27 Jun 2005
Source: Portrait & Biographical Album of Whiteside County, IL
Originally published 1885 Chapman Bros., Chicago, IL
Transcribed by: Becky Jones
Edward Vennum, a leading agriculturist of Whiteside County and a highly esteemed citizen of Union Grove Township, has been a resident of the county since 1842. He was one of the officials chosen at the first township meeting of Union Grove, which was held April 6, 1852. He was born Sept. 16, 1818, in Morris Township, Knox Co., Ohio. He was a quiet boy, of reflective and naturally studious nature, but his proclivities found little encouragement in the public schools, which, like everything else in the place where he passed from childhood to youth, were in the imperfect condition of a pioneer period. He gathered such education as was possible, and formed a determination to avail himself of the first opportunities to add to his store of knowledge sufficiently to become a teacher, for which vocation he had an ambition.
A little before he was 18 years of age, he went to Newark, N.J., and engaged as salesman in a provision store, where he was employed three years. He had studied as he could, but ill health impelled him to abandon his cherished plans, and he came in 1842 to Whiteside Co., Ill., where he spent two years, operating alternately as a teacher in the seasons of winter, and pursuing farming on his own account on a rented farm. In 1851, having concluded that his health depended on a line of activity in the open air, he bought 172 acres of land on section 2, and began farming in earnest, as the vocation of his life. The place included 60 acres, which had been “broken,” and was supplied with a log cabin. On this he resided 18 years, putting the entire acreage in excellent condition for profitable agriculture, and erecting creditable farm buildings. At the expiration of the time named, he made additional purchases of land and removed to section 11, where he established his homestead. He is, at present writing, the owner of 412 acres of land in the township of Union Grove, which is all situated on sections 2 and 11, and is all under tillage.
Mr. Vennum endorses the principles of the Republican party, which he adopted on its organization. He has never been aggressive in the promulgation of his views, but has adhered to his sentiments with the quiet persistency which is one of his characteristics. He cast his fist Presidential vote in 1840 for Harrison, and was always a decided Abolitionist.
He was united in marriage Feb. 20,1845, in Mt. Pleasant Township, to Susan, daughter of Aaron C. and Charity A. (Young) Jackson. They have had seven children, of whom two are deceased: Albert B. was born Dec. 4, 1845, and was married Nov. 28, 1882, to Laura Shaub; Phebe A. was born Jan. 25, 1848, and was married April 10, 1866, to P.S. Bannister: she died June 23, 1874; Aaron J. was born Dec. 11, 1849, and was married Oct. 11, 1881, to Rhoda Gallentine; Columbus C. was born Oct. 31, 1851, and was married July 1, 1880, to Florence Twining; Edwin P. was born Oct. 26, 1853, and was married Feb. 12, 1880, to Linda Reemer; Abbie T. was born July 3, 1856, and died Dec. 18, 1873; and John G. was born Dec. 6, 1864. All the sons, with the exception of Edwin P., are business men in Exeter, Fillmore Co., Neb. The latter is at home pursuing a course of commercial study.
Mrs. Vennum, the mother, was born Feb. 13, 1827, in the township of Wayne, Knox Co., Ohio. She and her husband are members of the Presbyterian Church. John Vennum, the father of Edward, was born in Washington Co., Pa., Oct. 4, 1784. He went in young manhood to Knox Co., Ohio, where he married Phebe Jackson. She was born June 23, 1784, in Rockaway, Morris Co., N.J., and is the daughter of Benjamin and Abigail (Mitchell) Jackson. Her parents went to Knox Co., Ohio, in 1814, after the first and second struggle with Great Britain. In the War of the Revolution he served with honor and held the rank of Major. John Vennum and his wife lived in Ohio until 1846, when they removed to Union Grove Township. The former was then past 60 years of age. He located on a farm on section 3, where he died Feb. 12, 1858. Three sons were born to him and his wife,--Edward, Columbus, and John N. The latter is a farmer in Rhinebeck, Grundy Co., Iowa; Columbus died Jan. 5, 1849. Mrs. Vennum is still living, and is 101 years of age (1885). She is probably the oldest person living in Whiteside County. She was born when the Republic was in its cradle, and five years before Washington was made President. She has lived through 96 years of the history of this country under the federal government. It is a marvel that she lives to see her portrait gathered into the same volume with those of all the Chief Executives of the Nation and State of Illinois, reaching prominence through the fact of her great age. Only seven of the Presidents were older than herself, and only two Governors of Illinois, which has been a State 67 years, were her seniors. She has lived a quiet, uneventful life; and although she has seen more than a century in years, she is erect in figure, dignified and free from the feebleness and tremulousness of extreme age. She is slightly deaf, but still reads the newspapers and her Bible. She has laid aside the work which occupied her hands until she was more than 98 years old. Her interest in household events is still alive, and she sometimes proffers assistance in some light labor. Her mental faculties are undimmed, and her memory is clearer than that of most people who are from 50 to 20 years her junior. She can be relied on to state the dates of events all through the years of most her life. Her tenacity of life is partly an inheritance, her progenitors having been long-lived, though she has outstripped them all in number of years. Though a woman of strong will, she is of singularly equable temperament, uniform in habits, and has been noted for the sweet spirit of content which has pervaded her whole life. She spends about eight hours in the 24 in bed, sleeping quietly and refreshingly. She was fond of society in earlier years, and was a delighted listener to the conversation of others. She has never had an illness in her life, and has never taken more than half a dozen doses of medicine. June 23, 1884, a large party of the people of Morrison, Mt. Pleasant and Union Grove Townships, gathered to celebrate the year in which she reached the age of 100. Among the numbers of visitors, aggregating about 200 persons, 11 States were represented. She received her guests in the calm dignity which characterizes her, and those who were of the company remember the occasion as one of solemn interest. To those who meet her she seems a creature of some other world. The portrait of Mrs. Vennum, which is presented on a preceding page, was taken on the day referred to at her home. She wrote the autograph which appears below it in 1871.