WILLIAM D. DORSETT was born in Randolph county, North Carolina, December 28, 1828. His father was Azariah Dorsett, a native of the same State, who was a cooper by trade, but he also followed farming for a livelihood. In 1835 he came in a six-horse wagon with his family, consisting of a wife and twelve of his fourteen children, to Illinois, camping out over night on their entire trip to Schuyler county. They settled in what is now Huntsville township, and a little later bought a tract of land upon which a few acres had been broken and a log cabin erected. The cabin was a very rough, primitive concern, with a roof of boards rived by hand, and a chimney of sods. After a little while this was replaced by a more pretentious and comfortable structure. Here he resided until his death in 1840. His widow died the following morning, and both were buried in the same grave. The mother was formerly Mary Beckerdite, of North Carolina, who reared to maturity fourteen children.
Our subject, William D. Dorsett, was six years old when he was brought to Illinois by his parents, and he well remembers the wild animals that could be seen almost daily in the woods and on the prairie. At that time it was easy to find an abundance of wild honey, as an experienced bee hunter could tell the location of a bee tree by watching the flight of the insect. Gristmills were very scarce, and often could not be reached at all. In this extremity the early settlers were compelled to grate their corn and wheat by hand, and Mr. Dorsett recollects having eaten many a meal of this homely food. At first the people of this vicinity had to go to mill fifty miles below Quincy, and were absent several days. He was quite young when his parents died, and was taken to live with an older brother. He bought forty acres of land in Birmingham township, at $10 an acre, paying for it by installments. When he began housekeeping, after his marriage, he had neither table nor chairs to commence with, and instead thereof had three bee-hives, one of which was used as a table and the other two for stools. Some kind person presented them with a dry-goods box, which was made to serve as a cupboard, and a bedstead was presented to them by Mrs. Dorsett's father. This was considered a great luxury. But this little home, though humble and rude, was made comfortable and bright by Mrs. Dorsett, who took great pride in making it cozy and comfortable. Mr. Dorsett went to work with a will, was very industrious and his wife very economical, and together they have come to prosperous circumstances and a happy home. He secured early employment as a rail-splitter, like Abraham Lincoln, and it was not his fault that he did not reach the presidency instead of Mr. Lincoln. The first money he thus earned was used to buy his first table. After a period of seven years he was the owner of sixty acres, free from encumbrance, which he then traded for 100 acres in Huntsville township, and at the close of his career as a farmer in Illinois he was the owner of 400 acres of rich Huntsville soil and a section of land in Texas. In 1883 he rented his farm and came to Rushville, and has since lived a retired life.
On the 15th of November, 1849, he was married to Elizabeth Ann Pendleton, who was born in Hardin county, Kentucky, July 11, 1832. Her father was Edwin Pendleton, a native Virginian, and her grandfather was James Pendleton, also of that State. Her father was reared in his native State, and went to Kentucky when a young man, and was there united in marriage. He learned the shoemaker's trade, which he followed for a few years, and in 1830 came to Illinois. He came the entire distance on horseback, accompanied by his wife and eldest child. Upon his arrival here his entire possessions consisted of two horses and 50 cents in money. One of the horses died soon after crossing the Ohio river. He located in Huntsville township, entered land from the Government, upon which he built a log house and commenced to improve his farm. Mrs. Dorsett's mother was a thorough pioneer woman and knew how to make cloth from flax and cotton. Her daughter, Mrs. Dorsett, learned the art, and after her marriage made all the clothing for her family. Mr. and Mrs. Dorsett have had six children: Martha L., Hattie E., Joshua E., Ellis Benson, Hardin Wallace and Alvin De W. The parents are members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Rushville.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Dorsett in their youth attended the pioneer schools of this county, where they learned "readin', ritin' and 'rithmetic,"--the three R's, as they were termed. The schoolhouse, of course, was a log building, and a very rough one at that. The seats were made of slats, and wooden pins served for legs. Holes, were bored in the wall, pins inserted, and a board laid thereon served as a desk upon which the older scholars, with quill pens, learned to write. The windows consisted of a section taken out of the side of the house and the aperture covered with greased paper, which served to admit the light.
Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, Biographical Review Publishing Co., Chicago, 1892, pages 157-159.
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