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Bela M. Stoddard

1840-1923

The following text is from the Portrait and Biographical Album Woodford County, Illinois printed by Chapman Bros. of Chicago in 1889.

BELA M. STODDARD, an influential, prosperous and leading businessman of Minonk, holds high rank among the substantial and representative citizens of Woodford County. He is a native of the Empire State, born in Chautauqua County, September 10, 1840, being a son of Simeon A., and Nancy M. (Merrill) Stoddard, natives respectively of Connecticut and Maine. His father was a farmer by occupation, and when a young man, left his native State, and going into the adjacent State of New York, met and married in Wayne County, the mother of our subject. He afterward settled in Chautauqua County, whence, in 1857, he came to Illinois, and settling in McLean County, bought 160 acres of land in Cropsey Township.

He was among the earliest settlers in that place, and the first election in the township was held in his house, a sugar bowl, into which sixteen or seventeen votes were cast, being used as a receptacle for the ballots. Mr. Stoddard remained in Cropsey until 1875, when he removed with his family to Chatsworth, where the death of his wife occurred in 1882.

She bore her husband eleven children; eight of whom grew to maturity, the following being their record: Nathaniel is a farrier in Rockville, Missouri; Charlotte married Nelson Brigham, of Chicago; George lives in Trinidad, Colorado; Mahala is the wife of Alonzo Straight, of Chatsworth; Julia, who married D. S. Thomas, subsequently died in Carthage, Missouri; B. M.; Simeon Avery, who enlisted in the 129th Illinois Infantry, was killed at the battle of Peach Tree Creek; Nancy is the wife of John T. Wickersham, of Clinton, Missouri. Mr. Stoddard is yet living on his homestead in Chatsworth, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years, revered and respected by all. He is a prominent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Bela, of whom we write, was reared on his father's farm, and received a common-school education, afterward supplementing it by study and reading, until he acquired a substantial business education. When seventeen years of age, he came with the family to Cropsey, remaining at home until after the breaking out of the late Civil War, when, in 1862, he enlisted for three months in Company K, 7th Illinois Infantry. At the end of the term of enlistment, our subject returned home and resumed farming until 1865, when he came to Minonk, and, in company with D. S. Thomas, opened a store of general merchandise. The following year the firm was changed to Stoddard & Newton, and to their other business they added that of dealing in grain, gradually increasing it, and continued thus until 1876, when the firm dissolved, Mr. Newton taking the business of the store, and our subject taking charge of the grain trade.

Mr. Stoddard carries on an extensive business, having two elevators in Minonk, and one at Stoddard's Siding, near Chatsworth, and was for sometime interested in the Minonk flouring-mills. He has accumulated all of his property since living here, and has invested largely in real estate, owning about 4,000 acres of some of the most valuable land in Woodford and Livingston counties. In 1868 Mr. Stoddard was united in marriage, to Miss Sarah Bell, daughter of Reuben P. Bell. See biographical sketch on R. P. BELL. To our subject and his wife have been born four children-Reuben B., Bertel M. Zadel M., and Melite E. Though our subject pays but little attention to politics, his sympathies are with the Prohibition Party. He never seeks office, preferring to give his time and attention to his business although some years ago he served in many of the local offices. Mr. Stoddard is a man of high character, unblemished reputation, and is considered perfectly honorable in every regard being held in universal esteem. He has a pleasant home, beautifully furnished, over which his amiable wife presides most gracefully, and where their numerous friends are ever hospitably welcomed.