I was curious about the history of William R. Routt from my previous posting about a 1908 post card I found picturing Routt College in Jacksonville, Illinois. So later that evening I did a little research and found an ink drawing of the farm residence of William R. Routt in an 1872 Atlas, a biography of William from a 1889 Portrait and Biographical Album of Morgan County Illinois, and an obituary from 1915.
WILLIAM R. ROUTT, a retired capitalist, having a fine residence in the southern part of Jacksonville, No. 1427 South Main street, is the son of an early settler of Morgan County, a man of considerable prominence and influence among its pioneers, forty or fifty years ago. The father’s name was Harvey Routt, and he was born in Woodford County, Ky., in the latter part of the 18th century. He was a man of fine mental and physical endowments, was well educated, and early assumed a place of importance in his native county, serving it at different times as Surveyor and as Commissioner, he having received a practical training as Surveyor. He was ambitious to improve his financial condition, and in 1834, with his wife and three children, he left the pleasant scenes of his old Kentucky home, and bravely penetrated the wilds of Illinois to Morgan County, and soon after located on the old farm where our subject passed the most of his boyhood, and where many years of his manhood were spent, it still being in his possession. The father, besides paying attention to improving his farm, engaged in surveying, and thus acquired a good knowledge of the topography of the surrounding country. His fellow-pioneers looked up to him as a man of superior wisdom and ability, and often consulted him on important public questions. He gained a handsome competence, retired to private life in Jacksonville, and in February, 1873, he died, and thus passed away from the scenes where he had been a familiar figure so long, a citizen whose memory is held in respect not only as a pioneer, but as a man who was true to himself, and to those about him in all the relations of life. He was twice married. The wife of his early manhood died soon after they came here, leaving three children – our subject, C.L., and Mrs. Newman, the latter a widow living in Chicago. After a time he married Mrs. Ann Fry, and to them came one child, Catherine. She is now Mrs. James T. McMillan, and has one son, Frederic T. Mrs. Routt survived her husband four or five years, and then she too passed away.
William Routt of this biography, was born in Franklin County, Ky., April 1, 1832, and was but two years of age when his parents settled on the farm eight miles southeast of Jacksonville, in this county. Having the sad misfortune to lose his mother a few years afterward, he lived with an aunt until after his father married a second time, then he took him home. He gleaned a good practical common-school education in local schools, and was with his father on the farm until he attained his majority, and then his father left the old homestead in his and his brother’s care, and out subject continued to live thereon, engaging extensively in buying, feeding and selling fat stock, until September, 1886. He then bought a fine residence in town, and retired to it to enjoy the fortune that he had accumulated by judicious management and careful investments. He now owns 313 acres of the old homestead that once belonged to his father, having sold off a part of it, and also in addition owns about 700 acres. After it came into his possession, he made many valuable improvements such as any enterprising farmer would make, erecting a fine set of farm buildings, including a barn that cost $1,000, with cattle scales adjoining, and everything to facilitate agricultural pursuits, and under his management it became on of the finest farms in the township. It is located on section 25, township 14, range 10.
On Jan. 28, 1869, Mr. Routt was united in marriage to Miss Martha Ransdall, and one son has blessed their union, Harvey, born on the 15th of March, 1871. He is now in the preparatory school fitting for college, his father intending to give him every advantage that can be gained by a fine education. Mrs. Routt was born in the neighborhood where her husband was reared, her birthplace being about three-fourths of a mile from his father’s homestead. Her father, John Ransdall, a native of Kentucky, born in February, 1812, came to Morgan County when a young man. He was a carpenter by trade, and afterward turning his attention to agriculture, is still living on the same farm that he first bought. He married for his second and present wife, Miss Tabitha Grimsley, and four children have been born to them, one dying in infancy.
Mr. Routt’s course through life as a man and as a citizen has always been highly commendable, and he has exerted his influence for the public good, using his wealth freely to benefit his community, ever having its highest interests at heart. He was a School Director for many years, and was active in promoting the cause of education. In politics he is a sound Democrat, as was his father before him. He is a member of the Christian Church, a faithful and exemplary follower of its teachings.