When one meets a man who at a tender age was thrown upon his own responsibilities for a livelihood, has overcome obstacles and difficulties, and in the face of these has in later years attained a high degree of success, he cannot but feel that just credit is due to such an individual. This is the case of W. T. Gourley, whose name introduces this record. He was born in Indiana, June 27, 1858, a son of Thomas and Elizabeth Gourley, the former a native of Indiana and the latter a native of Virginia. The father was previously married, and there are two daughters of that union, Margaret, of Iowa, and Mary, a resident of Oregon. Of the father's second marriage five children were born but three of the number are now deceased, the sister of our subject being Mattie, who resides in Princeton, Indiana. Both the father and mother are now deceased.
W. T. Gourley was left an orphan at the early age of two years, and was then taken into the home of an aunt, by whom he was reared to the age of seven. He then came to Ford county, Illinois, to make his home with a cousin with whom he remained until he had reached the age of eighteen years. During the period of his boyhood and youth he attended the common schools, wherein he acquired a fair English education, while from the ages of fifteen to eighteen he was employed at herding cattle in the Pan Handle district of Ford county. He then invested his earnings in a team and some farm implements and leased a tract of land, which he operated during the succeeding three years. So successful was he that he was at length enabled to purchase some land, becoming the possessor of forty acres situated on section 27, Brenton township. This has continued to be his home to the present time, although at different times he has added to his original purchase until his place now comprises two hundred and forty acres. He has improved his property with suitable outbuildings for the shelter of grain and stock and also occupies a comfortable home. In addition to tilling the soil he also operates a threshing machine and corn sheller, having been thus engaged for the past quarter of a century so that in this connection he is well known not only in his home locality but throughout various sections of the county. He also raises stock on quite an extensive scale, making a specialty of full blooded imported Norman horses, which he has handled for twenty-seven years.
In 1880 Mr. Gourley established a home of his own by his marriage to Miss Margaret Thomas, who has proved to him a faithful companion and helpmate on the journey of life. She was born in Onarga, Illinois, a daughter of Lewis and Elizabeth Thomas, and is one of a family of four children. The father served as a soldier in the Civil war, being a loyal defender of the Union cause. He was captured by the rebel soldiers and incarcerated in Libby prison, where his death occurred. The mother, however, is still living and makes her home in Onarga.
Five children grace the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Gourley, namely: Gertrude I., the wife of William Asherman, of Thawville, Illinois; Wilbur E., a resident farmer of Brenton township; and Rolland T., Walter W. and James Arthur, all still under the parental roof.
In his political views Mr. Gourley is a republican and for five years served as road commissioner, while for six years he filled the office of school director, taking a warm interest in the cause of education. He supports the First Presbyterian church at Piper City. He is a self-made man in the truest sense of the term and is therefore deserving of the highest praise, for unlike others who are compelled to start out in life at an early age, he has encountered many obstacles but possessing a courageous spirit he has surmounted every difficulty and has pushed his way upward to success. He is now the owner of a valuable farm property and in his various business connections is well known, meriting the highest respect and esteem from all with whom he is associated either in business or social capacity.

Extracted 17 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 2, pages 756-760.

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