Biography - Thomas Rentfro

Thomas J. Rentfro, who is numbered among the farmers whose industry and practical knowledge of farming have so largely contributed to the growth of Johnson County, is comfortably situated on his farm on section 28, Grantsburg Twp.  He was born on the 6 March 1839 in one of the early pioneer homes in that township, a son of William S Rentfro, who was a native of Tennessee.  His father's education was conducted in subscription schools, which he cannot attend very often, however, as his parents were poor.  They came to this State prior to 1840, making the journey by water and were among the first settlers of Grantsburg Twp, locating on a heavily timbered tract of land on section 28, building a crude cabin of logs for a dwelling.  In a short time a better house was built of timber sawed with a whipsaw.  The trees that were not used for lumber or fence-rails were burned to get them out of the way.  The family led a primitive life, subsisting mostly on home products, varied by game, such a as deer and wild turkeys, which were plentiful, and even bears and wolves prowled in the forests, and  a panther was seen occasionally.  There were no schools, churches or mills near, and settlements were few and scattering.  The grandfather of our subject built the first horse-power mill for grinding corn in his neighborhood.
 William Rentfro lived with his parents, helping them in their pioneer task of hewing out a farm from the forest, until he was twenty-one, and then began his independent career, and as an initial step towards the making of a home, selected a wife in the person of Miss Ruth Blanton, who was from Tennessee, where her parents lived and died.  She was a true helpmate in every sense of the word, and walked faithfully by his side until her untimely death parted them in 1866.  He survived her until 1876, continuing on the old place until the last, and thus passed away one who had witnessed much of the growth of the county, and had aided in its development from the wilderness.  His last resting place is on land which was once his own.  He and his good wife reared a family of nine children, namely: Stephen C, a reside of Metropolis; William B., deceased; Hannah B., widow of B. Pyland; F.A., a resident of Grantsburg; Thomas J.; Sarah Jane, deceased; Rufus J., a resident of Texas; Elizabeth, wife of Robert Fitch, who lives on the old home place; and R. Taben, deceased.
 The subject of this biography was educated in subscription schools and was well trained to farm work on the old farm, where he remained, assisting in its cultivation, until he was nearly thirty years old.  He then married Miss Nancy A Howell, a native of Johnson County, her people being among it's early settlers, and to her active co-operation heis much indebted for the prosperity that he enjoys.  They were blessed with the following children: Rutha Jane, deceased; William S., a resident of Johnson County; Joshua A., at home with his parents; Nellie and Donnie, deceased; Sidney B., Charlie, Zell and Lura, at home with their parents.  The children are being given good educations in the public school, which they attend regularly.
While still living with his father, Mr. Rentfro had succeeded in getting some land for himself, and at the time of his marriage, he built a little log cabin upon it, in which he and his bride began life together.  He has improved the place greatly, has the land in a good state of tillage, has put up necessary buildings and the primitive log cabin has given place to a better and more commodious dwelling.  In politics, our subject is a Democrat.  He is faithful in the performance of his duties as a man and a citizen, is a kind neighbor, and is true in his relations as a husband and father.

Extracted from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 159-160.

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