Biography of Winfield S. Allison

The Allisons are a sterling Scotch-Irish family, and early representatives of the name were among the pioneer settlers of New England and Pennsylvania, and were also among those who have carried civilization to the western districts. Members of the family were soldiers in the Colonial and Revolutionary wars, and in the war of 1812. “The History of the Allison Family,” by L. A. Morrison, published in 1893 by Damrell & Upham, of Boston, Massachusetts, gives the following account:

The name Allison occurs quite frequently among the Scotch-Irish settlers in the southwestern part of Chester county, Pennsylvania, from 1718 to 1740, at about the same dates as the emigration from the same localities in the north of Ireland to New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine occurred. The surnames, with the same Christian names of the early Scotch settlers in New Hampshire, were often duplicated at the same dates in the Scotch settlements in Pennsylvania, and among them are Allison, Park, Morrison, Cochran, Boyd, Dickey, McAllister, Stewart, Wilson, Mitchell, Steele, Campbell and others. Nor is this strange when we remember that as early as 1718 not less than five vessels of emigrants from the north of Ireland arrived on the coast of New England, but, forbidden to land at Boston by the intolerant Puritans; went up the Kennebec and there settled. The winter of 1718-19 being one of unusual severity, the great majority of these settlers left the Kennebec and came overland into Pennsylvania, settling in Northampton county.1

Of this hardy band of Pennsylvania pioneers Winfield Scott Allison is descended. His great-grandparents were James and Barbara Allison, of Pennsylvania. They had two sons and three daughters, and James Allison died in Indiana. The grandfather of our subject was John Allison, who was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, in 1793, and died in Belmont county, Ohio, in 1866. He married Miss Elizabeth Stewart, or Stuart, as the early members of the family spelled the name. She was born at Redstone, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1800, and died February 24, 1886. Their children were James, born August 5, 1818; Jehiel, born May 5, 1821; John, born April 8, 1823; Hiram, born in 1825; one whose birth occurred April 18, 1828, but whose name is not decipherable on the old record; Joseph, born December 28, 1830; Susanna, born October 26, 1834; Mary, born February 3, 1838; George W., born November 11, 1840; and Rebecca, born March 15, 1845. The above record was taken from the old family Bible.

John Allison, Sr., the grandfather of our subject, and the father of this family, enlisted as a private in the Pennsylvania militia in the war of 1812 and served for two hundred and seventy-four days, part of the time under Captain Coulson and Colonel Free. Removing to Belmont county, Ohio, he spent his last days there. His wife, Elizabeth Stewart, was a daughter of Jesse and Mary (Creig) Stewart. Her father was a son of James P. and Barbara (Taylor) Stewart and was the great-grandfather of Winfield Scott Allison. He was born October 12, 1777, and died October 8, 1846. He lived in Marietta, Ohio, in 1812, and there volunteered under Captain Van Horn in the detachment that went northeast through Lake Champlain, thence by way of Niagara to Lake Erie, where he participated in the battle of Lake Erie, under Captain Perry. He was a millwright and ship carpenter and had worked in a printing office. Both a soldier and a sailor, he was a man of fine military deportment and of soldierly bearing, was six feet in height and capable of much endurance. He was one of the pioneer merchants of Mount Pleasant, Ohio, from 1816 to 1818. Many relics of him have been preserved, including the uniform he wore in 1812. He was twice married, his first union being with Elizabeth Creig, by whom he had five children, namely: Elizabeth, Rebecca, Matilda, Mary and James P. His second wife was Miss Lydia Hart and their children were Maria, born November 10, 1835, and died August 2, 1858; Barbara, who was born October 9, 1839, and died July 9, 1845; L. D. Jesse, born February 15, 1842; and J. T. H., born June 23, 1844.

John Allison, Jr., a son of John and Elizabeth (Stewart) Allison, was born April 8, 1823, in Belmont county, Ohio, was reared on the home farm, received the usual common-school educational privileges and learned the tailor’s trade in the country of his nativity. He was married in Belmont county, September 2, 1846, to Miss Sarah A. Turk, who was reared on the banks of the Susquehanna river, a daughter of John and Sarah (Smith) Turk. Her father was a pioneer farmer of Richland township, Belmont county, and married Sarah Smith, who was born in Loudoun county, Virginia, in 1794, a daughter of Thomas and Martha Smith. Mr. and Mrs. Turk, became the parents of several children, as follows: Smith, Martha Ann, Eliza, Mary, Sarah A., Terressa, Margaret, David, John, Thomas, and two whose names are not remembered.

John Allison and his wife lived in Belmont county, Ohio, until 1854 or 1855, and then came to Grundy county, Illinois, settling on wild land in Vienna township. He improved the farm and prospered in his undertaking, adding to his land until he owned four hundred and ten acres. In 1869 he removed to Gardner, where he engaged in the banking business, being alone until 1870, when he formed a partnership with Isaac McClure, under the firm name of Allison & McClure. They did a profitable business until June, 1875, when Mr. Allison bought out his partner’s interest and conducted the business alone in Gardner until his death. Mr. McClure went to Scandia, Republic county, Kansas, and in 1879 formed a partnership with Mr. Allison, who conducted a banking business at that place, the latter being represented by E. D. Scott; but in 1881 they sold out the business. In politics John Allison was an old-line Whig and became one of the original Republican party, voting for John C. Fremont and Abraham Lincoln. Being devoted to his business interests, he always refused to hold office. He was a progressive and successful business man, and was in favor of all public improvements. Of a liberal and generous disposition, he withheld his support from no measure which he believed would prove of public good and was ever ready and willing to aid his friends to the extent of his ability. In all his dealings he was straightforward and honorable, and was regarded as one of the most highly respected citizens of Gardner. Fraternally he was connected with the Gardner Lodge, No. 573, F. & A. M. He and his wife were members of the Presbyterian church, in which he served as a trustee. Their children were: Sarah E. S., who was born June 20, 1847; Martha A. E., October 1, 1849; John A., October 1, 1851; Joseph S., March 18, 1853; Margaret T., May 11, 1856; Mary E., who was born in Grundy county, January 12, 1859, and died February 22, 1880; Winfield S., born in Grundy county, August 8, 1861; and Capitola B., September 19, 1864. The first four were born in Belmont county, Ohio; the others in Grundy county, Illinois. The mother of these children died January 12, 1875, at the age of forty-eight years, and John Allison afterward wedded Mrs. A. D. Gardner, the widow of Charles Gardner, who in her maidenhood was Miss West. By this marriage there was one child, Georgia.

Winfield Scott Allison, the subject of this sketch, was born in Vienna township, Grundy county, and with his parents came to Gardner, when about eight years of age. He acquired his education in the public schools here and in the Northwestern Academy, at Evanston, Illinois. He began his business life at the early age of seventeen years as he clerked in his father’s banking house and remained there until his father’s death, when, by the terms of the will, he was made the administrator of the estate. He has continued the banking business under his own name until the present time and has been very successful, his capital being invested in the bank and in real estate. On the 18th of April, 1882, in Grundy county, Mr. Allison was married to Miss Emma L. Bookwalter, the daughter of Benjamin and Susan Bookwalter, and they have three interesting children,—Wade S., Mamie and John. Mr. Allison and his wife are members of the Presbyterian church, in which he is serving on the board of trustees, while for the past ten years he has filled the position of elder. Fraternally he is a Knight Templar Mason, belonging to the commandery at Morris, and in politics he is a Republican, but, like his father, seeks no public preferment. He is, however, known as a public-spirited citizen whose aid is liberally given to advance all measures calculated to promote the material, educational and moral welfare of his community. The banking house which his father established, and of which he is now the honored proprietor, is the oldest financial institution in the southern part of Grundy county. Its well-earned reputation for reliability he has maintained by his conservative methods and honorable dealing, and he has made the institution a very successful one, gaining for himself an unassailable reputation in financial circles. He has ever enjoyed in a marked degree the confidence and regard of his fellow men and is justly regarded one of the leading citizens of Gardner.

Source: 1914 History of Grundy County, Illinois
History of Grundy County, Illinois, page 752. Chicago, IL, USA: Munsell Publishing, 1914.

  1. The History of the Allison Family,” by L. A. Morrison, published in 1893 by Damrell & Upham, of Boston, Massachusetts. Letter of William H. Egle, M. D., of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, dated April 13, 1878. He is the author of the “Illustrated History of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” published in 1876. 

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