Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor
WILCOX, THOMAS MOORE - No account of the pioneer history of Sangamon County would be complete without mention of Thomas Moore Wilcox whose efforts towards the development of this locality are widely known and universally recognized. He has now retired from active work, residing in his beautiful home of West Main street, New Berlin. His birth took place June 28, 1831, on a farm in what is now New Berlin Township, a son of Ellis A. and Ann (Lewis) Wilcox, the father being a native of Tennessee, to which place his father came from England. In 1820, he moved with his family to Kentucky, and in 1825, came to Sangamon County. Here he spent the summer cutting down trees in which the wild bees made their home, for the beeswax, which he collected, taking it back with him to Kentucky in the fall. However, he was so pleased with the new country, that he returned, locating in Berlin Township. He was later followed by his father, who located in Clear Lake Township.
After coming here, Ellis A. Wilcox secured land from the government, his deed being signed by President Jackson. To this he added more property, becoming one of the extensive landowners of Sangamon County. This excellent man lived to the extreme old age of 102 years, being born in 1793, and dying in 1895. During the early days in Kentucky, he was a Whig, but after coming to Illinois, espoused the principles of Democracy, although bitterly opposed to slavery. While not a member of any church, he gave freely of his ample means towards the furtherance of religious work, and his wife was a devout Baptist. She was born in 1800, in South Carolina, and died in 1876, and she and her husband rest in Moore Cemetery of Berlin Township. To them were born children as follows: Josiah L., a physician of Springfield, for many years regimental surgeon of the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, and is now City Physician; John of Arizona; Charles W., deceased; Samuel, also deceased; Lucinda, married Thomas Rhea, and both are now deceased.
Thomas Moore Wilcox grew up amid strictly pioneer conditions, attending the first school erected in the neighborhood. This building was a neighborhood affair, the farmers going after the log with ox teams. They split them for puncheon floors, and slab seats, when the building was completed, and all were proud of the little cabin. It had one window, while a huge stove provided means for heating during the long, cold winters. The books were as primitive as the surroundings, but the children did learn, laying a firm foundation for whatever after education they might receive. Mr. Wilcox had the advantage of several terms at the free schools, before he turned all of his attention to farm work, although from the time he could reach the plow handles, he assisted his father. He also became an expert in the use of the cradle, but now he realizes that times have changed, as he observes modern methods.
Remaining at home until he was twenty four years old, Mr. Wilcox then married, on March 27, 1856, Mrs. Catherine (Rubble) Fox, born in Morgan County, daughter of Jesse Rubble, who for years was a prosperous farmer of Morgan County. After marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox rented land from his father, which was located on Lick Creek, and began housekeeping in one of the primitive log cabins of the neighborhood. By hard work and thrifty saving, Mr. Wilcox was soon able to buy land in Morgan County, to the extent of 300 acres, to which they moved and built upon the property a comfortable residence. Later on, Mr. Wilcox bought a portion of the family homestead, continuing to hold his Morgan County farm. For years he was an extensive breeder of horses for road use, and was so successful that in 1898, he felt he could afford to retire, so leaving his home in charge of his sons, he came to New Berlin, where he now resides. He and his wife became the parents of children as follows: Charles L., died at the age of forty years; Albert on the farm in Morgan County; Carrie; Benjamin, deceased; Wallace of Lawrence, Kas.; Frank died at the age of twenty years; Thomas, an undertaker of Decatur, Ill; Mary at home; Ruth, deceased; Catherine, wife of Ottis King, a farmer of Curran Township. Mr. Wilcox has always been interested in educational matters, and believes in good schools. Formerly a Whig, he became a Republican, following Abraham Lincoln. The family have all been brought up in the faith of the Methodist church, to which they belong, and Mr. Wilcox is one of the Trustees of his denomination in New Berlin. He is a straight forward man, unassuming, but capable of holding his own. He has won the confidence and respect of all who know him, and is a typical example of pioneer days when a man had to prove his true worth before he was accepted by his neighbors. In the development of the educational, religious and agricultural interests of the county, Mr. Wilcox has always taken a deep interest, and too high praise cannot be accorded him for what he has accomplished.