10 Nov 2006
Source: Portrait & Biographical Album of Whiteside County, IL
Originally published 1885 Chapman Bros., Chicago, IL
Transcribed by: Becky Jones
Wooster Y. Ives, of Fulton, one of the earliest pioneers of Whiteside county and a noted hunter of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, was born in Meriden, Conn., July 8, 1810, and is the son of Watrous and Polly (Yale) Ives.
He was brought up in his native State and began business as a peddler of Yankee clocks and notions. In the spring of 1836 he made an unsuccessful attempt to come west via the Great Lakes. He was shipwrecked on Lake Erie and returned to the East. In the spring of 1837 he came to Whiteside Co., Ill., and made a claim in the western part of the town of Ustick, where he built the first house in the township. He finally had 600 acres of land.
Mr. Ives sold his farm and since 1868 has made his permanent residence in the city of Fulton.
Mr. Ives, from early boyhood, was passionately fond of the chase, and when 15 years old was an expert with the rifle. He killed the first deer and bear he saw running wild. This occurred before leaving New England. After reaching the Mississippi he found a field worthy of his ambition. Wild deer abounded in this region in those early days, while small game was to be found in abundance. Choice furred animals, such as the otter, beaver and mink, were to be found in considerable numbers along the great river and its tributaries. Mr. Ives could not content himself with the dull routine of the farm while such tempting game was so near at hand. Accordingly, help was hired to cultivate the farm, and during the hunting and trapping season Mr. Ives was killing deer or trapping otter. He ranged the Mississippi and its tributaries, between St. Louis and St. Paul, with marked success. He performed the unusual feat of killing eight deer in four shots in one season. The number of deer killed by him east of the Rocky Mountains aggregated between 900 and 1,000. Wild turkeys and small game were taken in proportion. He fell in with a great Southwestern trapper in an early day, from whom he learned some valuable secrets in relation to trapping, and soon became so proficient in the art that the otter and beaver were almost taken at will. There was one occasion when he took nine otter in one morning from a setting of eleven traps. He has caught upwards of 500 otter, between St. Louis and St. Paul. Mink and the smaller furred animals seldom occupied his attention. While he enjoyed the sport hugely, he made it a source of profit far greater than his labor on the farm would have been. So sure was he of his skill that he would contract loads of deer for delivery on certain days, just as a man now would contract a car load of hogs or cattle from his pens; and he was never known to fail to fill his orders.
In April, 1850, he joined a party of his friends from Fulton and went overland to California. They left Fulton April 9 and reached Hangtown, Cal., Aug. 1, following. On the very day that he reached his destination, his wife died at Fulton, although it was some weeks before he learned the sad news! He undertook working in the mines of California, but the plentiful supply of game about and the good prices paid in that section, soon tempted him to the mountains with his trusty rifle. As his game was principally marketed, he kept a pretty good record of it. During the three years spent in that region he bagged about $400 worth of game a month. The list included about 300 antelope, 125 elk, 5 grizzly bears and a large number of deer of a smaller species. He returned to his home in the spring of 1853, via Panama and New York.
Mr. Ives resumed farming and hunting, in this county, which he continued till the spring of 1862, when, having leased his farm, he accompanied a friend on a trip through Oregon and California. While on their way over the mountains their wagon train was attacked by the Indians, his friend was shot through the arm with an arrow and nearly lost his life from loss of blood. Mr. Ives succeeded in shooting two of the Indians, one of whom he killed; the others retreated. He spent two and a half years traveling in Oregon and California, and returned to his home via Panama and New York.
During his hunting and trapping excursions Mr. Ives has had many exciting adventures and endured many hardships, and several times has barely escaped with his life. The history of his life, properly told, would afford material for an interesting book of itself: our space will only admit of this brief mention. His fame as a most successful hunter is known from the Mississippi to the Pacific. He made his last hunting excursion in 1882, to Northern Wisconsin, when 72 years old, and in the 51st year of his active life as a hunter.
Mr. Ives was first married in Connecticut, Jan. 1, 1837, to Elizabeth Blake, a native of New York City. His second marriage took place, in the same State, Aug. 21, 1853, to Miss Elizabeth Parrish, daughter of John and Polly (Gun) Parrish. Mrs. Ives was born in Litchfield Co., Conn.
In politics he is a Democrat.