Biography - Thomas Utley

THOMAS J. UTLEY, a highly respected farmer of Johnson County, residing on section 19, Vienna Township, was born in Kentucky, November 8, 1836, the third child of Gabriel and Elizabeth (Miller) Utley. His paternal grandfather was Merrill Utley, who lived and died in Kentucky. The father of our subject was a native of that State, and was brought up on a farm. He was mainly self-educated, as the schools of his day where he lived were of a very poor class. He lost no opportunity to acquire book learning, and by close application fitted himself for a teacher, and engaged in that vocation a number of terms. He continued for many years to assist his parents, working hard even as a boy, and finally started out into the world to see something of life beyond his old Kentucky home, and went as far as Missouri. Returning to his native State after that venture, he married and settled down there for a time.
In 1849 Gabriel Utley sought to improve his fortunes by migrating to this State and county, where he could procure cheap and very productive land. He took with him his household goods in three wagons, besides his horses, cattle and sheep, and camped and cooked by the way when necessary until the journey was completed. He first located on a quarter of section 18, Vienna Township, which he purchased, building a little log house for a dwelling. The country was but thinly inhabited, churches and schoolhouses were few and far between, and it was, altogether, a rough, wild country. Mr. Utley made the best of his position as a pioneer, however, and went to work with a hearty will to clear his land of the heavy timber standing on it. Many fine trees were thus cut down and rolled together and burned to get rid of them, as there was no market for them. He placed much of his land under the plow, but before he died disposed of it a part at a time. He passed away in 1885, at a venerable age, leaving behind him the record of a hard-working pioneer, who did his full share in developing the county. His wife had preceded him in death eight years before, and they lie side by side in Holt Cemetery.
Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Utley were the parents of eleven children: one that died in infancy; Carrol D., deceased; Thomas J.; Frances, wife of Harris Harrick, who lives near Vienna; William Washington, who is dead; a child that died in infancy; James H., a resident of Belknap; Martin D. and one other deceased; Sarah H., wife of Henry Huckleberry, a farmer of Elvira Township; and Ephraim M., who is dead.
Thomas Utley was a lad of ten years when his parents brought him to their new home in the forest wilds of this county. He made good use of his infrequent chances to attend the subscription schools of his day, which were taught in log houses, that were roughly built, were heated by large fireplaces, which by no means warmed the room evenly, those nearest being too hot and those furthest away too cold, and the only way of lighting the building was through a hole made by the removal of a log, a board being arranged outside to drop over it when it was stormy.
In November, 1857, our subject, who then attained his majority, left the old home to try life for himself. He went a distance of ten miles and hired out to a farmer named Frank Whitemore, for $10 a month. His work was to clear ground for cultivation, an occupation with which he was very familiar from past experience. He remained thus engaged until the following spring, when he returned home and worked some for his father and farmed with him on shares. Wishing to have a home of his own, he took unto himself a wife to preside over it in the person of Miss Rachel A. Wiley, from Ohio. She faithfully shared with him his joys and sorrows until her removal by death, February 12, 1892. Their happy union had been blessed to them by the birth of eleven children, namely: Hannah E., wife of T. N. Foreman, of Belknap; William C., a farmer in Vienna Township; Pembroke D., a resident of Johnson County; Jane Eliza, who lives with a sister in this county; Thomas M., deceased; Edgar H., deceased; Benjamin F., at home; Arthur M., deceased; Anna May, at home; Luetta B., deceased; and Sidney N., at home. Our subject was married to his present estimable wife, formerly Elizabeth C. Emerson, October 20, 1892. She is a native of Union County, of which her parents, who came from North Carolina, were very early settlers, going there in 1822, when there were but few people there. Her mother died in Crawford County, and her father in Montana.
Mr. Utley was actively engaged in farming until 1862, when he laid aside his work to answer his country's call for loyal soldiers, enlisting in Company 1, One Hundred and Twentieth Illinois Infantry. He did his duty manfully at the front, and withstood as long as possible the sickness, brought on by exposure and hardship, that was sapping his life away, and at the end of six months' service, he was discharged, having refused to go to the hospital. Returning home in the spring of 1863, as soon as he was able he resumed his old occupation, renting some land for agricultural purposes in the neighborhood of his present place of residence. He subsequently bought a farm near by, improved it, and selling it in 1881 at a good price, purchased the farm that he now owns and occupies. This was improved when he bought it, and he keeps it in good order, and has a valuable property in its well-tilled fields.
Our subject is a Christian gentleman, whose life is guided by high principles, and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, to which he has belonged since the summer of 1859, finds in him a devoted member, and his wife is also a communicant of that church. He is Superintendent of the Sunday school and takes great interest in its progress, he is likewise prominent in local educational affairs, and holds a position on the Board of School Directors of the township the most the time. He is a man well known in the county, and his many good traits have won him many warm friends.

Extracted 29 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 598-600

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