1836: Sylvester Blish to Wait Talcott

Sylvester Blish

Sylvester Blish of Eastbury [now East Glastonbury], Hartford County, Connecticut, writes to his nephew, Wait Talcott, in Horseheads, Tioga County, New York. At the time this letter was written in December 1836, Col. Sylvester Blish (1790-1855) was wintering at his home in Connecticut after spending several months the previous summer buying up government land in western Illinois not far from the mouth of the Rock River. He and two other agents of the “Connecticut Association” purchased over 15,000 acres of land in Henry County before returning East.

Wait Talcott (1807-1890) was the son of Capt. William Talcott and Dorothy Blish, the sister of Sylvester Blish.  William Talcott had taken his family from Connecticut to Rome, New York, and then to Horseheads, in Tioga County, New York, before eventually settling in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois.  At the time of this letter in December 1836, Wait Talcott was married and employed as a merchant in Horseheads. He would close his business and join other members of his family in Rockton, Illinois, in the fall of 1838.


Stampless Cover


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Eastbury [Connecticut], December 26, 1836

Affectionate Nephew [Wait Talcott],

Your letter of the 2d Instant came to hand today & was received with much pleasure. We have not heard from any of you since August by your brother William’s [letter and] the reason I suppose is because I did not answer his letter. We are glad to hear that your mother [Dorothy Blish Talcott] has again regained her health. I had some doubt when I saw her at Rime [New York] how it would turn with her but was confident it would not answer for her to remain at Clinton [New York].

As for our family (through the kind mercy of Him who protects all her subjects in his on richeous way) are in comfortable health. William & George [are] at home. Thomas [is] employed in teaching school. Charles & Prudence [are] at Middletown [Connecticut] at school for the winter. Prudence has spent most of her time there for a year. Thomas has been sick for a week but we hope he is on the gain. William expects to go to his school on Monday & remain until he can resume it himself.

There is nothing new taken here of late that I recollect except Capt. Hale was married in November last. I have not heard from your father or your brother since my return from the West though they promised to write before this. I should have written to your father but thought likely he might return before it should reach him. I wish he would write to me soon after he returns from the West as I should like to hear what the state of things are there.

To tell you what my present object is, it is to start for the West next spring with my whole family though I have not yet sold or bargined positively with any one yet, but some expect to sell [all] to one man. If I should not succeed in that, I think I shall sell off my timber, which will sell for as much as I ask for the whole. There is nothing more that I [can] think of at present.

Mother’s health the last we heard was much as usual in the cold season. She is at Middletown [Connecticut and] has not spent a week with us since my return. Your Uncle Cheney’s family are well & all the friends as far as I know. Tell your Father that the Eastern speculation is not likely to prove successful. Capt. Moseley is searching around considerable sharp I am told though there is not much said. Champion Hutchinson there is but little said about. A year ago [he] was making money hand over fist. He has not been home this season to my knowledge. His father went West this fall & returned but nothing said.

William’s wife has a son three weeks old [named Charles Sylvester Blish, born 5 December 1836] & is in favorable circumstances. Please give our love to your mother & wife & sisters.

From your uncle, — Sylvester Blish


Biography of Colonel Sylvester Blish

SOURCE: Henry L. Kiner, History of Henry County Illinois, Volume II, Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co, 1910

No history of Henry county [Ilinois] would be complete without extended reference to the Blish family, which was founded in this part of the state by Colonel Sylvester Blish in the year 1836. He was a son of Deacon Thomas and Prudence (Hubbard) Blish and was born at Glastonbury, Connecticut, December 31, 1790. The Blish genealogy published in 1904 says:

“Sylvester Blish was a very active and energetic man. He had the fiery and impetuous temperament of his mother, combined with the determination of his father. He was public spirited and active in politics, holding many public offices in Connecticut. He was lister in Glastonbury in 1815, 1817 and 1818; was tithingman 1817, 1819 and 1826; was surveyor of highways in 1820, 1821, 1823, 1824, 1825 and 1827; was on board the relief in 1822 and 1823; was collector of taxes in 1825; was grand juryman in 1828 and 1829; was town agent and fence-viewer in 1830; selectman in 1832 and 1833; and a member of the Connecticut general assembly in 1835.

“He was also prominent in military matters and rose through gradual promotions until he was colonel in the Connecticut militia for several years before he left Connecticut in 1836. He was one of the administrators of the estate of his brother Aaron Hubbard Blish, and also administered upon the estate of his father.

“In 1835 a rumor was spread through Connecticut and Massachusetts that the Catholics were colonizing the fertile Mississippi valley with the intention of founding a Catholic hierarchy there, and a movement was inaugurated with the object of sending out Protestant colonies and settlements to counteract the Catholic movement A stock company was organized in Wethersfield, Connecticut, for this purpose, the Rev. Caleb Tenney, of Wethersfield, and the Rev. Gardner Spring of New York being among the leaders of the enterprise. Colonel Blish joined the Wethersfield company, which was called ‘The Connecticut Association’. A fund raised and in 1836 Colonel Sylvester Blish, Elizur Goodrich and Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury were chosen to proceed west and purchase lands. Mr. Pillsbury was not a member of the association, but had been in the west the preceding year in the interest of another similar association, so that his experience was valuable. Elizur Goodrich was a surveyor. They came to Illinois a trip that was not without considerable hardship at that time. Mr. Goodrich became discouraged by the vastness and seeming endlessness of the prairies, but Colonel Blish, encouraged by the zeal and hopefulness of Mr. Pillsbury, pushed the work to a completion.

“They selected and entered over fifteen thousand acres of land in Henry county, Illinois, and returned to Connecticut. Colonel Blish was so impressed with the fertility of the soil in Illinois and the future possibilities of the country that he determined to make his home there. He sold his lands in Connecticut and in the spring of 1837 started with his family for Illinois, making the entire trip in a carriage. His wagons, farming utensils and household effects were shipped by water to New Orleans and from thence came up the Mississippi river to the settlement at Rock Island, about forty miles from the location of the colony lands. These lands were happily chosen. The greater portion lay to the south of a large grove of oak, walnut and hickory timber, about fifteen miles long and six miles wide. A portion of the colony lands were located in the south edge of the timber. To a person reared among the stony hills of Connecticut or Massachusetts, these vast rolling prairies with their rich, black soil, were alike a wonder and an inspiration. A town site was laid out a little to the south of the grove and cal1ed Wethersfield. By the forms of the association each share of stock gave the. owner the right to select a quarter section (one hundred and sixty. acres) of prairie land, a twenty-acre timber lot and a village lot, which contained two and one-half acres. A number of other colonists arrived the same year and the season was taken up mainly with the construction of log houses and the raising of small crops to provide for the coming winter. Space forbids any extended account of the privations of these early comers or the growth and final success of the venture. The Catholic scare was purely imaginary, but the results were good for the parties concerned and for the communities planted in the new country. Three other settlements were made in the near vicinity of Wethersfield, one at Andover, by Massachusetts people, one at Geneseo, by New York people and one at Providence, by Rhode Island people.

“Colonel Blish took an active interest in the affairs of the new country and aided and encouraged its development and settlement. He became a large land owner and prospered beyond his most sanguine expectations. In 1853 a railroad was projected which would give connections with Chicago, and into this enterprise he launched with all his accustomed vigor, and in 1855 the railroad was a reality. From this time the real development of the country began. A railroad station was located a little over a half a mile north of the town site of Wethersfield, which was named Kewanee, that meaning in Indian dialect ‘prairie hen.’ Colonel Blish owned a quarter section of land adjoining the new railroad station, which is now a part of the city of Kewanee, and completely covered with factories and residences. That was east of the original village of Kewanee, while the city has now extended a mile to the west and taken in his old homestead and orchard, which was just at the south edge of the grove. Even the old village of Wethersfield is now putting on city airs, with water works, street lights and trolley cars.

“Colonel Blish was for many years the postmaster in Wethersfield and held the same office in Kewanee until his death, being the first postmaster in both places. For many years after his arrival in Wethersfield, Colonel Blish kept the only hotel in Wethersfield. The old oval sign stood upon a post, with the words: ‘S. Blish Inn’ painted thereon. His house was the stopping place for the stage lines which traversed the country before the advent of railroads.

“The greatest obstacle with which the pioneers had to contend, was the lack of transportation facilities and their great distance from available markets. A limited quantity of wheat was marketed by teams at Peoria, Lacon and other river points, and occasionally at Chicago. The surest source of income was by fattening hogs, butchering and dressing them and hauling the whole carcasses to the river towns and selling them to the packing houses, or by raising cattle and selling them on the hoof to buyers, who took them away in droves to eastern points.

“Soon after the settlers arrived in Wethersfield, they organized a Congregational society. Meetings were held at the houses of the members and Colonel Blish’s being the largest was usually used. Colonel Blish was the first chorister, and the music was strictly vocal. Later a bass viol was added. In the fall of 1838 a log schoolhouse was built and this was used for church services for some ten years.

“Colonel Blish was also an extensive stock raiser and took especial pride in his horses. He brought the first Morgan horses to Wethersfield and the effect of his labors is still apparent in the neighborhood. He was an expert horseman and no animal was too wild for him to handle.”

Colonel Blish was married January 1, 1812,. at South Manchester, Connecticut, to Rhoda Cheney, who was there born December 5, 1794, and was a daughter of Timothy and Rhoda (Skinner) Cheney. They became parents of five children: William Henry, born May 25, 1812; Thomas, September 18, 1815; Charles Cheney, May 26, 1820; Prudence Hubbard, March 26, 1822; and George Cheney, January 12, 1831. Colonel Blish died October 8, 1855, in the old homestead on the place on which he located on his arrival in Illinois, a new house which he was building, having been almost ready for occupancy. His remains were interred in the old Kewanee cemetery, which he donated to the village when it was first laid out.

His wife was a great reader and always kept well informed on current topics. Financially independent after her husband’s death, she took great pleasure in helping others. Patient, loving and cheerful, the close of her life was like a beautiful sunset. She died January 9, 1878, in her eighty-fourth year, and her grave was made by that of her husband.

Biography of Wait Talcott

Source: Talcott Family, by Ronald Dean Talcott


Wait Talcott

Deacon Wait Talcott was born on 17 Oct 1807 in Hebron, Tolland County, Connecticut. He died on 7 Dec 1890 in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois. He was the son of Capt. William Talcott and Dorothy Blish and he married Elizabeth Anna, daughter of Dr. Ariel Norton, of Vernon, Oneida Co., N. Y. (b. Nov. 16, 1813), Feb. 5, 1834.

Elizabeth Anna, the wife of Dea. Wait Talcott, died at Rockford Ill., Aug. 7, 1873.

Dea. Wait Talcott went to Rome, N. Y., with his parents in 1810, when three years old, and remained there till he was eighteen years of age, and then went into a store at Booneville, Oneida Co., N. Y. After a few years apprenticeship he commenced business at Utica, N. Y. He remained there till 1830, and then removed to the village of Horseheads, Chemung Co., N. Y., and engaged in mercantile pursuits, where he resided at the time of his marriage, in 1834. In 1837, he closed his business in that place and emigrated to Illinois in the fall of 1838, and reached Rockton, Winnebago Co., on the 12th of October, having made the trip from New York State with his family in a two horse covered emigrant wagon in six weeks, passing through Chicago which then had probably 3,500 or 4,000 inhabitants.

On the 8th of Dec., 1838, his family united by letter from the First Presbyterian Church, at Horseheads, N. Y., with the First Congregational Church, at Rockton.

At this time the anti-slavery agitation was coming up to its great work, and Dea. Talcott having been identified with it from the start, was prepared to take some action upon it. A few years later in his church, as shown by the records, “Jan. 2, 1844, at a church meeting held pursuant to notice, the following resolutions presented by Wait Talcott were discussed and carried over for further consideration at the next monthly meeting. They were considered at two or three monthly meetings, and finally adopted by a nearly unanimous vote.

“1st. Resolved, That American slavery is unjust and cruel to the slave and detrimental to the master, is productive of unmixed evil to the country, is a great sin in the sight of God and ought to be abolished.

2d. Resolved, That immediate emancipation is nothing more than the application of the principles of Christianity to the sin of slavery, that a profession in the belief of those principles demands a practical opposition to that system of slavery which disgraces our land.

3d. Resolved, That we will not invite a slaveholder to our communion table, nor would we wish our Pastor to invite a slaveholder to the pulpit.

4th. Resolved, That these resolutions be signed by the moderator and clerk, and forwarded to the New York Evangelist and Western Citizen for publication.”

Dea. Wait Talcott, on the 4th of March, 1854, went into the manufacture of the “J. H. Manny combined Reaper and Mower,” at Rockford, Ill., in connection with J. H. Manny, the patentee, and Sylvester Talcott, his brother, under the firm name of J. H. Manny & Co. In the autumn of 1854, he was elected to the State Senate, representing the counties of Winnebago, Boone, McHenry and Ogle for the term of four years. By his official position he was brought into acquaintance and friendship with the Hon. Abraham Lincoln, who was a candidate for the United States Senate at the session of the Illinois Legislature, in 1855, and for whom was carried the anti-slavery vote in solid body, until he said to his friend, Judge Logan, “you must drop my name for you cannot ballot more than three or four times more without electing Gov. Mattison.” His friends acting on his suggestion, Judge Trumbull was elected on the second ballot thereafter.

In the fall of 1854, a new Reaper Company was formed under the name of Manny & Co., Ralph Emerson, Jr., and Jesse Blinn becoming partners. Soon after this the company was sued by Cyrus H. McCormick, of Chicago, under the charge of infringing his reaper patents. The litigation was long and very thorough, so much so that Justice McLean of the United States Supreme Court said of it after it was finished, “that he had never known a case so thoroughly litigated since he had been on the bench.” It was also very expensive, costing the company over $75,000. Peter H. Watson, formerly of Rockford, Ill., was their attorney, having charge of the case, and Edwin M. Stanton, then of Pittsburgh, Pa., and George Harding, of Philadelphia, Pa., were the associate counsel, assisted at the first trial, at Cincinnati, before Justice McLean and Judge Drummond, by The Hon. Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, Ill.

The case was finally decided by the Supreme Court in favor of Manny & Co. Three of the lawyers employed by them, who met for the first time in this suit, and but for it might never have known each other, Abraham Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton and Peter H. Watson, were put in high places of power. The immortal Lincoln was called to the Presidential Chair, whose sagacity selected the most wonderful War Minister of the world, Hon. Edward M. Stanton, to take charge of the War Department, who would not accept the office unless provision was made for Mr. Watson, to help him, and so Congress made a place such as there never has been in the history of our government for Mr. Watson, to occupy, that of Assistant Secretary of War.

Mr. Stanton while battling in the McCormick suit, when consulted in regard to a compromise said, “I know of but one way to compromise, that is with a sword in your hand and smite and keep smiting,” thus exhibiting one of the very elements of the great War Minister he was destined to become.

Manny & Co. paid the Hon Abraham Lincoln, in the McCormick case, a retaining fee of $1,000, which Mr. Lincoln said was the largest retainer he had ever received, which enabled him to stump the State of Illinois with Stephen A. Douglas, and laid the foundation for his election to the Presidency.

After the Internal Revenue Bureau was established, Mr. Lincoln, entirely unsolicited, decided to give Dea. Talcott the appointment of Collector for the second district of Illinois, and communicated the fact to him in a letter of which the following is a copy:

Executive Mansion
Washington, August 27, 1862
Hon. Wait Talcott:

My dear Sir: I have determined to appoint you Collector. I now have a very special request to make of you, which is that you will make no war upon Mr. Washburne, who is also my friend of longer standing than yourself. I shall even be obliged if you can do something for him if occasion presents.
Yours truly,
A. Lincoln

After receiving this and previous to the appointment (which bears date Aug. 28, 1862, and the commission by letters-patent March 4, 1863), Dea Wait Talcott was in Washington, and Mr. Lincoln voluntarily gave him a card of introduction to the Secretary of the Treasury and Commissioner of Internal Revenue, of which the following is a copy:

Mr. Sec. of Treasury and Com. of Revenue:

Please see Mr. Talcott, one of the best men there is, and if any difference, one they would like better than they do me.
A. Lincoln
August 18, 1862.

Mr. Wait Talcott’s relations with the lamented and martyred Lincoln, from his first acquaintance till his death, were those of a very enjoyable friendship. At the time of the assassination of the President, Mr. Talcott was on his way to Washington and reached there in time to attend his funeral from the Executive Mansion. He was in the procession to the Capitol, having been appointed by the citizens of Illinois who were present, one of the mourners to represent the State in the funeral ceremonies.

At the breaking out of the Rebellion, he was quite past the age fixed by law for the draft, but when the pressure for men came, and the government passed a law allowing persons to be represented by substitutes who would stand in their places and be designated by their names, he paid a large bounty to Charles H. Redington, a soldier who had already served out three years enlistment, and who returned as his representative and filled a place for him until the close of the war. Redington was a soldier in the 45th Illinois Cavalry, which pursued Booth after the assassination of the President, to where he crossed the Potomac and was taken. The certificate of the government for this representative service in the war, signed by Gen. James B. Fry, Provost Marshall General, is carefully preserved as evidence of deep interest in this wonderful chapter of the world’s history.

Deacon Wait TALCOTT and Elizabeth Anna NORTON were married on 5 Feb 1834 in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York. In the fall of 1838, Wait Talcott came to Rockton with his wife and child, reaching this place on the 12th day of October, after being on the road from the state of New York, for about six weeks in an emigrant wagon. Miss. Eliza McConnell, a dear friend of Mrs. Talcott, came with them, and remained as one of the family as long as Mr. and Mrs. Talcott both lived. She now resides with her niece, Mrs A. N. Mellen, in Rockton. Mr Talcott erected a dwelling house on Main street, at the south-east corner of block sixteen, which is now the property of James Wall, and it was his residence as long as he lived in Rockton. He was one of the original incorporators of Beloit College, and the Rockford Female Seminary, and was a member of the board of trustees of the college during his life.

He took an active part in the religious, educational and industrial interest of the town. In 1854 he was elected as state senator, and represented the counties of Winnebago, Boone, Ogle and Carroll, in the legislature four years. During his term in the legislature, he secured a charter for a railroad up Rock River from Rockford to Rockton and thence to the state line. Routes were surveyed on both sides of the river and stock solicited, but nothing more was done about it, until the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railway company took the matter up twenty-five years later, obtained a new charter, and built the road on the west side of the river in 1881.

Mr. Talcott was an active business man and had large contracts in building the Racine and Mississippi railroad from Rockton to Freeport. In 1851, he with his brother Sylvester Talcott, formed a co-partnership with John H. Manny, Jesse Blinn and Ralph Emerson to manufacture the celebrated Manny reaper, which subsequently became one of the largest manufacturing industries in Rockford He was collector of internal revenue for this congressional district under President Lincoln. His devoted and faithful wife died Aug. 7th, 1873, and after a well spent life fully rounded out with years of usefulness, he departed this life, Dec. 7th, 1890.

Mr Talcott had an eventful life, and in all the various relations he has sustained of both public and private capacity, has showed the active and noble traits of character which will endear his memory in the hearts of the people. Rockton will cherish his name in grateful remembrance for the many acts of kindness bestowed on her citizens; the substantial aid to the church of which he was a member, and more especially so, for the generous gift of their fine library building, which will be an enduring monument of his love for the cause of education and moral advancement of mankind. So lived, and died one of nature’s noblest men, and may his worthy life serve as an example to be imitated by coming generations.

Elizabeth Anna NORTON (daughter of Dr. Ariel NORTON) was born on 16 Nov 1813 in Vernon, Oneida County, New York. She died on 7 Aug 1873 in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois. Deacon Wait TALCOTT and Elizabeth Anna NORTON had the following children:

1536 i. (Daughter) TALCOTT was born on 8 Oct 1834 in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York. She died on 8 Oct 1834 in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York.
1537 ii. (Son) TALCOTT was born on 14 Mar 1836 in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York. He died on 14 Mar 1836 in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York.
+1538 iii. Adeline Elizabeth TALCOTT.
+1539 iv. William Ariel TALCOTT.
1540 v. Harriet Norton TALCOTT was born on 19 Mar 1843 in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois. She died on 26 Dec 1845 in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois.
+1541 vi. Mary Carter TALCOTT.
1542 vii. Sheldon Norton TALCOTT was born on 4 Nov 1849 in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois. He died on 10 Mar 1851 in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois.
+1543 viii. Samuel Norton TALCOTT.
1544 ix. Frances Eliza TALCOTT301 was born on 19 Jul 1855 in Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois. She graduated in 1873 in West Rockford High School. Frances Eliza, daughter of Dea. Wait Talcott and Elizabeth Anna Norton (their youngest child), was born in Rockton, Ill., July 19, 1855, graduated in the class of 1873, at the West High School, in the city of Rockford, where she now (1876) resides with her father.


Parents of Wait Talcott:

Capt. William Talcott, b. 6 Mar 1784 in Hebron, CT, d. 2 Sep 1864 in Rockton, IL

Dorothy Blish, b. 8 April 1789 in Hebron, CT, d. 24 Nov 1879 in Rockton, IL

Parents of Capt. William Talcott:

William Talcott, b. 28 June 1742 in Glastonbury, Hartford, CT, d. 28 March 1807 in Gilead, CT

Mary Carter, b. 8 Aug 1745 in Hebron, Tolland, CT, d., 27 Mar 1812 in Hebron, CT; Marriage 3 Jan 1769 in Marlborough, Hartford, CT

Brother of Deacon Wait Talcott was Walter Henry Talcott

Parents of Dorothy Blish:

Thomas Blish

Prudence Hubbard

Married 5 Feb 1834: Elizabeth Ann Norton, b. 16 Nov 1813 in Vernon, Oneida, NY, d. 7 Aug 1873 in Rockford, Winnebago, IL


Adaline Elizabeth Talcott, b. 12 October 1837 in Vernon, Oneida, NY

William Ariel Talcott, b. 28 Sep 1839 in Rockton, Winnebago, IL

Children of William Talcott and Dorothy Blish (1789-1879):

Thomas Blish Talcott (1806-1894)

Wait Talcott (1807-1890)
William H. Talcott
(1809-  )
Sylvester Talcott (1810-1885)
Adeline Talcott (1812-1828)
Walter Henry Talcott (1814-  )
Moseley Dwight Talcott (1816-1828)
Samuel Talcott (1818-   )
Harriet Newell Talcott (1820-  )
Prudence Hubbard Talcott (1822-1912)

Wait Talcott, b. 17 October 1807 in Hebron, Tolland, CT, d. 7 Dec 1890 in Rockford, Winnebago, IL

Residence in 1850:  Rockton, Winnebago, IL
Residence in 1860: Rockford, Winnebago, IL
Residence in 1870: Rockford (Ward 4), Winnebago, IL
Residence in 1880: Rockford, Winnebago, IL

MARRIED Elizabeth Ann Norton (1813-1873)


Talcott (1834-1834)
Talcott (1836-1836)
Adeline Elizabeth Talcott (1837-1915)
William Ariel Talcott (1839-1880)
Harriet Talcott (1843-1845)
Mary Carter Talcott (1845-  )
Sheldon Norton Talcott (1849-1851)
Samuel Norton Talcott (1853-  )
Frances Eliza Talcott (1855-  )

Thomas Blish, b. 13 Sep 1762 in Glastonbury, Hartford, CT, d. 15 Apr 1831, m. Prudence Hubbard (1867-1848) Thomas was son of David Blish (1732-1817) and Zeruiah Skinner (1786-1832)

Children of Thomas Blish and Prudence Hubbard:

  1. Aaron Hubbard Blish (31 July 1786 to 10 Aug 1832) Lived in Glastonbury. Married to Joanne Hale.
  2. Dorothy Blish (1789-1832)
  3. Adaline Pamelia Blish (7 Aug 1808 to 13 Sep 1875) Died in Kewanee, Henry, IL
  4. Betsey Lydia Blish (1792 in Colchester, CT, d. 1822 in Westmoreland, Oneida, NY)
  5. Sylvester Blish (31 Dec 1790 to 8 Oct 1855) Died in Wethersfield, IL

Sylvester married Rhoda Cheney.


  1. William Henry Blish, b. 25 May 1812
  2. Thomas Blish, b. 8 Sep 1815
  3. Charles Cheney Blish, b. 26 May 1820
  4. Prudence Hubbard Blish, b. 26 March 1822 (married Knox)
  5. George Cheney Blish, b. 12 January 1831

WILLIAM HENRY BLISH, b. 25 May 1812 in East Glastonbury, CT, d. 15 July 1895 in Wethersfield, Illinois. William married Eliza Hollister. Child. “A son, three weeks old” mentioned in letter, but not named. A daughter, Helen Louise Blish, b. 4/5/1838, d. 10/6/1864. William Blish opened store in Wethersfield IL in 1850.

CHARLES CHENEY BLISH, b. 26 May 1820 in East Glastonbury, CT, d. 15 Dec 1890 in Wethersfield, IL.  He was married to ELIZABETH POTTER BONAR in Goshen, Stark, IL. Child:

JAMES KNOX BLISH, b. 2 May 1843 in Wethersfield, IL, d. 22 Feb 1920. He married AMY MASON RHODES

Dorothy Blish born 8 April 1789 in Glastonbury, CT, died 24 Nv 1879 in Rockton, IL. She married 24 Oct 1805 in Glastonbury, Capt. William Talcott, born 6 Mar 1784 in Hebron, CT and died 2 Sep 1864 in Rockton, IL.

Capt William Talcott was capt in War of 1812. Had 7 sons & 3 daughters by Dorothy Blish. Moved wife and three children to Rome, N.Y. in 1810. Moved family to Rockton (1837). Built grist mills and did custom grinding. Organizer of First Cong. Church (23 Mar 1838).

Thomas Blish Talcott, born 17 Apr 1806. He married 5 June 1843 Sophia E. Willard.

Hon. Wait Talcott

William Hubbard Talcott, born 7 Apr 1809. He married 27 July 1836 Harriet N. Williams.

Sylvester Talcott, born 14 Oct 1810. He married 10 June 1841 Mary Westlake.

Adeline Talcott, born 8 Jan 1812, died 4 July 1828. Died unmarried.

Walter Henry Talcott, born 13 Feb 1814. He married 1 Oct 1845 Emeline McConnell.

Samuel Talcott, born 1 March 1818. He married 23 Sep 1847 Minerva Pettibone.

Mosley Dwight Talcott, born 6 Sep 1818, died 11 Aug 1828 in Rome, NY.

Harriet Newell Talcott, born 14 Apr 1820. She married 10 Oct 1843 Charles C. Wright.

Prudence Hubbard Talcott.

Col. Sylvester Blish. Colonel in CT Militia. Moved family to what became Wethersfield & Kewanee, Henry Co., IL (1837).

Rockford, Illinois – City Register in 1857

Manny’s celebrated reapers are here manufactured in large numbers, by a compay consisting of of Jesse Bliss, Ralph Emerson, and Wait Talcott, who employ about two hundred men, and transact a business of about a haf million of dollars per annum.

Capt. William Talcott, who may be justly termed the father  of Rockton, was horn in Hebron, Ct., March 6, 1784, He married Dorothy Blish in 1805. He settled in Rome, N. Y., in 1810.  During the war of 1812, he served in the army under Gen. Winfield Scott, at Sackett’s Harbor, and attained to the position of captain of a volunteer company, and served till the war  closed. After making a trip to Rock river country in Illinois,  with his son, Thomas Talcott in 1835, he moved his family here  in 1837. He was instrumental in forming the Congregational  church here in 1838. He also developed the water power by building the mill race and saw mill the same year, and the next year was followed with the building of a grist mill. He first lived in a log house near the mill race, but in 1843 he built  a very fine residence on the site of the present Winnebago hotel, which was his home until his death. He laid out the village of Rockton, which plat was filed for record May 30, 1844.  He was deeply interested in the growth of the town, and assisted largely in building the Cong’l church. When it was completed he donated the bell, which cost $700 and weighed 1400 pounds. He was identified with the anti-slavery movement as early as 1844, and lived to see the causi’ ho so nobly espoused triumph in the freedom of the slaves. He died at the ripe old age of 80 years, Sept. 2, 1854, highly respected by the people of Rockton and all who knew him. His wife died at the  home of her daughter, Mrs. Samuel Hersey, Nov. 24, 1879, over 70 ninety years of age.

Maj. Thomas Blish Talcott was born in Hebron, Ct., April 17, 1806, In 1831 he engaged in mercantile pursuits, in Horseheads, N. Y., and while living there received the appointment of major in the state militia. He came west with his father in 1835, as has been previously stated, and made Rockton his  home as long as he lived. He located a claim on the point between the two rivers, and built the first log house in the township. He was elected first county commissioner in 1836, which office he held for five years. He was married to Miss Sophia E. Willard, June 5, 1843, by Rev. Dexter Clary. He was elected state senator in the fall of 1849, and was in the legislature four years, during which time the charter of the Illinois Central railroad was granted. He was an active business man in Rockton for a number of years, and held several town offices. He donated to the Congregational church, of which he and his  wife had long been members, the Gates house which is valued  at $1500. He died Sept. 30, 1894, at the age of 88 years. His wife died Dec. 25, 1888. She was born in Vernon, N. Y., Nov.  11, 1824. .

Sylvester Talcott was born in Rome, N. Y., Oct. 14, 1810. He engaged in keeping store when a young man in Horseheads,  N. Y., until 1836, when he sold out his business and came to Rockton. He was elected to the office of justice of the peace in the fall of the same year, and married the first couple in town in 1837. He married Miss Mary Westlake, June 10, 1841, and soon after built the large dwelling house on Main street, now occupied by his daughter, Mrs. Smith. He was actively engaged in developing the industries of Rockton, and was always interested in any enterprise to help build up the town.  When the township organization was adopted in 1850, he was elected the first supervisor, which office he held for five years, two years of which lie was chairman of the board of supervisors. He joined the Congregational church, March 16, 1851, and was one of the trustees for a number of years, and kept up his membership as long as he lived. In 1854 he was interested in the manufacture of the Manny reaper in Rockford, and was a partner in that company for a number of years. He took an active part in inducing the Racine & Mississippi railroad to run their line through this town, and greatly assisted in building the road from here to Freeport. He was a zealous member of the Republican Party and gave it his full support. Although past the age to do military duty when the war of the rebellion broke out, he promptly sent a substitute to represent him. He was a man of very generous impulses and did a great deal to help the poor and needy. He  died Jan. 19, 1885. His wife, Mrs. Mary Talcott, was born in 1820, and died Dec. 9, 1872.

Henry V. Talcott was born in Rome, N. Y., Feb. 13, 1814, came west and settled in Rockton in the fall of 1835. He made his claim on the southeast quarter of section thirteen, some of this land remained in the possession of the family to a very recent date. He was one of the fourteen charter members of the Congregational church, and retained his membership until April 7, 1765, when he withdrew from fellowship. He was engaged with his brothers in the industries of Rockton, and continued an active member until his death, which occurred Dec. 9, 1870. He married Miss Emeline McConnell, Oct. 1, 1845. They had nine children. She died August 25, 1894.


The first permanent settlers in Rockton, IL were William Talcott and his son Thomas B. Talcott. They came from Rome, N.Y. and made the journey all the way with a horse and wagon. Arriving at Chicago they concluded to make a trip to Milwaukee, and look over the country in that direction. On their journey to Milwaukee, Thomas Blish Talcott commenced to keep a journal of each day’s adventures, and this he continued to do until the time they arrived on Rock River (see below).

“Friday, July 10th, 1835. Left our Indian tavern this morning after breakfast. Had about four miles of prairie and then  came into timber land. The timber is of various kinds such as oak, walnut, beech, maple, ash, elm, basswood, etc. Came to Root river about twenty miles south of Milwaukee. After crossing the river and going a few miles we came to bad going. Our horse got mired and “we had to loosen him from the wagon and help him out, and then got out the wagon the best way we could with handspike, etc. Went about two miles and  got fast again in the mud, and had to go through the same  process to get along. After awhile we came to where the woods were more open and the road rather better, and had  some hopes of getting there by night; but the road was so bad  we were yet obliged to walk all the way. We passed over several hills where the Indians had formerly raised corn. The  shape of the hills remained but were covered with grass and bushes. We came to Milwaukee a little after sun down, turned out our horse on the commons, got some pork and bread for supper and went to bed.

Saturday, July 11th [1835]. Rose this morning not much refreshed, for we had to sleep on the floor. Pork and bread again for breakfast. We stopped on a point of land that ran down into a marsh to the river where the Menonionee comes into Milwaukee. We crossed the river and went up ahout half a mile to the principal village. In the spring there was not a frame house here; now there is a store at the mouth of the river, one at Walker’s point, two at the upper village, besides an Indian trader and a grocery, and several other frame buildings. Went up the river about two and a half miles to a sawmill; here is the first falls on the river, and boats of considerable size can go up to the mills. About three miles farther up is another saw mill, but the falls at either place are but a few feet. Coming down the river from the mills we ranged off a little in the woods between the river and the lake, found the land rather rough and stony. The river runs along parallel with and about three miles from the lake for twenty-five miles. Took  up our quarters this evening three-fourth of a mile up the river at Paul Burdick’s, Had passable fare and a bed to sleep on.

Sunday July 12th [1835]. Rained last night and continued raining most of the forenoon. Went down to the meeting, had  preaching in the forenoon and bible class in the afternoon.  The minister is a young man who was sent out on a mission among the Indians at Green Bay, but left there and came here on account of his health. He is a little tinctured with the spirit of speculation.

Monday, July 13th [1835]. As yet we have had no news from home. Concluded to stay here till Wednesday evening waiting for mail. Was a little disappointed in the place. Did not expect to find such an extensive marsh about the mouth of the river. There are several hundred acres of wet marsh, all in one body covered with high grass, and so wet that a person cannot travel through it from Walker’s point about a mile from the mouth of the river. It is seven miles to walk around the  marsh to get on the other side while it is only two miles across.

Tuesday, July 14th [1835]. There are three important points on  the river, at least deemed so by those who have claims on different points. Walker’s point is occupied by Juno, and on the opposite side of the river by Cleveland & Fowler. There are not more than three of the claimants who have been on them long enough to have a preemption right to the land at the  minimum price, but they are forming a combination to protect and defend each other in their claims against anyone bidding on them.

Wednesday, July 15th [1835]. Think the place will eventually be a place of considerable business, but will not grow up as rapidly as Chicago. At present the inhabitants think of nothing but speculation. Not one in the vicinity of this place thinks of raising anything on the land, but make claims as fast as they can by going on and cutting a few trees, spade up a little ground, and perhaps plant corn. They are just as likely to plant now as at the proper season. The mail came in this evening without any letters for us. We wrote home and concluded to start in the morning.

Thursday, July 16th [1835]. After breakfast commenced looking for our horse. Found it about eleven o’clock, and started for Jombeau’s, twenty-five miles up the lake towards Chicago.  Found the traveling bad, our horse poor, and had to walk all the way, arriving there about nine o’clock in the evening very  much fatigued. Our Potawatomie landlady prepared some supper for us, and we ate and retired to rest to dream out whether we should go to Prairie village or to Chicago.

Friday, July 17th [1835]. Swapped away old sorrel this morning with our landlord for a roan horse and paid $7.50 to boot. Concluded we would go to Chicago, leave our wagon, buy another horse, and then go to Rock river on horse back. Started after breakfast and had to cross a very large prairie, traveled all day without seeing any inhabitants, arriving at Sunderland’s before sundown, and put up there. There were nine horses and fourteen pair of cattle put out here tonight. Had to sleep on prairie feathers.

Saturday, July 18th [1835]. Started this morning for the Des Plaines river across the prairie through high grass without any trail, intending to cross it and go to Mancel Talcott’s. We  traveled about five hours before we came to the river, part of the way through wet prairie and part of the way through timber, and then came to where a man by the name of C00ly had made a claim on the river, apart of which was the best bottom land I ever saw. He was mowing grass almost as high as his head. Where we crossed the river the water was so high that it came into our wagon. We went down the river about three miles and stopped at Mr. Steels’, and had some bread and milk for dinner. After baiting our horse we started on. We had sixteen miles to go and calculated to reach there about sunset, and did not hurry much; but about five o’clock the heavens began to show indications of a shower, which finally came up and gave us a good ducking before we got here.

Sunday, July 19th [1835]. Stopped at Mancel Talcott’s and found  them all well. Elder Walker, a Methodist man, was  expected to preach at a neighbor’s house. Went over about eleven o’clock, but he did not come, consequently there was no meeting.

Monday, July 20th [1835]. Went to Chicago to purchase a horse and apparatus for going to Rock river. Found our Rome [New York] friends here, and received a letter from home, the first since  we left, containing pleasant news. Succeeded in getting a horse and rig for our journey, and shall leave town in the morning.

Tuesday July 21st. Crossed the wet prairie between Chicago and the Des Plaines [river], arriving at Mr. Talcott’s a little before noon. After dinner we went out hog hunting, and after a  three mile ride succeeding in shooting one, wdiich was taken home by attaching a rope to one of the horses and drawing the hog. We had fresh pork for supper.

Wednesday, July 22nd [1835]. Started this morning for Rock river, crossing the prairie west of Mancel Talcott’s to Barnes’ grove seven miles, then struck across another five miles, came  onto an Indian trail to Fox river, which we supposed was about twenty miles from where we started in the morning. We traveled till six o’clock without finding any house, and then found no one at home. We crossed the river and went down a mile and a half looking for inhabitants, for we did not like to lie out as we had nothing to eat. We took only a small piece of cake with us in the morning, expecting to find plenty of inhabitants on Fox river. We turned about and recrossed the river, hoping to find someone at the house by this time. When we got there we found two men, but they did not belong there, and were going across as they lived a mile and a half up the river from the ford. We went home with them and found that they came from Virginia to settle here.

Thursday, July 23d [1835]. Filled our pockets with provision expecting we should have to camp out one night, and then we  should come to Kishwaukee river where there were inhabitants. About noon we caught a young grouse tangled in the bushes so he could not fly away. Picked off the feathers and carried it along for supper. Passed three inhabitants in the  forenoon on a beautiful prairie of first rate land. Made our trip a little before night, built a fire, roasted our grouse and with raw pork, and biscuit made our supper. Mosquitoes were  troublesome.

Friday July 24th [1835]. Left our camp about five o’clock after taking our breakfast of raw pork and biscuit. Most of the forenoon we traveled through Bur-oak openings. About nine  o’clock we came to a beautiful little lake and an old Indian village, called Big Foot lake and village. There were no Indians there for most of them were wandering in the woods towards Chicago, to be ready for their paynient from the government, which comes next month. We were here somewhat puzzled to find the right trail as there were so many which  put out from the village. We finally made up our minds to go west south-west, but found the trail bearing to the south, followed on and came to a small creek meandering through a fine stip of bottom prairie which looked like the bed of some ancient river that was very large. The weeds and grass high.  It was now nearly night and no signs of inhabitants, and it looked like showers. We came to an old Indian camp and made us a shelter of barks and poles, struck up a fire and ate  our pork and bread.

Saturday, July 25th 1835]. After we stopped last night we saw  several Indians cross the flat and one came over to us to beg some whisky. He was a Pottawatomie, and we learned from  him that there were white folks within a few miles. We took his directions and started along, crossing the stream again.  When we had got down a little way we came to a large river  which an Indian had just crossed. We saw where he went out and started in after him. Soon found the water so deep that it  came up almost to our horse’s back. We turned around and  tried again, found shallow water, crossed and went up onto the bluff to a camp of Indians, but could not understand them much. One of them took a tin kettle and started and motion-  ed for us to follow him. We did so, came to the river and forded it again, crossed a small prairie, went into the woods and came to Stephen Mack’s Indian trading establishment, and  once more put up with a white man who had a squaw wife.  Found we were on the bank of Rock river, two miles below the  mouth of the Pecatonica and six miles south of the line of  Wisconsin territory. We also learned that there was no dependence to be placed on our maps. Our map placed the mouth of the Pecatonica twenty miles south of Wisconsin, when it was but four miles. Rock is a beautiful river, said to be navigable 150 miles above this place, and the Pecatonica 100 miles.  The land is very good and at the mouth of the river is in the  hands of Mack and Bradstreet, of Albany, N. Y., where they  calculate to lay out a town, and I think the prospect is fair for a large place to grow up here. There are no buildings at present.

Sunday, July 26th [1835]. Slept last night on the floor with blankets under us. Shall stay with our friend Mack today. There  are no inhabitants in several miles except the Indians, who  come around and Mack trades with them today as much as any day. All day’s are alike to the children of the forest. Mack is in the employ of the American Fur Company, and has been all his life time. The Indians have confidence in him and he has no trouble.

This is the end of the diary, but a little later Mr. Talcott  further adds: “We stayed with Mack and went out and looked the ground over and concluded to locate here and made our  claims. Father was rather looking for water power, and thought that by cutting across the bend in the river, it would give a pretty good water power, and to test it, he made a trough to hold water for a level, and made his straight edges with his jack-knife and took a level across the bend, and it did not vary but a trifle from the government survey that was taken a year later.  We made our claims, and then went to Chicago and purchased oxen, wagon, plow, and the necessary implements to commence a bachelor’s hall. Came back and built a small log cabin on the point between the two rivers, and for a while had it all  to ourselves and the Indians; but during the summer and fall others came and we had neighbors… The Adamses, Mr. Fox and brother Henry came in October, but there “were no ladies. We were a nice lot of bachelors and all keeping bachelor’s hall, doing our own cooking  and housework of all description.”

Founding of Pecatonic & Rockton, Illinois

On 25 July 1835 William Talcott and his son Thomas visited Stephen Mack (see diary reference above), and at this time Mack announced his intentions to found a new community on the south bluff overlooking the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica Rivers which he would name Pecatonic. Mack believed that the Rock River was navigable upstream for an additional 150 miles while the Pecatonica was navigable for 100 miles, and this site was ideal as a center for trade and commerce. The Talcott’s returned to the East to get their families, and when they returned the following autumn , Mack had moved to the site of the new community, now located in the present day Macktown Forest Preserve.

The land that Mack was residing on was originally claimed by Joseph Thiebeau who bought the rights for a section of land for his daughter under the terms of a treaty signed at Prairie du Chien on 1 August 1829. Subsequently the daughter died young making Joseph the legal heir and owner of the section, and on 17 January 1838 Thiebeau sold the land to Jean Baptiste Beaubien, a well-known trader active in Chicago for many years. By June 1838 Beaubien was a partner with Stephen Mack, and along with John P. Bradstreet, began selling lots in the new community.

On 1 November 1837 a treaty with the Winnebago’s was signed in Washington. Mack presented a claim for $6,400 in merchandise. It was prorated by the commission and Mack received $2,329.50. He also received an additional $5,000 on behalf of his five children (supporting the belief that Hononegah was part Winnebago). With this money Mack built himself a fine two-story frame house with a cellar, which later became the reidence for the forest preserve caretaker and is now a museum. He also used the money to make other improvements.

Sometime during 1842/43 Mack built the first bridge across the Rock River in Illinois, formerly located where the public boat landing is presently. The bridge replaced the ferry he had started in 1837. Mack offered [William] Talcott a partnership in his settlement, but there was disagreement on the terms and words were exchanged. There was a falling out between the two men, and the breech was never healed.

[William] Talcott was interested in energy. He settled on the north side of the river within the present village of Rockton, Illinois. He bought most of the area and divided it into lots. On 2 June 1838 he sold his first lot. Earlier, the Talcott;s began digging a millrace, and in the fall of 1839, their gristmill was fully operational. At the time it was the only operation of its kind, and farmers traveled many miles to have their crops processed. A hotel was built for their lodging, and the settlement to the north of the river quickly expanded supplanting Mack’s Pecatonic settlement.

Despite his bad relations with the Talcotts, Stephen Mack seemed to realize that the area’s future was with Talcott’s settlement. In 1846 by an act of the legislature, the town was officially named Rockton, a name suggested by one of the Talcott’s, and in 1849 Mack was made a Justice of the Peace and the first township treasurer of the school funds. On 14 September 1840Mack was married to Hononegah by a Justice of the Peace. Since he was not legally married to her, he was concerned that his children might not inherit his estate, so he secured a legal marriage to that ends.

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