WOLCOTT, ELIZUR , son of Elihu and Rachel (McClure) Wolcott, was born in East Windsor, Conn., August 7, 1817. When thirteen years of age his father removed with his family to Jacksonville, Ill., becoming one of the pioneers of the town. A few years later the son, Elizur, returned to Connecticut to be educated, spending two or three years, first at the well known preparatory school at Ellington, and then going to Yale College, from which he graduated in 1839. He early showed a taste for reading, and in his college days had commenced gathering books for the library which formed so important an element in his life during his subsequent years. After graduation he spent a winter in general reading at his home in Jacksonville, and the following summer, in a canoeing trip on the headwaters of the Mississippi in what was then the Indian country. The following year he attended the Harvard Medical School, but concluded at the close of the year that he had made a mistake in the choice of a profession. At this time Mr. Wolcott had an opportunity to become a partner in a promising book and publishing house in Boston, which later fulfilled its promise of success, but his inheritance from an uncle having been invested in Illinois bonds, for which there was not sale at the time, he was obliged to forego the opportunity of entering a business so much in accordance with his tastes, a matter of deep regret to him always thereafter. After a few months spent in a voyage to England as a sailor, he returned to Jacksonville.
On July 15, 1846, Mr. Wolcott married Margaret Lyman Dwight, formerly of Amherst, Mass., daughter of Daniel and Mary (Mattoon) Dwight. They had two sons who died young and two daughters: Edith Dwight, married in 1898 to Prof. John Herbert Davis, now of Lynchburg, Va., and May Mattoon, married in 1886 to Prof. Edward Bull Clapp, now of the University of California. After his marriage, Mr. Wolcott moved to his farm a few miles from Jacksonville, but he was not, either by taste or education, a farmer, and after a few years returned to town. For the next ten years he was occupied with the business of the Great Western (now the Wabash) Railroad during its construction through Illinois, part of the time acting as Assistant Superintendent. He possessed a decided mechanical talent, a thoroughness which could not allow poor work to pass under his direction, and was unsparing of himself in securing the result which he deemed necessary. At the end of ten years he broke down in health as a result of the strain to which he had subjected himself. In 1862, having recovered his health, he entered into the milling business in partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr. J. O. King, one of the best known citizens of Jacksonville, and for several years superintended the operation of a flour mill which they owned, retiring then from any further part in active business for the remainder of his life.
In all his business relations, Mr. Wolcott's probity was of the most scrupulous character, and his sense of justice absolute. He gave much time and energy to gratuitous public service. He was instrumental in the purchase and laying out of the Diamond Grove Cemetery, was several times a member of the City Council, a member of the Board of Education for several years, and Trustee of the Public Library for many years. The work in which, perhaps, he took the most satisfaction, and to which he devoted his time and strength so long as they were needed, was in the construction of the Jacksonville Water Works, and he was Superintendent of this important department of the public service for a number of years after its completion. Mr. Wolcott was for many years a member of the "Club", the first literary association formed in Jacksonville, and composed of some of the leading clergymen, college professors, lawyers and business men of the city. At his own house, for nearly thirty-five years, a reading circle of friends and neighbors - men and women - met one evening each week. Mr. Wolcott's large fund of information, his remarkable memory, not only of the substance of what he had read, but of the very form of the wording - even though it might be something he had not seen for years - and his power of apt illustration of a thought, made him a valuable member of any club to which he belonged. Among them were the Art Club of Jacksonville, and the Plato Club, which also met at his residence for a number of years. Mrs. Wolcott's interest was not less strong in all literary and philosophical subjects, and their home was one of the centers of the intellectual life of the town.
Mr. Wolcott's library was a large and well selected one. The new and progressive thought of the day always attracted him. Emerson and Carlyle especially interested him in his early years, and their works always found a place upon his library shelves as soon as published. Later he read with much interest the works of the leading scientists. But his tastes were catholic, and poetry, history, philosophy, science, travels and fiction, all found their place in fair proportion among his books. The use of his library was freely offered to any to whom it could be of use, and he was applied to by all classes and all ages for information upon the large range of subjects on which he could assist them, and his time and interest were given without stint. He also had a collection of several thousand photographs of the best works of art in painting, sculpture and architecture, with many notes upon both the subjects and artists. Mr. Wolcott spent the summers of the last twenty years of his life on the shores of Northern Lake Michigan, and his enthusiasm for the outdoor life of that region was that of a youth.
Upon the death of Mrs. Wolcott in January, 1900, he visited his daughter, Mrs. Clapp, at Berkeley, Cal., where his death occurred on March 12, 1901, caused by a fall two weeks previous. He had reached his eighty-fourth year, and previous to this fatal accident, was in more than usual vigor of mind and body.