Portrait and Biographical Album, Vermilion Co., IL
George M. Villars
George M. Villars, one of the best known residents of this county, and the owner of a fine property, was born in Danville Township, Oct. 16, 1832, and is consequently but little past the prime of his life. He is the offspring of a good family, being the son of the Rev. John Villars, who was born in Jefferson County, PA., Feb. 14, 1797.
The paternal grandfather of our subject was James Villars, who it is believed was also a native of Jefferson County, Pa., and who was born July 28, 1774. His father was a native of England, and it is supposed spent his last years in the Keystone State. Grandfather James Villars was there reared to mans estate and married Miss Rebecca Davison, April 19, 1796. In April, 1806, they removed to Ohio by means of a flat-boat, which landed them at Cincinnati, then but a hamlet. They settled in what is now Clinton County, where Grandfather Villars purchased quite a large tract of land and improved the farm, upon which he resided until his death. In 1812 he put up a substantial double hewed-log house with a large stone chimney in the center of the building and a huge fireplace on each side. The structure stood for a great many years and was a fitting monument to the character and enterprise of the builder.
The father of our subject was piously inclined from his youth and when a young man united with the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1823 he was given a license to exhort and from that time labored as a local preacher. In the fall of the 1830 he came to this county with his family, making the journey overland with teams, camping and cooking along the wayside and sleeping in the wagons at night. He had, however, visited the country prior to his removal here and had entered a tract of land upon which he had a log house built ready for the family upon their arrival. From that time on, in addition to his ministerial labors, he carried on the improvement and cultivation of his land, living there until 1857.
In the year above mentioned the father of our subject decided to seek another home beyond the Mississippi, and immigrated to Nemeha County, Neb., where he was one of the pioneers and to which he made the journey overland as before. He lived, however, only until the following year, his death taking place in March 1858. He had been twice married, the first time, March 14, 1815 to Miss Elizabeth McGee. This lady was born Sept. 25, 1797, and died in Vermilion County, April 22, 1848. His second wife was Elizabeth Campbell, and they were married Oct. 19, 1849. She was a native of Harrison County, Va., and born Sept. 2, 1816. Of the first marriage there were born ten children and of the second marriage three. The father left the Methodist Episcopal Church after a time and identified himself with the United Brethren and was a preacher in the latter Church at the time of his death. He was a life member of the American Bible Society and bequeathed to it the sum of $6,000.
Our subject still retains a vivid recollection of the many of the incidents of pioneer life in Illinois, when deer, wolves and other wild animals abounded together with Indians who were often to be seen in roving bands going across the prairie. He acquired his education in the primitive schools, the first of which was taught in a log house. The seats and flour were made of puncheon, and writing desks were manufactured from planks with wooden pegs for legs. As soon as old enough, young Villars began to assist his father in the various labors of the farm and remained under the parental roof until the time of his marriage. He then settled on a tract of land which his father had given him and upon which were two log cabins. In one of these our subject and his bride commenced their wedded life. Their home consisted of one room sixteen feet square, and in this they lived a number of years and until they were able to put up their present residence. The furnishing of this humble dwelling was in keeping with the fashion of that day, but they probably experienced as much happiness and content as the young people who now commence life upon a grander scale.
Mr. Villars has been life-long farmer and still owns the land upon which he settled at the time of his marriage. He has now 186 acres located five miles east of Danville on sections 7 and 12 of Danville Township. It has all been brought to a good state of cultivation, is well stocked, and upon it Mr. Villars has erected a good set of frame buildings. His marriage with Miss Amanda Stroug was celebrated at the brides home in this township, Oct. 20, 1853, and there have been born to them eleven children, of whom the record is as follows: John W. married Martha Mable, and is a resident of Warren County, Ind.; George Henry married Martha Brewer, and lives at Fort Belknap, Mont.: Martha J. is the wife of William P. Lynch, of this county: Rachel, Mrs. Presley Martin, lives in Vermillion County, Ind.; Augusta is the wife of William Gnaden, and they live in Danville Township; Ella married William F. Shaffer, and resides in Warren County, Ind: Sophia and Janet remain with their parents.
Mrs. Villars was born near Hanover, Hancock Co., Ind., Feb 7, 1832, and is the daughter of Sebastian Strouf, who was born in Kentucky, July 25, 1796. Her paternal grandfather, John Strouf, it is believed, was a native of North or South Carolina, and his father, the great-grandfather of Mrs. Villars, was a native of Germany. John Sprouf removed from one of the Carolinas to Kentucky, where he was an early pioneer, then moved on into Ohio, locating in Brown County during its early settlement. He served in the war of 1812 and spent is last years in the Buckeye State.
Sebastian Sprouf, father of Mrs. Villars, was born July 25, 1796, and was a young child when his parents settled in Ohio, where he was reared to manhood, and was married Sept. 11, 1817, to Vallyrier Parker. She was born in Ohio and the date of her birth was June 25, 1796. In 1830 they removed to Indiana, settling in Hancock County, where they lived until 1834. That year they came to this county, making the journey overland with teams, locating in what is now Newell Township. The parents remained residents of this township until their decease, the mother passing away Oct 29, 1874, and the father less than a year later.
There were born to the parents of Mrs. Villars, eleven children, viz: Nancy, Martha, George, Mary, Wilson, Sarah, Jane, Amanda, Arie and Christiana. Four of these,
Mary, John, Arie and Christiana, died young. Our subject and his estimable wife are members in good standing of the United Brethren Church, of Pleasant Grove, in which Mr. Villars has served as Class-Leader and labored in the Sunday-School. In politics at large he was a sound Democrat, but in local affairs votes independently, aiming to support the men whom he considers best qualified for office. We invite the attention of our numerous readers to a fine engraving of the handsome home and surroundings of Mr. Villars.
submitted by Mary Paulius