MARINER, Henry. — Of the cabin dwellers who invaded Illinois in the vigor of early manhood in 1838, few remain to lend the narrative of that time the benefit of personal confirmation. A distinction, therefore, attends one whose mode of life has projected him into the company of the borrowers of time, and enabled him to contrast the environment of the men of the frontier with that of the industrial captains whose energies are welding the affairs of the twentieth century. To none of these survivors has been vouchsafed a richer heritage of experience than to Henry Mariner, who at the age of eighty-nine is a retired citizen of Bushnell, Ill., and derives a comfortable income from his investments.
Mr. Mariner is of French ancestry and nautical renown, certain members of the family having been toilers of the sea during the time of Lafayette. He was born in 1818, on a farm in the conservative New England community of Sharon Township, Litchfield County, Conn., of which State and county his parents, Buell and Esther (Lord) Mariner, also were natives. When three years old. Henry was taken by his parents to a farm near Benton Center, Yates County, N. Y., the journey being made in a wagon and with discomforting accompaniments. Here the elder Mariner died in 1851, a devout believer in the tenets of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he had been a member from childhood. His wife lived until her ninety-second year, dying in 1876, after having reared a family of eight children, of whom Henry is the fifth, and Homer, a younger brother, still occupies the old homestead near Benton. Henry Mariner attended the public schools of Benton, and in 1838, when twenty years old, accompanied his brother to Buffalo, N Y., thence journeying by boat to Detroit. Mich., and from the latter point walking the entire distance to Canton, Fulton County, Ill. In his homespun clothes Henry Mariner had a hundred dollars, the magnificent and splendid proportions of which doubtless exceeded the bulk of the fortune which he has since won. This sum of money remained intact, however, for the lad had energy and far-sightedness, and at once set to work for a farmer, being thus employed for the next ten or twelve years. At the end of that time he invested his capital and earnings in an eighty-acre tract of land three miles from Canton, which municipality at that time boasted of eight hundred inhabitants. The growth of Canton was an interesting study to Mr. Mariner, as there he marketed his products and purchased such necessities — or rather luxuries, as they then were known — without his range of production. Disposing of his farm near Canton in 1855, Mr. Mariner bought a quarter-section of land in Walnut Grove Township. McDonough County, to which he subsequently added another 160 acres, both of which are still owned by him. He was always an enthusiastic admirer of fine stock, and it was largely to this branch of agriculture that his later farming efforts were directed. He was a studious as well as industrious husbandman, keeping pace with the times in general, and with farming innovations in all parts of the world in particular. His property came to reflect the wisest and most practical advancement in agricultural science, and he acquired the reputation of being one of the most progressive and painstaking landsmen in this part of the State. In connection with the achievements of his family, it is interesting to note that the Mariner apple, inseparably associated with the finest apple products of New York State, owes its existence to the skill in grafting by a brother of Mr. Mariner.
In 1900 Mr. Mariner abandoned personal supervision of his farm and moved to Bushnell, McDonough County, where he has a comfortable home, and where his declining years are cheered by the friendship of many and the good will of all. The wife who shared his growing prosperity until her death, March 24, 1885, was formerly Lucretia Stearns, who was born in Naples, N. Y., December 19, 1824, a daughter of Phineas and Mary (Cooper) Stearns, natives of Massachusetts. The American head of the Stearns family came from England in the ship "Arabella," and took a prominent part in governmental affairs under John Winthrop, Colonial Governor of Massachusetts. Subsequently bearers of the name stacked their muskets on the battle-fields of the Revolution, and still others, in pursuit of their various avocations, contributed to the conservative element m many Eastern States. Mr. and Mrs. Mariner were the parents of two daughters. Ada M. and Mary E., whose death occurred in 1886, the year after that of her mother.
In 1840 Mr. Mariner cast his first presidential vote for W. H. Harrison, and since its organization, he has been a stanch supporter of the Republican party. For five years he served as Supervisor of McDonough County, and for a number of years was a member of the board of education. He was active during the life of the Anti-Horse Thief Society, organized for the protection of the early settlers of McDonough County. Although subscribing to no religious creed, Mr. Mariner has observed always the most scrupulous of business and social ethics, and has contributed generously to churches and charitable organizations. If he is one of the most venerable of the surviving pathfinders of Illinois he is also one of the most lovable and companionable; a genial narrator of pioneer happenings, yet an ardent admirer of the advanced civilization which reflects its brilliant achievements upon the twilight of his sojourn.
Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 943-944, extracted 12 Sep 2019 by Norma Hass.
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