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Bureau,Marshall,Putnam Biographical Records 1896 > Orris S. Phelps


Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois
Originally published 1896
S. J. Clarke Pub. Co., Chicago, IL
Reproduced on CD purchased from OLD GLORY ACCENTS

Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin
Tampico Area Historical Society

Pages 146-151


Orris S. Phelps. One need not carry his investigations far into the history of Bureau county before he finds that this gentleman has long been a representative of its interests. The years that form a half century have come and gone and another decade has been added to these since he took up his residence in this section of the state. Widely known, his career cannot fail to prove of interest to many, and his life record contains valuable lessons and demonstrates what can be accomplished through perseverance, keen foresight and careful management. Genuine success is not likely to be the result of mere chance or furtune, but is something to be labored for and sought out with consecutive effort, and thus it is that Mr. Pehlps has won a place among the substantial citizens of Bureau county.

Numbered among the sons of the Green Mountain state, he was born in Middlebury, Vermont, May 3, 1817, and comes of a family of English origin that was founded on American soil in Massachusetts. The grandfather, Nathaniel Phelps, was there born, and during the Revolutionary war he served the American army as a blacksmith. The father of our subject, Burnham Phelps, was born in the bay state, also learned the blacksmith's trade, and for some time conducted a smithy at Middlebury, Vermont. He there wedded Mary Hooker, a native of that state, and subsequently returned to Massachusetts, following his chosen vocation in Northampton until 1838. In 1839, he located on a farm in Dover township, and his remaining days were spent in Bureau county, Illinois. His death occurred at the home of is son-in-law, Franklin Hope, in Westfield township. In the family were two sons and three daughters, all of whom reached mature years, but O. S., and Christopher C., now a farmer in Selby township, Bureau county are the only  ones living. Lovisa died in 1841, Lucy S. became the wife of Franklin Hope, and after her death her sister Diantha married Mr. Hope, but she is also now deceased.

Mr. Phelps of this review spent the greater part of his youth in Massachusetts, but since 1838 has been a resident of Bureau county, and is now numbered among its honored pioneers. The first summer after his arrival he worked by the month as a farm hand, and then purchased eighty acres of prairie land in Dover township and also ten acres of timber land. Of this property only twenty acres had been broken, while the building improvements consisted of a small one story house, fourteen by twnety feet. In the spring of 1839, Mr. Phelps took up his residence there and for several years afterward experienced the usual hardships and privations of pioneer life. He had to haul his wheat to Chicago, where it sold for only forty-four cents per bushel, and it usually required ten or twelve days to make the trip with ox teams. After living on his first farm for nine years, Mr. Phelps sold and rented land for a year. He then bought one hundred and sixty acres in Westfiled township, Bureau county, erected theron a substantial residence and two good barns and made other excellent improvements. He also purchased forty acres more in the same township and onehundred and fifty-six acres adjoining in Hall township, thus adding to his property until he owned 340 acres. Mr. Phelps began life in Illinois a poor man, his cash capital consisting of thirty-five dollars, but he had a resolute heart and willing hands. Success follows earnest labor, perseverance and careful management, and these qualitiesare numbered among his chief characteristics. He has become the owner of a valuable farm and a good home in Princeton, which stand as monuments to his former toil. In 1872 he rented his land and purchasing a comfortable home in the city, centrally located, he has since lived retired, enjoying a rest which he richly merits.

An important event in the life of Mr. Phelps occurred in Bureau county, January 31, 1850, when he wedded Mary Ann Hills, who was born in Rockingham county, New Hampshire, November 15, 1820. Her father, Josiah Hills, was a native of New Hampshire, but her grandfather, who also bore the name of Josiah, was born in England. Mrs. Phelps was reared in her native county, and came to Bureau county in 1849. She has been to her husband a most faithful companion and helpmate, ably caring for the home, while he operated the farm, and now, after forty-six years of happy wedded life, they are still traveling together on that journey which leads to the land beyond. They have no children of their own, but have reared two, George and Sarah Ledora. The latter was reared in Princeton, and after attending its public schools was a student in the collage at Ithaca, New York, and in the Iowa City State university. She afterward successfully engaged in teaching for a number of years, but is now  the wife of Hans Frederick Rhode, a lawyer of Chicago. With her children she made a trip to Europe and spent some time in visiting England.

Since the formation of the party in 1856, Mr. Phelps has been a stanch republican, and although he has never been an aspirant for office, he has several times been called to positions of honor and trust. He is a warm friend of the cause of temperance and deeply interested in all that pertains to the best devlopment of the county. For many years both he and his wife have been consistent members and active workers in the First Baptist church of Princeton. Throughout Bureau county they are widely known and their circle of friends is limited only by the number of their acquaintances, for their lives have been so spent that all who know them have for them the most sincere regard.




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