Among the well-known and respected citizens of LaSalle county is numbered the subject of this review, Samuel Waugh, a farmer of Peru. He came to this place more than a half century ago, before the time of railroads, when the stage-coach was the only public means of travel overland. Peru at that time was at the head of navigation on the Illinois river, and was an important business point, and the city of LaSalle was regarded as the rival of Chicago as a general market. Mr. Waugh's subsequent active business career was such as to afford him great opportunities to observe the growth and development of this section of Illinois. In the early days transportation was by river, later by canal, and subsequently railroads were constructed across the broad prairies, and business was correspondingly increased as time and space were thus annihilated. He witnessed the opening of the Illinois and Michigan canal on the 15th of April, 1848, and was a citizen of Peru during the dreadful Asiatic cholera scourge of 1849, which time more fatalities occurred in Peru in proportion to the population than in any other city in the United States.
Mr. Waugh was born in the Ligonier Valley of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, January 22, 1828, his parents being James and Jane (Parke) Waugh, who were also natives of the Keystone state. The paternal grandfather, Richard Waugh, was of Scotch descent, was a native of Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, and a farmer by occupation. He possessed a very practical turn of mind, and when the war of 1812 broke out he saw an opportunity of bettering his fortunes and at the same time serve the government. To this end he engaged in the transportation of troops and supplies, a task at once arduous and difficult. William Parke, the maternal grandfather of our subject, was a native of Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, and was the son of Zebulon Parke, of the same county, who served with distinction in the Revolutionary war under General Washington for a period of seven years. William Parke was a farmer by occupation and came west with the Waugh family, spending his last days at Lost Grove, Illinois. He died at the advanced age of eighty-eight years, and left six children. James and Jane (Parke) Waugh were the parents of eleven children, five sons and six daughters, of whom eight are living, namely: William, of Rapid City, South Dakota; Samuel, of this review; Catherine, wife of A. T. Hagan of Los Angeles, California; James, of Princeton, Illinois; Caroline, wife of Nathan Linton of Minneapolis,, Minnesota; Mary A., of Los Angeles, California; Martha, of Chicago, Illinois; and Rankin, who is connected with the Union Stockyards in Chicago. In early life James Waugh, the father of our subject, was a member of a stage-coach company in Pennsylvania, and for many years was engaged in carrying United States mail between Philadelphia and Pittsburg. He was also the proprietor of a hotel in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. In October of 1847 he came with his family to the west, locating in Peru, Illinois, where he conducted the well-known National Hotel, then a leading hostelry in northern Illinois. As many as from ten to fifteen coaches would each morning depart from the hotel carrying their passengers to the various surrounding towns. He conducted the business until the fall of 1849, when he removed to Lost Grove, Bureau county, Illinois, and there purchased a farm, after which he devoted his attention to agricultural pursuits until his death in 1863, in his sixty-fifth year. His wife survived him only about six weeks, and was fifty-five years of age at the time of her death.
Samuel Waugh, of this review, came with his father to Peru in October, 1847, and was associated with him in the conduct of the National Hotel until April, 1849, when he left the parental fireside to engage in business for himself. His first venture was in buying cattle, a business to which he s:ave his time for forty-five years. To use his own words, he "spent forty-five years in the saddle, traveling on horseback over a great part of northern Illinois, buying cattle." Thus he became well acquainted throughout this section of the state, and, being a keen and close observer and possessed of a strong, retentive memory, the writer found Mr. Waugh one who could talk in a most interesting manner of the early days, giving very lucid descriptions of the changes that had taken place in the growth and development of this region. He had acquired a fair education m a select and later the district schools of his native state, and the greater part of his youth had been spent upon the farm. He began his connection with cattle dealing as an employee of a firm of Peru, which also did considerable business in LaSalle. He was connected therewith until the spring of 1853, when, in company with Jesse Dresser, he started with a drove of cattle to California, a very arduous undertaking. They left Princeton, Illinois, on the 6th of April, 1853, and reached the Sacramento valley in September of the same year. After disposing of their cattle Mr. Waugh went to the mines of St. Louis, Sierra county, that state, and was engaged in mining and butchering for nine years. In 1862 he returned to Illinois, and until 1871 was interested in the ice business in Peru and in Cairo, Illinois, being associated with his brothers-in-law, A. T. Hagan and Nathan Linton. From the latter date until 1877 he was engaged in farming and stock-raising, after which he conducted a live-stock commission business in Chicago, in company with his brother, Rankin Waugh, until 1894. In April of that year he withdrew from the business and returned to his farm in LaSalle county.
During the early days when he first engaged in buying cattle Mr. Waugh traveled from Peru over as many as a dozen counties in northern Illinois. This wide scope of territory he had to cover in order to purchase sufficient fat cattle, sheep and hogs to supply the markets of Peru and LaSalle. which cities were then enjoying great prosperity on account of the building of canals and railroads and the consequent increase in trade. At that time, too, the country was sparsely settled and the farmers did not, as to-day, engage so extensively in stock-raising. Mr. Waugh was among the first to ship cattle to the Chicago market. As early as November, 1849, in company with W. P. Ankney of Somerset, Pennsylvania, he bought a large number of cattle and drove them to Chicago, selling them to Gurdon S. Hubbard, one of the very first packers of Chicago, which city at that time contained a population of less than thirty thousand. Mr. Waugh's fine farm of five hundred and sixty acres is situated in Peru township, one mile from the city of Peru. As a successful farmer and stock-raiser he ranks among the most prominent in this section of the state. It is well known that Illinois takes the lead as a grain-producing state, and it is safe to say that the farm of Mr. Waugh is among the best and most carefully tended in the heart of the state. In 1894 he erected an attractive modern residence in Peru, which has since been his home.
In politics Mr. Waugh has never been an office-seeker, but he has always been a stalwart Republican and has kept abreast with the advancement in the political and business world. Progressive and aggressive, and by nature energetic and persevering, his success in life has been well merited. In this locality he has long had a wide acquaintance, and his fair dealing with his fellowmen has won for him innumerable friends. For a number of years he has resided in Peru, but has continued actively in agricultural affairs, and his son, Charles L. Waugh, a progressive and successful agriculturist, has charge of his farm.
On the 14th of October, 1868, Mr. Waugh and Miss Elizabeth Maze were united in the holy bonds of wedlock. The lady was a daughter of S. N. Maze, of Peru, and is highly respected. Three children have been born to them, namely: Jessie, wife of W. E. Means, of Peru; Charles L.; and Elizabeth. Mrs. Waugh is a member of the Forty-first Street Presbyterian church of Chicago, and contributes liberally to its support.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 76-79.