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Sylvanus Atwater Family

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Alternate Spellings - The origins of the name include Water and Waters and these names should be considered when doing research in very early records

Links - Roberts, Shields, Brown, Burleigh

Contacts - George Fulton is a descendant of Clio Atwater and husband James Edward Fulton. He kindly sent Sylvanus's obituary which is appended at the end of the page and two photos of Sylvanus {Photo 1} {Photo 2}.

We are including information on the Sylvanus Atwater family even though they did not live in New Boston or Eliza Townships at any time that we can determine. Daughter Clio Atwater Fulton is buried in New Boston Cemetery. Sylvanus Atwater is of interest to us as he was a County Superintendent of Schools (see schools page linked above), but of more interest are the letters that Sylvanus Atwater wrote from the field to the Aledo Weekly Record during the Civil War (see Civil War page linked above). He enlisted from New Boston in a New Boston Company. His letters fill us in on many happenings that are not otherwise reported in official Civil War records.

CAUTION: We have used Atwater History and Genealogy, Vol III, by Francis Atwater (Meriden, Connecticut: The Journal Publishing Company, 1918) as a reference for the ancestry of Sylvanus Atwater. There is a caveat in the history itself that it may contain errors and ommissions. As with any family history publication it should be considered only a guideline for research and not as definitive information. George Fulton tells us that he has found the information to be quite reliable as he has researched his branch of the Atwater family.

Sylvanus Atwater was son of David C. and Mary Barden Atwater. David Atwater was born 6/7/1808 in Phelps, New York, son of John and Martha Ferguson Atwater. Mary Barden was born 4/4/1833, daughter of Thomas and Olive Benton Barden. David and Mary married on 4/4/1833 in Warren County, Ohio. David died 10/6/1854 in Warren County. It was probably at this time that the Atwaters came to Mercer County as mother Mary, two sisters, and a brother accompanied Sylvanus Atwater to Mercer County. There is a brief history of them at the end of the page.

Sylvanus Atwater was born 3/20/1835 in Warren County, Ohio, and died 6/3/1908 in the Soldier's Home in Quincy, Illinois. He is buried in the Viola Cemetery, Mercer County, Illinois. Sylvanus, mother and siblings probably came to Mercer County after the death of his father in 1854 and before his brother-in-law was elected school commissioner in November 1855. Sylvanus married Sarah A. Roberts on 5/1/1861 in Mercer County, Illinois. Sarah was born about 1841, daughter of John and Mary Shields Roberts of New Boston Township.

Sylvanus Atwater served in the Civil War in Co G of the 27th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. The company was known variously as the "New Boston Rifle Company" and the "New Boston Sharpshooters." The Adjutant General's Report of the State of Illinois gives Private Atwater as enlisting from New Boston on August 20, 1861, mustering in on August 24, 1861, and mustering out on September 20, 1864 as First Sergeant of his company. The New Boston Sharpshooters under Captain H. B. Southward left aboard the steamship Kate Cassell on Tuesday, August 20, 1861, and their trip to camp is described in a letter written by Sylvanus Atwater and published in the Aledo Record on 9/10/1861. There is a link to the letter on the Civil War Page. We have other letters of his that we will post as time permits, including one from Camp Louden, Tennessee, March 1, 1864, describing the battle of Mission Ridge. The Aledo Record of 7/20/1864 reported that "valued correspondent Sgt. S. B. Atwater, together with others, has been severely wounded." This was in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and because of his wounds, he did not write his usual letter. Another correspondent did report on the battle and that letter is also linked on the Civil War page. Sylvanus is referred to as "Orderly Atwater" in that letter.

Family of Sylvanus and Sarah Roberts Atwater

When Sylvanus left New Boston on August 20, 1861, he left behind a pregnant wife. Their first child, May Atwater, was born 4/13/1862, while Sylvanus was away. May Atwater married John Hardin in Mercer County 23 May 1889. John Hardin died in 1923 and is buried in Mercer County, but May Atwater is found with her daughter Sarah Hardin Jones in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 1930 census so we are not sure where she is buried. We double checked the DAR Cemetery Records and found the following in Greenmound Cemetery: John P. Hardin 1850-1923 and May A., wife of John P. Hardin 1862-1939 as the tombstone inscriptions. May is indexed as Mary which leads to some confusion.

Sylvanus and Sarah had another child, Clio Atwater, born 11/3/1868. She married James Edward Fulton and they too lived in Mercer County and are both buried in New Boston Cemetery [Edward J. Fulton Apr 19, 1860-Nov 10, 1927; Clio Fulton Nov 3, 1868-Aug 20, 1951]. George Fulton has posted the obituary of James Edward (aka Edward James) Fulton on the Mercer County Rootsweb site.

According to Sylvanus's obituary (see below) there was a son John who died in infancy.

When Sylvanus Atwater returned from the Civil War he was elected as County school commissioner, November 7, 1865. We find an excellent history of the county schools in the Perryton Township Chapter in History of Mercer County, 1882. Much of the school history plus the description of Sylvanus's term as school commissioner is given on our Schools page.

Sylvanus and Sarah are found living in Green Township in the 1870 Mercer County census: Sylvanus B. Atwater, 35, Schoolteacher, born Oh; Sarah, 29, born Il; Mary, 8, Clio, 1, both born Il. They have a young man named Edmon Morris (son of a neighbor), age 20, living with them, occupation farmer, so the Atwaters evidently lived on a farm, but had hired help to do the farming work. By 1880 Sylvanus was a farmer in Green Township: Silvanus, 45, born Ohio, parents born New York; Sarah, 39, born Il, father born England, mother born Indiana; Mary, 18, born Il, and Clio, 11, born Il.

Sylvester died on June 3, 1908 and is buried in the Viola Cemetery "1st Sgt S. B. Atwater Co G-27th Ill Inf died June 3, 1908."

Relatives in Mercer County

Sylvanus Atwater was not the only one in the family with an interest in schools. Sister Martha Ann Atwater, born 4/3/1834 in Warren County, Ohio, married Norman P. Brown on 2/28/1854 probably in Warren County, Ohio. They came to Mercer County with Silvanus. On November 6, 1855, Norman Brown was elected school commissioner for the then two year term. The Mercer County History states that Mr. Brown was a practical and competent teacher, but did not advance the character of the schools of the county. Martha Ann Atwater died 3/1/1855, probably in childbirth, and Norman P. Brown is found living alone in Viola in 1860, age 31, born New York, clerk. Martha Ann is buried in Farlow Grove Cemetery in Mercer County. Norman Brown died 8/25/1872 and is buried in Aledo Cemetery. Sister Olive Moriah Atwater, born 9/21/1840 in Warren County, Ohio, was a teacher in District 3 of Rivoli Township in Mercer County. She married Hiram Depuy on 4/7/1857 in Mercer County. They are not found in the 1860 census in Mercer County.

Sylvanus's mother and brother also came with him to Mercer County. They are found in the 1860 census in Greene Township: Mary Atwater, 48, farmer, born New York, Sylvanus, 25, born Ohio; Eathen, 16, born Ohio. Ethan Atwater was born 2/23/1844 in Warren County, Ohio. Neither he nor his mother are found in Mercer County in 1870. According to the Atwater History, Mary did not die until 12/18/1893. The residence of Ethan Atwater is given in the history as Beaver Crossing, Nebraska. Mother Mary may have accompanied him there. Ethan is found in Precinct K, Seward, Nebraska in 1880 with wife Mary, but mother Mary is not with him.

Sylvanus Atwater Obituary (courtesy of George Fulton)

Death of a Well Known Veteran
The remains of S. B. Atwater, who passed away in the Soldier's Home at Quincy Saturday morning were brought to Viola Monday, where funeral services were held and burial made. Mr. Atwater was a man of sterling character. He bore the honor of having been the first superintendent of schools in this county and the foundation for all that has been done for the schools in this county.

Silvanus Barden Atwater was born in Trumbull County, Ohio, March 20, 1835 and was the son of David C. and Mary (Barden) Atwater and died at the Soldier's Home at Quincy, Illinois, at four o'clock Saturday morning, June 13, 1908, being 73 years, 2 months and 23 days of age. He was a descendant of David Atwater who in 1635 owned the land where Yale College now stands. Mr. Atwater received his education in the public schools and had entered the Western Reserve Normal School. It was the intention of the father to give the son a liberal education but he was stricken and died with cholera when an epidemic of that dread disease swept over the country. Mr. Atwater was at school at the time and so sudden was the father's death that the funeral obsequies had been held and the grave filled when the son reached the spot--the family burying ground on the old farm in Ohio. Mr. Atwater did not return to college but at the early age of 17 years began teaching his first school across the line in Pennsylvania, contributing to the support of his mother and younger brothers and sisters. Here he became acquainted with the family of Wm. Miller, now living south of Joy, a lifelong friendship being formed then, only broken by death now. In 1855 Mr. Atwater came to Mercer County, Illinois, and the same year taught the school four miles east of Keithsburg, Illinois, at what was known as the "Brick School." He continued to teach in Mercer and Rock Island counties until the breaking out of war. When the firing on Fort Sumpter revibrated through the country in 1861 Mr. Atwater was among the first to offer his service in the defense of his country's honor. He first enlisted in a company formed in Aledo. This company was, however, not accepted by the government and on August 9, 1861,he again enlisted in Co. G, 27th Illinois Volunteers Infantry for three years or during the war. His term of service was three years and one month, the regiment receiving its baptism of fire at Belmont, Mo., Grant's first battle) November 7, 1861. He in common with his comrades saw much hard service, participating in the following subsequent engagements: Union City, Tenn.; Island No. 10; Siege of Fort Pillow; Farmington; Siege of Corinth; La Vergne; Nashville; Stone River; Chicamagua; Missionary Ridge; Dandridge; Rocky Face; Resaca; Calhoun; Pine Mountain; Mud Creek and Kennesaw Mountain. It was here while with Sherman on his famous march to Atlanta that he was severely wounded by a Minnie ball passing through his lower jaw while making the terrible charge on the rebel breast works lead by John A. Logan at Kennesaw Mountain, that his term of service was ended and he with his company were mustered out of service at Rock Island, Ill., Sept. 20, 1864.

It was as an educator that he was most widely and favorably known. The same fall he returned from the war he was elected county superintendent of school-being the first to fill that office under the law creating it-and served four years. When Mr. Atwater entered on his duties as superintendent he found the educational system in a chaotic condition and at once entered on the important work of organizing the schools on their present basis and establishing a higher grade of qualifications for teaching. He performed the pioneer work in grading the schools of Mercer county and did important and valuable work in advancing the educational interests generally. After retiring from the office he became principal of the Aledo school the succeeding year. He continued to teach in this and adjoining county until failing health compelled him to abandon the profession.

On May 1, 1861, he was married to Sarah A., daughter of John and Mary (Shields) Roberts, at New Boston, Illinois, who died December 17, 1887. To this union were born three children, May, wife of John Hardin, Clio, wife of E. J. Fulton, and John who died in infancy. There are also six grandchildren. Mr. Atwater was one of a family of nine children only four of whom reached maturity and is survived by but one brother, Ethan, of Beaver Crossing, Neb. Mr. Atwater was a charter member of the G. A. R. Post and a charter member of the Keithsburg Lodge, I. O. O. F., Politically he was a republican. Possessed of a sterling honesty he was generous to a fault, no appeal for aid ever being unheeded. While being poor in this world's goods he was rich in that heritage of friendship and the consciousness of good deeds well performed that he firmly believe would last beyond the grave and that with his friends and comrades who have crossed the river he will find a better and nobler work there than he performed here. Funeral services were held at the Methodist church in Viola Monday afternoon, conducted by Rev. J. T. Killip. Internment was in the Viola cemetery. The remains were laid to rest with the Masonic rites.