Albert Babcock, one of the veterans of the civil war and an honored pioneer of Grundy county, has been a resident of this section of the state for more than half a century and is familiar with its history from the days when its wilds were, traversed by deer and prairie chickens, and when the greater part of the land had not yet been reclaimed for the purposes of cultivation.
The Babcocks are of sterling English descent, their ancestors being among the Puritans who came to the New World in colonial days. Seven brothers of the name sought homes in America and were among the earliest settlers of Stonington, Connecticut. Johnson Babcock, the great-grandfather of our subject, became one of the pioneers of the Empire state, and his son Johnson, the grandfather, was a farmer of Rensselaer county, New York, where he died between the years of 1820 and 1826. His wife bore the maiden name of Zilpha Green, and was a representative of the old colonial family of Greens that figured so conspicuously in connection with the colonial and Revolutionary history of this country. To this family belonged Nathaniel Greene, the famous American patriot and general in the war for independence. Unto Johnson and Zilpha (Green) Babcock were born eleven children, namely: Johnson, Hiram, Linas, Darias, George, Ransom, Ira, Matilda, Louisa, Fannie and one whose name is forgotten.
Johnson Babcock, the father of our subject, was born August 12, 1800, in Rensselaer county, New York, acquired a good education in the schools of his native state and became a farmer. He was married October 29, 1826, in his native county, to Dorcas Messinger, a daughter of Daniel and Mary Messinger. The Messinger family are of Welsh origin. Daniel Messinger was born in 1769 and died November 13, 1838, in the Empire state, while his wife passed away February 14, 1828, at the age of forty-eight years. The names of their children now remembered are Dorcas, Lewis and Betsy.
After his marriage Johnson Babcock, the father of our subject, took up his abode in New York, where he remained until 1831, when, he emigrated to Ohio, locating in Cuyahoga county, where he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of timber land. Clearing away the trees he placed the fields under cultivation and made a good pioneer home, but, selling his farm, he came to Illinois in the spring of 1846, renting land in the vicinity of Aurora for three years. In 1848 he purchased the farm upon which our subject now resides, and took up his abode thereon in April, 1849, residing there until his death. This tract comprised three hundred and twenty acres of wild prairie, which he bought of Stephen Davenport. When he settled on the land there were no buildings, and his first home was a log cabin, which he replaced by his present residence in 1854. As his land was broken and planted, good harvests rewarded his labors and he thus became the owner of an excellent farm. He was a well-known pioneer, much respected by all who knew him, and in early days his house became the home of land-seekers who sought locations on this western prairie. Being well acquainted with the country for miles around, he was often employed to locate land for others. The township had not been laid out at the time when he established his home here, his house being the second one built in Braceville township, in that portion which is now Maine township. Cattle drovers also visited his home when on their way from Bloomington to Chicago, for he resided near the line of the old state road.
In the work of public improvement and progress he took an active interest. He was the first justice of the peace in his township, and for many years held that office. He assisted in the organization of the township, the first meeting for the purpose being held at the home of John Cragg, which stood on the west bank of the river, where Milton Butler now resides. Later Mr. Babcock served as the supervisor of the township for some years, was also the township clerk and held other offices, discharging his duty with marked promptness and fidelity. For a number of years he was the township treasurer, and the cause of education found in him a warm friend. His fellow townsmen placed great confidence in him, and he was universally respected by the pioneer settlers.
In politics he was originally a Democrat, but became a Republican on the foundation of that party and voted for John C. Fremont. During the civil war he was a stanch advocate of the Union cause. His life was characterized by unflagging industry, and by his straightforward dealing he commanded the confidence of all with whom he came in contact. He died in April, 1886, at the age of eighty-seven years.
The children of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson Babcock were as follows: Lucy, who was born in Rensselaer county, New York, July 13, 1827; Martin R., May 22, 1828; John, July 20, 1829; Lewis, December 3, 1830; Hiram, April 17, 1833; Henry F., November 17, 1834; Mary L., August 25, 1836; Frederick J., October 29, 1837; Albert, June 6, 1839; Henry, December 17, 1841; Eleanor, August 26, 1843; and Ralph, April 30, 1845. The first five children were born in Rensselaer county, New York, and the others in Cayuga county, that state.
Three of the sons were soldiers in the civil war, namely: Frederick J., Albert and Ralph. Two of the sons-in-law, Dennis Harding and William Spiller, were also numbered among the “boys in blue.” Frederick J. enlisted for one year at Morris, Illinois, in August, 1864, as a member of Company G, Thirty-sixth Illinois Infantry, and served for eleven months, when, the war having ended, he returned to his home in safety. Ralph, a private of Company E, Thirty-ninth Illinois Infantry, enlisted at Wilmington, Will county, Illinois, for three years, and served until killed in battle in front of Richmond, a ball piercing his head, causing instant death. Previous to this time he had participated in a number of battles. Dennis Harding enlisted in 1862 as a private in the Eighth Missouri Infantry for three years, and was honorably discharged in 1865 on account of wounds received in battle. He participated in several of the leading engagements, and on one occasion was shot through the hips. William Spiller enlisted at Morris, Illinois, in August, 1862, as a private in Company C, Seventy-sixth Illinois Infantry, to serve for three years, and he remained at the front until the expiration of his term, when he was honorably discharged. He participated in the siege of Vicksburg and the engagement at Blakely, Alabama, being in the last charge there, which was the last battle of the civil war. In this desperate charge seventeen of his company were either killed or wounded in ten minutes!
Albert Babcock, whose name introduces this review, was born in Cuyahoga county, Ohio, June 6, 1839, and was seven years of age when he came with his parents to Illinois. When a lad of ten years his father settled on a farm in what is now Maine township. The work of civilization had but recently been begun and there were no schools in the neighborhood, so that Mr. Babcock‘s educational privileges were quite limited. His father, however, employed a teacher, so that his children were instructed in their own home. For a short time Albert Babcock attended the first district school in Rensselaer township, but experience, reading and observation have made him a well-informed and capable man. His memory serves to recall many interesting incidents of pioneer life. He can well remember the prairie scenes when the country for miles around was covered with grass, dotted here and there with bright flowers. He saw in the neighborhood the old Chief Shabbona, together with his wife and other members of the tribe, for they frequently passed through this section of the country on their way to their hunting grounds. The country and woods abounded in game, and Mazon creek with fish. Mr. Babcock has seen as many as seventy deer in a herd; wild turkeys, prairie chickens and quails were very abundant; wolves and wild-cats were often seen in the timber; and otter were found on the banks of Mazon creek. The settlers lived in log cabins, crudely furnished, and worked hard in order to establish homes; but genuine hospitality reigned supreme and many pleasures were then enjoyed that are unknown at the present day.
When a young man of twenty-three years Mr. Babcock enlisted at Morris, Illinois, on the 7th of August, 1862, becoming a private in Company C, Seventy-sixth Illinois Infantry, to serve for three years, or during the war. On the expiration of his term he was honorably discharged at Galveston, Texas, on the 22d of July, 1865, and was mustered out at Chicago a month later. His duty called him to Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, and in the course of the three years he marched several thousand miles. He participated in many skirmishes, especially in Tennessee, was in the siege of Vicksburg for thirty-nine days and was present at its surrender, on the 4th of July, 1863. At the siege of Vicksburg he was taken ill and remained in the hospital for a week, after which he returned home, where he continued for fifteen months. When he had sufficiently recovered he returned to the army and joined his regiment at New Orleans in January, 1865. He also participated in the charge on the rebel earthworks that brought on a hand-to-hand fight, which resulted in the capture of the fort at Blakely, Alabama, and was the last battle of the civil war. His company carried the flag, and therefore received the hardest fire, seventeen men being killed and wounded within a few moments. Mr. Babcock was struck by a ball in a joint of his left foot. He served until the close of the war, when he returned to the farm in Braceville township.
On the 6th of June, 1867, in Braceville township, Mr. Babcock was married to Elmira S. Stallman, who was born November 14, 1844, in Licking county, Ohio, a daughter of Augustus C. and Lydia (Huffman) Stallman. Her father was born in Germany and was a son of Henry L. and Sophia D. (Pum) Stallman. The rest of the children of Henry L. Stallman were born in this country. Henry Louis Stallman, the grandfather of Mrs. Babcock, was born in Germany, July 29, 1791, and married Sophia Pum, also a native of that country. Mr. Stallman was a participant in the famous battle of Waterloo, as a private under Prince William of Brunswick. He emigrated to America about 1834, and died July 27, 1870, in Delaware county, Ohio, nearly eighty years of age, a member of the United Brethren church, and his wife died July 22, 1873, aged nearly seventy-nine years. Their children were: Louisa, who married Jesse Holmes, and died February 13, 1880, at the age of about fifty-six years; Ricca, who married Benjamin Wollom, and died December 6, 1856, aged about twenty-nine years; Rebecca, who married Orrin Powers, and died in 1892, aged nearly fifty-eight years; Wilhelmina, who married Gideon Houser and died in 1863; Augustus C., the father of Mrs. Babcock; and Henry L. and Maria, twins. Henry L. Stallman, the son of Henry L., Sr., was a soldier in the civil war, as a private in Company H. of the Forty-fifth Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, enlisting under the first call, for three months, and re-enlisting for three years, and served to the close of the war, participating in many battles.
Augustus C. Stallman obtained a good common-school education, and in his later life was able to speak in several languages which he learned by carrying on business with people of different nationalities. In his youth he learned the shoemaker’s trade and conducted a shop in Etna, Licking county, Ohio, for a time. Subsequently he engaged in merchandising, conducting a dry-goods and merchant tailoring establishment in Coshocton, Ohio, where he met with good success in his undertakings! His last years were spent in Columbus, Ohio, where he died in 1897. His wife, Lydia (Huffman) Stallman, was of Dutch lineage. In early life she was left an orphan and was reared by Abraham Winters, a farmer of Licking county, Ohio. She had two brothers, Jacob and John, and a sister, Ann. Unto Augustus C. and Lydia (Huffman) Stallman, in Licking county, Ohio, were born the following children: Elmira S., born in Etna, November 14, 1844; Leah, born in Etna; John J. and Lyman E., twins; and Lewis H., who was a soldier in the civil war, who served as a private in Company L, Second Ohio Infantry, and was mustered into the United States service February 9, 1864, for three years. His death occurred, however, on the 16th of August, the same year, in Charleston, Tennessee. Mrs. Stallman, who was a member of the United Brethren church and a lady of many virtues, died in Etna, Ohio, and Mr. Stallman was afterward married there to Miss Nancy Neff. Their children were Charles, William, Nettie, Frank, Kate and Jesse. The father of these children was a member of the Methodist church. He served as provost marshal at Columbus, Ohio, during the civil war, and was an energetic and successful business man, respected by all who knew him.
After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Babcock located upon their present farm in Maine township, Grundy county, where he owns one hundred and four and a half acres of land. Their children were Jesse, who was born on the farm November 13, 1869, and died in infancy; Minnie E., born January 1, 1871; and Orrin E., born March 26, 1873.
In his political views Mr. Babcock is a stanch Republican, having supported that party since casting his first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln. He served as a member of the school board for three years, was the overseer of highways for several terms, and for two years has been a justice of the peace, being the present incumbent. Socially he is an honored member of Sedgwick Post, G. A. R., of Gardner, in which he has held the office of chaplain, and of which he is now the junior vice commander. He also belongs to the Knights of Pythias fraternity of Mazon, and is a representative pioneer citizen of Grundy county, who loyally served as a patriot during the civil war, and has at all times been as true to his duty to the country as when he followed the starry banner upon the southern battlefields. In his business he has prospered and has ever commanded the respect and esteem of his fellow men because of his well-spent and honorable life.
Biographical and Genealogical Record of La Salle and Grundy County, Illinois, Volume II, Chicago, 1900, p. 722-727.