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1900 Whiteside Bios > William A. Van Osdol

A Biographical Record of Whiteside County, IL 1900


(Photo of William A. Van Osdol)

William A. Van Osdol.

When after years of long and earnest labor in some honorable field of business, a man puts aside all cares to spend his remaining years in the enjoyment of the fruits of former toil; it is certainly a well deserved reward of his former industry.

“How blest is he who crowns in shades like these – A youth of labor with an age of ease.”

Wrote the poet, and the world everywhere recognizes the justice of a season of rest following an active period of business life, Mr. Van Osdol is now living retired in Morrison, and his history is one that shows the accomplishment of well-directed labor.

He was born in Ohio County, Indiana, August 17, 1827, a son of John and Nancy (Gibson) Van Osdol, the former a native of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, the latter of West Virginia. The maternal grandfather, James Gibson, was a planter of West Virginia, and form that state removed to Dearborn County, Indiana, in 1813, sailing down the Ohio River on a flatboat. He was one of the pioneers of that county, and upon the land which he took up from the government he spent his remaining days. One of his grandsons now occupies the old homestead. His nephew, William Gibson, son of Robert Gibson, was a soldier of the war of 1812, and participated in the battle of New Orleans. Of his eleven children, Mrs. Van Osdol, mother of our subject, was the fourth in order of birth. Our subject’s paternal grandparents were Benjamin and Rebecca (Reece) Van Osdol, natives of Pennsylvania, where the family was found at an early date in the history of this country. Benjamin Van Osdol and family removed to Indiana in 1820. The grandfather followed carpentering as a life work and died at the age of seventy-five years. In his family were four children who reached years of maturity, namely; John, Nathan, Jane and Polly, all now deceased.

John Van Osdol, father of our subject, was also a carpenter by trade and an excellent farmer. After his marriage he purchased eighty acres of land of his father-in-law, James Gibson; moved on the home farm in 1830. Later he added to it a forty-acre tract, making a farm of one hundred and twenty actress of timberland, which he cleared and improved. Upon that place he died in 1870, at the age of sixty-five years, but his wife is still living on the old homestead in Cass Township, Ohio County, Indiana, and although ninety-two years of age she enjoys good health and is in full possession of her mental faculties. Eleven children were born to them, namely; William, Sarah, Harriet, James, Nathan, Margaret, Catherine, Rachel, Rebecca Jane, Clarissa and Nancy. Of these Sarah, Harriet, Margaret and Catherine are now deceased.

Our subject was educated in the schools of Ohio County, Indiana, paying seventy-five cents a quarter for his tuition, and he well remembers how he hated to attend school when a little lad. When his school days were over he became interested in huckstering, and in that business traveled over a circuit of forty miles. In 1849 he purchased a general store in Aberdeen, Ohio County, which he conducted until coming west in October, 1834. He traveled by way of “Chicago and Rockford, and from the latter place walked to Sterling, looking over the land in search of a suitable location. He bought one hundred and sixty acres of land in Hopkins Township, Whiteside County, for which he paid three dollars per acre, and then returned to Indiana. He sold his store in 1855 and in February, 1856, again came to this County in company with his cousin, James Kittle, making the journey with a sled and farm horses. On arriving here he unloaded his movable goods and returned for his family, which then consisted of his wife and one child. His fist home was a rude shanty, 12X16 feet, in which they lived for a number of months, and it was then replaced by a more commodious and substantial residence. In early days the neighbors were so scarce and the country so unsettled that when he was handling the first load of lumber, with which to build a shanty, he unloaded it about forty rods from his own tract.

On the 19th of November, 1850, Mr. Van Osdol married Miss Rebecca Turner, a native of Pennsylvania, and a daughter of Robert Turner, a farmer of Dearborn County, Indiana. She was the sixth in order of birth in a family of eight children, of whom only one is now living. She died February 5, 1885, and was laid to rest in the Morrison cemetery. Six children were born of that union, namely: John died at the age of fifteen years; Sarah died at the age of five months; Sylvanus, who is now employed in the post office at Helena, Montana, married Margaret Cole and they have four children: Ida M. is the wife of C. M. Fleming, a farmer of Dickinson County, Iowa, married Tillie Hannawalt; and Frank is paying teller in the First National Bank of Morrison.

Mr. Van Osdol was again married November 15, 1886, his second union being with Mrs. Isabella (McArthur) Morrison, widow of John Morrison, of Scotland. She was born in Argleshire, Scotland, February 18, 1850, a daughter of John and Catherine (Campbell) McArthur, both natives of the highlands of Scotland. The father followed the sea for over forty years, was captain of a vessel and was one of the best navigators sailing from Clyde. He is now living retired with his wife in Glasgow, Scotland. During the World’s Fair, in 1893, they came to America, sailing from the river Clyde, and lived for three years with our subject and wife, and then returned to his native land, as he could not become accustomed to this country.  Of his eight children four are still living: Mrs. Catherine Hayes, of Glasgow, Scotland; Mrs. Joan Holeman, of Eagle Grove, Iowa; Isabella, wife of our subject, and Mrs. Mary Neil, of New South Wales, Australia. After her first marriage, Mrs. Van Osdol came with her husband to America and located in Chicago before the great fire in October, 1871, had ceased burning. Mr. Morrison was a confectioner and baker by trade, and followed those occupations both in Scotland and in this country. By her first marriage Mrs. Van Osdol had four children who are still living: Catherine is the wife of Dr. Arthur McGugan, who is a member of the medical staff of the asylum at Kalamazoo, Michigan, and has charge of the female department; John married Lydia Kennedy, and is engaged in the butcher business in Morrison, Illinois; Mary is the wife of W. R. Marsh, a merchant of Manson, Iowa, and Isabella Is the wife of Edward McFadden, a miner of Bisbee, Arizona. By his second marriage Mr. Van Osdol has had two children: Arthur Stuart, who is now attending school in Morrison; and marguerite, who died at the age of five years, five months, and twenty-six days, and was buried in the Morrison cemetery.

While residing on his farm Mr. Van Osdol gave particular attention to stock raising and brought the first Poland-China hogs into Whiteside County. He kept from fifty to two hundred sheep upon his place, and also fed cattle and hogs for market, shipping annually two or three carloads of cattle and about the same amount of hogs. For twenty years he was a breeder of short horn cattle, and had the finest herd of the same in his locality. He exhibited his stock at the first fair held in Whiteside County, and up to within a few years ago some of his stock was on exhibition at the fairs in Sterling and Morrison for forty consecutive years. To his original farm of one hundred and sixty acres he added until he has three hundred and eighty-five acres in Hopkins Township under a high state of cultivation and well improved. He also has one hundred and sixty acres of land in South Dakota. In 1861 Mr. Van Osdol sold a carload of corn in Chicago for twenty cents per bushel, costing him, however, ten cents per bushel to market it, but kept the remainder of his crop until 1864, when he was able to sell it in the city of Sterling for one dollar and twenty cents per bushel. He still has the receipts of this sale. In November, 1892, he removed to Morrison, and has since lived retired from active labor, enjoying a well-earned rest.

Politically Mr. Van Osdol has been a life-long Democrat, and was the first to vote that ticket in Hopkins Township. One night, in 1860, while going along the road, he saw a light in the school house, and on entering found two Republican speakers with no audience but himself, and he was a stanch Democrat. Fraternally he is a member of Dunlap lodge, No. 321, F & A. M., of Morrison, while his estimable wife holds membership in the Presbyterian Church. In November, 1886, they sailed for Scotland, and remained abroad until the following March, visiting Mrs. Van Osdol’s parents, and many points of interest in both Scotland and England. They are well known and highly respected and have a host of warm friends in Whiteside County who esteem them highly for their sterling wroth and many excellencies of character.




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