The sturdy stock that peopled the hills and valleys of New England has to-day many a representative on the prairies of Illinois, and our subject is one of these. He has been a citizen of Lee County these many years, and has rendered invaluable aid in reclaiming it from the wilderness by putting under a high state of cultivation an extensive farm in Reynolds Township, and placing upon it good modern improvements.
Silas H. Shippee was born in the town of Readsboro, Bennington County, Vt., July 18, 1828. His father, Christopher Shippee, was a native of the town of Charlemont, Mass., while his father, who bore the same name as himself, is thought to have been born in Rhode Island. He was one of the famous "Minute Men" of the Revolution, and did gallant service for his country during his four years of faithful service in the Colonial Army when that war was raging. He was paid in Continental scrip, which so depreciated in value that it is told that he gave fifty dollars for a night's lodging, supper and breakfast. He with four other families made the first settlement in the town Charlemont among the hills of Western Massachusetts, where he secured a tract of land on which the trees of the primeval forest of that region were still standing, and wild game—deer, bears and other wild animals—was common in the vicinity. He cleared quite a tract of land, and, as the force of circumstances made it necessary in those old pioneer days, lived off the products of his farm to a great extent. He was a man of fine physique, and retained so much of his early vigor in his old age that when he was eighty-six years old he walked to Readsboro, a distance of sixteen miles, and carried his musket. He died at the home of the father of our subject a year later.
Christopher Shippee, Jr., was reared in his native town, and before marriage bought a tract of land in Whittingham [sic], Windham County, Vt., which he soon traded for land in Readsboro. He settled thereon at the time of marriage, and that was his home for many a long year, until death sealed his eyes in 1886, at the advanced age of ninety-four years, and to the last few days of his life he was hale and hearty. The maiden name of the mother of our subject was Johanna Jillson. She was born in New Hampshire, a daughter of David and Johanna (Cudworth) Jillson, and she died while yet in life's prime at the age of forty-two years.
Silas Shippee passed his boyhood amid the pleasant scenes of his birth, and was educated in the local schools. On his father's farm he gained an experience in farming that was helpful to him in his after career as an independent farmer. He also knew something of pioneer life in his youth, before the introduction of railways into the part of the country where he lived. North Adams, twelve miles from his home, was the nearest market, but once each year the farmers went to Troy, sixty miles distant, to buy a stock of supplies.
Our subject resided with his father until he was twenty-six, assisting him in the labors of the farm, and then came to Illinois, where he thought the chances were better for a wide-awake young man to gain a competence than in his own native State. For two years he lived near Aurora, and after that Sugar Grove was his place of residence one season. He then traded for a quarter section of land in Reynolds Township, which is included on the farm upon which he lives. Eighty-six acres of the land were broken, but there were no fences or buildings, and his first work was to supply these deficiencies, and in the course of years he has wrought a great change, and has his place in a finely improved condition. When he began his building operations he bought the lumber in Chicago and had it shipped to Lane Station, as Rochelle was then called. He has erected a commodious, comfortable dwelling, a substantial barn and other outhouses for cattle and grain storage, has his farm well supplied with good machinery, and has it stocked with cattle, horses and swine of choice breeds. He has added to his original purchase of land, and has now four hundred acres of good farming land, all under admirable cultivation. He has not become prosperous without the struggles incidental to pioneer life, but he was strong both mentally and physically, and has in a full degree that decision of character that marks our self-made men, to which class he may just claim to belong, and he was well able to cope with the hardships and trials that he had to confront in the early years of his settlement here. He had to labor hard to place his land under cultivation, and in those days before the war the markets were poor, so that his harvests scarcely paid for the care and time expended upon them. One year farm products were very low priced, and he sold his corn at the rate of ten cents a bushel, after paying two and one-half cents to have it shelled. When times changed for the better as far as higher prices and greater demand for food supplies were concerned, he was quick to take advantage of the markets, and in due time, as we have seen, became possessed of a goodly amount of property. He is not only one of the most substantial citizens of his township, but he is a man who is held in universal respect for his true manliness and upright bearing in all the relations that he sustains towards others.
While still a resident of his native State, Mr. Shippee contracted a marriage in his early manhood with Miss Phiann Millard, their wedding taking place January 1, 1854. They have seven children living, named Mary J., Johanna M., Rosella, Rodella, Eva E., Henry C. and Edgar C. They have given them good educational advantages, and the three eldest daughters taught school previous to their marriage; Rodella is a music teacher, Eva an artist, and Henry has recently been graduated from the High School at Rochelle. Mary J. is the wife of Andrew Fell; Johanna of T.H. Quick; and Rosella is the wife of William Leslie.
Mrs. Shippee was born in Stanford [sic], Vt., and is a daughter of Rufus Millard, who was a also a native of that town, of which his father, James Millard, who was of New England birth, was one of first settlers. He bought a tract of timber, from which he felled the trees, and in time hewed out a good farm from the wilderness, upon which he lived many years. His last days, however, were spent near Waukegan, in this State. In early manhood he married Wealthy Clark, who died in Stanford [sic], Vt. Mrs. Shippee's father was reared on that old homestead in Vermont that was his birthplace, and his life, the great part of which he passed in his native town, he devoted to farming, and also dealt in sheep and wool. During his latter years he lived on his father-in-law's homestead in Clarksburg, Vt. [sic], and there both he and his wife died when well along in years. Her maiden name was Mary Blood. She was a native of Massachusetts, and a daughter of Silas and Polly Blood.
Source: Portrait and biographical record of Lee County, Illinois (Chicago : Biographical Pub. Co., 1892). p. 592-593, Silas H. Shippee.