JOSEPH GIFFORD, a well-to-do and highly esteemed farmer of Versailles township, Brown county, Illinois, where he has lived for twenty years, was born in Cambria county, Pennsylvania, in December, 1833.
His parents, Joseph and Sarah (Davis) Gifford, were both natives of the Keystone State, where his father was born in 1802. His paternal grandfather, also named Joseph, was of English parentage, and is thought to have been born in England. He was a prosperous farmer in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania, and left, at his death, a good estate to his family, consisting of five sons and four daughters, all of whom became heads of families, some attaining a great age. One son was more than ninety years of age when last heard from, and, if still living, as is quite probable, he is nearly a hundred. The father of the subject of this sketch moved from Pennsylvania directly to Brown county, Illinois, in 1856, and rented land near the village of Cooperstown, where he resided for thirteen years, until his death in 1869, at the age of sixty-seven years. He left a widow and five children, four sons and one daughter: David, a successful farmer in Iowa; Joseph, of this sketch; John and Isaac, both prosperous farmers of Nebraska; and Jemima, who married Manuel Whited, and died in Nebraska, aged forty-two years, leaving five children.
The subject of this sketch was reared to hard labor, and had but few educational advantages. Before he was eleven years old, he worked in the Sligo Pig Iron Works, in Clarion county, Pennsylvania. When eighteen years of age, he commenced life for himself, and what little education he possesses has been gleaned by the dusty, toilsome wayside of life. Fortunately his parents dowered him with an unclouded intelligence and a robust constitution, and inculcated in him a love of truth and integrity, and trained him to habits of industry and economy.
He was married in his twenty-first year, to Lucinda Hovis, of Venango county, Pennsylvania, August 3, 1854, and continued to live in the Keystone State until the fall of 1868, when they removed to Brown county, Illinois. They made the journey overland with a team, bringing six children with them. They were four weeks en route, and, the weather being propitious, their journey was a continual pleasure trip and picnic. They camped in their tent and covered wagon at night, and cooked their meals by the way. Arriving in Brown county, Illinois, they located on forty acres of their present farm for which they paid $650. There were no buildings on the place at the time, and only fifteen acres of it were cleared. They had brought but little means with them, and went in debt $450, since when they have purchased forty more acres, are out of debt, and have most of the farm well improved.
Prior to coming to Illinois, in September, 1862, Mr. Gifford went as a volunteer in Company E, Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, from Franklin, Pennsylvania. He was on duty all of the time from his enlistment until his discharge at Lynchburg, Virginia, June 17, 1865, except when he was sick in the hospital with typhoid pneumonia, from June 4 to August 16, 1863. He was in some forty-six engagements, some of which were hotly contested. Among these was the battle of Hatcher's Run, which he thinks was worse than that of the "Bull Pen." His last year of service was spent under the command of General Phil. Sheridan.
Mr. and Mrs. Gifford have had ten children, nine of whom survive: Sarah, married George Green, and died, aged twenty-five years, leaving two sons; Ernest, a prosperous farmer of Elkhorn township, married Alice Lewis, and has two children; Maggie married Morgan Grady, a successful farmer of Pike county, Illinois; Laura married Frank Sellers, a well-to-do farmer of Iowa, and has one daughter; Ida married George B. Alexander, and has two children; Julia married John Orr, a progressive farmer of Cooperstown township; Hattie married William Tolle, an estimable laboring man of Versailles township, and has one son; Mattie and Mollie, twin sisters, are intelligent and active young ladies, who relieve their mother of much of the household work; Joseph W., the youngest a youth of sixteen, is at home, and does much of the hard labor on the farm. Mr. Gifford, who has toiled hard for many years, is taking a needed rest whenever he can do so.
In politics Mr. Gifford is Democratic, and has been honored by his constituents several times with public office. Besides minor positions of trust, he has served two terms as Justice of the Peace, and was re-elected for the third term, but declined to qualify, thinking he had done his share of such service.
Religiously he and his worthy wife are earnest and useful members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to which they have belonged many years.
Mr. Gifford's history would serve as an example for many poor, young men, starting in life. A careful analysis of his prosperity would be found to consist in intelligent and persistent effort, supplemented by uprightness of dealing, careful economy and uniform courtesy in all the various walks of life.
Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, Biographical Review Publishing Co., Chicago, 1892, pages 233-234.
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