WILLIAM KENNEY, a prominent farmer residing on section 21, Wall Township, claims Pennsylvania as the State of his nativity. He was born in Washington County, on the 26th of April, 1828, and is a son of James Kenney, who was born on the same farm as our subject and there still makes his home. His parents were Benjamin and Elizabeth (Blair) Kenney. The former was born June 9, 1764; the latter, a daughter of John and Mary Blair, was born September 17, 1771, and their marriage was celebrated September 17, 1789. They became the parents of eight children: Margaret, who was born August 8, 1790; Mary, January 22, 1792; John Blair, who was born June 14, 1794, and died September 14, 1808; Elizabeth, who was born July 6, 1802, and died on the 22d of December, of that year; Benjamin, who was born December 23, 1804, and died September 8, 1805; James, January 11, 1806; Wesley, May 8, 1808, and Rebecca, December 31, 1810. The father of this family died March 28, 1843, and his wife survived until January 26, 1852, when she too was called to her final rest.

The father of our subject, Rev. James Kenney, acquired his education in the log schools of that early day, and before he had reached the age of twenty years he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and began preaching. For more than sixty years he has engaged in the ministerial work, in connection with which he has carried on the operation of that farm which has been his home throughout his entire life.

About 1828, Rev. Mr. Kenney was united in marriage to Miss Ann Sproat, who was three years his junior and was a daughter of William and Mary Sproat, farmer people of Washington County. They became the parents of four children: William of this sketch; Elizabeth, wife of Asbury Greenfield, of California; Cyrus, who is living on a ranch in Ventura County, Cal.; John F., who follows agricultural pursuits in Wall Township. The mother died when our subject was about ten years old, and a year later his father married Patience Moore, a native of Greene County, Pa. They became the parents of eight children: Benjamin F., who is farming in California; Eliza, who became the wife of John Freeman and died in Florida; Margaret, wife of Wilson Ward, of Washington County, Pa.; James, who makes his home in the same county; Josephine, who died in infancy; Kate, twin sister of Josephine, living with her parents, and Mary M., wife of Lewis Cleaver, a merchant of Washington County, Pa. The father of this family was one of the most highly respected citizens of that community. In his social relations, he is a Mason and, in politics, is a Republican. He cast his first Presidential vote for John Quincy Adams, and afterwards supported the Whig party until the rise of the Republican party.

There was not much to vary the monotony of the early life of our subject, which was spent in farm work and in the attendance at the common schools. As the family was in limited circumstances, he saw something of the harder side of life. His health not being very good, he learned the trade of a saddler, which he followed in the Keystone State until 1853, when, believing he could better his financial condition, he emigrated to Putnam County, Ill., in the spring of 1854, and for two years worked by the day as a farm hand. He then engaged in farming for himself until 1856, when he removed to La Salle County, where he rented land until 1874, when he came to Ford County, and bought an unimproved tract of eighty acres. To this he has since added, until he now owns one hundred and sixty acres, a good farm well improved and highly cultivated.

In 1850, in the county of his nativity, Mr. Kenney was joined in wedlock to Miss Mary McVain, who was born in Greene County, Pa., and is a daughter of Moses and Mary (Keys) McVain. Her father was a native of Greene County, Pa., and died when about seventy years of age. He was a blacksmith by trade and was an industrious man. In politics, he was a Democrat. His wife died when Mrs. Kenney was only a small child, scarcely nine years of age. In the common schools, Mrs. Kenney acquired her education. She is a kind and loving wife and mother, and hand in hand our subject and his wife have walked for forty-one years. Unto them have been born twelve children, six yet living: Elizabeth A., a resident of La Salle County, Ill.; Mary E. and Martha J., deceased; Mary M., wife of Charles Stonebreaker, who resides in Roberts, Ill.; James M., who is living in Vermilion County; Asbury G., deceased; Charles L., a farmer of Wall Township, Ford County; John W. and Maggie F., deceased; Leander S., a resident farmer of Wall Township; John F., at home, and Mabel who has also passed away.

Mr. Kenney cast his first Presidential vote for Winfield Scott, and was an advocate of Whig principles until 1856, when he voted for Fremont, since which time he has been a stalwart Republican. He has often been a delegate to the conventions of his party and served on its committees. For seven years he has been Supervisor of Wall Township, and was its Treasurer for about fourteen years. True to every trust reposed in him, his duties were faithfully discharged, and he won the confidence and regard of all with whom he had been brought in contact. He is a highly respected citizen of the community and one who has the best interests of the county at heart.

Extracted 14 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Record of Ford County, Illinois, published in 1892, pages 218-219.

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