BIOGRAPHY - Benjamin Stites

BENJAMIN STITES, a pioneer of Ford County of 1855, settled on section 17, on Government land, and made that his home for the remainder of his life. He was born in Butler County, Ohio, October 14, 1805, and was a son of Benjamin Stites. His grandfather was a Major in the German Army, and emigrated to the United States prior to the Revolutionary War. He took part in the struggle for independence, and held the rank of Captain. He and one Judge Symmes had a grant of three million acres of land, which they located on the north side of the Ohio River. Mr. Stites located the town of Columbia, Ohio, and made that place his home. Of the tract so located, a considerable portion is still in possession of the descendants of the original proprietors.

In an early day, the subject of this sketch removed to Cincinnati, where he owned and operated an extensive stone-quarry, which was located at what is now the head of North Sycamore Street of that city. He was twice married. His first wife died in 1828, leaving two children, both now deceased. In his native State he afterward married Miss Susan E. Stewart, a native of Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio, and a daughter of Charles and Susan Stewart. Eight children were born of their union: Benjamin F. wedded Miss Martha A. Dunn, and died in the fall of 1889; Sarah A. was the wife of Henry A. Dewey, and died in 1861; Hannah S. is the wife of Elihu Swisher, of Paxton; Phoebe A. is the wife of John White, of Paxton; Margaret E. married Jonathan Covalt, and is now a widow, residing in Oswego, Kan.; William H. married Clara A. McKee, and resides in Paxton; Samuel S. is a resident of Elwood, Ind.; and Susan M. is the wife of Samuel Hill, whose home is in Cincinnati, Ohio. Phoebe A. and those younger were born in Illinois, while the elder members of the family were born in Ohio.

Mr. Stites continued to reside in Cincinnati until 1837, when, with his family, he emigrated Westward and settled near Danville, Vermilion County, Ill., where he was engaged in farming until March, 1856, when he removed to what is now Ford County. In 1854, he came to this county and opened a farm on section 17, town of Patton, and on the site of the village of Prairie City (now Paxton), which he platted, and of which he may properly be called the founder, where he made his home until his death, which occurred December 6, 1860. His good wife survived him until May 13, 1887, when she too passed away. Mr. Stites took an active interest in getting the territory, of which Ford County is composed, set off from certain counties. The county was very new and sparsely settled at the time, and he suffered from exposure in traveling to secure signatures to a petition to the Legislature of 1859 to have Ford County created. His death is said to have resulted from disease contracted while employed in that duty. He was an earnest member of the Methodist Church, and sometimes served as local preacher while residing in Illinois. His family were members of the same denomination. While in Ohio, they belonged to the Baptist Church, but on coming to this State, had found no organized society of that church, and attached themselves to the Methodist Church. For some years prior to the building of the house of worship in Paxton, religious meetings were held at the home of Mr. Stites, and he and his wife were consistent members of the Paxton Church.

In politics, our subject was an original Abolitionist, and joined the Republican party in Illinois at its organization. He voted for Fremont and Dayton in 1856, and for Lincoln and Hamilton in 1860, which was his last vote, as his death occurred the following December. In manner, he was plain and unpretending, and in every act of life earnest and sincere. Integrity and rectitude characterized his intercourse with his fellow-men, and none knew him but to esteem and respect him.

Samuel Stites, the youngest son, was born in Vermilion County, Ill., September 20, 1849, received a common-school education, and was reared to agricultural pursuits. Until 1883, he was engaged in farming, and then embarked in the real-estate business in Kansas, subsequently extending his operations into Colorado, Texas, Missouri, New Mexico, and the Indian Territory. In December, 1890, he became interested in the real-estate business in the young and booming town of Elwood, Ind., a place that has sprung from a small village to a city of five thousand people in a short time, through its wonderful supply of natural gas, which furnishes heat, light and power for mechanical purposes, and which is rapidly developing into an important manufacturing center.

Extracted 04 Nov 2018 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Record of Ford County, Illinois, published in 1892, pages 219-220.

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