1899 Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois Knox County, IL


Chauncey Sill Colton:     

           Chauncey Sill Colton was a remarkable man.  His name is as imperishable as the name of the city of his adoption.  A halo surrounds it, which will grow brighter and brighter, as the history of Galesburg and its early struggles shall be known and read.  Without him, this city of beauty and refinement, of schools and colleges, as it is today, could never have been.  It was he, with the aid of others that brought the great Burlington system to this city.  Without this railroad, Galesburg would be a “deserted village” on the plain.  He was its chief promoter and the only director living on the line of the road for a quarter of a century, during which time the original railway, of eighty miles in length, expanded to five thousand miles.  All the extensions in Illinois were made on his suggestion and insistence; and he was the first to urge its extension beyond the Mississippi.  All honor is due to him for incessant labors in building up the city of his home.  Like many a great man and worker for humanity, he built wiser than he knew; but future generations will enjoy the fruits of his labors.

            Mr. Colton was a native of Springfield, Pennsylvania, born September 21, 1800.  His parents were Justin and Abigail (Sill) Colton and were natives of Massachusetts.  They lived for one year in Pennsylvania, and then returned to their New England home.  Young Chauncey spent his boyhood at Longmeadow, Massachusetts, with his grandfather, whose precepts and advice did much to establish his character.  He attended the academy at Monson, Massachusetts, and improved all the means of learning there given.  But his large acquirements were obtained in the great school of practical experience in life.

            Mr. Colton was of English descent.  His American progenitor was Quartermaster George Colton, who came to this country from Suttancofield, Sussex County, England, in 1640, and settled at Windsor, Hartford County, Connecticut.  His grandfather, Captain Gad Colton, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

            In 1820, after finishing his course of study at the academy, Mr. Colton went to Monson, Maine, and resided there for ten years.  But the opportunities amid the rocks, mountains, and rugged barrenness of New England seemed to him too narrow and confined.  He therefore resolved to try his fortune in the Great West, then an almost unexplored wilderness.  In June 1836, he took up his abode in this city and lived here, an honored and highly respected citizen, the remainder of his life.  His first occupation was in the mercantile line, in which he was eminently successful.  But his chief business, of interest to this section, was the buying and shipping of its staple products.  He shipped the first beef and pork, the first wheat and corn from central Illinois.  The route of shipments was down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, thence by sea, to New York and Liverpool.  He favored every enterprise which was for the advancement and interest of the city and State.  He was one of the founders of the First National Bank, in which he was a director for many years.  He was also one of the founders of the Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Bank, in which he was the largest stockholder and its first President.  His money and his counsel aided much in the erection of Union Block and other buildings.  He built and occupied the first house in Galesburg.  He also built the first school house in the town, and paid for it himself.  Some years later, the frame of the old First Church was raised, but stood uncovered for about two years, until Mr. Colton offered to complete it himself, and let the members of the society pay their subscriptions when able to do so.  Indeed, from the day of his arrival to the time of his death, it would be difficult to mention a worthy enterprise that he did not favor and assist.  Public spirited, high-minded, possessing great native talents and a keen judgment, he readily comprehended matters and in every undertaking, knew what was best to be done.

            Although not a church member until late in life, Mr. Colton always considered churches and schools of primary importance in a community.

            He was a member of the Old First Church.  At the organization of the Brick Congregational Church, under Dr. Edward Beecher, he united with it and remained a communicant as long as he lived, and gave liberally for its support.

            He had also a great faith in Knox College, and in the work that this institution would accomplish for the community here and for the world at large.  For forty years, he was a member of the Board of Trustees, and nearly as long a member of the Executive Committee.  No college ever had a more faithful worker; he labored for its prosperity and success, and gave his time and money freely.  His services were ever regarded as valuable, because of his keen perception, sound judgment, and practical knowledge in all business relations.

            Mr. Colton never sought office and was not a politician.  In early life, he was a democrat, afterwards a free soiler, and lastly, a republican.  He believed more in the politics of principle than in the politics of men.

            Mr. Colton was married in Maine, January 5, 1826, to Emily H., daughter of Samuel McLanathan, of Sangerville.  There were born to them four children:  Harriet S. (Noteware); Sarah M., of this city; Colonel John B., of Kansas City; and Hon. Francis Colton, of Washington, D.C., formerly Consul at Venice, Italy.

            In such a life as Chauncey Colton’s there is much to admire and commend.  His manners were simple and unaffected.  He was an example of true manhood and possessed all those qualities which ennoble and dignify human nature.  He was intelligent and able to meet any emergency.  He had quick perceptions, and was not easily betrayed into difficulties.  He neglected no duty; he thrust aside no obligation.

There will be much more here on the Colton's.  Plan on Putting His son's bio Francis's here and Colonel John B's as well.  Col. John B. Colton was also a member the Jayhawker's the 1849 and spent some time going to California during the gold rush period.  John B. then organized the Jayhawker's Reunion.  More here later.....            

These are the 1899 Encyclopedia Link Bar are all typed by "Kathy Mills"

and then emailed to me for processing

Thanks so Much "Kathy".......

1899 Bio Index 1899 Index E--K 1899 Index S -- Z Babcock Berggren/Boggs Captain Burkhalter Carr & 3 others Colton Family Ferris/Flynn+ Frost/Gale Davis/Field+ Boyer/Brown



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Created Sunday nite, May 22, 2005

Wednesday, August 31, 2005 01:47:27 AM  updated & uploaded