Chauncey E. Washburn – In the pioneer epoch in the history of this section of Illinois, Chauncey E. Washburn came to Henry County, and has been an important factor in its substantial development and permanent improvement.  He  has seen its wild lands transformed into fine farms, while industrial and commercial interests have been introduced.  In the work of progress he has borne his part and has been particularly active as a representative of the agricultural interests of the community.  He is today the owner of three hundred and twenty acres of land on section 2, Western Township, where he makes his home.
Mr. Washburn was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, May 17, 1834, and on the 16th of May, 1837, was brought to this county by his parents, Abisha and Isabella (Clapp) Washburn.  The former was a native of Vermont, the latter of Connecticut, and their marriage was celebrated in Springfield, Massachusetts, where the father worked as a mechanic in the armory until coming west. The journey was made by way of the Connecticut River, Long Island sound, the Erie Canal, and the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Hampton, Illinois.  His destination was Henry County, which his brother, Nathan Washburn, had helped to survey the years previous.  He purchased eighty acres of land in what is now Colona Township, but the first season spent here he engaged in farming upon rented land, while the family lived in a little old outbuilding about ten feet square through the summer.  In the meantime, a good log house was built upon the land, and he began to break and improve his place, adding to it another eighty-acre tract.  Later he purchased more land and erected a good set of frame buildings, making it his home until his death, August 31, 1873.  He was the first supervisor of Colona Township, and was active in establishing its schools.  In politics he was always a Democrat.

Amid pioneer scenes in this county Chaucey E. Washburn grew to manhood.  His first lessons were taught by his mother and for a time he attended the district schools; but he is mostly self-educated, as the country afforded but limited educational privileges during his boyhood.  He assisted his father in the arduous task of breaking the land and converting the wild tract into a highly cultivated farm.  After reaching manhood his father gave him one hundred and sixty acres of land in Western Township, only about twenty-five acres of which had been broken.  A year or two later he sold that place and bought one hundred and sixty acreswhere he now resides, of which one hundred acres had previously been broken and a small house erected thereon.  To is further improvement and cultiv-  ation he has since devoted his energies, and has added to it an adjoining quarter-section, making a good farm of three hundred and ten acres in Colona Township.  When a young man he engaged in break8ing prairie two seasons with a team of five yoke of cattle, breaking as high as five acres in one day, and has ever taken a very active part in the development of the county.

March 28, 1858, in Colona Township, Henry County, Mr. Washburn was united in marriage with Miss Emily Piatt, who was born April 5, 1833, near Covington, Indiana, and came to Illinois in childhood with her father Joshua Piatt, locating south of Cambridge, where he opened up and improved a farm.  By this union were born the following children: Ida,wife of Robert McLeese, a farmer of Western Township; Lettie, wife of William Durmann, a farmer of Colona Township; George, a substantial farmer of Western Township; Otis, a teacher of typewriting and shorthand in Chicago; Edward, a farmer of Colona Township; Jane and Emma, both at home.  The wife and mother, who was an earnest and consistent member of the United Brethren Church, passed away April 20, 1895, leaving many friends as well as her immediate family to mourn her loss.
In his political views Mr. Washburn is a Jacksonian Democrat and cast his first presidential vote for James Buchanan in 1856, though he supported General Grant in 1872.  He has for the long period of twenty years efficiently served as school director, having done much to build new school houses.  For over sixty-three years he has now been identified with the interests of Henry County, and has witnessed almost its entire growth and development.  He has seen great prairie fires sweep over the country, where now are waving fields of grain.  When he first located here, deer, turkey and other wild game was found in abundance, and furnished many a meal for the early settlers.  Swamps have been drained and converted into highly cultivated fields; railroads, telegraphs and telephones have been introduced; and now all of the conveniences and comforts of an advanced civilization can here be found. 

Mr. Washburn can relate many interesting incidents of pioneer days, and wrote a very able article on frontier life which was published in the papers of the county and was read with interest by all the old settlers.  With his two sons, he introduced between their homes the first telephones in his section, getting at first much ridicule from his neighbors.  As others saw the convenience, more phones were added, the lines extending to Orion, and now hardly a land owner in the western part of the county is without one. 

Transcribed by Denise Border


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