Mount Morris Index, Mount Morris, IL

August 15, 1907 p. 1



Was an Old Settler of Mount Morris Township and Engaged Many Years in Banking

The very sudden death of Major Charles Newcomer occurred at his Mount Morris home Sunday morning at about 4 o'clock. The news of his death came as a great shock to his many friends, as he had apparently been in rugged health and had been seen upon the streets every day including the evening preceding his death. However, he had not been feeling well Saturday. He and Mrs. Newcomer had been invited to tea at the home of Mrs. Barbara McNeill, but he did not feel well enough to go, and remained at home, retiring early. At about three o'clock Sunday morning Mr. Newcomer got up to go down stairs for some medicine, taking a kerosene lamp on account of the electric lights being turned off. In about a minute Mrs. Newcomer heard a fall, and rushing down the stairs, she found him lying on his back on the floor with the lamp, which was beginning to blaze, upon his breast. She threw the lamp to one side and put out the fire that started to burn his clothes. She then gathered up the blazing lamp in a rug and threw it out of doors, and by her presence of mind and quick action probably saved the house from burning.

Mr. Newcomer was unconscious when she reached him and never regained consciousness. He was scarcely burned at all by the overturned lamp.

There were two lady visitors in the house at the time, also the hired girl. After considerable difficulty several neighbors were aroused and a doctor summoned. However, there was nothing that could be done, and Mr. Newcomer ceased to breathe at about four o'clock. Heart failure was the cause of death.

The telegrapher's strike, extending over the greater part of the United States, threatened to prove a very serious obstacle in the way of notifying the distant relatives of the family. It was feared particularly that the Major's two sons in the far west could not be reached, and last evening word had not yet been received from Lyle of Colton, California. However, most of the other relatives were reached and among those who have arrived are: Edward Newcomer of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Mrs. Fridley Newcomer of Higgins, Texas; T. M. Hitt of Tyndal, S. Dakota; John Hitt, of Chicago; Mrs. Elizabeth Wagner, of Springfield, S. Dakota; Walter Wagner, of Avon, S. Dakota; Mrs. Gilson, of Chicago; Thomas Newcomer, of Shelbyville, Ill.; and Robert Newcomer of Rodden, Ill. Other relatives were expected to arrive last night.

The funeral will be held at the house this afternoon at 2 o'clock, conducted by Dr. More of Polo.

The following very interesting sketch of the life of Major Newcomer was prepared by Attorney Horace G. Kauffman, of Oregon.


One after another, the men and women who saw the settlement of Ogle County and were practically connected with its early history, witnessing and sharing the pleasures and vicissitudes of fortune in founding and building a new community, have found their last resting place in the bosom of the prairies they loved so well, whose carpet of grass for the living is become for them "the blanket of the dead."

This has been so in Mount Morris until of late years frequent have been the times when one has had to say, "One morn I missed him on the accustomed hill."

At the time of his departure to the silent abodes of death is that of Major Charles Newcomer, whose life ended so suddenly Sunday morning. The face and hearty "Good morning" of Major Newcomer have been familiar to the people of Mount Morris for more than half a century, with but brief interruptions. He came with his father's family to Mount Morris in 1845. He was then twenty years of age, having been born August 22, 1825. His birth place was Beaver Creek, Maryland. The family genealogy in this country goes back to the year 1740, when the American ancestor landed at Philadelphia from Switzerland. He was one of the colonists who between 1710 and 1750 emigrated from Switzerland and from along the upper Rhine, from Basel to Strasburg, to the American colonies, chiefly to Pennsylvania and Maryland, and who, with the Scotch Irish were a chief factor in the settlement of the Cumberland and Shenandoah Valleys.

The characteristics of the Swiss people of that day were honest, steadiness, frankness and independence, and these traits have not been lost in their descendants, who have done their share in promoting the principles of republican government and contributed their quota of men of worth and eminence to the land of their adoption. Perhaps the man best known to the public whose lineage on one side of his family was that of the Newcomer stock was the promising young governor of Massachusetts, William A. Russel, whose mother was a descendant of Abraham Newcomer of Pennsylvania.

Miss Sarah A. Fridley, who became the wife of Samual Newcomer, the father of Major Newcomer, was a native of the state of New York. She lived to an advanced age, retaining her faculties to the last, and was a most interesting old lady.

Major Newcomer was the eldest of nine children, the others being Edwin, who died in early childhood in Washington County, Maryland; Benjamin, who was also an Argonaut of '49 and who died in California; James who also went to California, and there lost his life in an accident; Catherine, who died in Maryland in early childhood; Ella E. (Mrs. Trine) is and has been for a long period of a resident to Mount Morris; Maggie S., who is the wife of J. V. Shepherd, of Prescott, Arizona; Samuel H.; Albert N., the youngest child, who married Maggie, the daughter of Rev. Thomas S. Hitt.

The Mexican war, bringing with it the acquisition of California and its newly discovered gold fields, soon followed the settling of the Newcomer family in Ogle County. The spirit of adventure stirring the heart of the youth of twenty, he became one of the "Argonauts of '49" and set out, like another Jason, across 'the plains" to the find the new Golden Fleece. The small party of which he was a member first traveled with ox team, and later with saddle horses and pack mules, making the long, tedious, dangerous, lonely journey without any serious mishap, and without any molestation by the Indians. Before Major Newcomer had permanently established himself on the Pacific coast his father's death occurred. This break in the family made it necessary for the young man to return home. The trip back was made by water, and across the isthmus, by way of New York to Mount Morris. This was 1850, and it was at this time, then, that he became the owner of the homestead a half mile west of the village, where he resided until 1876, engaging in the business of a practical farmer together with dealings in real estate. The first carload of grain marketed for Mount Morris was raised and shipped to Chicago by Major Newcomer, who had erected the middle elevator along the line of the recently completed Chicago and Iowa railroad from Oregon to Forreston. The transactions in real estate he carried on in connection, later, with his banking enterprise, and even after his retirement from active business life. He had a keen sense of land and property values, an unerring instinct and judgment in the management of practical business affairs, and a thoroughness and carefulness, which eminently fitted him for these lines of work. In addition to these qualities of the mind the Major possessed that other indispensable quality of strict integrity which won for him the confidence of every one who knew him.

On July 13, 1853, he was united in marriage with Miss Rosalie D. Blanchard. Miss Blanchard was born in Lewis County, New York, January 28, 1828, and was the daughter of a farmer. Her parents having died in New York, she came to Illinois with her uncle, Royal Jacobs, graduated from Rock River Seminary and afterwards became Preceptress in that institution. She was a woman of superior intelligence and of much charm of heart and manner. She died at her home in Mount Morris November 11, 1872, leaving three sons surviving her, Franklin Fridley, Charles Edward, and Lyle Caleb. These sons were all educated by their father in the alma mater of the mother they had so early lost. The oldest son settled, afterward, in Texas engaging extensively in the cattle business, and three years ago, his untimely death there sorely grieved the affectionate heart of his father. He has left him surviving a widow and young son. Charles Edward is now living at Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is deputy-sheriff there. Lyle Caleb is married and living with his wife and three children on a ranch near Colton, California, and is also following his father's footsteps engaged in a bank at Colton.

On June 2, 1889, Major Newcomer and Miss Maria Hitt were united in marriage. Miss Hitt's father was the Reverend Thomas Smith Hitt, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, prominently and widely known in this region in "the early days," and her mother was Mrs. Emily John Hitt, a lovely and highly intelligent woman. One of her brothers was the late distinguished and lamented Congressman R. R. Hitt. Mrs. Charles Newcomer, who survives her husband, is a woman of true-hearted, noble character and disposition, and in their beautiful new home, the Major and Mrs. Newcomer entertained their many friends with the most charming cordiality and hospitality.

Major Newcomer was a member of the minority of the Constitutional Convention of 1861, that remarkable body of men, the majority of whom on assembling refused to take the oath to support the State Constitution, and undertook to exercise the prerogatives of the legislature by appropriating money form the state treasury, etc. Upon its adjournment, by recommendation of Governor Yates, President Lincoln appointed the delegate from Ogle paymaster in the army, with the rank of Major, and he was assigned to the charge of the field payment of the Army of the Cumberland, including the entire force of General Sherman. His head quarters were at Louisville, Kentucky and Huntsville, Alabama. In a letter to Colonel William Allen, chief paymaster of the Army of the Cumberland, Major Newcomer mentioned the fact that some of the officers ordered to report to him were his seniors in rank and service, to which Colonel Allen replied and said, "Your habits and attention to business alone prompted me, and from the expression I have already had from many of the officers ordered to report to you, I am convinced that I made no mistake, and that you will have no trouble in the direction you suggest.

In 1877 Major Newcomer and the late Dr. Isaac Rice established the Bank of Mount Morris, of which the former became sole proprietor in 1880, remaining so until 1899 when he sold out to Joseph L. and John H. Rice, and retired from active business.

In politics Major Newcomer was a staunch and active Republican, always taking an interest in local, state and national political questions, and having part in the conventions that shaped the policies of his party, in which he was a recognized factor for many years.

It is very rightfully said that no person is complete in his character without a sense of humor, -- a fifth sense which endows him with a just perspective of things and adds an indescribable charm. Major Newcomer, as everyone who met his knew, possessed this inimitable sense; and, with this fine quality of humor, he also possessed a fund of anecdote of men and things, gleaning from his close and long contact with the world and its affairs.

Contributed by Peg Allen Arnold

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