This gentleman, one of the foremost citizens of Earlville, and the president of the First National Bank of this place, is a pioneer of Illinois, and during the almost half century of his residence in the state has been more instrumental in advancing the interests of his community and county than most of his contemporaries. He possesses unusual public spirit and patriotism, and to his efforts Earlville is deeply indebted for many of the benefits which she enjoys.
The Haight family was founded in America several generations ago and originated in Scotland. The great-grandfather of our subject was born in the land of heather and came to this country with his parents when he was very young. His parents settled in Vermont. Benjamin, the grandfather of our subject, was a native of Vermont; his life was spent in New England, and he lived to be about three-score years old. His widow survived him, living to be almost one hundred years old. They were the parents of the following children: John Haight, when twenty-two years of age, set out from his native state, walked to Pickering, Canada (West), and there located and became a prominent figure as a Quaker minister. He established an orthodox Quaker church at Pickering and other places; and his sister Lydia was also prominent as a Quaker minister, and was for a period stationed at Peru, New York. Leonard Haight, another of this same family, also became a resident of Pickering. The other children were Benjamin, the father of our subject; and Hannah Haight, who married a Mr. Bears, and resided in Addison county, Vermont. Lydia married B. Halleck and became a Quaker minister, and later in life resided at Keeseville, New York.
Benjamin Haight married Susan Rutherford. Both he and his wife were natives of Addison county, Vermont, and removed to St. Lawrence county, same state, where they settled on a farm and reared their three sons and three daughters. Of their children, William R., the subject of this review, John L., a farmer of Parishville, New York, and Mary, widow of Amasa Grandy, of Malone, New York, are the only members of the family now living. George Haight came west in 1848, first resided in Wisconsin, and later in Missouri, where he died. He was a farmer by occupation. Of these children, Emily died in infancy, and Lydia died at the age of thirtytwo years.
Benjamin Haight, the father, was associated with the Society of Friends, and died in New York when he was in his seventy-eighth year; and his wife, who adhered to the Methodist faith, lived to attain her ninetieth year. Her father, Daniel Rutherford, of Vermont, and of English descent, was a farmer, and served in the Revolutionary war. He died when but little past the prime of life, and left four children.
The birth of William R. Haight took place in Monkton, Addison county, Vermont, September 12, 1822. After completing his district-school education he was a student at the St. Lawrence Academy for a period, after which he successfully taught for ten terms in St. Lawrence county. New York. He next clerked in a store at Parishville, same state, for four years. In 1850 he came to Illinois, taking up his residence in Elgin. He soon obtained employment in the engineers' corps of what was then known as the Chicago & Galena Union Railroad Company. The road then ran to Freeport, where it connected with the Illinois Central line, then in course of construction. After remaining with that corporation for two years, Mr. Haight removed to Aurora and took charge of the building of a section of road on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, between Mendota and Leland. When this work had been successfully completed he served as a civil engineer for the Bureau Valley Railroad for a period.
In the spring of 1855 he came to Earlville and here engaged in the grain business, in partnership with Samuel T. Stilson. They erected the first grain elevator of Earlville, completing its erection in 1857. They also conducted a general merchandise store. Mr. Haight purchased Mr. Stilson's interest in the store and managed that for one year, selling it out in 1857. He retained his interest in the grain business till 1861, and then followed merchandising again for two years. From 1863 to 1866 he was engaged in looking after farm interests, still residing in Earlville, but in 1866, as an organizer of the Exchange Bank, of Earlville, he first engaged in banking. He remained in charge of this bank for five years and then disposed of his interest in it. In 1874 he removed to Chicago, where he resided one year. Having traded for farm lands in Monroe county, Missouri, he removed to that state and followed agricultural pursuits and dealt in cattle up to 1879, when he returned to Earlville. For several years thereafter his time was taken up in looking after various investments, but upon the organization of the First National Bank of Earlville, in March of 1885, Mr. Haight became its president, a position he has since held, his career as a banker marking him as a successful financier.
In early manhood Mr. Haight joined the I. O. O. F. in St. Lawrence county, New York. He also belongs to Meridian Lodge, No. 183, A. F. & A. M., and Aurora Chapter, R. A. M. Until the political campaign of 1896 he affiliated with the Democratic party, but at that time, being in hearty sympathy with the Republican attitude on the money question, he voted for McKinley. He has never sought nor desired public office, but has l3een town supervisor twice, and served as justice of the peace one term, in order to satisfy the wishes of his friends.
On the 7th of July, 1853, Mr. Haight married Ruth P. Norton, a daughter of William G. and Elmira (Parker) Norton. She departed this life December 1, 1870, aged thirty-six years. Of the four children born to them the youngest, Sybil N., died at the age of ten months. George H. is an Ottawa lawyer, and William D. is a physician located at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The former married Mary Vosburgh and has four children - David M., Ruth, Earl and Harold. William D. married Ida Lacy, and all of their children, three in number, have passed away. Etta C. Haight became the wife of Dr. John C. Sheridan, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and their eldest child, Eula, is Mrs. Henry Geer, of Pueblo, Colorado. The younger ones are Jessie M., John C, Jr., and William R.
The second marriage of our subject took place August 27, 1876, when Mrs. Ruth P. Whaley, widow of J. M. Whaley, became his wife. Mrs. Haight had five children by her former marriage, but three of the number are deceased: Mrs. Nellie Lowe, of Two Harbors. Minnesota, and Charles E. Whaley, of Chelan, Washington, are the only survivors. The former has two daughters - DeEtte and Ruth, and the two children of Charles E. are Myrtle and Mildred. Mrs. Haight's parents were Vinton and Susan (Parker) Streator, both natives of Maine and of English descent. In tracing the history of her ancestors we ascertain that Jonathan Streator was stationed at Fort Edwards, New York, during the French and Indian war and participated in the Revolution, being at the battle of Bunker Hill. Among his children was Daniel Streator, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1772. He married Rhoda Stearns, and to them were born Vinton, Johnson and Stebbins Streator. He removed from Massachusetts to Leeds, Maine, where the above named sons were born, Vinton being born in 1794. Vinton Streator married Susan Parker, and their children were John Vinton, Josiah Parker, Susan Johnson, Rhoda Johnson, Ruth Parker, Philena Mary, Cornelia Ann, Elias Hutchins and Lorenzo Newell. The family removed to Lowell, Massachusetts, from Maine; from Lowell they started west, October 19, 1850, and arrived at Ottawa, Illinois, November 1, same year. Those who came at that time were the father and mother and Josiah, Ruth, Philena, Elias and Newell. John had preceded them to Ottawa. The father was a hero of the war of 1812, and received from the government in consequence thereof a warrant for land in LaSalle county, Illinois. In 1852 Mrs. Haight's parents removed to Hudson, Wisconsin, where they both died, her father in 1866 and her mother in 1883. The maternal great-grandfather of Mrs. Haight was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. Mrs. Haight is a member of the Presbyterian church, and, with her husband, is actively interested in the causes of church, education and whatever tends to the good of humanity.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 100-103.