Capt. Stephen T. Strattan
ANOTHER PIONEER GONE.
Stephen T. Strattan Died Saturday Evening.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF AN EVENTFUL AND BUSY LIFE.
Funeral Tomorrow Afternoon at 1:30 O’clock from the M. E. Church.
Although his health was known to be precarious, the community was greatly
startled Saturday night by the announcement of the death of Capt. Stephen
Thatcher Strattan, one of the oldest and best known citizens of Mt. Vernon.
Capt. Strattan had been an invalid for several months, but his condition
was not such—until Saturday afternoon—as to warrant much apprehension in
the minds of his family that his end was so near, notwithstanding the heavy
drain made upon his natural vitality by his long and exhausting illness.
His recovery was not anticipated, but his rapid decline during the last few
hours of his life was equally unexpected by those who watched at his bedside,
and his death produced an inexpressible shock by its suddenness.
His death was due to an affection of the heart from which he had suffered for
some time and which at intervals during his illness gave him great anguish.
Capt. Strattan was not unconscious of his approaching end, and a short time
before he died he sat upon the edge of the bed, upon which he had been resting,
in an effort to get some relief from the pain from which he suffered. His family,
noticing that he was rapidly growing weaker, laid him down upon the pillow, and
a few minutes after nine o’clock his soul took its flight from its earthly tenement
to the realms of rest.
Deceased was born of sturdy old Quaker ancestry in Wilmington, Clinton county, Ohio.,
October 1, 1818, consequently was aged seventy-nine years, two months and seventeen
days at the time of his demise. Imbued with the prevalent idea of the time that the
newer states of the West afforded greater opportunities for a young man of thrift and
energy —Capt. Strattan emigrated to Mercer county, Illinois, in 1833, where he engaged
in farming and stock raising for a couple of years, but the venture proving unremunerative
on account of the remoteness of the location from a profitable market, he disposed of his
property and returned to Ohio. Shortly afterward he became associated with G. F. Stevens,
C. W. Pavey, Mr. Irons and Mr. Dixon, and the four men started down the Ohio river in quest
of a new field for their enterprise and energy. Reaching Shawneetown, they hired a man to
drive them through the country that they might make a canvass of its resources for themselves.
After a trip through Gallatin, Saline and other counties to the southward, they reached
Mt. Vernon July 4, 1837, weary from their long and somewhat tedious journey. It was late
in the afternoon when the party reached Mt. Vernon, and in passing the home of Mr. and Mrs.
John Johnson, a short distance south of town and now owned by Dr. A. C. Johnson, they were
attracted by the cheerful, homelike surroundings of the place and at once decided they would
purchase it and take up their abode in Jefferson county. They came into town and put up at
the hotel for the night, but early next morning walked down to the Johnson homestead and made
an inspection of the property before breakfast and returned to town while a majority of the
citizens were still in bed. A short time after this Mr. Strattan purchased the property, his
companions having decided that they would invest their capital in other enterprises. The farm,
which consisted of about 400 acres, was purchased by Mr. Strattan largely on credit, but his
appearance and natural business aptitude were sufficient guarantee to Mr. Johnson that the
debt would be paid at the time agreed upon.
About this time Boyles & Estes, who had been conducting a general merchandising business in
a building which stood on the site of the present Columbian block, had their stock taken
possession of by the sheriff, who was about to sell it out under foreclosure proceedings,
when Mt. Strattan persuaded the sheriff to let him take charge of the goods and sell them
out by auction, as he felt assured that in this way he would be able to satisfy all the
creditors and save something for Boyles & Estes. The stock was turned over to him, and,
being a good auctioneer, he soon disposed of it in such a way as to meet all the debts and
obligations placed upon him and at the same time realize a handsome surplus for the bankrupt
firm. His skillful management of this self-imposed task gave him great prestige as an astute
business man, and a few months later he sold his farm and purchased the general stock of goods
owned by William Thorn, located at the southwest corner of the public square. He continued the
business for a few months, when he formed a partnership with R. W. Lyon and moved to the building
now occupied by J. Hill Williams & Co., where the business was afterwards conducted. The
partnership with Mr. Lyon did not last very long and was dissolved by mutual consent, Mr.
Strattan purchasing his partner’s interest. A partnership was now entered into with J. E.
Fergerson, and for many years a varied and extensive business was carried on under the firm
name of Strattan & Fergerson. In addition to their stock of merchandise the firm conducted a
number of other enterprises, among which were pork packing, saw and flour milling, cotton
ginning, etc. For many years they operated their flour mill day and night and shipped its
product to Cincinnati in exchange for dry goods and other merchandise. This was before the
era of railroads in this county and everything had to be transported by teams from either
Ashley or Salem, these being the nearest railroad points in those days. An almost continual
string of teams was engaged by Strattan & Fergerson in hauling merchandise between Mt Vernon
and these points during the war period, which added much to the prosperity of teaming at that
time. They received a contract to furnish material for building the approach to the great Eads
bridge at East St. Louis and sawed an immense amount of lumber for that purpose, but much of
it was rejected by the inspectors and the firm lost a large amount of money in the fulfillment
of the contract.
When the war came on, Mr. Strattan raised a company for the defense of the Union and was
commissioned by Gov. Richard Yates as captain of Co. E, Ill. Volunteer Infantry. His health
was undermined by the exposures of camp life and after an active service of less than a year
he resigned his commission and returned to Mt. Vernon and again took up the business career
he had thrown aside from patriotic impulses. At the close of the rebellion Mr. Strattan’s
business capacity had been so well demonstrated that both himself and his partner, Mr. Fergerson,
were invited by one of the most prominent wholesale dry goods firms in Chicago to come to that
city and become members of the firm, but after visiting Chicago and canvassing the opportunities
such an investment promised, Mr. Fergerson was dissatisfied and the proposed federation of the
two firms was abandoned. The Chicago firm that made them the proposition has now a world-wide
reputation for the extent of its operations and the wealth it has accumulated.
Mr. Strattan was one of the foremost promoters of the old St. Louis & Southeastern railroad,
now the St. Louis division of the L. & N., and furnished its constructors an immense amount
of goods for which he accepted orders in payment which were never redeemed, on account of
the company going into bankruptcy.
Deceased was a man of indomitable energy and hardly an enterprise was started in this city
for many years but what he was a contributor. In conjunction with the late Geo. Varnell he
was for a long time one of the financial magnates of the community and hardly any new business
could be launched without enlisting the sympathy and assistance of Mr. Strattan and his business
associates. He was a man of wonderful executive capacity and continued to direct his business
affairs with great vigor till about a year ago, when he was compelled to relax, in some measure,
at least, the attention that he had hitherto bestowed upon them. On the 26th of last May
Mr. Strattan sustained a partial stroke of paralysis and for several weeks his condition was
very alarming to his friends, but his natural vitality reasserted itself and in the course of
a few months a gradual improvement began and later in the summer he was able to drive about town,
but was never afterward strong enough to walk to his place of business unassisted. About a month
ago he sustained a second attack but appeared to be getting better, when heart trouble arose to
complicate matters and which eventuated in his death.
On October 3, 1840, Mr. Strattan was married to Miss Nancy Jane Lawder at Wilmington, O.,
Mrs. Strattaan died before her husband removed to Illinois, and November 1, 1847, Mr. Strattan
was married to Miss Isabella Jane Pavey, sister of Gen. C. J. Pavey. The second Mrs. Strattan
dying August 1, 1880, he was married to Miss Eliza J. Koser at Mt. Carmel, Illinois, March 16, 1882.
Capt. Strattan was the father of eight children, of whom six, three of the first and three of
the second family, are still living. He also leaves four half-brothers and one half-sister, of
whom three of the former live in Illinois and other in Kansas. The surviving half sister resides
in Iowa. Mr. Strattan was a member of the M. E. church, with which he had been affiliated
considerably more than half a century.
The record of Mr. Strattan’s life is a history of earnest and faithful work: of the actions
and employments of one who has done thoroughly and well whatever he undertook to do and whose
life will, imperceptibly perhaps, but none the less surely, exercise an influence for good on
those with whom he has been brought in contact.
The funeral services will be held at the First M. E. church at 1:30 o’clock tomorrow afternoon.
The body will lie in state at the family residence from 9 till 12 o’clock tomorrow morning. The
interment will be at Oakwood..
I would respectfully request that all places of business be closed tomorrow, Dec. 21st, from
1 to 8 o’clock p.m.: that all may have an opportunity to attend the funeral services and pay
a last tribute of respect to our esteemed and worthy citizen, Capt. S. T. Strattan.
Andy Hall, Mayor.
Source: Mount Vernon Register News
Date: Dec 20, 1897
Submitted by Brenda Hereford and Nancy E. Davis
Relationship: Great niece
The funeral services of the late Capt. S. T. Strattan were held at the
first M. E. church at 1:30 o’clock this afternoon and were largely attended.
Half an hour before the cortege left the house members of Coleman Post G.A.R.,
who had previously assembled at their hall on West Main street, marched in a
body to the home of the deceased to pay the last rites of respect to the memory
of their departed comrade. Shortly after their arrival at the house the funeral
procession started for the church where the obsequies were to be held, the old
army comrades of the deceased, to the number of thirty-five, preceding the hearse
and followed by the members of the official board of the M. E. church, of which
Mr. Strattan was a member. After them came a few footmen, who in turn were succeeded
by the hearse and a long line of carriages, buggies and other vehicles, containing
members of the family and their friends. Out of respect to the memory of the deceased,
Judge Pierce adjourned court till 2:30. A large number of business houses on the public
square closed their doors during the obsequies, many of them not opening again till 3 o’clock.
At the church the opening prayer was delivered by Rev. B. R. Pierce, of Sumner, an old friend
of the deceased, and the Scripture lessons were read by Revs. McCammon and Yates, after
which brief but impressive addresses were delivered by Revs. Pierce, Douglas and Harmon.
The remains were then taken to Oakwood and deposited in the family lot.
Source: Mount Vernon Register News
Date: Dec 21, 1897
Submitted by Brenda Hereford and Nancy E. Davis
Relationship: Great niece