Robert J. Cross: A Historical Tribute

  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 J. Cross

A Catalyst for Change

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:


  • born 1 October 1803 in Newburgh, Orange Co., New York, the son of Rev. John Cross and Margaret Hanna Cross. 


  • August 3, 1835, after a 10-year period during which he navigated west, R.J. Cross ventured into Northern Winnebago County from Coldwater, Mich., stopped at Stephen Mack's trading post in present-day Rockton and bought a claim from one of Mack's French-Canadian employees. This claim included what came to be known as Cross Grove in the Southwest Quarter of Section 32 of Roscoe Township in the present area of Edgemere Terrace. The farm was two miles northwest of present day Roscoe and lay on both sides of what is now Hononegah Road. The claim made by Mr. Cross was the first made in the town for the purpose of permanent settlement and cultivation.


  • 1836, Sept. 18 he married Miss Hannah Benedict, of Monroe Co., N. Y. 


  • 1836 Robert Cross was selected to the election board for the first election ever held in Winnebago County. At their first meeting, he was elected by the County Commissioners to County Treasurer. In 1841, he was elected as the first Vice President of the Winnebago County Agricultural Society


  • In 1846, Cross was elected by the Whigs as a representative to the General Assembly: 


  • in 1847 he served as a delegate to the convention to frame a constitution for the State of Illinois. Upon organization of the convention, Mr. Cross was a member of the committee on the bill of rights. On June 26th. Mr. Cross introduced the following resolution: “Resolved, That the committee on elections and the right of suffrage be instructed to inquire into the expediency of changing the time of holding elections from the first Monday in August to the Tuesday next after the first Monday in November, and the manner of voting from voice to ballot.” Mr. Cross led in an effort to secure in the new constitution a provision for a state superintendent of schools, with a liberal salary.


  • In 1869, Cross was unanimously nominated by the Republicans as member of the convention that formed our present Illinois constitution. Later he was nominated by the Republicans and elected as one of the three members from Winnebago and Boone Counties to the General Assembly.


  • February 15, 1873 date of death. 


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.

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