MCCOY, SYLVESTER J. - The pioneer history of Sangamon County contains accounts of the wonderful work accomplished by those brave frontiersmen who, coming from more eastern States, settled there in the midst of the Indians and wild animals. The wide expanse of prairie did know the touch of a plow, when many came there, and along the water courses thick timber shielded dangerous wild animals. There were no railroads and, in many instances, no roads; Indian trails leading from one point to another took the place of them. Schools, churches, towns, and conveniences, all lay in the future. The McCoy family is one of the oldest in the county, and is ably represented in Rochester by Sylvester J. McCoy, a wealthy retired farmer of that locality.
The birth of Sylvester J. McCoy took place in Rochester Township, May 3, 1849, he being a son of Milton D. and Malcina (Cooper) McCoy. John McCoy, the grandfather of Milton D. McCoy, was born July 11, 1763, and died October 24, 1823. He had a large family: Jane; Polly, died October 3, 1855; Elizabeth, born November 3, 1795; Joseph E., born October 5, 1797; John A., born September 13, 1799, died July 14, 1835; Nancy, born November 16, 1801; Prudence, born March 10, 1804; Zillah, born March 5, 1806; Sophia, October 5, 1809; Andrew T., November 26, 1811, and Jessie C., October 9, 1815.
James McCoy, son of John McCoy, was married in Nicholas County, Ky., to Jane Murphy, of German parentage. He served in the War of 1812, under col. Johnson, long before his marriage. His wife was born in Kentucky, March 29, 1794, and lived there until her marriage. Two of their ten children were born in Kentucky, before 1818, when they came by wagon to Sangamon County, locating there. They came with Levi W. Goodwin, his wife and two children. In 1818 six women came to Sangamon County. In 1819 Mr. McCoy moved to Rochester Township, and he bought the first sack of salt sold in Sangamon County, paying for it with coon skins which represented a year's hunting. James McCoy became a prominent men, holding many offices, and had numerous dealings with the Indians during those early days. He used to take his corn to a grist mill to be ground, the journey being of several days' duration, as the wagon was drawn by an ox. He was of age before he owned a "store-made" coat, and always had a preference for clothing made at home. His son Joseph was the first child born in the county.
Milton D. McCoy was born in Rochester Township, October 16, 1823, and his wife was born four miles south of Rochester November 22, 1830. The McCoy family was originated in this country by three brothers, who emigrated from Scotland. Two of the brothers settled in the south, and one in Pennsylvania. It is from the latter branch of the McCoy family descend. Milton D. McCoy spent his life in farming, and lived to be Chairman of the Sangamon County Old Settlers' Committee, serving in that capacity for several years. His death occurred October 15, 1908, and he is buried in Rochester Cemetery. It is interesting to note that he died on the farm on which he was born, and the old homestead is still standing. While of a modest, retiring disposition, Milton D. McCoy won men and kept their friendship and was much respected in his community. Four children of the family survive: Sylvester J.; Jesse K. in a real estate and insurance business in San Antonio, Tex.; Mrs. Mary Puffenburger, of Rochester, and Mrs. Lilly Wright.
Sylvester J. McCoy secured his education is the schools of Rochester Township, making the most of the advantages offered him. He also attended the parish school, but had to help his father in working the farm. He now owns the homestead of 160 acres in Rochester Township, on which both he and his father were born, and which has been in the family for so many years. It is now one of the most valuable farms in Sangamon County.
The marriage of Mr. McCoy occurred in Rochester, the Rev. Albert Hale, of Springfield, officiating, when he was untied with Pauline Abel, born in Germany, December 3, 1852. The father dying in Germany, the mother came to America, but being unable to provide for her large family of children, and Mrs. McCoy was adopted by the Abel family, her foster-father being Roswell P. Abel, who married Margaretta Luce. They were residing in Springfield at the time they adopted Mrs. McCoy, and moved to Wichita, Kan., in 1883. There Mr. Abel died in 1887, and his wife in 1893. The real mother of Mrs. McCoy lived until the latter was twenty-five years old, when she died in St. Louis. Roswell Abel, the foster-grandfather of Mrs. McCoy, was born July 13, 1785, on Sharon Mountain, Litchfield, Conn., and was ninety eight years and twenty-eight days old at the time of his death. He married Betsy Mason on October 22, 1807. She was born October 22, 1790, at Fort Ann, Washington County, N.Y., her father having been a Revolutionary soldier. They removed to Springfield, July 15, 1836, and there, the wife died in 1876, at the advanced age of eighty-four years. Mr. Abel was a volunteer in the militia during the War of 1812, marching with his company from Granville to Whitehall, N.Y., and was in the Battle of Plattsburg. The trip from New York to Sangamon County was a long and weary one, being made in a prairie schooner. At this time Chicago was a town of 2,500, with streets full of Indians, and mud so deep wagons mired continually, and the Abel party were stuck several times. They followed the old stage road from Chicago to Springfield, and, after the many adventures of their trip, arrived in good health and spirits. Mr. Abel had a son and a daughter: Mrs. John Armstrong, and Roswell P., who survived him. Another daughter, Mrs. Calvin Peabody, probably lived at Farmington, Mich.
Mr. and Mrs. McCoy have had children as follows: Milton B., born November 8, 1874, died August 12, 1876; Walter J., born March 6, 1876, married Alice Keys, two children, Hester M. and Marilla J.; Edward O., born December 29, 1878, is a grocer of Springfield in partnership with Walter J., married Edna Hayes, one son, Milton F.; Mary Nian, born December 19, 1880, married Charles Franey, a bookkeeper of Rochester, one child, Mary Pauline; Eva, born March 16, 1883, is at home; Cleveland L., born December 16, 1884, married Mame Pearson and resides in Rochester; Elmer C., born January 28, 1888; Lora L., born March 14, 1891; and Howard S., born June 8, 1893, the last three being at home.
Mr. McCoy is a Democrat and has served as School Director of Rochester Township for two terms, and for the same length of time was a member of the Board of Trustees. He inherits his Democratic principles form his father, who was stanch in his support of that party. While Mr. McCoy is not a member of any religious body, he believes in the church and inclines towards the Methodist denomination, his mother and father having belonged to it. Fraternally Mr. McCoy belongs to the Court of Honor. Several years ago he severed his connection with the Knights of Pythias. He is energetic and progressive, and has accomplished much during his useful life. His property has increased materially in value since he took charge of it and his success is well merited. He has reared a nice family to do him honor and take their places in the several communities in which they reside. The family occupy a prominent position socially, in Rochester, and their many friends are always welcome in their pleasant home.