John Wood

John Wood

John Wood, Governor 1860-1, and the first settler of Quincy, Ill., was born in the town of Sempronius (now Moravia), Cayuga Co., N.Y., Dec. 20, 1798. He was the second child and only son of Dr. Daniel Wood. His mother, nee Catherine Crause, was of German parentage, and died while he was an infant. Dr. Wood was a learned and skillful physician, of classical attainments and proficient in several modern languages, who, after serving throughout the Revolutionary War as a surgeon, settled on the land granted him by the Government, and resided there a respected and leading influence in section until his death, at the ripe age of 92 years.

The subject of this sketch, impelled by the spirit of Western adventure then pervading everywhere, left his home, Nov. 2, 1818, and passed the succeeding winter in Cincinnati, Ohio. The following summer he pushed on to Illinois, landing at Shawneetown, and spent the fall and following winter in Calhoun County. In 1820, in company with Willard Keyes, he settled in Pike County, about 30 miles southeast of Quincy, where for the next two years he pursued farming. In 1821 he visited “the Bluffs” (as the present site of Quincy was called, then uninhabited) and, pleased with its prospects, soon after purchased a quarter-section of land near by, and in the following fall (1822) erected near the river a small cabin, 18 by 20 feet, the first building in Quincy, of which he then became the first and for some months the only occupant.

About this time he visited his old friends in Pike County, chief of whom was William Ross, the leading man in building up the village of Atlas, of that county, which was thought then to be the possible commencement of a city. One day they and others were traveling together over the country between the two points named, making observations on the comparative merits of the respective localities. On approaching the Mississippi near Mr. Wood’s place, the latter told his companions to follow him and he would show them where he was going to build a city. They went about a mile off the main trail, to a high point, from which the view in every direction was most magnificent, as it had been for ages and as yet untouched by the hand of man. Before them swept by the majestic Father of Waters, yet unburdened by navigation. After Mr. Wood had expatiated at length on the advantages of the situation, Mr. Ross replied, “But it’s too near Atlas ever to amount to anything!” Atlas is still a cultivated farm, and Quincy is a city of over 30,000 population.

In 1824 Mr. Wood gave a newspaper notice, as the law then prescribed, of his intention to apply to the General Assembly for the formation of a new county. This was done the following winter, resulting in the establishment of the present Adams County. During the next summer Quincy was selected as the county seat, it and the vicinity then containing but four adult male residents and half that number of females. Since that period Mr. Wood resided at the place of his early adoption until his death, and far more than any man was he identified with every measure of its progress and history, and almost continuously kept in public positions.

He was one of the early town Trustees, and after the place became a city he was often a member of the City Council, many times elected Mayor, in the face of a constant large opposition political majority. In 1850 he was elected to the State Senate. In 1856, on the organization of the Republican party, he was chosen Lieutenant Governor of the State, on the ticket with Wm. H. Bissell for Governor, and on the death of the latter, March 18, 1860, he succeeded to the Chief Executive chair, which he occupied until Gov. Yates was inaugurated nearly ten months afterward.

Nothing very marked characterized the administration of Gov. Wood. The great anti-slavery campaign of 1860, resulting in the election of the honest Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln, to the Presidency of the United States, occurred during the short period while Mr. Wood was Governor, and the excitement and issues of that struggle dominated over every other consideration, indeed, supplanted them in a great measure. The people of Illinois, during all that time, were passing the comparatively petty strifes under Bissell’s administration to the overwhelming issue of preserving the whole nation from destruction.
In 1861 ex-Governor Wood was one of the five Delegates from Illinois to the “Peace Convention” at Washington, and in April of the same year, on the breaking out of the Rebellion, he was appointed Quartermaster General of the State, which position he held throughout the war. In 1864 he took command as Colonel of the 137th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, with whom he served until the period of enlistment expired.

Politically, John Wood was always actively identified with the Whig and Republican parties. Few men have in personal experience comprehended so many surprising and advancing local changes as vested in the more than half century recollections of Gov. Wood. Sixty-four years ago a solitary settler on the “Bluffs,” with no family, and no neighbor within a score of miles, the world of civilization away behind him, and the strolling red-man almost his only visitor, he lived to see growing around him, and under his auspices, and aid, overspreading the wild hills and scraggy forest a teaming city, second only in size in the State, and surpassed nowhere in beauty, prosperity and promise; whose people recognize as with a single voice the proverbial honor and liberality that attach to the name and lengthened life of their pioneer settler, “the Old Governor.”

Gov. Wood was twice married, first in January, 1826, to Ann M. Streeter, daughter of Joshua Streeter, formerly of Salem, Washington Co., N.Y. They had eight children. Mrs. Wood died Oct. 8, 1863, and in June, 1865, Gov. Wood married Mrs. Mary A., widow of Rev. Joseph T. Holmes. Gov. Wood died June 4, 1880, at his residence in Quincy. Four of his eight children are now living, namely: Ann E., wife of Gen. John Tillson; Daniel C., who married Mary J. Abernathy; John, Jr., who married Josephine Skinner, and Joshua S., who married Annie Bradley. The last mentioned now resides in Atchison, Kansas, and all the rest are still at Quincy. [1]Excerpt from PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL ALBUM OF MORGAN AND SCOTT COUNTIES, ILL. Chicago, Chapman Brothers, 1889, pp 155-156.


John Wood
A Short History From 1906

Submitted by Linda Lee.

John Wood, the first settler and founder of Quincy, was born in Moravia, Cayuga County, New York, December 20, 1798. He was the only son of Daniel and Katherine (Krause) Wood. His father, Dr. Daniel Wood, was born in Orange County, New York, June 29, 1751, and served as captain and surgeon in the Revolutionary war for a term of three years. After that war he settled in Cayuga County, where he later married Miss Katherine Krause, a German girl, born of German parents in the Mohawk Valley, many Germans having settled there in the early colonial days, owing to the beauty and fertility of soil in that region. Dr. Daniel Wood’s father came to this country from Ireland, and was killed by Indians on Long Island, New York. John Wood’s mother died in 1803, when her son was only five years of age, while his father lived to the high old age of more than ninety-two years, his death occurring October 3, 1843, at his home in Cayuga County. His body was afterwards exhumed and now lies in beautiful Woodland, a cemetery established, improved and cared for by John Wood as long as he lived.

Thus we see that John Wood, the first settler and founder of Quincy, was of Irish and German extraction, and it therefore is meet and proper that this fact be emphasized here, as no history of the German element of this community would be complete without making this statement. While Dr. Daniel Wood, the father of John Wood, was quite a scholar and linguist, as might be expected from a man in his position, he being able to speak, read and write in German, his wife, the German girl from the Mohawk Valley, never learned to speak English. Had she lived longer, her son, John, would have become thoroughly conversant with the German language.

John Wood, the pioneer of Quincy, visited the present site of this city in the fall of 1821, and soon afterward purchased a quarter section of land. The place being uninhabited, he returned in the fall of 1822 and erected a log cabin near the river, at a point which now is known as the foot of Delaware Street. This cabin, which covered an area of 18 by 20 feet, was the first building in what now is known as the City of Quincy.

On January 25, 1826, John Wood was married to Miss Ann M. Streeter, daughter of Joshua Streeter, formerly of Washington County, New York, the wedding taking place in Quincy.

The facts contained in the foregoing statement were given to the writer of this history more than sixteen years ago by Daniel C. Wood, the eldest son of John Wood, born February 29, 1829, in the log cabin erected by his father on Delaware near Front Street, he being the first white child born in Quincy prior to 1830.

John Wood, the first settler and founder of Quincy, who died June 4, 1880, in the eighty-second year of his life, after having spent fifty-eight years in this community, where he was the most prominent factor in the history of the city for such a long period, will ever be remembered by all who had occasion to come in contact with him. In his personage were combined the best traits of his ancestors, the vim and vigor of the Irish, and the patient steadfastness of the German. Robust in body, of a commanding figure, resolute in character, he also was endowed by a kind and benevolent disposition, as the writer of this narrative had the opportunity to learn, when he made his personal acquaintance more than sixty years ago, the incident being as follows: My father had bought a bale of hay from John Wood, and sent me with the money to pay for the hay. Arriving at the residence, I found Mrs. Wood at home and wanted to give her the money. She told me to be seated, the “governor” would soon be in. When Mr. Wood arrived, I handed him the money and started to leave, but he in a most positive manner told me to sit down, which, of course I did, being somewhat frightened. Then the old gentleman said something to Mrs. Wood, which I did not understand. The good lady left the room and soon appeared with a glass of sweet cider, which she gave to me. She also carried a plate full of nice red apples, telling me to fill my pockets after I had drank the cider. This I did, and then Mr. Wood said, “Now, my boy, you may go.”

The German immigrants, who were among the early settlers in this community, found in John Wood a friend and adviser, always willing to assist them in acquiring a home of their own. “I attribute the kindly feeling of father for the German immigrants to the fact that his mother was German,” said Daniel Wood, the son, to the writer, in commenting on this distinctive feature in the character of his father.

In my description of John Wood, the pioneer, I have said nothing about the life work of the man, the many positions of honor and trust held by him in the community, as well as in the state and in the nation, leaving this to men more able and better qualified to do justice to the subject, my only object being to establish his connection with the German element, his German blood relationship. [2]Excerpt from QUINCY AND ADAMS COUNTY HISTORY AND REPRESENTATIVE MEN by David F. Wilcox, pp. 265-267. Chicago, Lewis Publishing, 1919.


John Wood
Another Historical Excerpt

Submitted by Linda Lee.

John Wood was one of the very earliest settlers in what is now Pike county. With his boon companion, Willard Keyes, he stopped upon Section 16, just below modern New Canton, in what is now Pleasant Vale township, in March 1820. Wood and Keyes were the Damon and Pythias of early Pike county. The friendship they formed just before they located on the bank of Keyes (now Kiser) creek in Pleasant Vale continued unbroken until the death of Keyes in the city of Quincy in 1872.

John Wood was 21 when he first set foot upon Pike county soil. He was strong, vigorous and ambitious, athletic of limb, tireless in energy, and it was said he could cover more ground on foot and be seen in more different and widely scattered places within a given time than any other of his day. In his breast burned an unquenchable thirst for adventure. For him, the lure of the frontier was irresistible. An Easterner, he early in life bent his footsteps toward the far outposts of civilization. Meeting with Willard Keyes, he discovered in his new found friend a character kindred to his own. Together, these two men marched for years in the very forefront of western advancement. Both achieved fame, fortune and honor.

Wood, stout-lunged as well as stout-hearted, had a laugh and a voice second to none in the pioneer settlements. As he rode the trail, astride his Indian pony, Keokuk, he sometimes raised his voice in some border song or ballad of the period, his great voice filling the wilderness. Often, it was said, as he rode the early Fort Edwards trail from his log cabin in Quincy to Dutton’s smithy in Pleasant Vale, with his plowshares and other irons slung on each side of his pony, and with provisions for the journey in his saddlebags, he sang and shouted as he rode, making the forests ring with his voice.
It was a great day in early Atlas when John Wood came to town. He was a good teller of tales, who loved his joke and quip and who delighted in good-natured banter. In Rufus Brown’s early tavern he often held forth to a merry circle of the early settlers. Before the blazing hearth, with a decanter at his elbow, the glowing logs lighting the faces of admiring friends, his wit sparkled and his merry soul laughed out at the world. Such is the John Wood pictured in the letters and early writings of the settlers of that day. [3]Excerpt from THE JESS M. THOMPSON PIKE COUNTY HISTORY AS PRINTED IN INSTALLMENTS IN THE PIKE COUNTY REPUBLICAN, PITTSFIELD, ILLINOIS, 1935-1939. Pike County Historical Society, 1968. pp. 41-42.

Governor John Wood

Submitted by Freddie Wormsbaker.

His father was Dr. Daniel C. Wood. Date born: June 29, 1751 . Died: Oct. 1843 in Cayuga County, New York.

His wife: Catherine Crouse. Date born: ? in ? Died: ? in ?

From letters we believe the Dr. Daniel Wood was married more than one time; to whom, we do not know.

His children: Clarissa Wood, Born: May 31, 1796 in Canajoharie, New York. Died 1860

John Wood, Born: Dec. 20, 1798 in Moravia, N. Y. Died: June 04, 1880 in Quincy, IL.

Governor John Wood was married twice. First wife: Ann M. Streeter, born: 1801, Washington County, New York. Died: October 08, 1863 in ? Children’s names. Ann Eliza Wood, Born, ?; Daniel C. Wood, Born, February 09, 1829; John Jr. Wood, Born, January 1831; Joshua S. Wood, Born, ?;

Second wife: Mary A. Holmes, Born, March 05, 1806 in Gousterbury, Connecticut. Died: January 20, 1887 in Quincy, Illinois. No children.

Gov. Wood’s sister, Clarissa Wood, Born May 31, 1796 in Canajoharie, New York. Died: 1860. She was married twice. First Husband: James Berry, Born: July 15, 1790 In Oakham, Mass. Died: ? in ?. Children: Jr. James Berry, Born: December 05, 1831. William G. Berry, Born: July 28, 1833. Emery Berry, Born: October, 1840

Second Husband: A. Goodrich, Born: ? in ? Died: ? in ?. Children: Frank Goodrich, Born: ?; John S. Goodrich, Born: 1824; Martha Matilda Goodrich, Born:

Submitted by Linda Lee

See Also: John Wood Mansion


1Excerpt from PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL ALBUM OF MORGAN AND SCOTT COUNTIES, ILL. Chicago, Chapman Brothers, 1889, pp 155-156.
2Excerpt from QUINCY AND ADAMS COUNTY HISTORY AND REPRESENTATIVE MEN by David F. Wilcox, pp. 265-267. Chicago, Lewis Publishing, 1919.