Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor
Thomas H. Bergen is deserving of prominent mention of the pages of the history of Sangamon county, for his residence here antedates that of almost all of the citizens of central Illinois. He located here in 1828 and his memory compasses almost every event which has had any bearing upon the history or development of the county. He was born in Madison, Morris county, New Jersey, on the 15th of December, 1820, his parents being Rev. Dr. John G. and Margaretta Matilda (Henderson) Bergen, also native of New Jersey. His grandfather, George I. Bergen, born in the same state, came to Illinois in 1818, settling in Morgan county in the year the state was admitted to the Union. He there engaged in farming until his death. It was in 1828 that Rev. Bergen removed with his family from New Jersey to Illinois, making his way direct to Springfield, where he rented an old house that stood on the site of John Bressmer's large mercantile establishment. There he resided for one winter and began preaching in an old log school house where the armory now stands. Later he established the old First Presbyterian church, of which he was pastor from 1828 until 1849, resigning in the latter year, and he had marked influence over the early religious development of the city. His wife passed away in 1853, and he afterward married Mrs. Susan (Lewis) Van Hoff, a representative of the old Lewis family of this county. Rev. Bergen died in January, 1872, and was survived by his second wife, who passed away in 1885. There were five children born of the first marriage: Jane Eliza, deceased; Catherine, who is the widow of Edward Jones and resides here; George, who has passed away; Thomas H.; and Amelia Matilda, who has also passed away.
The daughters were all educated in the east, but Thomas H. Bergen, of this review, was only seven years of age when his parents came to Illinois. The school system of this state was then in a primitive condition, owing to the limited number of settlers here, and so he received but limited educational privileges. In his early life he worked at various pursuits that would yield him a living. In the spring of 1849 he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Green Cooley, a native of Trenton, New Jersey, born in July, 1823, and a daughter of Rev. Eli F. Cooley, who spent his entire life in New Jersey, where he was engaged in preaching as a minister of the Presbyterian church. He died in his native state, but his wife passed away at the home of Mr. Bergen while visiting in the west in 1854.
After his marriage, Mr. Bergen settled upon a farm in Springfield township about one mile from the city and became the owner of a large tract of land there, now known as the old Bergen farm. He made all of the improvements upon that property and was engaged in general farming and stock raising there until 1894, when he put aside active business cares in order to live a retired life. He rented his land, but still resided at the old homestead until 1901, when he sold the greater part of his farm and removed to the city of Springfield, where he is now living. He, however, still owns thirty-five acres of the old farm, where so many happy years of his life were passed. He worked on earnestly and persistently, year after years, and thus he gained the competency that now enables him to enjoy all of the necessities and comforts and many of the luxuries of life. In 1896 he had the misfortune to break his arm, and since has been unable to do any work.. His eyesight has also failed him to a great extent, and he and his wife, in their declining years, are living with a granddaughter, Mrs. King, at No. 1323 South Fourth street.
Mr. Bergen gave his political allegiance to the Whig party until 1856, when he joined the ranks of the Democratic party. Both he and his wife are members of the First Presbyterian church of Springfield, and they have so lives as to win the good will and high regard of their fellow citizens. There is not an old settler in the county that Mr. Bergen does not know well, and in fact not to know Mr. Bergen, at least by reputation, is to argue one's self unknown in this part of the state. He has witnessed the advent of almost every family represented in Sangamon county, and his mind bears the picture of the progress that has been made here as the county has put aside its pioneer conditions and taken of the dress of a modern, advanced civilization.