ATWOOD, Thomas J.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Winnebago and Boone Counties, IL. Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892, p 577
Mr. ATWOOD spent more than 42 years in the quiet and consistent performance of the daily duties of farm life, and is now living retired in the village of Pecatonica [Winnebago County, IL], where his public spirit and agreeable manners make him one of its most honored citizens. Formerly the owner of 500 acres of land, he has given his son 80 acres and rents the remainder. Our subject was born 14 Jun 1818 in Bridgewater, Windsor County, VT, as son of Thomas and Cynthia (BENSON) ATWOOD. His grandfathers were both valiant soldiers in the Revolutionary War, and splendid types of our Pilgrim Fathers, who acquired independence as tillers of the soil. His parents were born near Plymouth Rock [Plymouth County], MA, and made their home in that state until they were married. Thence they removed to Bridgewater [Windsor County], VT, where the father purchased a farm and resided until 1837. Afterward he made his home in Rutland, Rutland County [VT]. Thence he went to the town of Stowe [Lamoille County, VT], and in the fall of 1839 started for the Western country, driving to Buffalo [Erie County, NY] with a four horse team, where he embarked on a steamer and proceeded to Detroit [Wayne County], MI. From that city he came overland to Winnebago County [IL], whither his son Hiram had come in 1837, and purchased a section of land.
The elder Mr. ATWOOD lived with his son until 1840, when he purchased a farm of his own. His wife, who was born 13 Jun 1783, died 29 Jul 1846. After the death of his wife, he went to live with his son Hiram, where his demise occurred 28 Oct 1849. Thomas J. ATWOOD is one in a family of nine children, only two of whom are living. He remained with his parents until 18 years of age, when he went to Rutland, VT, in 1836. He was given a good education, being a graduate of the Rutland, VT, Academy. He had only been in school two and a half months, however, when he was offered a school to teach, and accepted the position. After having been thus engaged three months, he returned to the Academy and was made an assistant teacher, graduating when 21 years of age. His first occupation on leaving school was in keeping books and collecting for a physician with whom is was engaged for three months. He then became clerk in a general store, and so well did he perform the duties devolved upon him that after a service of three years he was offered the position of junior partner in the firm.
Mr. ATWOOD, however, did not accept the position, as he had decided to come West. In Sep 1841 he started for IL, being accompanied as far as Albany by a friend who made a trip to that city to buy a stock of goods. Our subject tarried long enough to assist him in making his purchase, and was offered by the wholesale [p 578] house which they patonized a position at $650 per year and board. Refusing this as he had the previous offer, he carried out his desire to come to Winnebago County, and on locating here purchased a claim to one half section of land and also a timber claim. With his brother who had preceded him hither, he succeeded in getting out enough logs for 10,000 rails in the winter of 1841-42, which were used in fencing their farms.
Thomas J. ATWOOD and Miss Lois C. CABLE were united in marriage 04 May 1847. The lady was born 19 Nov 1826 in Litchfield County, CT, and was a daughter of Ezra S. and Pamelia (FENN) CABLE. To them have been born six children: Albert J., born 10 May 1849, married, the father of five children; Emma C., born 13 Sep 1855, married, has seven children; Rollin C., Ella M., Ezra C. and Henry W., twins. The father of Mrs. ATWOOD was born 24 Sep 1897 in Litchfield County, CT, and died on his old arm in this county on 23 Apr 1879. He was the son of Abijah and Ruth (FAIRCHILD) CABLE, the former of whom was born 13 Aug 1775, also in Litchfield County, and the latter 07 Jun 1769. Abijah CABLE ws one of nine sons who came from England, and departed this life on 13 Apr 1825. His wife, Ruth FAIRCHILD, died 03 Sep 1820. The mother of Mrs. ATWOOD was born in Litchfield County, CT, on 15 Feb 1802, and died in this county 03 Jan 1888. She was he daughter of Job and Lois (SCOTT) FENN, natives respectively of CT and NY. The father died in Litchfield County, CT, while Mrs. FENN departed this life on 03 Apr 1854 in Winnebago County, IL, being 84 years of age.
Grandmother FENN had a brother named Ezekiel SCOTT who took part in the Revolutionary War. The father of Mrs. ATWOOD remained at home until his marriage, 01 Jan 1826, when he lived for two years at Stratford Point [Fairfield County], CT. At the end of that time his father's estate was divided among the children, and, going West to Portage County, OH, in the spring of 1828, he cleared a farm and resided until 1837, which was the date of his advent into Winnebago County. At the time of his death on 23 Apr 1879 he was the owner of 480 acres of land. In politics he was in early life an old line Whig, later an Abolitionist, and afterward joining the Republican ranks, and was looked upon as one of the active workers of that party. He was County Commissioner and his vote decided the location of the present court house in Rockford. He filled the office three or four terms as supervisor, and for a number of years was township trustee and a member of the school board.
Soon after his arrival in Winnebago County, in 1841, our subject located on the farm which remained his home for 42 and a half years. In Dec 1841 he comenced to fence his land, and during 1843 raised his first crop, which consisted of 55 acres of winter wheat, 31 acres of corn, and twelve of oats. The wheat crop was hauled to Chicago to the market, there being no railroad west of Buffalo, NY, at that early day.
After continuing to make wheat the principal crop for a few years, Mrs. ATWOOD turned his attention of corn and clover, and also made a specialty of stock raising, being particularly successful in raising draft horses and Holstein cattle, and his income from horses amounted to $1,000 per year. For his horses he has a home market; fat cattle were driven to Chicago; hogs were fattened, and killed during the winter months, the products being held for 8-9 months, when they were hauled to Milwaukee for market and there inspected by the city inspector. They brought good prices, pork being on an average $14 per barrel, hams $9, shoulders $7 and lard from $9-10 per hundred pounds.
Later Mr. ATWOOD became interested in raising sheep, and for a number of years kept a flock of about 700. When wool declined in price, he fattened and shipped the sheep to the Chicago market, and in 1876 invested in Holstein cattle. He now has on his farm about 100 head of Holstein cattle, the property of his son, Albert J., who rents the farm of his father and continues the stock raising business. In 1863-4 Mr. ATWOOD erected on his farm a fine residence costing $4,000, and a substantial barn, which cost $1,000. [p 579] On 11 Feb 1886 the residence was burned to the ground, and in just three months from that date he has an elegant house on the same site, completed from garret to cellar.
In his political belief, Mr. ATWOOD was a Whig in this school boy days. In 1840 he voted for William Henry Harrison for President, and from that time until the formation of the Republican party in 1856, voted the Abolitionist ticket. Both in 1860 and 1864 he cast his ballot for Abraham Lincoln, and subsequently voted for U. S. Grant both times that he was nominated. In 1884 he became a Prohibitionist, and has since been a stanch supporter of that party, representing it by serving six years as President of the Pecatonica Prohibitionist Club. Since the organization of that club at Pecatonica in 1886, he has served as its delegate to county and state conventions of the party. He has held various township and county offices, and for one year was supervisor and member of the school board. With his wife he holds membership in the Congregational Church, in which he is a deacon. He is a man of sterling attributes and undaunted energy.
Submitted by Cathy Kubly.