Biography - JAMES M. GATCHELL
Forty-two years have passed since James M. Gatchell came to LaSalle county, and he has therefore been a witness of the greater part of its development and upbuilding. He has seen its wild lands transformed into beautiful homes and farms, its hamlets grow into thriving towns and cities, and has witnessed the introduction of many and varied business enterprises, including the railroad, the telegraph and the telephone. As an agriculturist he has assisted in reclaiming the wild land for purposes of civilization and is to-day numbered among the leading agriculturists of Brookfield township.
Mr. Gatchell was born in the township of Wales, county of Lincoln, near Bowdoinham, Maine, February 9, 1839, and is a representative of an old family of English origin. His father, Aaron Gatchell, was born March 11, 1800, and was reared in Maine. He married Miss Adah Witterell, of Lincoln county, Maine, and in order to support his family engaged in farming, although he was a sawyer by trade. Nine children were born of the marriage: Betsy, who is living at Clear Lake, Iowa; Martha, who lives in Richmond, Maine; Isaac, who was a veteran of the civil war and a member of the Grand Army Post at Pontiac, Illinois, and died in Odell, this state; Sewell B., a merchant of Freeport, Illinois; Charles, who is living on the old homestead in Maine; Miss Vesta, who lives in Lynn, Massachusetts; Mellen M., who died in Story, Illinois; Lettice, who died at the age of thirteen years; and James M., who is the subject of this biographical notice. In his political views the father of these children was a Jackson Democrat until Abraham Lincoln became a candidate for the presidency, when he joined the ranks of the Republican party. In his religious views he was a Baptist. He died June 2, 1878, at the age of seventy-eight years, and his wife passed away March 16, 1889, at the age of eighty-one years.
Upon the old homestead farm in Maine James M. Gatchell spent the days of his boyhood and youth, and in the common schools of the neighborhood he acquired his education. When eighteen years of age he bade adieu to home and friends, and leaving the Pine Tree state came to Illinois, locating in LaSalle county, where he has since made his home. On the 14th of August, 1862, however, he put aside all personal considerations to aid his country in her efforts to preserve the Union and became a member of Company F, One Hundred and Fourth Illinois Infantry, under command of Captain J. J. McHernan, Colonel Moore and Lieutenant Hapeman, of Ottawa. He participated in twenty-one engagements with the enemy, including the battle of Harville, Tennessee, where on the 7th of December, 1862, he was taken prisoner. The following month, however, he was exchanged, and later he took part in the battles of Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. In the last named he was slightly wounded, and at the battle of Peach Tree Creek, Georgia, July 21, 1864, he was seriously wounded, which forced him to remain in the hospital for nine months. He was honorably discharged March 4, 1865, and returned to his home in LaSalle county, carrying with him a bullet wound six by eight inches. He had been a soldier loyal and true, and his name deserves a place upon the honored roll of the Union's defenders.
When he had sufficiently recovered his health Mr. Gatchell began farming. In 1866 he located upon a seventy-acre tract of land in Brookfield township, and in 1878 he purchased his present farm of one hundred and forty acres, succeeding James J. McCully in its ownership. This farm is now under a high state of cultivation, being divided into good fields and pasture lands. The house is a modern residence and the farm buildings are in good condition, indicating the careful supervision of a progressive owner.
On the 27th of October, 1867, Mr. Gatchell was united in marriage to Miss Catherine Rose, a representative of a family of high respectability. She was born in New York and is a daughter of Washington and Maria (Balsh) Rose, both of whom were natives of the Empire state and early settlers of LaSalle county. They had eight children: William Henry, of Brookfield township, LaSalle county; Mrs. Gatchell; Albert D. (1st), deceased; Albert D. (2d), who is living in Brookfield township; Truman D., of Boulder, Colorado; Ellen, who died at the age of ten years; George, who died at the age of thirty-nine years, leaving a widow and five children; and Emma, who died at the age of twenty-seven years. The father's death occurred when he was seventy-three years of age. By occupation he was a farmer, following that pursuit throughout his life. In his political views he was a Republican and in religious faith both he and his wife were Methodists. Mrs. Rose is still living, at the advanced age of seventy-eight years. Mr. and Mrs. Gatchell are the parents of six children, three no>v living, - Cora Delia, Charles Albert and Chester Edward. Those deceased are William Edward and William James, who died in infancy; and Adah Maria, who died at the age of eighteen months.
Mr. Gatchell has been a stanch Republican since casting his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln. He has served in several township offices and is now school director. He belongs to Joseph Woodworth Post, No. 281, G. A. R., of Marseilles, and his wife and daughter are members of the Presbyterian church. The family hold a high position in social circles and have the warm regard of all who know them.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 367-369.