Upon his death, the reverend E.B Washburne declared of Robert J Cross, “He was a stalwart oak, on whom could ever lean the feeble and the frail, a “Noble Old Roman.” A farmer all his life, and yet a firm, reliable businessman, as a life constantly occupied in public affairs proved him to be. Yet, he was ever as tender in the heart as a little child and his sympathy was ever larger than his frame, or his purse; and truly was it said of him, “those who knew him best, loved him most.”
Robert John Cross was instrumental in the early settlement and development of Roscoe Township, Ill. Upon his death the following was written: “During his residence of 36 years in this County, Mr. Cross was closely and intimately identified with its development, politically, socially and materially, never being backward in anything that would aid in its moral or religious advancement. A warm friend of education, he always lent a willing hand to aid in building school houses and establishing schools.”
It is with pride that we lift up his life and times with the following timeline:
He was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors several years, occupying that position at the time of his death. He was also Township School Fund Trustee for more than thirty consecutive years, during which time the township never suffered loss from the funds being loaned on insufficient securities, as was the case in most townships.
Together, he and Hannah had five children: John Cross, born 2 Nov 1837; Margaret Louise Cross, born 21 Apr 1839; William Hanna Cross, Rev. Born 22 Jul 1842; Mary Antoinette Cross born 25 Sep 1849, and Lewis B. Cross born 31 Oct 1851.
Mahala Ruth Jenks was born in Saybrook, Ohio, November 14, 1825. She was the 5th of 14 children born to Solomon and Lydia Walker Jenks.
On December 24, 1838 her family left Ohio and headed to Roscoe. Her father, Solomon, was the first doctor in the Roscoe area. In 1840 he was given an 80 acre land grant from President Tyler. The land spanned north Bridge Street on the west side of Main to Pine Lane and over to the River. Her father passed away just three years later in 1843, leaving her mother, who was pregnant at the time to care for Mahala and her siblings who were still at home. Her mother, Lydia, ultimately chose to return to Ohio to be closer to and help care for her elderly father. Mahala stayed in Roscoe and at the age of 18 she became an assistant teacher at the Seminary run by her brother-in-law Alvan Leland. In the early 1840s she met her future husband Giles Paddock Ransom. He attended Rush Medical School in Chicago, graduating in 1850. Giles and Mahala married March 7, 1850. In 1869 they hired Amos Tuttle to build the Ransom Manor which was located near the Kinnikinnick Creek on Main Street. On the first floor, to the right as you entered the front door, was a circular shaped room. Giles had wanted it to be heart shaped to remind his wife, everything she walked through the front door that "she was the heart of the home".
Mary Fyler was born November 27, 1862 in Illinois, the daughter of Lorenzo and Cordelia Wiltse Fyler. Mary was a lifelong Roscoe resident who never married. Well known for social events she hosted in her home, Mary would often take photos of those attending. Many of these pictures still survive today and are often used by Roscoe historians. She is listed in the Alumni Record of the University of Illinois- Chicago, School of Pharmacy. Graduating in 1889, she was the only woman of 71 students. Mary worked as a pharmacist in her father's pharmacy and grocery store " L.S. Fyler and Co." that was located on Main Street. She was also employed by the Pollock Drug Store working in Durand, Chicago and Rockford. She was a lifelong member of the First Congregational Community Church in Roscoe. Mary died October 3, 1936.
Sarah Snure was born December 28, 1802 in Canada. She was the daughter of John and Esther Ongoney Snure. In 1824 she married James Thompson who had moved from the United States to Canada to open a woolen mill.
She was the mother of nine children, seven of whom lived to adulthood.
1. Her oldest, Clark, was a Minnesota State Representative, Minnesota Senator, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, the first President of the Southern Minnesota Railroad, and established the town of Wells in Minnesota.
2. Edward was a Miller and invented a grain drier. He was also a Representative and Senator in the state of North Dakota.
3. John was a lawyer.
4. Anna married D.C Wagner.
5. James was nominated to the Minnesota Legislature but declined.
6. Marie became a noted teacher of mathematics and lectured on European travel. She also founded the Rockford Women's Club.
7. Fanny was married to a doctor and lived in France.
In 1842 she set off with her 9 children and a couple of servants to head to Roscoe. Her husband had made the journey some time before. It took her 17 days to make the trek. When they arrived their house was not ready so they stayed with the Rhodes family for a while. Several months passed and still no house. Fed up with the lack of progress, she took it upon herself to talk to the stone masons and carpenters and within a few days the house was complete. She loved to cook and was famous for her Calf's Foot Jelly.
In her later years she moved to Rockford to live with her daughter, Marie, where she passed away October 5, 1884. The Thompson's gristmill was built in the 1840s.
Hannah Benedict was born July 12, 1812 in Nassau, New York, the daughter of Jacob and Rhoda Beebe Benedict. She was the granddaughter of Lewis Beebe, a 1771 Yale graduate and surgeon in the army at Ticonderoga. She married Robert Cross on September 18, 1836 in Nassau, New York. Together they had 5 children: John, Margaret Louise, Rev. William, Mary Antoinette and Lewis.
In June of 1847 she attended a celebration at Beloit College, where they laid the cornerstone for the school. She was so impressed with this that in a letter to her husband, Robert, who was away at the Constitutional Convention, she wrote, "It was a day long to be remembered by all present- as the like may never come in our day or at least in a number of years." The entirety of this letter can be found below.
Hannah died in Roscoe on October 4, 1893 and is buried in Roscoe Cemetery.
HANNAH CROSS LETTER
Roscoe June 30th 1847
Dear Husband, I received your favour June 15 last Saturday. We always receive her letters with pleasure. The children seemed uncommonly fond of hearing from Papa and asked me many questions respecting your being at Springfield. Miss Eastman's present term closes in two weeks. The vacation will be six or seven weeks. The time is so long I have thought perhaps the children would do well to enter the district school. The teacher gives general satisfaction. I met with her and others yesterday at Mr. Brown's and was much interested in her appearance. I mentioned sending our children to her at the close of the term to which she did not object - please advise me on this point - Last Thursday was celebrated at Beloit by laying the corner stone of Beloit College. The number present was variously estimated at 12 and 15 hundred, a much larger number than has ever assembled on any previous occasion in the section. A deep interest was felt and the speakers appeared unusually engaged. They were disappointed in one of their most (unreadable) wished speakers, Dr. Becker of Cincinnati, Ohio, yet notwithstanding that the occasion was calculated to (unreadable) our warmest feelings. There are ministers from different parts of the country- Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio, and Chicago. I wish you could have been there with us - it was a day long to be remembered by all present - as the like may never come in our day or at least in a number of years. I crowded along until I could see the deposits of hear distinctly all that was addressed to that vast assembly. I rode up with Mr. And Mrs. Brown. You undoubtedly know now think it is time to say something relative to our own affairs - today Mr. Stoddard and Peter have gone to lay the wall for your barn. It has been delayed for other engagements yet Mr. Bruce has not been hindered. He is at work on the frame. He told me a few days since, he hoped to raise next week if he was not disappointed in getting the lumber from the mill. Mr. Proads has done some of the sawing and considerable is yet to do. William has hauled lumber from the mill to the barn. I know but little about his business but think some other persons have done much more than he has done the same length of time, but you will understand things better when you return that I can now inform you. If William was to get a log to the mill for fence board to enclose this yard, he has not done it and don't know whether he will get one of those now at the mill sawed for that purpose or not. One thing I do know I have not a James to depend upon to do such things for me yet I would not complain. I shall get along very well this summer. Mr. Davis chaps my wood as I want it and for everything else I am well provided. Mr. Cole wished to know if he should get a file to file the teeth of the reaper. He says they are very dull - did you use one or is one necessary? Don't forget to direct him in your next letter to me as he is anxious to know what to do about the file. Mr Chuney returned from Chicago last Thursday, he was caught in the mud going out and had a very bad roads both ways. Did you intend I should pay him for hauling the lumber? He did not fetch all of it but told me that you would go to Southport this week if his father was so he could leave home. He is not expected to live but a short time, says he will get the shingle and flooring at that place for he will not go to Chicago again. He brought all the siding, two thousand feet when he sold the wool. Mr. Hoskins sent his wool with ours. Mr Chuney got 27 cents per pound for the wool and sold it all together. The amount of the wool Mr Chuney will show you when you return. He paid me 15 dollars, the rest he's has to get lumber and shingle and pay expenses. He can explain all to you better than I can. Says he got the highest marked price. Mr. Johnson and Hoskins are much pleased with the sale - we get along very well. Mrs. Clarce of Beloit is with me, spending part of the time sewing and part in visiting. Just as she (unreadable). I find her very pleasant company and shall if possible persuade her to stay with me 3 or 4 weeks - shall look for another letter from you this week and will write as often as possible and give you the history of things as well as circumstances will admit and believe me.
Your affectionate wife, Hannah Cross