Biography - SAMUEL T. STILSON
Samuel Talbert Stilson (deceased) was born in Connecticut, July 16, 1814, and died in Earlville, Illinois, April 26, 1888. He was a son of Curtis and Abigail Stilson. When he was one year old his parents removed from Connecticut to Chautauqua county, New York, where as pioneer settlers they became farmers. Our subject received a common-school education, and when a youth virtually began life for himself. When about twentyone he began rafting logs down streams into the Ohio, finding a market in Cincinnati.
At the age of twenty-four he came west, direct to LaSalle county, and secured farm lands at the present town site of Earlville. He began farming, prospered and at the time of the completion of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad he had four hundred acres of land, and hereon was located Earlville. The log cabin, his first residence, was located on what is now Ottawa street in that town, near Church street. Almost on this site is now the Stilson homestead, occupied by his widow and which he erected in 1855. He kept the first hotel in Earlville and was the first merchant, his store-room, hotel and residence being all in the same business. He was also the first banker, being associated for a short time with a Mr. Halleck in operating a private bank. He sold his interest to Mr. Halleck and soon afterward the bank failed under the management of Mr. Halleck. He was one of the first grain merchants of Earlville, and for a time was associated with William R. Haight, in both the grain business and general merchandising. They erected the first elevator in Earlville, in 1857. He never followed agriculture after 1854, but raised considerable stock on his several farms he had secured, and dealt considerably in stock for several years. He was an organizer of and stockholder in the present First National Bank of Earlville, organized in 1885, and was also an organizer of the Curtis Gang Plow Company, of Peru, which was at first a large institution, but not finally a successful one, and Mr. Stilson sustained heavy losses. He was a founder of Earlville and did much for the upbuilding of the place.
He was a Republican and in early days held minor offices, but was never an office-seeker nor politician. He began life poor and amassed a handsome fortune. He was a Royal Arch Mason and during the last years of his life he was a member of the Methodist church. He married, in 1839, Miss Eleanor Wood, a native of New York, who came to Whiteside county, Illinois, in 1839, with her parents, bore him five children, and died in November, 1852. One of the above children died in infancy, and four of them grew to maturity. Davis B. Stilson was a soldier in the civil war, and from the effects of the war service died, in California, in 1864. The three living children are Orthencia, Samuel Edwin and Talbert U. The daughter, Mrs. McKinney, resides in New Mexico. Edwin is in Grant county, Nebraska. Talbert is a citizen of Earlville. January 1, 1854, Mr. Stilson was married a second time, wedding Miss Sarah T. Lukens, of Ohio, who came west with her parents in 1847 and settled at Freedom, LaSalle county. Her parents were Benjamin and Elizabeth (Worrall) Lukens, natives of Ohio. They lived and died in LaSalle county. Their father was a farmer. To the second marriage of Mr. Stilson three daughters were born, namely: Ella, the wife of George McDonald, of Sandwich, Illinois; Marie Bella, the wife of Charles Hass, of Earlville; and one, Lizzie C, who died in infancy. Mr. Stilson was ever ready to help his fellowmen and aid good enterprises, and was highly patriotic - a leader, a friend of culture, education and the church. He gave to all, Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian and Universalist, churches of Earlville the lots on which stand their buildings.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 98-100.