Wesson, Silas Dexter

Silas Dexter Wesson

In the years which have come and gone, to the number of more than sixty, since Silas Dexter Wesson, took up his abode in De Kalb county, there have occurred many changes wrought by time and man until the county today, with its large commercial and industrial interests, its educational advantages and its agricultural improvements, bears scarcely any resemblance to the district into which Mr. Wesson made his way in 1845.  He arrived here o the 9th of October of that year, finding large tracts of land on which not a furrow had been turned or an improvement made, while some of it had not yet been entered from the government.  In future years roads were laid out and the farms were fenced but at that time one could ride for miles over the prairie without coming to a habitation t impede his progress.   An arduous task lay before the early settlers in the development and improvement of the fields and the planting of a modern civilization in the western wilderness, and in this work Mr. Wesson bore his part as he grew in years and strength.  He was a little lad of about six years at the time of his arrival here, his birth having occurred in Jamestown, Chautauqua county, New York, August 22, 1839.

His father, James W. Wesson, was a native of Virginia and a son of James Wesson, who was a soldier of the War of 1812 and was killed at the battle of Plattsburg.  James Wright Wesson, father of our subject, in his boyhood days went to New York with the Mormons under Brigham Young and was reared in Chautauqua county, where he married Sybill Hatch, a native of Vermont, who was reared in New York.  Mr. Wesson engaged in the manufacture of lumber and shingles and made many trips down the rivers in rafts of logs.  All of his children were born in Chautauqua county and in 1845 he removed to the west, making the journey with ox teams.  He came direct to this county and Silas D. Wesson of the review is the only surviving member of the party, comprising two families, the journeyed to De Kalb at that time.  The father secured one hundred and sixty acres of land with a Mexican Soldier’s land warrant but rented and farmed for four years, living in a log cabin in true pioneer style.  He located on his own place about 1850, built a small house, broke the prairie and fenced and cultivated the fields.  He serves as justice on the peace for number of years and was a prominent and respected pioneer settler of the community.  He was born in 1808 and died August 29, 1880, when in the seventy-third year of his age.  His wife survived him for about five years.

S. D. Wesson was the only son in the family of four children is now the only survivor.  He was reared upon the old homestead farm, living in the little log cabin in his boyhood days and as he could he assisted in the work of reclaiming the wild land and converting it into the uses of civilization.  There were pleasures to be enjoyed unknown at the present day and yet hard work fell to the lot of all early settlers.  He remained with his father until he joined the army in August, 1861, becoming a private of Company K, Eighth Illinois Cavalry.  This regiment participated in all the important engagements in which the Army of the Potomac took part from Williamsburg to Appomattox and fired the first shot of the seven day’s fight in front of Richmond and also the first shot at Gettysburg.  Mr. Wesson was promoted to orderly sergeant and was wounded at Beverly Ford by a gun-shot through the right thigh.  He now has in his possession the bullet that wounded his horse.  When the regiment was mustered in they had twelve hundred horses, but when mustered out only twelve of the original number remained, including the one on which Mr. Wesson rode during his four years’ of service.  When the war was over he paid the government ninety dollars for the horse and brought him home, keeping him until he died and burying him on the farm.  Mr. Wesson remained at the front until hostilities ceased and was mustered out July 17, 1865, after which he was honorably discharged and paid of on the 22d of the same month.  During his service he was twice wounded.  He kept a journal during the war and takes great pleasure in looking over it now, recalling the events in that momentous period of the country’s history and the people who figured in the experiences of the war.  Following his return home Mr. Wesson resumed farming, which he carried on here until 1872.

In 1866, Mr. Wesson was married in Suydam church to Miss Maggie Suydam, a native of Illinois, born in a log cabin in Fairview, Fulton county.   They lived in this state until 1872, when they removed to Kansas, settling at Council Grove, Morris county, where Mr. Wesson secured a homestead claim of one hundred and sixty acres.  There he opened up a farm, which he cultivated for eight years, after which he sold out and returned to the old homestead, of which he took charge, his father having recently died.  He then cared for his mother and has since lived upon the home place.  He has built good buildings, including a comfortable residence, and he bought one hundred and sixty acres adjoining.  He has two sets of farm buildings and all the equipments and accessories of a model farm property.  He also raises pure blooded shorthorn and Durham cattle and feeds and fattens about two carloads of hogs and also a large number of cattle each year.  He is a prosperous farmer, capable in the management of his business affairs, and he is also a member of the Farmers’ Elevator of Leland and a director of the Farmers’ Mutual Insurance Company of Victor township, of which he was at one time secretary.

Mr. and Mrs. Wesson have become the parents of eleven children, of whom ten are living.   Mason, the eldest son, was a railroad man and in an accident lost a leg at Sandwich.  He died two years later, leaving a wife and five children.  The others of the family are:  J. W., who is married and resides in Oswego, being manager of a stock farm; Wilbur, Lloyd, Elon F., and Ben Harrison, all of whom are engaged in the work of the home farm; Sybil, at home; Elvie, the wife of Bert Sweet, now of Wisconsin; Grace, the wife of Bert A. parks, who is mentioned elsewhere in this work;, Minerva, the wife of William Todd, a Minnesota farmer; and Sarah, the wife of Henry Von Olen, a farmer of Victor township.

Politically Mr. Wesson is a staunch republican.  He is one of the public-spirited citizens of the community and has served as township clerk, has been supervisor at different periods for none years and was assessor for three years.  He is now filling the office of justice of the peace and has been the incumbent in that position altogether for twenty-four years.  His official service has been characterized by the utmost fidelity to duty and he has served as a delegate to various state and county conventions.  He belongs to the Masonic lodge at Leland and both he and his wife are members of the Eastern Start chapter.   He has filled al the offices of his lodge and is a past grand master.  He likewise belongs to Shabbona post, No. 463, G. A. R., has been the chief officer in that organization and is deeply interested in the order, thus maintaining pleasant relations with his old army comrades.   He is today as true and loyal to his country as when he followed the old flag on southern battle-fields and he has a military record of which he has every reason to be proud.


Mr. Wesson helped to break the prairie sod with ox teams in the pioneer days and he has seen and talked with Shabbona, the old Indian chief who was friendly to the whites and warned them of the impending danger at the time of the Black Hawk war.  He lived here at the time of the building of the railroads and has in fact witnessed almost the entire growth and development of the county, being one of the few remaining old settlers.  Events which are to many matters of history are to him matters of experience and his mind is filled with many interesting reminiscences of the early days when settlers were dependent upon what they could raise and make in their own homes for nearly everything that was used.  It was a time, however, when true hospitality reigned in almost every household and no settler would refuse to do any favor for own whom he could accommodate.  Mr. Wesson is indeed one of the interesting figures in the history of the county and is with pleasure that w present the record of his life to our readers.

[Past and Present of De Kalb County Illinois, Lewis M. Gross, Pioneer Publishing Co., Chicago, 1907, Vol. II, p. 440-444.]