoln, a young law student. After some conversation with young Abraham, Mr. Fell came to the conclusion that, if Mr. Lincoln could study law with as little education as he had, Mr. Fell would do the same, and he hesitated no longer. He read law in his leisure hours. During the following winter he was appointed clerk with the power to organize DeWitt County. His appointment was probably made through the influence of his brother Jesse. Jesse W. Fell and James Miller had previously laid out the town of Clinton, and they wished it to be the county seat. The county was formed from parts of Macon and McLean counties. Mr. Fell kept this position from the winter of 1838-39 until 1840. During that year all the Whig judges and clerks were legislated out of office by the Democrats, and Mr. Fell, being a Whig, was obliged to lose his position. He went to Bloomington and became deputy clerk of the circuit court under General Covel, who, being a Democrat, had been re-appointed to his office. While in this position Mr. Fell studied law and during the winter of 1840-41 he passed his examination before the nine judges of the Supreme Court at Springfield and was admitted to the bar. He speaks very feelingly of the terror he felt while thinking of the ordeal of the examination when nine pairs of spectacles should be leveled at him. But they admitted him and made the young and deserving man happy. Before being admitted to the bar he had formed a partnership with Albert Dodd, a promising young lawyer from Connecticut. He and Mr. Dodd continued their partnership until 1844. During that year Dodd was drowned in crossing the Mackinaw River, while returning from a convention at Joliet. This was the convention which nominated John Wentworth (Long John) for Congress for the first time. Dodd would probably have been nominated himself had he lived a little longer. While he was absent in attendance at the convention Dodd was nominated in Bloomington for the Legislature. Mr. Fell was at this time attending court at Springfield and was there detained by the flood and did not learn of his partner's death until ten days after it occurred. The flood during that year was fearful. The Mississippi River rose so high that a great part of Cairo was swept away. After the death of Dodd, Mr. Fell practiced alone in his profession until the year 1856, when he gave it up, making room for the generation of young lawyers.
Mr. Fell belonged to a class of lawyers which it is feared does not include the entire legal profession. He always tried to settle a case before taking it into court. There is a German proverb which says: "A meager making up is better than a fat law suit." Whether Mr. Fell ever heard of this we do not know; but he always did what he could to arrange matters fairly and impartially without taking the case into court. He thinks this should be the lawyer's course, and that it really pays better in the end; for by settling cases fairly he sometimes gained his opponents for his clients. "Blessed are the peacemakers."
In the fall of 1844, after the death of Albert Dodd, Mr. Fell took the young man's books, papers and correspondence to his father in Connecticut. When he arrived in Hartford, the people were having a great time with the Millerites. The day after his arrival there was the one set by Miller for the end of the world and was a time of great excitement. Many of the followers of Miller had given away all of their property, expecting to need it no longer, and were standing around the streets in long garments, expecting the call which should translate them to another world. Mr. Fell retired late that evening, as he had watched pretty sharply for the angel which was to bring on the millennium. At a late hour the angel had not put in an appearance and Mr. Fell went to sleep. The next morning he was awakened by the most fearful sound that ever smote his ears. He sprang up thinking that the millennium must certainly have come, but found that the noise proceeded from a hotel gong, which was the first he had ever heard.
From Hartford Mr. Fell went to New York where the Whig convention, which nominated Henry Clay for President, was in session. At this convention were some of the great lights of the Whig party. They formed a procession through the city, which required two hours in passing a single point. In order to obtain a good view of it Mr. Fell climbed up on a corner of the fence surrounding the square and, as the weather was severe, he was alternately frozen with cold and warmed with excitement. All of the trades were represented in this procession. The printers struck off bills and dispatches and scattered them among the crowd, and each of the trades was distinguished in an appropriate manner. The crowd along the line of march was partially composed of Democrats, who attempted at times to hinder and annoy the procession, and occasionally succeeded; but when the butchers passed along their brawny and muscular appearance made the crowd respectfully give way!
In the evening a grand meeting was held out of doors, and a large platform was erected for the distinguished lights of the party. When many strangers had spoken; a loud call was made for Horace Greeley. Mr. Greeley came forward. He was then a tall, slender young man, with light hair, a white face, and dressed in a plain suit of drab. His speech was short, but it went to the root of the matter, and touched the heart of the people.
From New York Mr. Fell went to Philadelphia, and from there to Chester County, where he found the lady who was to be his wife. They were married in Philadelphia on the first day of January, 1845. Her name was Jane Price. Her family came from old English stock. Mr. Fell has a happy family of eight children, five boys and three girls.
Mr. Fell's parents came West with the entire family in 1837. His mother died in October, 1846, and his father, who was totally blind during the last twelve years of his life, died in the fall of 1853. The children took pride in making the last years of the old gentleman's life pleasant, and sustained him on his down hill journey.
Mr. Fell has never been a candidate for any public office, or sought one. He has great aversion to seeking office and would not work or scheme for one, however lucrative. He has held some offices but they have involved much work and no pay.
In 1856, at the State Convention in Bloomington, Mr. Fell nominated Abraham Lincoln as a delegate to the National Convention at Philadelphia. Lincoln arose and declined on account of his poverty and business engagements; but he consented to go if his business would allow him, when Mr. Fell promised that his expenses should be paid. At last it was arranged that in case Lincoln could not leave, Mr. Fell should go in his place. About two hours before the time to start Mr. Fell received a dispatch from Lincoln, saying that the latter was unable to leave, and Mr. Fell therefore went in his place. At this convention Lincoln received one hundred and fifteen votes on the first ballot for Vice President. But on the second ballot his name was withdrawn by the Illinois delegation, with the intention of putting him forward at some future day for President.
Mr. Kersey Fell was probably the first man who thought seriously of making Abraham Lincoln a candidate for President of the United States. He mentioned the matter first to his brother Jesse, but the latter did not immediately think favorably of the matter. But after a little reflection he favored it and spoke of it to Judge David Davis. Mr. Davis did not at first think well of it, but after some steps were taken to bring Mr. Lincoln's name before the public, Mr. Davis favored the movement strongly and worked with all his might to make it successful. Mr. K. H. Fell mentioned the matter of Lincoln's proposed candidacy to Judge Joseph J. Lewis of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Judge Lewis wrote a biography of Mr. Lincoln which was widely circulated. The items and information for the biography were furnished by Mr. Jesse W. Fell. Mr. Kersey Fell did everything in his power to forward Lincoln's chances, and called out his name as a candidate for president at a mass meeting held at West Chester, Pennsylvania. Mr. Fell spared no exertions, and in 1860 the object was accomplished and Mr. Lincoln was nominated by the Republican party at Chicago and triumphantly elected by the nation. Mr. Fell was long and intimately acquainted with Mr. Lincoln, and states what is well known to the legal profession, that if Lincoln thought he was right in any case in which he was engaged he was invincible; but if he thought his cause unjust he was weak and his arguments without force. He was one of the most tenderhearted of men. While on his circuit in the village on Pontiac, the hotel where he stayed was crowded and he slept in a small detached house. The night was stormy, and a little cat outside made a pitiful noise and wished to come in. The thought of the suffering cat troubled Lincoln so much that he could not sleep until he had opened the door and let the poor creature in.
Mr. Fell did not take part in the canvass of 1860 as his health was very poor. During that year he went to Europe, visiting Switzerland, Vienna, and many other interesting places, but returned in the fall to cast his vote for Abraham Lincoln.
Mr. Fell has filled many positions with more benefit to the community than profit to himself. He is now a member of the Board of Education of Bloomington and attends to the duties of his position with fidelity. He know the value of an education and struggled hard for it when in youth, and he is anxious that the children of to-day shall all of them have a chance to learn.
Mr. Fell is not a large man in appearance and is slenderly built, but he is well proportioned and very active. His hair is gray and his beard is almost white. His nose is aquiline and is bridged with spectacles when he reads or writes. He is a deep thinker and forms his opinions with great care. Good nature appears in his countenance and there are few men in the community so much respected and honored.
William F. Flagg was born April 2, 1808, on a farm in Boilston township, Worcester County, Massachusetts, about forty miles from Boston. His ancestors came from English stock. His grandfathers were both soldiers in the Revolutionary war. He had four brothers and one sister; of these, his sister and two brothers are yet living. He received his scanty education in a district school until he was eighteen years of age. He then went to Worcester to learn his trade of architect and builder. While there he was employed by his master on churches and public buildings for three years. This terminated his apprenticeship. He then went to work on his own account.
At the age of twenty-five he married Miss Sarah Walker of Natick. This place is twenty miles from Boston, and is the home of Henry Wilson, the Vice President elect. At that time Mr. Wilson was working at his trade as a cobbler.
In 1836 Mr. Flagg determined to go West. Before going he traded his property in Worcester for some in Bloomington, and in course of time his trade turned out to be very profitable. He came to Bloomington alone in August, 1836, and his family followed in the spring of 1837. He immediately engaged in his trade as a builder, and in 1837 built a court house for Putnam County. During the following year he built a court house for Tazewell County, and in 1839 and 1840, he built a court house and jail at LaSalle. During this year he bought one hundred and seventy acres of land northeast of Bloomington (joining the city limits) for which he paid $4,000. This was considered an exorbitant price, but since then he has received as much as two thousand dollars for a single acre laid out in building lots.
Ground was first broken for the Illinois Central Railroad in front of Mr. Flagg's door in June, 1852, and cars were running the following year. He formerly owned a tract of land embracing the present location of Lafayette depot, and in 1847 he built on it saw mills and machine shops. In 1855 he built the Bloomington Works, now owned by K. H. Fell & Co. He managed these works until the year 1865. From 1865 to 1870 he was engaged inlaying out second and third additions to Bloomington, and he built and caused to be built about one hundred residences. In 1856 he, in connection with Judge Davis and William H. Allin, laid out the so-called Durley addition.
In 1870 Mr. Flagg built the Empire Machine Works, close to the Illinois Central Railroad. They are carried on under the name and style of the company of the Empire Machine Works. They keep one hundred men constantly engaged in manufacturing agricultural implements and building materials, and are indeed a credit to the city.
Mr. Flagg has been twice married and has an interesting family of three sons and two daughters living.
He tells a curious anecdote of Mr. Lincoln. In 1848 Mr. Flagg commenced manufacturing reapers and was sued for an infringement of patent by C. W. McCormick, and damages were laid at $20,000. Abraham Lincoln was employed as counsel for the defendant. The suit was carried on for two years in the United States Court at Springfield, and Mr. McCormick was finally beaten. Shortly after this Mr. Lincoln met Mr. Flagg on the street in Bloomington and sauntered into the latter's shop. Mr. Flagg asked how much the attorney's fee would be. Mr. Lincoln leaned on the counter, rested his head on his arm, and after a little consideration said: "I think ten dollars will pay me for my trouble!" Mr. Flagg says that nothing could induce Mr. Lincoln to take more and adds: "At the present day our lawyers would have demanded just about one thousand!"
When Mr. Flagg came to Illinois every event was dated from the Black Hawk war. In this war a man named McCullough was high private. Among the many incidents related of this war, it is said that when our soldiers first went out to meet the Indians the latter made so strong an attack that our men became terrified and took to their heels; but McCullough, the high private, alone stood the fire, and was not afraid to meet the enemy. This circumstance is a little exaggerated, but it will do to tell as a story.
Mr. Flagg is rather above the medium height. He is broadshouldered and well built. He has a sharply pointed nose and a penetrating eye. Business and speculation are seen in his countenance. He gives one the impression that where many will lose money he will make some. His beard and hair are turning gray, but his spirit is as strong as ever. The new residence which he is erecting shows him to be as energetic and active as in his youthful days.