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BONHAM, Henson D.

Henson D. BONHAM is a representative of one of the pioneer families of Marshall county and is one of the leading farmers of the county. His residence is on section 36, Whitefield township, while his farm, consisting of two hundred and ten acres, lies on both sections 35 and 36. He is a native of Pickaway county, Ohio, born June 30, 1831. His father, Captain Warford BONHAM, was born in Maryland, near the Potomac river, while his mother, Rebecca (MASON) BONHAM, was a native of New Jersey. At the age of twenty years his father removed to Ohio from Washington county, Pennsylvania, and his mother from her native home at the age of eighteen years. In that new country they became acquainted and were married in Ross county. For ten years he worked for one man in a still, finally purchasing it, and also ran a hotel on the main pike road, which was the regular stopping place for the stage coaches.

Shortly after the commencement of hostilities between this country and Great Britain in 1812 Warford BONHAM raised a company and served until the close of the war, with the rank of captain. Returning home, he remained in Ross county until about 1824, when he removed with his family to Pickaway county, where they resided for about ten years. At that time there was considerable emigration to Illinois, and he determined to try his fortunes in that new country. On coming to this state they first made their home in Tazewell county, where they remained one winter, but, not liking the location, in April, 1835, the captain removed with his family to Marshall county and entered a tract of government land in Whitefield township, which now comprises a part of the farm on which our subject now resides. This land was secured at the government price of one dollar and a quarter per acre.

At the time of his removal here Captain BONHAM had about eighteen hundred dollars in money, together with a good supply of stock. The family consisted of father, mother and nine children, among them being two married daughters with their husbands – James TANQUARY and John S. HOSKINS. The latter settled on land adjoining, in Steuben township. James TANQUARY was the father of Cornelius and Addison TANQUARY, who are now prominent citizens of Steuben township.

On the farm on which he originally settled in Whitefield township, Captain BONHAM spent the remainder of his life, passing peacefully away July 23, 1869, at the rig age of eighty-eight years. His remains were interred in the family burial ground on the home farm, a plat of ground set off by himself for that purpose. There his wife, who died February 17, 1858, at the age of sixty-eight years, was also interred, and side by side they lie at rest, waiting the resurrection morn.

The tract of land secured by Captain BONHAM comprised about one thousand acres, which he extensively improved, and as his children went out from the old home he gave them such assistance as seemed best or as they were entitled to. In this way he administered on his own estate, and in a more satisfactory way, the division as made being perfectly satisfactory to every member of the family. Everything was perfectly harmonious, there being no dissatisfaction expressed by any one. The old homestead was given to our subject, with whom he made his home the last years of his life.

In early life Captain BONHAM was politically a whig, the principles of the party being dear to him, and its great leaders – Webster and Clay – revered. A liberty-loving man, when the whig party ceased to exist, he identified himself with the new republican party and voted its ticket and advocated its principles to the end. His interest in political affairs never wavered, and, while never an office seeker, he was duly honored by his fellow citizens in a number of local offices. For about twenty years he was justice of the peace and was well known throughout the county as Squire Warford BONHAM.

While he was a self-educated man, having had little opportunity for an education, either in public or private schools, he was a great student and well versed in general history and current events of the day. He was very fond of good reading, especially of a theological nature, and was well versed in the Bible. For many years he was a member of the Christian church, being converted under the preaching of Alexander CAMPBELL. He was never bigoted in church matters, although a warm supporter of the church. The same right to hold and advocate his religious views he was willing to concede to others. In a discussion of  religion or politics he could hold his own with the best. As a republican he was an earnest supporter of Lincoln during the war and was a great admirer of that pure and honest statesman.

Of the children born to Warford and Rebecca BONHAM, George is now residing in Chicago, at the age of eighty-four years; Henson D. is our subject; Mary Ann is now the widow of Henry HOSKINS, and resides in Sparland; Eliza is the widow of John S. HOSKINS, who came to Marshall county with the family, and some years ago removed to Iowa and later to Nebraska; Warford died in June, 1894, and his son, Harrison R., lives on the old farm, which was a part of the original homestead.

Squire BONHAM was a resident of Marshall county for more than a third of a century. He was a well-preserved man, physically and mentally, and had the happy faculty of making friends, which friendship was always maintained. His death was a sad loss to the community, and few persons were more generally mourned as they passed on to the other shore.

Henson D. BONHAM, of whom we now write, was but four years of age when his parents located in Marshall county. On the old farm where he now resides he grew to manhood and faithfully served his parents until after he attained his majority. His education was obtained in the public schools, his attendance being usually limited to the winter months of each year. As he grew to manhood he determined to follow as his life work the calling of his father, that of a farmer, and to that end bent all his energies, so that when called upon to leave the parental home he would be fully equipped for the battle of life.

On the 14th of October, 1852, Mr. BONHAM and Miss Luana SWIFT were united in marriage. Six children came to bless their union – Alice R., at home; Roscoe LeRoy, an employee of the Great Northern railroad at St. Paul, Minnesota; Millard Fillmore, who was a storekeeper for the Iron Range railroad, and died February 11, 1893, at Two Harbor, Minnesota; Carrie M., wife of Frank E. DUNCAN, of Des Moines, Iowa; Emily N., book-keeper and stenographer in the office of F. E. DUNCAN, at Des Moines; and Lillie, who died at the age of eight months. Each of the children have received liberal educations and have been well equipped for life. For four years, or from the time he was seventeen until he was twenty-one years of age, Millard was engaged in teaching in the public schools. He then entered railroad employ and was so engaged at the time of his death.

Immediately after his marriage Mr. BONHAM commenced farming on his own responsibility. In due time his father let him have one hundred and sixty acres of the old homestead, on which he has continued to reside. From the other heirs he purchased fifty acres, giving him a nice farm of two hundred and ten acres. This he has ever kept under a good state of cultivation and his improvements have kept pace with the times.

Politically Mr. BONHAM is a stanch republican, the principles of the party being born and bred in the bone. He has never sought office, but has shown his interest in the party by attending the primaries and local conventions and serving on township committees. For thirty years he has been an Odd Fellow and has passed all the chairs in both subordinate lodge and encampment. He has served the local bodies as a delegate to the Grand lodge and grand encampment. He is now chief patriarch of the encampment at Sparland. A strong temperance advocate, he is decidedly in favor of the total annihilation of the liquor traffic. An almost life long resident of the county, having spent some sixty-one years within its borders, he is well and favorably known throughout its length and breadth.

Extracted April 2011 by Norma Hass from The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois, 1896.

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