Virgil Gilman Way was born at Sutton, Caledonia county, Vermont, March 17, 1847, his parents being Wells Horace and Susan Beckwith (Newell) Way. His parental ancestors were of Saxon and Irish birth, and his mother was of English parentage. Daniel Way, the great-grandfather of Virgil Gilman Way, was a soldier in the Revolutionary war from Connecticut. Wells Way, the grandfather of our subject, was twelve years of age when the English under Arnold burned New London, Connecticut. His father's house was destroyed and, together with his mother and the other children of the family, he was turned into the street, saving nothing except what they could carry in their arms. On seeing them an English soldier remarked in a jeering manner: "There goes John Rogers' wife and her nine children." The war of 1812 found the representatives of the Way family again in arms against England, and the descendants have been equally loyal to the country for whose freedom their ancestors fought so nobly during the time of British oppression. The death of Wells Way occurred at Way's Mills, Canada, in 1857.
Wells Horace Way, father of Virgil Gilman Way, was a house painter and farmer by occupation. He supported Lincoln during the Civil war, though a democrat in political belief, and in religious faith was a Universalist. He passed away at Rutland, Illinois, July 16, 1868, while his wife survived him until September 24, 1894, her demise occurring at the home of our subject near Proctor, Illinois. She was a member of the Congregational church, and lies buried beside her husband at Rutland, Illinois. Her ancestors were soldiers in the Revolutionary army.
Virgil Gilman Way spent the first five years of his life in Sutton, Vermont, and then resided for four years in Nashua, New Hampshire, subsequently spending two years in Vernon county, Wisconsin. On the expiration of that period he accompanied his parents on their removal to Rutland, La Salle county, Illinois, and attended the common school at that place but laid aside his text-books, at the age of seventeen years, to enlist for service in the Union army. He joined Company B, Thirty-third Illinois Infantry, at Rutland, Illinois, for three years or during the war, and was discharged with the regiment on the 6th of December, 1865. Though still a lad in his teens he saw much arduous service and never faltered in the performance of any task assigned him, being commended by the officers for his brave and soldierly conduct. During his service he was wounded in the hands and leg and now draws a pension. Being of a very studious disposition, he carried on his studies while in camp and after being honorably discharged from the army, continued his education in his leisure time. He attended high school for three months and after obtaining a teacher's certificate became actively connected with that profession. He has taught altogether thirty-one terms of school in La Salle, Marshall and Ford counties, having a first-grade certificate from each county. He also learned the trade of house and carriage painting and was financially successful in that undertaking.
On arriving in Ford county in 1881 Mr. Way purchased the one hundred and sixty acre farm which he still owns and on which he yet makes his home. Through progressive methods of agriculture and the erection of suitable and commodious buildings he has made it the model farm property of Drummer township, and has always been among the foremost in the adoption of plans and improvements calculated to promote the agricultural interests of the county and state. He assisted in organizing the Ford County Farmers' Institute and after serving as its secretary for several years was elected president, which position he now holds. He was likewise expert corn judge at the Illinois State Fair, an interstate exhibit. He urged the construction and superintended the building of many miles of the gravel roads of Drummer township, and has served continuously for twelve years as commissioner of highways, being treasurer of the board at the present writing. He also drew the plans and superintended the erection of the steel bridges in Drummer township. The gravel roads and steel bridges are the pride of the people of the township and have added greatly to the valuation of the land. In 1890 and in 1900 he acted as census enumerator for Drummer township, and in 1890 and 1891 was deputy United States marshal, while for four months, at Springfield, Illinois, he had charge of the courtroom during sessions of the court.
In August, 1900, Mr. Way was elected secretary and treasurer of the Thirty-third Illinois Infantry Regimental Association and assigned to the task of compiling and publishing the history of the regiment. This required three years of hard work but was at length successfully accomplished, seven hundred and forty-five copies being published. It is a beautiful volume of two hundred and eighty-five pages. More than two thousand men were on the muster rolls of the regiment during its term of service and the work gives a complete record of each one, including the time and place of enlistment and discharge. It is a very interesting and readable volume and the amount of labor necessary for the compilation of such a work can scarcely be realized by the uninitiated. The publishing and distribution of the history has been accomplished by Mr. Way without the loss of a dollar to the association. He financed the project and, in honor to his comrades, sold the histories at cost of publication. To show their appreciation of his faithful and excellent work in this connection, the association presented him with a specially designed diamond studded watch, handsomely engraved. Owing to the careful and thorough manner in which Mr. Way compiled the history, the association has the best record, as to living members, of any regimental association in the state, and the volume has been given a place of honor in the largest libraries of the country.
On the 31st of March, 1868, at Rutland, Illinois, Mr. Way was united in marriage to Miss Sarah D. Proctor, a daughter of Captain Willard Proctor, who commanded Company I, One Hundred and Fourth Illinois Infantry, during the Civil war. The paternal ancestors of Mrs. Way were Revolutionary soldiers. The Proctor family are direct descendants of John Lock, who, prior to the Revolution, was a noted English writer on economic subjects. Mr. and Mrs. Way became the parents of the following children: Otis Willard and Virgilia G. were the first and second members of the family. Elliott Wells, the next in order of birth, is a prominent rice and cotton planter in Wharton county, Texas. He served for ten months as a Columbian guard at the World's Fair in Chicago. Henry Newell graduated at West Point, United States Military Academy, in the class of 1899, was assigned to the Fourth Infantry and joined his regiment in Luzon, Philippine Islands. He commanded the Fourth Infantry Scouts, a picked body of men, and while with them was promoted on the field for gallantry and awarded a medal of honor for bravery. Later he was selected by General Lawton to command a battalion of Macabebe Scouts and while serving in that capacity was killed in battle near Pilar on the 27th of August, 1900. The United States has erected a coast defense battery near Manila, Philippine Islands, and named it Battery Way in remembrance of his distinguished service. Chauncey Centius is a successful physician in Oklahoma. Susan S. and John W. Way are the next members of the family. George Fritz was graduated from the Gibson high school with the class of 1903, served eleven months as a Jefferson guard at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, and entered Knox College at Galesburg in 1905. The following year he entered the University of Illinois, from which he was graduated in 1908, with the rank of captain in the university regiment. An infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Way died soon after birth. Mrs. Sarah D. Way died March 20, 1904, after several years of suffering. She is buried at Gibson City, Illinois, by the side of her distinguished son, Henry N. Way.
On the 1st of May, 1905, Mr. Way was again married, his second union being with May, the youngest daughter of his wartime friend and regimental comrade, George J. Jorden, of Company C, Thirty-third Illinois Infantry, and Martha (McMillen) Jorden, a Civil war nurse. The latter also aided the Union cause by acting as a spy for General Benton in his campaign against the southern Missouri bushwhackers, who caused a reign of terror in the early '60s. The paternal ancestors of Mrs. May (Jorden) Way came from Saxony and Wales and served in the Indian and Revolutionary wars. Her grandfather Jorden enlisted from the colony of New York and her grandfather Cramer from the colony of New Jersey, the latter serving for seven years. Members of her family have fought for the Union in every war since the Revolution. Her maternal ancestors were of Scotch-Irish birth and settled in Maryland. At the time of her marriage Mrs. May (Jorden) Way resided in Carter county, Missouri.

In his political views Mr. Way is a republican, has served for sixteen years as a member of the Ford county republican central committee and for twelve years of that time as its secretary. His earnest work in behalf of the party is fully appreciated by the people of the county and state. At Rutland, Illinois, in 1868, he was made a Master Mason, and a Royal Arch Mason in 1870, and while living at that place served his lodge; as junior deacon and secretary. After removing to Ford county he became a member of Gibson Lodge, A. F. & A. M., Gibson Chapter, R. A. M., and Gibson Council, R. & S. M. He is a member of Lott Post, No. 70, G A. R., of Gibson City, Illinois, has served as commander of the post, inspector of posts in Ford county and member of the official staff of the Department of Illinois, Commanders Wilson, Trimble and Mathews, with the rank of colonel. Liberal in his religious views, he is not a member of any denomination but is a believer in the Christian religion. He has a well selected library, containing principally military and political works and finds recreation and pleasure in reading. In agricultural, educational, fraternal and political circles he has made his influence widely felt and stands as a man among men, honored wherever known and most of all where best known.

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 801-805.

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