Major William Vincent



There are few men wider or more favorably known throughout Jo Daviess County than the gentleman with whose name we preface this biographical outline. In the first place he is one of the oldest settlers of this region, and he proved of just such material as was most needed in assisting to develop a new country. He still maintains his residence on the land which he took up from the Government, in 1837, and which is located on section 26, in East Galena Township. For a time after coming here he operated as a renter in another part of the township. He first secured 320 acres, which is still in the family, and owns fifty-eight acres in one place, and eighty acres of the original homestead. He first looked upon the present site of Galena June 3, 1837.

The county of Cornwall, England, was the native place of Maj. Vincent, and the date of his birth Jan. 19, 1826. He lived there with his parents until early in the summer of 1837, when they crossed the Atlantic, embarking at Falmouth, and landing in New York City after a voyage of five weeks. From the great metropolis they proceeded via Buffalo and the lakes to Cleveland, Ohio, went from there to Cincinnati, and through Cairo up the Mississippi River to this county.

The parents of our subject were Henry and Sarah (Mitchell) Vincent, who were of excellent English ancestry, and the father in his native England was a farmer. After the birth of a part of their family they decided to seek the New World in hopes of bettering their condition. After locating in Galena the father, while still prosecuting farming, also engaged in mining. After a time he crossed the plains to California, whence he never returned, dying there in 1851, when about the age of three-score years and ten. The mother survived her husband a number of years, passing away about 1866, at about the same age of her husband when he died.

Sixteen children comprised the household circle of Henry and Sarah Vincent, the four youngest of whom were born in this county. Twelve of them lived to mature years, and seven are now living. The twelve were all married, and those surviving are residents of Illinois and Iowa. The parents were active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. William was the fifth child of the family, and grew up with a limited education, at the same time being trained to those habits of industry which formed the basis of a worth and manly character. When ready to establish a home of his own he was married, in Galena, Ill., Dec. 29, 1847, to Miss Eliza Bray. This lady, also a native of Cornwall County, England, was born March 1, 1826, and is the daughter of Thomas and Phillipa (Smith) Bray, natives of the same country. They were reared and married in their native county, where the father carried on mining and farming until after the birth of three children, of whom Mrs. Vincent was the eldest. The father then determined to seek his fortune on the other side of the Atlantic, and in March, 1836, they engaged passage, at Falmouth, England, on a sailing-vessel bound for New York City. From that point they followed the route over which the Vincent family had journeyed, and arrived in this county on the 10th of June, that year. Mr. Bray occupied himself as a miner the first year of his residence here, in the meantime purchasing land in La Fayette (sic) County, Wis. To this they removed in 1837, and there the parents spent the remainder of their lives; the father dying in 1872, at the age of seventy-six, and the mother two years later, at the same age, being two years younger than her husband. She was the sister of Dr. Smith, a prominent clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church of England, and who furnished the money to assist his father-in-law, Mr. Bickford, in perfecting his invention – the safety fuel – now used all over the world by miners in blasting. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bray were devoted members of the Methodist Church.

Mrs. Vincent was a child ten years of age when she came with her parents to America, and she lived with them until her marriage. Eighteen months after the birth of their first child the Major and his wife, in company with others, started on the 3rd of April, 1851, for California. They landed in Placerville, Aug. 20, and for some time thereafter sojourned at Weberville, where the Major engaged in mining, reciving (sic) therefor a liberal salary. Later they instituted a boarding-house, accommodating forty guests at $10 per week each. Mrs. Vincent, with the assistance of her husband, performed the cooking for this large family. After some six months thus occupied they returned, in 1852, to this county. The homeward journey was made via the Isthumus and New Orleans, and up the Mississippi to Galena.

Since that time Maj. Vincent has given his attention almost exclusively to farming pursuits, in which he has been more than ordinarily successful, building up a comfortable homestead, and laying by something for a rainy day. The household circle was completed by the birth of seven children. The eldest born, Henry, died after their return from California, at the age of four years; and one little daughter, Eliza, was taken away at the age of three. Their daughter, Emily, is the wife of W. H. Pascoe, of Cuba City, Wis., where Mr. P. is engaged in the mercantile business. Milton deals in agricultural implements at Galena; Minnie is the wife of Thomas Chappell, a farmer of Rockwell Township, Cerro Gordo Co., Iowa; Anna is the wife of Robert Bratton, a merchant of Cuba City, Wis.; William, Jr. remains at home, as assists his father in operating the farm. Both he and his brother Milton own land in Scott County, Kan. Parents and children are all members of the Methodist Church. Father and sons uniformly vote the Republican ticket. The Major has held various local offices, serving as Assessor, Collector, and Road Commissioner, and representing his township in the County Board of Supervisors.

The title which our subject bears was earned fairly and honorably by his services as a Union soldier during the late Civil War. In August, 1862, he enlisted in Company A, 96th Illinois Infantry, under command of Capt. George Hicks, now of Shooter’s Hill, Jamaica, West Indies. The regiment was commanded by Col. Champion, now deceased. Soon after the organization of the company Private Vincent was elected First Lieutenant, and went with his regiment to the front at Harrisburg, Ky. Thence they were sent to Danville, Ky., where he was on provost duty for some time. Later the regiment was sent to Louisville and Nashville, where our subject was assigned to picket-duty. Not long afterward, at Franklin, Tenn., he had his first "brush" with the enemy, after which his regiment continued its migrations until reaching the vicinity of Chickamauga, on the 20th of September, 1863. In the conflict at that point Lieut. Vincent was wounded by a shot through the left knee, and was confined in the hospital and at home four months. On that day likewise Lieut.-Col. Clark was killed, and our subject was given a Captain’s commission, bearing that date. The 96th lost very heavily at Chickamauga. As soon as able, Capt. Vincent assumed charge of his command, and soon afterward joined the army of Gen. Sherman in the Atlanta campaign. During the three months which followed there was not a day in which they did not meet the rebels in a general fight or skirmish. They were at New Hope Church, Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, Marietta, Jonesboro, and other important points. Capt. Vincent escaped further injury, although seeing and being in the midst of some hard fighting. In the meantime he received the brevet of Major, and held the commission for meritorious conduct during the war. At the close of the war he recived (sic) his honorable discharge June 10, 1865. Not long afterward he returned to the peaceful pursuits of farm life, which he has since contentedly followed. In politics he is a stanch Republican.