Biography - George A. Durkee

GEORGE A. DURKEE. The original of our sketch is a worthy representative of an old and well-known family of the New England States. From them he has inherited a strong mentality, which has been intelligently directed and he is now recognized as being one of the intellectual, broad thinking men of this section. His superior mental caliber is recognized by his town-men, and he has been appointed to some positions of honor and trust. Several times he has been sent as a Republican delegate to the State Conventions and is the proud possessor of a souvenir of one of these missions, in the shape of a gavel made out of a rail which Abraham Lincoln hewed out with his own hands. This he received as Chairman of the County Central Committee.

George A. Durkee is a grandson of Dr. John Durkee, a native of Vermont, who came of American parentage, although very likely of French extraction. He studied to become a physician and followed his profession for many years, although he was at the same time proprietor of a large farm which he continued to manage until the end of his life.

He married his wife in Vermont. The lady's maiden name was Corinna Winters. She was born and reared in the Green Mountain state, and after the birth of their first son, David, who was the father of our subject, Dr. Durkee and wife removed to the Genesee Valley, New York, when that section was new. After ten or twelve years, the family continued Westward and settled in Indiana, in the same year in which the State was admitted to the Union, 1816. They settled in Vigo County, near Terre Haute. The country was quite wild at the time. They had proceeded thither down the Ohio and up the Wabash Rivers, in an old style keel boat. The State was just beginning to be settled when they came. They procured a tract of Government land upon which they began to make a home. It was there that David F. was married to Freelove Frink, about 1820. The lady was born and reared in New York, and was a young woman when she came West with some of her neighbors.

After the marriage of David F. and his young wife, they began life as farmers near Terre Haute, and there our subject was born April 1, 1823. In the spring of 1825, David F., wife and children moved to Tippecanoe County, Ind., and there secured a tract of Government land, upon which they made many improvements, and they secured a comfortable home. Dr. John Durkee and wife had also gone to that country, and there they died, the Doctor aged sixty-three. His wife survived him for some years and passed away at fourscore years. They were members and adherents of the Presbyterian Church and were well known and highly respected pioneers of Indiana.

In 1848, David F. Durkee, wife and children, emigrated to this State, making the journey by the overland route and bringing their worldly possessions with them by teams. They made a settlement on good land in Pickaway Township, Shelby County, and here they made a home and some progress toward improving the farm. They later retired to Shelbyville, and there David F. died December 28, 1871, being then seventy years of age. His wife died at the home of her daughter in Wells County, this State in 1881. She was born in 1798, and was a member of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Durkee was an old line Whig in politics and an active local politician, though not an office seeker.

Our subject is the eldest of a family of eight children, three of whom are yet living. A brother James is a banker in Eureka, Kan., and a sister, who is now Mrs. William Tackit, of whom a biographical sketch may be found in another part of this volume. He of whom we write became of age in Tippecanoe County. He remained with his father until his marriage, working in his mill and factory. He married Miss Salome Ellis, their nuptials being celebrated March 5, 1846. The lady was born in Ohio, near Dayton, August 7, 1826. She was quite young when her parents, James P. and Elizabeth (Swyhart) Ellis made a settlement in Tippecanoe County, Ind. There her mother died in middle life. Later Mr. Ellis removed to Illinois, and died at the age of eighty years, in Iroquois County. He and his wife were pioneers in Indiana. Mr. Ellis was brought up under the Quaker persuasion, but in later years neglected to follow the customs of that church. Mrs. Durkee was one of a large family, being chiefly reared in Tippecanoe County. For many years she has been a true and loving wife to her husband, ever studying his interests, and presiding over his home with grace and dignity, she has been his intelligent helpmate in securing and improving the three hundred and forty acres, which their fine farm comprises. Our subject secured his first one hundred and sixty acres of land from the Government. He has improved the whole of what he now owns.

Mrs. Durkee has presented her husband with six children, two of whom were taken away while babes. The living children are Walter B., Fannie, James Edward, besides one daughter who died in 1881. Walter took to wife Bell Kelley, and is a farmer in Holland Township. Fannie is the wife of Albert White and lives in Shelbyville. James Edward lives on a farm in this township and made Jennie French, his wife. The daughter who died was the wife of S. A. Martin, and passed away in her thirty-first year. Mr. and Mrs. Durkee are kind and hospitable people and have a host of friends in this county. Mr. Durkee is one of the leading Republicans of the country, but not an office seeker. He is an ex-President of the Agricultural Society of the county, having occupied this position for a great many years. He has been Vice President and Director from the second year of its organization.

Extracted 05 Feb 2020 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 658-659.

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