George W. Dicus – Is not only one of the best known and most popular citizens of Rochelle, but is also one of the heroes of our late war with Spain, having taken an active part in the capture of Puerto Rico. For eight years he has been editor of the Rochelle Register and is now most creditably and satisfactorily serving as postmaster of that place.
Mr. Dicus was born in Marshall County, Illinois, December 18, 1860 and is a son of George W. and Hannah (Lynch) Dicus, natives of Ohio, the former born in 1814, the latter in 1819. The material grandfather, --------- Thompson, served throughout the Revolutionary war as captain of a company from Virginia, and he died in Dayton, Ohio in 1842. The progenitor of the Thompson family in America came from England and settled with the first colony at Jamestown in 1620. The Dicus family, however, is of German origin and was not founded in this country until 1810, when the paternal grandparents of our subject crossed the Atlantic and took up their residence in Ohio, being among the pioneers of that state. Both died during the cholera epidemic of 1818, leaving their son, George W., an orphan at the age of four years. He was adopted by George Goodrich, who in 1826 removed from Ohio to Lacon, Marshall County, Illinois, settling there before that village was established. Our subject’s father was thus reared to manhood amid pioneer scenes in this state and was educated in the schools of Marshall County.
During his youth he returned to Ohio, and in a small town near Columbus he learned the blacksmith’s trace. Having thoroughly mastered the business, he again came to Marshall County, Illinois, at the age of twenty-one and established the first blacksmith shop there. In his early life he was very successful, but after his service he was very successful, but after his service in the Civil war he met with reverses in business. In August 1862, he enlisted in the One Hundred and Fourth Ilinois Volunteer Infantry and served for about two years as regimental blacksmith with the rank of sergeant. He participated in the battles of Missionary Ridge, Chickamauga and other notable engagements and was captured by John Moran, being imprisioned at Montgomery, Alabama, for about three months after which he was sent to Nashville to be exchanged. In the meantime he had suffered a severe attack of brain fever. During his imprisonment all trace of him was lost and his wife, leaving her seven children at home went in search of him, and for about a year served as nurse at Nashville. She was trice married, her first husband being John Riley Russell, a contractor and builder who died of yellow fever at Port Lavaca, Texas in 1853. By that union she had six children, one of whom, John H. Russell was also among the boys in blue during the Rebellion, in which he served for four years and two months. He was a member of the One Hundred and Seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry and was only fifteen years of age at the time he took part in the battle of Chickamauga. Mrs. Dicus is a sister-in-law of Albert Ringe, of Philadelphia, who was for years the president of the Philadelphia Plate Glass Insurance Company, and was one of the capitalists who furnished the means of Dr. Gatling to prosecute the manufacture of his guns. He was at the front for sometime, being with Butler while testing the guns. After the war, the father of our subject resumed blacksmithing at Wenona, where he continued in business for some years, but spent the last eight years of his life in retirement at Streator. He died while on a visit to Ottawa, Illinois, August 20, 1891. His widow is still a resident of Streator. Our subject is the second in order of birth in the family of six children born of their union and all are still living witht the exception of one son who died in childhood.
George W. Dicus of this review, completed his education in the high school of Wenona, Illinois and at the age of fourteen years commenced learning the printer’s trade under Cadet Taylor in the office of Wenona Index though he was still attending school. On leaving there at the age of nineteen, he went to Streator and has since worked on most of the prominent dailies through out the United States. In 1888 he purchased the Milledgeville Free Press and in 1891 bought the Rochelle Register, which he has since successfully published, being one of the ablest representatives of the journalistic profession in this section of the state.
Mr. Dicus has been for years active in editorial association work, being first vice president of the Illinois Press Association for three years past, a member of the State Republican Editorial Association and has been a delegate five times to the National Editorial Association; in 1892 at San Francisco, California; 1894, Asbury Park, New York 1895, St. Augustine, Florida; 1897, Galveston, Texas and 1899, Portland, Oregon.
On the 7th of June 1877, Mr. Dicus enlisted in Company C, Tenth Battalion Illinois Naitonal Guards under command of Colonel Parsons and was later transferred to Company C, Fourth Illinois. After coming to Rochelle, he enlisted in 1892 as second sergeant in Company M, Third Illinois National Guard, subsequently was promoted to first sergeant and November 30, 1895, was elected first lieutenant. He assisted in quelling the riots at Lamont and Chicago and in 1880 the company of which he was then a member carried off the honors at Mobile, Alabama. When the war between Spain and the United States broke out, Mr. Dicus was mustered into the United States service at Springfield, May 7, 1898 as first lieutienant of his company and on the 14th of May proceded until July 22, when the Third Illinois was picked out of the sixty-five regiments to accompany General Brooke to Puerto Rico. They were transported on the auxiliary crusier St. Louis and arrived at Ponce July 29th, 1898 and afterone day spent at that place proceeded to Arroyo, a distance of forty miles,where they landed on the 1st of August under the fire of the guns of the St. Louis, Cincinnati and Gloucester bombarding the town and woods. Capturing the place they occupied it for three days, during which time they took part in a number of skirmishes with the Spaniards. On the 5th of Augsut they advanced on Guayama, captured the town and killed a number of Spaniards without loss to themselves. On the 8th of August they supported the Fourth Ohio regiment in the Cayey mountains, driving the Spaniards out. They were already to engaged in battle on the 13th when the news of peace reached them, but they reamained at Puerto Rico on outpost duty for some time. At the order of General Haines, Lieutenant Dicus planted the flag of truce opposite the Spanish works. On the 11th of May, he was appointed by President McKInley as ordinance officer, having full charge of the equipments, ammunition, etc. With his regiment he sailed November 3rd on the transport Roumania for New York, where they arrived on the 9th, and over the Erie railroad proceeded at once to Chicago. They were mustered out January 17, 1899. Lieutenant Dicus was a gallant officer and brave soldier, who was held in high esteem by his fellow officers and had the confidence and respect of those under him.
While in Springfield, preparing to go to the front, Mr. Dicus was notified of his appointment as postmaster of Rochelle, and was sworn in at Chickamauga Park by Colonel Fred Bennitt. His wife then served as acting postmaster until February 1, 1899 when he assumed the duties of the office, which he has since so efficiently discharged. He was married on the 22nd of June, 1884 to Miss Mary Louise Johnston, who was born in Lancaster Count Pennsylvania. Her father, George W. Johnston, also a native of Pennsylvania, has borne his part in the wars of this country, having served in the navy during the Seminole war and the war with Mexico, and as a member of the One Hundred and Seventy-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil war. He was a cousin of Albert Sidney Johnston, the great Confederate general.
Politically, Mr. Dicus is an ardent supporter of the Republican party and it principles. He is prominent in Masonic circles, being a member of Horicon Lodge, No. 244, F. & A.M.; Rochelle Chapter, No. 158, R.A.M.; Sycamore Commandery, K.T.; Medinah Temple, A.A. O.N.M.S.; and the Eastern Star. He is deservedly popular as he is affable and courteous in manner and possesses that essential qualification to success in public life that of making friends readily and of strengthening the ties of all friendships as time advances.
Transcribed by Denise Border
Biographical Record of Ogle County
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