Calhoun County

1891 Biography - William Hirst

WILLIAM HIRST. Although not a pioneer citizen of Calhoun County, as the region was quite well populated when he came hither, yet Mr. Hirst may well be called a pioneer farmer as he took possession of a wild tract of land in Hamburg Precinct and has reclaimed it, making of it a productive and attractive piece of property. The life and labors of Mr. Hirst exemplify in a striking degree the best traits in the English character, prominent among them being the indomitable will and persistence which have become typical of the natives of the little island whose influence and dominion extends from the rising to the setting sun.

Our subject was born in Yorkshire, England, March 11, 1840, to Joseph and Jane Hirst who were of pure English descent. He attended the pay schools of his native land, which correspond somewhat to the early subscription schools of this State, receiving all his schooling before his fourteenth year. When about eleven years of age he began working in the cotton factory in the spinning department, spending a half of each day there and the other half at school. This was continued about two years, when the lad gave his entire time to work in a cotton factory. A year later he found employment in a machine shop and for three years worked as an apprentice to a machinist.

At the early age of seventeen years young Hirst bade adieu to his native land, determined to try his fortune in the New World of which he had heard so much. He took passage at Liverpool on a sail vessel and after a voyage of about five weeks landed at Castle Garden and went directly to Philadelphia, Pa. Being ready to turn his hand to any honest labor, he was soon engaged as a farm hand near the city, and after a time became fireman on a steam vessel plying between Philadelphia and Savannah, Ga. About eight months was consumed in the run between those two points and then on the same vessel the young man made a trip between New York and New Orleans. The vessel had left the latter port on the return trip when she sank, not far from the southern metropolis. The vessel was the "Minnetonka," a large sea going steam vessel.

Mr. Hirst subsequently acted as fireman on various steam vessels plying the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, working in that capacity about three years. During the ensuing eighteen months he was engaged in making cross-ties for railroad purposes. In the spring of 1869 he settled on his present estate, which consists of one hundred and sixty acres on section 31 of the precinct before named. The zeal and energy which characterized his earlier efforts in life were brought to bear upon his new enterprise, and his well-directed efforts ere long made a great difference in the appearance of the land. From year to year he surrounded himself with more and more of the improvements which are desired by all enterprising and progressive men, until his estate became one of great comfort and considerable value.

In December, 1869, the rites of wedlock were celebrated between William Hirst and Lovina Barkley. The congenial union has been blest by the birth of seven children who bear the respective names of Jane, Anne, Nora, Ada, Charles, Mary and Lovina. Jane is engaged in the profession of teaching and Anne is the wife of John Campbell.

Mr. Hirst has become imbued with the American spirit, and rejoices in the republican institutions and laws of the land of his adoption which he recognizes as affording better opportunities for the poor man than the land of his birth. He endeavors to aid in promoting the good of society and is particularly interested in the advancement of the cause of education. He has served as a School Director, displaying good judgment in discharging the duties of the position. He is identified with the Democratic party. He is held in good repute by his fellow-citizens and it affords us pleasure to represent him in this Album.

Extracted 16 Mar 2017 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Album of Pike and Calhoun Counties, Illinois, published in 1891, pages 394-395

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