ELDER DAVID HOBBS, notable in the Christian history of pioneer Pike county, was born in Kentucky early in 1800, the third son and child of Hinson Hobbs and Sarah Shipman and grandson of an earlier Hinson Hobbs, who with his family shared with the pioneer Vertreeses, Van Meters and Haycrafts the Indian perils that surrounded Haycraft's fort in the Severns Valley of Kentucky in the dark days of the Revolution.
Hinson Hobbs, father of David, was the grandfather of two pioneer Pike countians who bore his name — Hinson S. Hobbs, eldest son of pioneer Solomon, and his cousin, Hinson Hobbs, eldest son of pioneer Nicholas. Hinson S. married Mary M. Taylor; his cousin Hinson married Sarah Jane Johnston. Solomon and Nicholas were elder brothers of David, the former born in 1791, the latter in 1795. Both died at Perry and are buried there.
David Hobbs married Penelope Payne in Kentucky in 1829; their honeymoon was spent on the wild trail that led from Kentucky to the Illinois country, the couple joining in the western migration of the Hobbs family which occurred in that year. The young bride, Penelope, rode horseback all the way from the ancestral home in Kentucky to the prairies of Illinois. Arriving in Illinois, settlement was first made in what is now Scott county, then a part of Morgan county.
David Hobbs and Penelope Payne had nine children, all born in Illinois, as follows: Jephtha, Matilda, John, Bennett, Luther, Campbell, Vetura, Artemisia and Emma.
Jephtha, born in (now) Scott county about 1830, married Sarah Ellen Browning July 21, 1854. They were married in Pike county by J. Atkinson. She was a daughter of Caleb Browning and Penelope Powers, both natives of Kentucky who came to the Perry settlement in a very early day. Caleb Browning was born October 19, 1800; his wife January 5, 1805. They were married near Germantown, Kentucky, October 26, 1825. In November, 1833, they left Augusta, Kentucky, and journeyed to Illinois by way of the river route, arriving at Naples on the Illinois river in December.
There was then only one house where now is Perry and the entire county was but little improved and but sparsely settled. Mr. Browning entered eighty acres of timber and eighty acres of prairie, and on his timber entry he built a log house nineteen feet square. He split the clapboards himself and made the floor of oak timber. He cleared the first season a tract sufficient for a crop of corn, gathering enough for his own use and having some to sell. In the spring of 1837 he moved to his prairie land, whereon he had built a house, and there he lived until 1845. He then burned brick from which he erected a fine residence for that day, continuing to make it his home until 1850, when he removed to Rice county, Kansas. He owned at one time about 400 acres of Illinois land.
In Kansas he bought 160 acres of land which he improved and on which he spent his remaining days. He passed away in Rice county, Kansas, August 25, 1880; his wife had died in Pike county January 25, 1841.
Caleb Browning in 1839 was chosen justice of the peace in Pike county and filled the office until the spring of 1843. In early life he was a member of the Baptist church but later united with the Christian organization. He gave his political support to the Whig party.
Caleb and Penelope Browning became the parents of seven children, among them Caleb T., who married, first, Mary Ann Carpenter, and second, Gillie La Rue, the latter a kinswoman of the early Hodgens and a descendant of the La Rue family for whom La Rue county, Kentucky, was named; J. M. Browning, who married Mrs. Gardner; William P. Browning; Sarah, who married Jephtha Hobbs; and Abigail, who married Joseph Horton.
Jephtha Hobbs, following his marriage to Sarah Browning, attended Bethany College in Virginia where his wife also became a student. Their first child, Penelope, was born in Virginia. Jephtha graduated from Bethany and then taught school at Rushville and at Kansas, Illinois, going thence to Eureka, where he also taught. He became the first president of Southern Christian Institute for colored people at Edwardsville. His wife, remaining at Eureka, put their children through college there.
Penelope Hobbs, the first born, became a finely educated woman. She spent much time at Perry and while there she helped her uncle, Bennett Dorsey, in the organization of the Liederbund, an early Perry musical organization. Penelope, known in the family as Neppy, died at Eureka and is buried there.
Charlotte Hobbs, another daughter of Jephtha, married Henry Nay of Kansas, Illinois. Albert Hobbs, eldest son of Jephtha, married and engaged in mercantile business at Charleston, Illinois. He had one daughter. Perry Hobbs, another son, graduated at eureka and engaged in the newspaper business, being associated therein with his father. Minnie Hobbs, fifth child of Jephtha, graduated from Eureka and became an accomplished musician and singer.
Jephtha Hobbs died at Eureka and is buried there. He was engaged in newspaper publishing with his son Perry in the latter years of his life.
Matilda Hobbs, second child and first daughter of Elder David Hobbs and Penelope Payne, often accompanied her father when he came to Perry to preach. Elder Hobbs then had preaching assignments at Camp Point and at Pleasant View, a country church. On these visits with her father to Perry preachings, Matilda met and became acquainted with Bennett F. Dorsey, a son of early settlers near the Perry mineral springs. On October 15, 1851, Matilda and Bennett were married, with the Reverend W. VanPelt officiating.
Matilda and Bennett were married when they were 18. Matilda was born in present Scott county October 8, 1832; Bennett in Pike county on November 11, 1832. They soon went to housekeeping on the famous Wolf Grove stock farm of the Dorseys, so named from the circumstance of a killer wolf being run to cover and killed in a grove on the farm in the early days of the settlement.
Bennett F. Dorsey was born in proximity to the Perry mineral springs, which in later times became one of the most celebrated health and pleasure resorts in America. The springs, long known to the Indians and revered by them for the curative effects of their waters, sprang into local prominence when Zack Wade, a neighbor of the Dorseys, occupied a cabin in their vicinity and partook of the waters, restoring his shattered health. News of Wade's seemingly miraculous recovery spread to far places and thousands flocked to the locality to drink of the healing waters. In time a hundred thousand dollar resort, with a grand hotel and landscaped gardens made the springs one of the show places of the middle west. The resort reached the heights of its popularity in the 1870s.
Bennett F. Dorsey, who married Matilda Hobbs, was the fourth son of Charles Dorsey and Eleanor Broiles, he a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, she a native of Rutherford county, Tennessee. Charles Dorsey, one of the earliest settlers in a wild region that is now Detroit township, was born March 6, 1795. His father was William Dorsey, who served for seven years in the War of the Revolution, participating in a number of the hardest-fought battles of the Southern campaign. He was born in Baltimore in 1757 and at an early age moved to North Carolina.
Three Dorsey brothers settled in an early day in Baltimore and from them sprang the Dorsey family in America. The family is of Scotch and English descent. William Dorsey moved from North Carolina to middle Tennessee and settled near where the battle of Murfreesboro later was fought in the civil War. He died in 1807. His vocation was that of farmer.
Charles Dorsey frequently made trips to Alabama and other southern states as teamster, which vocation he followed a number of years. On October 16, 1823 he married Eleanor Broiles, a daughter of Matthias and Anna Broiles of Rutherford county, Tennessee.
Eleanor Broiles was born in Rutherford county June 25, 1805. Her parents were natives of North Carolina.
In the midst of the bitter winter of 1828, Charles Dorsey and his family arrived in what is now Detroit township and there set up a rude shelter for protection from the inclement weather. This shelter is described by one of the early writers as a "board tent." It was a rough board affair, rudely thatched, through which whistled the chill winds, sifting snow on the beds of the inmates as they slept. In this board camp the family wintered and when spring opened in the wilderness Mr. Dorsey cleared a patch of land, on which a portion of the village of Detroit now stands.
The Dorseys remained at their first settlement until the spring of 1831, when they moved to Section 24, on the middle fork of McGee Creek, in what is now Perry township. Here Charles Dorsey engaged in extensive farming and livestock raising, becoming the owner of some very fine land in that section. This location was near the sulphur, iron and magnesia springs that later became celebrated for their medicinal virtues.
Charles Dorsey died at his residence in Perry township October 3, 1856; his wife survived him until March 12, 1858. Both were members of the early Christian church. They were parents of 11 children, among them Alexander (Deacon) Dorsey, Bennett Franklin Dorsey and John S. Dorsey, who altogether owned and operated more than a thousand acres of land in a broad belt extending from northwest of Perry eastward almost to the Perry mineral springs.
Other children surviving the parents were Nancy E., wife of J. O. Power; Mary A., wife of William M. Browning; William, Thomas and Charles A. Dorsey. Charles A. died, unmarried, February 10, 1864, aged 18. William died March 5, 1875, leaving two sons, Herschel and Delbert, the former of whom was reared in the home of Bennett F. Dorsey, the latter in the home of Mary A. Browning.
The Dorseys became noted in the livestock world, their achievements in the breeding of fine stock gaining international recognition. In early days they engaged in the livestock business under the firm name of "A. & B. F. Dorsey, Breeders of Pure Spanish Merino and Cotswold Sheep, Poland China, Chester White, Essex and Berkshire Hogs." Foremost in this organization were Deacon Alexander and Bennett F. Dorsey. Later the business was conducted under the name of B. F. Dorsey & Sons, the latter including Edgar and Asa Dorsey, the sons of Bennett Dorsey and Matilda Hobbs.
The seat of the great livestock business was the Bennett F. Dorsey farm of 387 acres on Section 23 in Perry township, known as the Wolf Grove stock farm. The farm home stood a quarter mile east of Dorsey cemetery and a mile northeast of Perry. Here stood an eleven-room house, all on the ground floor. Here was the first gravity farm water system in the county. A windmill on the high land pumped water into a huge cistern which supplied water through pipes by gravity to the house, hog houses, milk house and barn. Around the house were numerous varieties of pines, the house itself being at the edge of a magnificent grove. Along the lane were stately walnuts, set by Bennett Dorsey.
In 1880 Wolf Grove farm boasted the champion sheep herd in America. It consisted of 500 thoroughbred Merino sheep, one buck in this magnificent herd costing Bennett F. Dorsey $600. In the season of 1879 this buck clipped 28 1/4 pound of wool. Another buck in the herd cost $300. In the early 1870s the Dorsey herd exhibited such outstanding champions as Gold Drop, beauty of the West, Kitty Trevilyan, Queen, Billy Bismark and Greenback.
B. F. Dorsey & Sons also in 1880 had a herd of 100 thoroughbred Berkshire and Poland China hogs. One of these, "Knight of Gloucester, No. 201," was bought by a firm in England for $560. Dorsey & Sons shipped stock to all parts of the United States and to foreign countries. They exhibited at the first fair ever held in Pike county, at Pittsfield in 1851, after which they exhibited their stock at leading fairs in Illinois, Missouri and other states. In the period 1876-1880 they took over 600 prizes, carrying off sweepstakes in every fair in which they exhibited. At the Illinois State Fair in 1879 they took on their herd nine first and four second prizes, including the breeders and sweepstakes in each class. The breeders on which the prize was given consisted of one boar and four sows. They took it on Berkshires and Polands, which had never been done at the Illinois State or at any other State Fair up to that time.
The Dorseys won $3800 in prize moneys at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. They became breeders of fine horses as well as of sheep and hogs. Their stallion, Lord Lytton, and his colts won sweepstakes at the Chicago World's Fair, as did their Poland-China boar, Shortstop, whose litter was sold to a zoo in San Salvador, Central America, after the fair.
Bennett F. Dorsey was instrumental in organizing the American Poland China Record, being the first chairman and the man who called the first meeting of the six organizers, he also being the oldest Poland China breeder (with possibly one exception) in the state of Illinois, making his first show in 1860.
Alexander Dorsey, a brother of Bennett F. and at one time associated with him in the thoroughbred livestock business, was born in Rutherford county, Tennessee, November 29, 1824, being four years of age when the family wintered in the board camp in Detroit township. In the winter of 1845-6 Alexander made a trip back to the Tennessee home, and there married Miss Jane Fox, who was born in Rutherford county November 29, 1829. Alexander was long an elder and deacon in the Christian church at Perry and was a member of the executive committee that erected the church building there. He died September 22, 1894; his wife in 1896. They had six children, four sons and two daughters, namely, William Alpheus, Charles M., John W., Isaac F., Jemima Eleanor who married D. J. Chenoweth, and Anna F., who married Walter Ingalls.
Alexander Dorsey, who in the early 1870s was associated with his brother Bennett under the firm name of A. & B. F. Dorsey, later operated a livestock business jointly with his sons, under the name of A. Dorsey & Sons, Following the father's death, the business was carried on under the name of Dorsey Brothers until 1901 when Alexander's son, John W. Dorsey, conducted the business in partnership with his sons, under the name of J. W. Dorsey & Sons.
John W. Dorsey began the livestock breeding business in 1868, when a mere boy, sharing the great honors that accrued to the Dorseys throughout the livestock world. John W. Dorsey's hogs became winners or more prizes than any other herd in the world. The firm won eighteen prizes at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904. Their herd of Chester Whites in 1902 won 185 prizes, including all champion and herd prizes at nine state and national expositions, including the Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky State Fairs; all firsts and seconds, including herd prizes, at the great St. Louis Fair; and nine firsts and championship boar and sow in the International Exposition at Chicago.
John W. Dorsey was a secretary of the Perry Grange and also its master for two terms and was appointed by Governor Richard Yates as one of the delegates to a farmers' congress held in the state of Texas.
John S. Dorsey, another brother of Bennett F., who had 370 acres of land near Perry, also gave much attention to the breeding of fine blooded stock, making the Poland China hog and the American Merino sheep his specialties. In this business he was connected at one time with his brother, Alexander. John S. Dorsey married Mary Hardy, and they had four children, two sons and two daughters.
The name of Dorsey is a prominent one in the livestock records of state and nation. These Dorseys, the sons and grandsons of Charles Dorsey and Eleanor Broiles. Have written an important chapter in the history of Pike county's thoroughbred livestock business.
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