The spirit of self-reliance and independence so universally prevails in the United States that it is a matter of congratulation to the average man when he can truly affirm that he has been the architect of his own fortune, - that he is indebted to no one for the prosperity which at last crowns his labors. Though success does not smile upon many who are thoroughly deserving, it is a well-established fact that the undeserving rarely win riches and position. R. Farnsworth, who is well and favorably known in Ottawa and LaSalle county, may be styled a self-made man, and the recital of his history may prove an incentive to others.
His grandparents, Abraham and Sarah (Smith) Farnsworth, were natives of Yorkshire, England. His father, Robert Farnsworth, was born in 1822 in Yorkshire. When he was four years of age he was brought by his parents to Belleville, Ontario. He devoted his life to agricultural pursuits and passed his declining years at the home of our subject and his sister, Mrs. Sarah Peck. For a long period he was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and for years served as clerk of the congregation with which he was connected. His wife, Betsy, a daughter of Asa Wilcox, departed this life in 1866, in Ontario, and of their six children five survive, namely: Richard; Sarah, wife of Henry Peck; David, a resident of Ottawa; Robert, and J. C, of Ottawa. Asa died when a child, and Robert departed this life November 17, 1899.
Richard Farnsworth was born in Belleville, Hastings county, Ontario, April 15, 1849, and was reared in that section. In starting out to make his own way in the world he began learning a trade, to which he devoted three years. Then, going to Indiana, he worked on a farm for two years. At the time that he left home he had but two dollars and forty cents, and that sum was stolen from his trunk the first week! He had many discouraging experiences, but he bravely persevered, sticking to his task, and winning the commendation of his employers. Husbanding his small means, and gaining an invaluable reputation for honesty and reliability, he prospered, and in 1872 purchased the fine homestead which he has since carried on. It is situated but half a mile from Ottawa, comprises two hundred and thirty-six acres, and is considered one of the most valuable farms in the county. The buildings on the place alone cost upward of ten thousand dollars, and many substantial improvements have been made by the enterprising proprietor since it came into his possession. He has not been afraid of hard work, has met his obligations manfully, has dealt honestly and fairly by all with whom he has had business transactions, and the result is apparent.
As might be expected of a citizen of this character, Mr. Farnsworth has not neglected his public duties. He has served as a member of the local school board, and as one of the supervisors of LaSalle county, his influence being used for advancement and improvement in all lines. His ballot is always given to the nominees of the Republican party. Fraternally he is identified with the A. F. and A. M., belonging to Occidental Lodge, No. 40; Shabbona Chapter, No. 37, and to Ottawa Commandery, No. 10, K. T.
The first wife of Mr. Farnsworth was Edith, daughter of James and Elizabeth (Close) Pickens, natives of Massachusetts. She was summoned to her reward on the 2d of February, 1889, and left four children to mourn her loss, namely: Walter, who is a commercial traveler and at present is living in the Bay state; George, who is a high-school student in Ottawa; Percy and Lizzie, who are at home. In February, 1890, Mr. Farnsworth married Miss Emma Danz, of Peru, Illinois. She was a daughter of Charles and Margaret (Nebel) Danz, and by her marriage was the mother of one child, Gretchen. Mrs. Farnsworth passed away March 3, 1899, mourned by her family and a large circle of friends. With Mr. Farnsworth she was a member of the Congregational church.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 158-160.