WILLIAM DAWSON is the son of a worthy pioneer of Scott County, an early settler of Winchester Precinct who bore an active part in its development, and for nearly forty years he has himself been closely identified with its farming and stock-raising interests. He has inherited and is successfully managing his father's old homestead which was purchased from the Government in the early years of the settlement of this section of the country, and has been improved from a wild tract of prairie to a fine, highly productive farm, supplied with substantial buildings, good machinery, and, in fact, with all the necessary conveniences for carrying on agriculture to the best advantage. It comprises 152 acres of rich, arable land, one and three-fourths miles north of Winchester, and is well stocked with cattle, horses and hogs of good grades.
Our subject comes of a good old Delaware family, and inherits from a sterling ancestry those fine traits of character that make him an honorable man and a good citizen. And he is himself a native of that State, born in Sussex County, Aug. 26, 1813, to Zachariah and Polly (Beauchamp) Dawson, who were likewise of Delaware birth. The father was bred to the life of a farmer and was in good circumstances, and did not need to move to a distant State to better his condition, but he was a man of spirit and enterprise and the stirring life of a pioneer in a newly settled country had attractions for him, and in 1837, he came with his family to Illinois. He invested some of his money in forty acres of land in Scott County, then a part of Morgan County, and he and his wife set up their household goods in the little log house that he bought for the shelter of his family. They made many valuable improvements, were much prospered in their new home, and accumulated a fine estate of 300 acres of valuable land, and here their remaining years were passed in peace and plenty, the father first closing his eyes in death, dying Sept. 10, 1874, at a ripe old age, and the mother following him to the life beyond April 11, 1878, in her eighty-seventh year. To that worthy couple eleven children were born, nine sons and two daughters.
He of whom we write was the eldest of the family, and he remained an inmate of the parental household in Delaware till he was twenty-three years old, gleaning his education by frequent attendance at a subscription school. He worked for his father giving him able assistance in the management of his farming interests till he was twenty-one, when he began life on his own account, finding employment in working by the month on his grandfather's farm, and occasionally making a trip in a schooner carrying wood to various points on the Delaware River. In the fall of 1835, our subject shipped on a schooner running between Concord, Del., and Baltimore, Md. But in April, 1836, he gave up the life of a sailor and proceeding to Cincinnati, worked in a shipyard the ensuing fifteen years. May 11, 1837, he was married to his first wife, Miss Nancy, daughter of David and Susan Hill, of Delaware. Four children were born of that marriage, but they and their mother are now dead, Mrs. Dawson dying in 1843. Oct. 24, 1843, Mr. Dawson was a second time married, taking unto himself as a wife, Miss Allie Hastings, daughter of James and Allie Hastings, of Delaware. The three children born of that union all died in infancy, and the mother also departed this life, her death occurring Jan. 26, 1849. In that year Mr. Dawson came to Illinois, and Sept., 11, he was wedded to his present wife, formerly Miss Eliza N. Penton, daughter of Mathias and Holland Penton, of an honorable and well-known Delaware family. Soon after his marriage Mr. Dawson returned to Cincinnati, Ohio, and remained there until 1851. In the spring of that year he came back to Illinois and settled on the old homestead which has since come into his possession, and has been a valued resident of this township from that time. He has given his entire attention to his farm where he engages successfully in mixed husbandry, and is justly numbered among the solid substantial citizens of this place.
He is well endowed with firmness, energy and enterprise, and notwithstanding the necessary infirmities that accompany advanced age, he is still active and vigorous, working for work's sake from long years of industrious habit, although the snows of seventy-six winters have frosted his head. He is fully trusted by his fellow-men because he has always carried himself as an upright, God-fearing man should in the eyes of the world, and has conducted himself towards others so as to secure their good will and respect. He takes an active part in politics and is an unswerving support of the Republican party, and the temperance issue has no stronger advocate in word and deed than he. He has contributed his quota for the material advancement of the township, and has done good service both as Road Overseer and school Director. He and his wife are sincere and consistent Christians, and active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he has been trustee. He is identified with the I.O.O.F., belonging to Winchester Lodge, No. 70.
In the accumulation of a competence Mr. Dawson has had the invaluable aid of one of the best and most capable of wives who has labored faithfully by his side during all the long years of their wedded life that number forty. Age has dealt kindly with Mrs. Dawson, and she is in good health, and retains much of her old vigor. The following is the record of the eight children she has born her husband, six of whom are now living: Laura Augusta, born Nov. 18, 1850, died April 5, 1864; Belle Zera, born July 8, 1853, died Aug. 14, 1871; Miles Messick, who lives three and one-fourth miles northwest of Winchester, was born Jan. 1, 1855, married Jane Hornbeck, and they have four children; Luella born April 12, 1852, is the wife of R. T. G. Coultas, who lives one-fourth miles west of Riggston, and they have seven children; Charles Coverton, who lives in Buffalo County, Neb., was born May 29, 1856, married Nellie Hawk, and they have two children; George May, who lives two and one-half miles northeast of Winchester, married Sarah Campbell, and they have three children; Theophilus, born Jan. 10, 1860, is unmarried and lives at home with his parents; Thomas, who lives a mile and a half northwest of Winchester, was born Jan. 23, 1862, and married Ida Haney.