William Riley, proprietor of the Rock River Heights summer resort, who for many years was one of the prosperous farmers and skillful blacksmiths of Atkinson township, was born in Cornwall township, Henry county, October 4, 1854, a son of James and Sarah Ann (Dunbar) Riley. Both parents were born in Ohio but were brought to Illinois by their respective parents and were married in Bureau county, where they resided for a number of years. Later they came to Cornwall township, Henry county, where the father purchased a farm and made his home until his retirement to Atkinson, where his death occurred November 3, 1905. His widow survives, being now eighty-one years of age.
William Riley received a common school education and was reared to hard work on the farm. On February 27, 1875, he was married in the village of Atkinson to Miss Elizabeth Schwab, who was born in Switzerland, January 20, 1853, a daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth (Maglie) Schwab. She was four years old when brought by her parents to this country, the trip being made on a sailing vessel and consuming forty days. The Schwabs first settled near Kewanee, Illinois, and then went to Annawan, but finally located in Cornwall township, where Mr. Schwab bought two hundred and eighty acres of land, which he improved and made into a fine farm. He came with a brother-in-law and the two assisted one another until both were well established.
After Mr. Riley was married he rented land from his father for several years, then buying eighty acres to which he added an adjoining eighty acres, building upon it a comfortable residence. Having always loved the river, at one time he built a launch and operated it at Joslyn ferry. While traveling back and forth he had seen the possibilities of the land he now owns and operates as a summer resort so that in 1903 he bought it, putting up a log house and the same fall added ten cottages. This resort makes no pretentions toward fashionable life but is used by those desiring to get away from city life and enjoy the pleasures of nature. The camp is beautifully located and commands a magnificent view of the always lovely Rock river. Mr. Riley still owns his farming property having in all two hundred and forty acres as well as three residences and four lots in Atkinson, which is his winter home.
Three children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Riley, namely: Samuel James, who died in infancy; Catherine, who was born in Annawan and who attended the Geneseo Collegiate Institute for two years; and Frank Leonard who died at the age of two years and eight months. The daughter has devoted a good deal of her attention to music and is now an accomplished pianist and vocalist and a most charming young lady.
Mr. Riley is a democrat and while not an office seeker has served as road commissioner in Cornwall township and as school director and alderman of Atkinson, discharging all of the various duties pertaining to these positions with marked fidelity. He is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America and its auxiliary, the Royal Neighbors, and is a genial, whole-souled man who has made friends all his life and never loses one. His camp is a favorite one for fishermen and hunters and those who are once his guests seldom fail to avail themselves of the privilege of coming to the resort again.
History of Henry County
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