William Blair, of Ward's Grove Township, bears the distinction of being the first white male child born within its limits - this important event occurring in the log house which then sheltered the parental family, on the 25th of November, 1839. He has sustained this honor in a most admirable manner, having lived the life of an honest man and a good citizen, and one of which his decendants (sic) need never be ashamed. With the exception of six months spent in crossing the plains to Montana, he has been a continuous resident of this township, and is consequently known to a majority of its people. He owns and operates 150 acres of good land - the home farm lying on section 28 and comprising 138 3/4 acres; the balance lies on section 29.
It may be well before proceeding further to note the parental history of our subject. His father, James Blair, was born in Greene County, Pa., Jan. 23, 1813. Upon reaching man's estate he married Miss Catherine Marsh, who was born in Indiana, in 1817. The paternal grandfather, William Blair, alto a native of Greene County, Pa., when approaching middle life emigrated to Northern Illinois, purchased forty acres of land in this township, this county, and lived upon this until resting from his earthly labors, in 1870, at the age of eighty-three years. The great-grandfather Blair was a native of Ireland, and it is supposed spent his last years in the Keystone State.
On the mother's side of the house Grandfather William Marsh farmed for a number of years in Indiana, then removed to Vermilion County, Ill., where he spent his last days. The father of our subject remained in his native State until a young man twenty-two years old, then emigrated first to Bureau County, Ill., and from there a year later, in 1838, to this county. He employed himself in various places at whatever he could find to do, chopping in Ward's Grove and making rails, having made the first rail that was ever made in this township. In 1837 he took up a Government claim, on section 28, in Ward's Grove - this being some of the first land taken - and kept bachelor's hall in a cabin until the winter of 1837. He put up a log house, and carried on the improvement of his farm successfully, later adding to his first purchase until he became the owner of 300 acres. He was also at the same time considerably interested in mining. In 1877 he sold out and retired from active labor. He is still living, and makes his home with his son in this county. He was a man of decided views, and voted the straight Democratic ticket. The mother, who was a member of the Christian Church, died in 1879, at the age of sixty-two years.
To the parents of our subject there were born eleven children, eight of whom lived to mature years: Margaret, the elder of the latter, died at her home in Missouri, about 1871; William, of our sketch, is therefore the eldest one living; Jesse M. died in 1875; Deborah is a resident of Iowa; Mary A. lives in Berreman Township; Rhoda E. is a resident of Ward's Grove Township, as is also James H.; Emma E. makes her home in Greene County, Iowa.
Mr. Blair has occupied his present homestead a period of twenty-seven years, living during this time under the same roof. His early education was acquired in the log school-house, where he improved his time, taking kindly to his books. Afterward he became the efficient assistant of his father on the farm, but attended school during the winter season considerably, until reaching his majority. He then rented the old place, and in 1862 purchased forty-two acres of his present farm, upon which he at once began improvement. He rented this in 1866, and in the spring of that year started across the plains with a drove of cattle to Montana. He sojourned for a time in Helena, returning in the fall of that year to Sioux City, by boat, and by land to Denison, Iowa, and from there home. He now resumed farming, and purchased 150 acres, which he cleared, and broke the remaining fifteen acres, which was not under the plow. He has about nine acres of timber, and an abundance of living water. In 1879 he put up the present residence, a neat and commodious structure, which with its surroundings forms a very pleasant home. His other buildings are convenient and in good order. He carries on general farming, and raises graded Short-horn cattle, keeps about eight head of horses, and a herd of swine.
On the 12th of January, 1862, our subject took unto himself a wife and helpmate, Miss Nancy M. Tyrrell, the wedding taking place at the home of the bride in Ward's Grove Township. Mrs. Blair was born March 2, 1844, in Vermont, and is the daughter of Alden and Lucy (Ellis) Tyrrell, who were also natives of the Green Mountain State. The father was a farmer and miller combined, and emigrated to this county in 1846. He purchased eighty acres of land in Ward's Grove Township, where he engaged in farming, and worked in a grist-mill. His death took place in 1852, when he was about forty-two years old. The mother is still living, and has now reached her seventy-fifth year. She is a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Ten children comprised the household circle of the parents of our subject, only five of whom lived to mature years: Mary E. is a resident of Shelby County, Iowa; Sarah A. lives in Buchanan County, Iowa; Nancy M. (Mrs. Blair) was the third child of the family; Thomas A. died in 1889, in Nebraska; James L. is a resident of Stockton, this State. Mrs. Nancy M. Blair was born March 2, 1844, and was but two years of age when her parents came to this county. She acquired a common-school education in Ward's Grove Township, and remained under the home roof until her marriage. This union has resulted in the birth of nine children, the eldest of whom, James A., owns 160 acres of land in Cheyenne County, Kan., and is living there; Lucy C. is the wife of Miles Tyrrell, a farmer of Cummings County, Neb.; they have two children - Lloyd W. and Cora M.; Nancy A. is the wife of William Gillett, of Ward's Grove Township; William O., Lillian V., Hiram O., Rosa M., George W., and Nillie L. are at home with their parents. Mr. Blair, politically, votes the straight Democratic ticket, and has served as a member of the Grand and Petit Juries. He has been a School Director in his district for a period of seven years; has also served as Commissioner of Highways and Justice of the Peace. He, however, cares very little for the honors of office. Socially, he belongs to the Masonic Lodge at Plum River, and the Royal Arch Masons of Lena. Both he and his estimable wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Morseville, in which Mr. B. is a Trustee, and also officiates as Class-Leader and Steward. The fact that a man is well spoken of by his neighbors, and all who know him, is sufficient indication of his good character.
Source: Portrait & Biographical Album of Jo Daviess Co., IL (1889)