Abe Henthorn of Baylis celebrated his 92nd birthday Monday. Born July
22, 1848 in Matteawan, New York, he came with his parents to Illinois
when he was a child of two. They settled near Fish Hook, and except
for five years spent in Christian county, Mr. Henthorn has since been
a resident of Pike.
Mr. Henthorn was the oldest child in a family of eight born to John
and Betty Holt Henthorn, both natives of England. His brothers and
sisters were Mary, who was born in New York and died in infancy; Mrs.
Sarah Cooley, Frank, Doug, Mrs. Jane Lewis, Charley and Will. One
sister and two brothers are living; Mrs. Lewis is resident of Drexel,
MO., and Doug and Charley live in Nebraska.
Both his father and his maternal grandfather were weavers in England.
The Holts, parents of his mother, lived in Lancashire, where the
grandfather, Abraham (for whom he was named), was a boss weaver in
charge of many looms in a factory. A strike among the workers sent
the entire Holt family (including their daughter Betty and her husband
John Henthorn, parents of Abraham) to America.
Abraham Holt, after the strike had gone on for some time and he had
found that what odd jobs he could pick up did not provide enough for
the family to live on, told his wife one day that he was going to
America. When he made enough money, he'd send for the rest of them.
But he reckoned without the determination of his wife that sent the
whole family to the new world. Said she, "If you go, I go. And if I
go, the children go." Abraham argued a while; when he couldn't get
work enough in England to keep his family, he didn't see how he could
afford to take them all to America. But Mrs. Holt was adamant--"If
one goes, we all go." And she kept saying it.
Their grandson, recalling the life in England, told the reporter
Sunday that his grandparents were thrifty folks. "Unbeknownst to each
other, and out of a small salary, both husband and wife were
accustomed to put by a little money," said Mr. Henthorn. When Holt
received his weekly pay, he gave his wife money for housekeeping and
current bills. He took out his own "ale money," as did every working
husband in England in those times. But he didn't drink the ale that
every other man did as a matter of custom. The "ale money" was his
own next egg. Meantime out of her meager housekeeping allowance, Mrs.
Holt managed to save a little. Without telling each other, husband
and wife had each saved up for an emergency.
Mrs. Holt kept insisting on the family exodus to America, and her
husband, after making a trip to Liverpool to inquire about the cost of
passage, finally brought out his little hoard and they counted it
together. Said he, "Well, it will pay for our passage but there won't
be a penny left over when we get to America." Not until then did his
wife reveal that she too had saved some money. It was enough to
guarantee a living until Mr. Holt could get a job in America.
So the Holt family, together with Betty and John Henthorn, went to
Liverpool and took passage on a sailing vessel. The ship sailed but a
few days out to sea, the vessel sprung a leak and had to return to
Liverpool for repairs. The passengers were required to remain on
board the ship if they wanted food and shelter, for the company
refused to run the risk of having them wander around Liverpool,
although Abraham went ashore a few times. Again the voyage began, and
this time was successful. The Holts had been more than three months on the way and by the time they landed in New York, they were heartily sick of sailing vessels and the sea.
Abraham Holt, was a good weaver, and he found the industry in the
United States crying out for men with his experience. He got a job
immediately, and a little later secured a better job. A factory with
a huge contract for prints found that Lancashire Abraham was the man
they were looking for. Abraham could "set a pattern." He didn't brag
about his ability, however, but cautiously talked the officials into
standing the loss if anything went wrong, before he would venture on
the job. They did guarantee to stand any losses, an unusual
arrangement for the day, but Abraham proved himself a fine workman and
his job was assured. And yet it wasn't long before he decided to come
west and farm.
John Henthorn worked in the east at the looms, and later as a "boss
weaver," too, with other men under him. When Abraham Holt went west,
John and his wife Betty stayed on another year or so in New York;
their son Abraham was born there, and the little daughter who died in
infancy. Then they followed the elder Abraham to Adams county, coming
by boat over the canal and the Ohio river to Cario, then up the
Mississippi to Quincy. This was about 1850. Their work as expert
weavers left behind, neither Abraham Holt nor John Henthorn ever held
such a job again. Both became farmers.
The Henthorns settled first in the southeast corner of Adams county,
then near Fish Hook. John bought 160 acres where the Fish Hook store
later stood., and after a while purchased another 160 across the road.
He built the house and barn which still stand on the nearby hill.
John later acquired another 80 acres east of the store site, owning
400 acres at that time.
Young Abraham helped his father on the farm, breaking the prairie
behind ox teams hitched to plows. He and Sarah, the oldest daughter
of the family, both worked at plowing, with two yokes of oxen hitched
to one plow. There was much timber, and breaking the new ground was
The family lived well for the times, but there were no luxuries. Mr.
Henthorn was too young to enlist for Civil war service, but he
remembers the table privations. "Biscuits and white bread were a
rarity," he says, "we had cornbread most of the time and were glad to
He had his first suit of clothes when he was 18. He was as well
dressed as other boys of the day but his new suit was tailored for him
alone from cloth made of the wool from his father's sheep. There was
a woolen mill just west of Barry, where the Weber Spring tourist camp
now stands. As was the custom, his father took the wool from his
flock of sheep and went to the mill to have it made into cloth. A
neighbor woman came to their home to "work up," the cloth into
garments and blankets. She tailored Abe's first suit and also made
him an overcoat.
This sewing was of course by hand. Abe remembers his mother's first
sewing machine, a little one that was fastened to the table and was
used mostly for the women's clothes, being too light for the men's
garments. Sarah, then about 18, soon got the hang of the new machine
and did most of the sewing for the women of the family. Years later
his mother got a Singer sewing machine.
Abe went to a log school, over the foundation of which the gravel road
north of Fish Hook is now being laid. The road bed goes over the
foundation of the Fish Hook store too. His first teacher was Amy
Green, who got the school at the age of 18; Abe recalls the grown
folks talking about Amy's youth for there were few 18-year-old
teachers in that section. His second teacher was Emily Smith. He
knew Emily quite well later in life when her niece and his wife were
friends. She lived in a story-and-a-half frame house in the west part
of Griggsville, and he thinks it is still standing.
When he was 10 years old, Abe Henthorn heard Abraham Lincoln and
Stephen A. Douglas debate in Quincy. It was his first trip to the
city, and he went with his father and grandfather. He was impressed
with the torchlight parade; "they have nothing to equal it nowadays,"
When he was 21, Abe struck out for himself. He worked two years for
his uncle, John Sykes of Beverly, and that was the last time in his
life that he worked for another man. Ever after he was "on his own."
In 1871, the year of the Chicago fire, Abe married Margaret Anna Cory,
daughter of Edwin and Mary Jane Cory. The ceremony was held at the
bride's home, and the Rev. Wingate Newman, Methodist preacher at
They lived first on a farm belonging to William Morrison, his wife's
grandfather, on South Prairie. After a year there, Abe and his wife
moved to a farm near Pana, but five years later came back to Pike
county and purchased the Ira Wilson farm on South Prairie where they
lived three years. Then began a series of farm purchases which
extended over a long period of years. Mr. Henthorn has owned many
hundreds of acres in his time, but always sold one farm before buying
He bought a place in Hadley township a mile west of Baylis; then 100
acres northwest of Baylis, and built a house near the cemetery (now
the Kline Hill farm; the house is occupied by Will Riggs). They lived
for 19 months on 140 acres at New Salem then on a farm of 160 acres
south of Fish Hook, after which he bought 820 acres across the road.
Selling that, he purchased 160 acres a mile south of Baylis, then a
140-acre place two miles northeast of Baylis, and finally 40 acres
three miles northeast of the town, which he traded for property in New
Salem, and was at last out of the farming business.
Many another man, moving around as did Abe Henthorn, would have ended
up with nothing. Other men have moved as often, and never worked for
themselves. Abe Henthorn has always been "on his own," however, and
he always made money. True, he lost some when farm prices went down,
but he never asked another man for help. He was never afraid of work,
from the time he started out breaking the prairie behind an ox team,
but fashion changes, in farming as in other trades, and Abe Henthorn
declares today, "I wouldn't know how to farm with all the new
Mr. and Mrs. Henthorn had no children of their own., but they reared
the late Stella Calvert Moore, who married Colonel Moore, and her four
children call him "Grandfather."
Mr. Henthorn lives a placid, pleasant life. He is in fairly good
health and although he is hard of hearing, he is a good
conversationalist and friends enjoy visiting with him. He still has
most of his own teeth, although he is afraid he may have to make a
trip to the dentist soon. He doesn't eat a lot but he says, "I like
anything good to eat--I'm not finicky."
He follows the news of the day in the papers. "If there's another
war, I will have lived through four,"he says. "The Civil war--I was
too young to go, until just at the last; the Spanish-American, the
first World war, and now maybe another one." A life-long Democrat, he
has read The Republican for years and usually pays his subscription in
person at the office. He doesn't approve of the third term for
Roosevelt, but says he "doesn't know much about this other
man--Wilkie--yet. Mrs. Frannie Bradshaw Hall has taken care of him
and kept house for him, most of the time since the death of his wife
on Sept. 3, 1934. Mr. Henthorn is a member of the United Brethren
church, as was his wife, but doesn't attend much any more, since he
can't hear well.
Just before the reporter left, Mr. Henthorn brought out one of his
treasures, a weaver's glass which belonged to his grandfather. It is
a tiny magnifying glass through which the "boss weaver," Abraham Holt,
used to count the number of threads "to the quarter," in the work
under inspection. It was his responsibility to see that just the
right number of threads went into the cloth. One thread too few and
the bolt of cloth weighed light; one thread too many and it weighed
too much. Mr. Henthorn has kept the microscope in its little case
these many years. Through it can be seen the regular weaving of a
piece of cloth, spread out so that the finest handkerchief shows up
like a window screen.
The Republican enjoyed its visit with Mr. Henthorn, and joins his
many friends in wishing him peace and good health, and many happy
returns of the day.
(From newspaper, The Republican, Pittsfield, IL, July 1940)
Abraham Henthorn of Baylis, one of the county's oldest citizens, passed away at 3 o'clock Monday afternoon in Blessing Hospital at Quincy, IL. He suffered a broken hip on Nov. 8, and two days later he was taken to the hospital. Last Wednesday, he lost consciousness and failed rapidly until the end. He had been cared for by Mrs. Fannie Hall, his housekeeper, and since Wednesday by Charles Cooley of Fish Hook. Mr. Henthorn was 95 years old last July 22.
Funeral services for the aged and respected citizen were held at 2 o'clock this (Wednesday) afternoon at the United Brethren church in Baylis, of which he was a member. Burial was in the cemetery at Baylis. Dieterle Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Note: The rest of the article recounts in detail the 1940 interview with a
reporter from The Republican. Abraham Henthorn, born on 22 Jul 1848 at Matteawan, Dutchess Co., NY and died, 20 Dec 1943 at Quincy, Adams Co., IL was the son John and Betty (Holt) Henthorn. He was the great-uncle of genealogy researcher, Dick Henthorn.
(Source: The Republican, Pittsfield, IL, 22 Dec 1943)
Posted 23 Sep 2009