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Bassett Family of Mercer County

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This page will be a long time in building as we have a lot of information, most of it courtesy of descendant Edward Swenson and Wheeler relative James Brown.

Did you know that Isaac Newton Bassett was author of "Past and Present of Mercer County Illinois," Vol I and II (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914)? In it he wrote "It is his desire that this history shall be his monument and no labor or effort have been spared in making it one more enduring than marble." There is a nice photo of Isaac Newton in Volume I but we cannot copy it for you as the book is a reprint and as such still under copyright law. The books can be purchased from Higginson Book Company, P O Box 778, Salem Massachusetts 01970. Isaac had help from several Mercer County people in preparing the book and help from Professor W. A. Goodspeed who published several other county histories in the U. S.

Alternate Spellings - Basset, Bassett

Links - Wheeler, Forsyth Journal, Harroun (Misc Families), Dixon, Samuel Willits

Contacts - Edward Swenson, James Brown (we thank him for the photos above and for sharing his copy of "Past and Present of Mercer County Illinois"). Edward Swenson has transcribed an autobiography written by Isaac Newton Bassett and shared a copy with us. We will refer to it and quote from it in the narrative. There are also family documents that were kept with a chest that was part of the dowry of Isaac Newton Bassett's mother that gave much family history. The information was verified with Isaac Newton Bassett and a sister in 1920 when Isaac Newton Bassett was 94 years old.

The History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882 tells us that Isaac Newton Bassett was born in Lewis County, Kentucky, September 8, 1825. "His early life was spent on his father's farm, where he received such educational advantages as were afforded by the common schools of that day. He tried merchandising for a while, but not finding it as remunerative as he had hoped, studied law, and has practiced for over thirty-five years, attaining a name and reputation throughout the state; one of prominence and honor of which he may well feel proud. In 1852 he removed to Mercer County, settling in Keithsburg, and as a member of the firm of Johnson, Willits & Bassett commenced the practice of law here."

His removal to Mercer County in 1852 is amplified in Past and Present of Mercer County Illinois which includes Isaac Basset's own words "Coming here in 1852 when a young man, he taught school and farmed in New Boston and Eliza townships for some two years." He also tells us that from Keithsburg he moved to Aledo in 1857 and remained there ever since. The 1882 History verifies his stay in New Boston Township where it tells us New Boston Township was organized in 1852 and I. N. Bassett was the first supervisor, serving for 1 year.

Neither of the Histories contain information on the parentage of Isaac Newton Bassett but his autobiography gives us that information. His grandfather and grandmother were John and Susan Ray Bassett. Isaac had no further information on the ancestry of Susan Ray Bassett. His grandfather John died when Isaac's father was three days old, in 1791. The children of John and Susan Ray Bassett were Alexander, Amos, George, John, Sarah and Isaac, the latter being Isaac Newton's father. Widow Susan Ray Bassett married to a man named Cole and had two further children, Samuel and Hester Cole. Samuel Cole was purported to have settled in Missouri, but the Bassett children were not in touch with them. Isaac includes information on the other Bassett children in his autobiography, as well as on his own father and mother, Isaac and Frances Bassett.

Isaac and Frances Asbury Hall Bassett

There is some differing information in Isaac Newton's autobiography and in the story of the chest that was part of Frances Hall Bassett's dowry. We will use the information from the story of the chest as it contains much more detail and then give notes on information in Isaac's autobiography.

There is an interesting sidelight in the story of the chest: It was "of cherry wood and was without dressing or filling to the natural wood until 1914, when it was taken to the furniture store of H. R. Morrison, an old cabinet maker of Aledo, Illinois, who repaired it, put on the brass straps, locks, hinges and handles and gave it the present coat of shellac, or finish. All the work was done by hand as machine work in 1818 was unknown." In the 1910 census in Aledo at 105 7th Street we find Hugh Morrison, age 75, and wife Mary, age 64, with Hugh being proprietor of a used furniture store. So he was indeed "old" working on the chest at the age of 79.

Isaac Newton Bassett's father, Isaac, was born August 4, 1791 in New Jersey (most likely, other locations mentioned are Delaware and Pennsylvania.) Isaac N. believes they removed to Kentucky sometime around the turn of the century. Isaac Sr married first to Frances Asberry Hall October 29, 1818 in Alexandria, Ohio. Kate Maynard sent us some interesting history of Alexandria: "Alexandria was the old name for Portsmouth, Ohio. The town was originally platted on the west side of the conjunction of the Scioto and Ohio rivers but as that was a flood plain, each year the settlers were nearly washed away by spring floods. So they resettled to the east side of the Scioto and that town became what is known today as Portsmouth. The old Alexandria would be located approximately where West Portsmouth now stands, though West Portsmouth was settled on higher ground than old Alexandria."

Frances was daughter of Eskridge Hall, born in Ohio, October 27, 1797, and died February 10, 1833. Frances was sister of Mary Hall who married Jacob Dixon and was ancestor of Mercer County Dixon families. Jacob Dixon was a Methodist preacher, well educated, a graduate of Ohio University . He edited a small volume of poems in about 1834. Sometime before 1840 he studied medicine and practiced from time to time until his death about 1850. Eskridge Dixon, oldest son of Jacob and Mary was an itinerant minister until his death in about 1888. Next son was Joseph who was employed by the Cincinnati Ohio Enquirer for two or three years. In about 1850-51 he went to New Boston and taught in the Eliza school district. He then worked as a clerk for William Drury in his store in New Boston. He then went to Des Moines, Iowa, where he worked for the Register for a number of years. William Dixon was a third son of Mary and Jacob Dixon and was a tailor for many years in New Boston.

Frances Hall was also sister of Nancy Hall who married Samuel Willits, son of Jesse and Sarah Van Horn Willits, as third wife. Nancy never had any children.

Isaac Bassett and Frances and their oldest daughter are found in Portsmouth, Wayne Township, Scioto County, Ohio in 1820. Scioto County is directly across the Ohio River from Lewis and Greenup County, Kentucky. Brothers of Isaac are found in Lewis County, Kentucky in 1820. In his autobiography Isaac Newton tells us his father lived in Portsmouth, in Lewis and in Greenup County. He farmed and built flat-boats and cut logs for sale in Cincinnati so it is not too surprising to find him with connections on both sides of the Ohio River.

Six children were born to Isaac and Frances Bassett: Sabina Bassett Murphy, born in Kentucky, January 15, 1820 and died in Kentucky, February 1906; John Ray Bassett, born in Kentucky, August 2, 1821, and died in Kansas, September 26, 1913; Luke Allen Bassett, born in Kentucky, July 10, 1823, and died in Illinois, April 10, 1909; Isaac Newton Bassett, born in Kentucky, September 8, 1825 and died September 1920; Frances Ann Bassett Rice, born in Kentucky, October 2, 1827, and died in Illinois, November 27, 1914; and Mary Jane Bassett Mills, born in Kentucky, June 2, 1830 and died May 1922. The chest story apparently mentions only the living children of Isaac and Francis, as in his autobiography Isaac mentions eight children born to the union including Alexander, twin of Luke, who died at age one year, and Susannah, who died at about age two months. Curiously, in his autobiography Isaac Newton also gives information on an uncle Alexander Bassett who married and settled in Indiana and died about 1845.

Isaac and Frances are found in the 1830 census in Lewis County, Kentucky: 1 male under 5 (Isaac Jr), 2 males 5-10 (Luke and John), 1 male 30-40 (Isaac); 2 females under 5 (Frances, Jr. and Mary Jane), 1 female 10-15 (Sabina), 1 female 30-40 (Francis).

Documentation in 1850 census in Lewis County, Kentucky

There are two rather large enclaves of Bassetts in District 1, Lewis County, Kentucky in the 1850 census. First, children of Isaac Bassett, Sr. and of Amos Bassett: #110 Luke A. Bassett, 26, farmer, born Ky; Laura J., 22, Va; Francis A. Bassett (f), 22, Ky; [sister] #109 Isaac N. Bassett, 34, merchant; Sienda I., 25, Oh; Fletcher S., 2, Ky; Clayton W., 5/12, Ky #108 George W. Johnson, 28, farmer, NY; Harriett, 24, Ky; Simon K., 1, Ky; Harriett is a cousin of Luke and Isaac N. Bassett, and daughter of Amos. #107 Samuel M. Murphy, 37, farmer, born Ohio; Sabina, 30, Ky; James W., 12, Ky; Elizabeth, 10, Ky; Catherine, 8, Ky; Rebecca, 5, Ky; Simon, 1, Ky; a laborer and Mary Bassett, 18, Ky, no occupation and listed after their children and farm worker. Sabina was a sister of Isaac N. and Luke Bassett as was Mary.

Second, brothers of Isaac Bassett, Sr. and Alexander (son of John?). #363 Alexander Bassett, 29, farmer, born Ky; Lean, 33, Ky; they have no children but there is an entire family of a Sparks widow and children with them. (relationship not yet determined) #360 Amos Bassett, 69, farmer, born New Jersey; Sarah, 55, Va; Sophia A., 19; Martha A., 15; and a family that was working for them. #359 John Bassett, 64, miller, born New Jersey; John, 14, Ky; Susan R., 12, Ky; Mary E., 10 Ky; Sarah F., 8, Ky; and a family working for him.

Isaac and Anna Wilson Bassett

Isaac Bassett married Anna Wilson about 1834 and according to Isaac Newton she died in 1842. We find Isaac in Greenup County, Kentucky, in 1850: Isaac Basset, 58, Pa; Elizabeth, 35, Ky; John, 28, Ky, school teacher; Elizabeth, 13, Ky, A. W. (male), 11, Ky. According to Isaac Newton the children of Isaac and Anna were Elizabeth Ellen, born 10/22/1835, Lewis Co, Ky, died 7/23/1854, Ky; Hester and Sarah Ann, twins born 10/25/1836 and died 10/30/1836; Susannah Ray, born 8/26/1837 and died 9/14/1838, Ky; Amos Whitaker, born 2/8/1839, died 8/11/1855, Ky. Therefore the 1850 census appears to be the correct family. We do not know if Elizabeth was a third wife, or if the second wife was Anna Elizabeth Wilson and the 1842 death date is incorrect. It is also possible that Elizabeth is some other relative and not Isaac's wife.

Isaac Newton's autobiography tells wonderful stories of frontier life, frontier schooling, and of the problems sufferred from the flooding of the Ohio River and of various diseases prevalent on the frontier. He gives physical descriptions of his father and mother, and tells of the marriages and circumstances of his brothers and sisters. He tells a very romantic story of meeting and eventually declaring his love for his future wife.

Isaac Newton and Scienda Moore Bassett

Isaac Newton Bassett married Scienda Moore in 1847 in Kentucky per the 1882 History. However, James Brown found their marriage record in Scioto County, Ohio, as Isaac N. Bassett and Cyanda Moore, March 4, 1847. Scioto County, Ohio, is directly across the river from Lewis and Greenup County, Kentucky, and it is possible the license was obtained in Ohio and the marriage actually took place in Kentucky. Isaac Newton's father was living at the time in Quincy, Kentucky, so either Ohio or Kentucky is possible for the actual marriage.

Isaac and Scienda's 1850 census record in Lewis County, Kentucky, is given above under the 1850 census documentation of the Bassetts in Kentucky. In his autobiography Isaac Newton tells of his partnership with his brother, Luke Allen, in the mercantile business until sometime in 1850. They sufferred serious losses in 1849 and 1850 and this is evidently what made the decision for Isaac that the mercantile business was not for him. He was practicing law in Keithsburg, Mercer County, in 1857 and his brother, John Ray Bassett, joined him there and partnered with him until 1869 in Aledo. John Ray then became a county judge for five years, leaving the area in 1883 to go to Kansas. Isaac gives information on the marriage and family of John Ray Bassett in his autobiography. Isaac's brother, Luke Allen, also went to Aledo, Illinois, in 1858 but left in 1860.

Isaac then engaged in freighting lumber from Kentucky to Cincinnati as has father had done but also commenced studying law until he was admitted to practice in the fall of 1854 in Mercer County, Illinois. In the spring of 1852 he had concluded to seek a new home and went by steamboat to Cincinnati, to St. Louis, and then to New Boston, the trip taking ten days. He looked at other places in Illinois and worked in a mill and in a lumberyard in Naples, Ill, sending for his family from there. His sister Frances accompanied them.

Isaac was unable to make enough money to support his family and worried constantly as to how to take care of them. He wrote his uncle, Samuel Willits, in New Boston, and his cousin, Joseph Dixon asked him to come and teach school for the winter. The family rented rooms in the Danforth house at the foot of the bluff north of New Boston. They shared the house with Elias Willits, attorney, a nephew of Samuel Willits. Isaac walked three miles to and from his school and spent the weekends with Elias obtaining fire wood from Bay Island. He did find the time to pursue his study of law, using Elias's books and discussing points of law with Elias.

In the spring of 1853 Isaac and family moved into a log house on the farm of Charles Willits, son of Samuel Willits, but not a relative as he was a son of a different wife. He taught school at Eliza for a few months during the spring and summer. (See our schools page for history of schools in Mercer.) In the fall Elias Willits bought and moved the log house onto his farm and Isaac worked for him for a year. In the spring of of 1854 Isaac was elected supervisor for New Boston Township which brought him into contact with many prominent men in Mercer County who became his friends.

In 1854 Isaac joined the farmers who formed the first Agricultural Society in Mercer County. He also participated in organizing the Republican Party in Mercer County and helped draft the platform. In the fall of 1854 Isaac was examined and began to practice law. He wintered in New Boston and drove a team during the winter, making many trips to Rock Island, then the nearest railroad point. In the spring of 1855 Elias Willits and Isaac moved to Keithsburg and commenced the practice of law as Willits and Bassett.

In 1855 Isaac was elected County Treasurer, holding the office for four years. In 1856 he formed a copartnership with Elias Willits and a classmate of Elias's named Johnson. Willits and Johnson went to Chicago and Isaac remained in Keithsburg. The Chicago branch of the partnership failed and in 1857 Isaac formed a partnership with his brother John R. Bassett, and when Elias Willits returned from Chicago they partnered as Bassett, Willits and Bassett. Isaac moved to Aledo in 1857 and the firm dissolved in early 1860.

Isaac and family are found in Aledo in 1860: #1380 Isaac N. Bassett, 34, lawyer, Ky; Lucinda J. [actually Scienda I.], 34, Oh; Fletcher A., 13, Ky; Flora A., 10, Il; Minotta, 8, Il; Thomas, 6, Il; Luella, 3, Il; Mary J. Bassett [sister], 25, domestic, Il [Ky]. Also in Aledo are brothers Luke and John Ray: #1355 Luke A. Bassett, 37, merchant, Ky; Laura J. [Copen], 32, Va; Helen V., 6, Il.; #1369 John R. Bassett, 38, lawyer, Ky; Cynthia A. , 24, Ky; Willie, 2, Il; Mary C., 4/12, Il. John Ray is next door neighbor of Elias Willits.

Isaac and Scienda had six children, of whom five were living in 1882: "Fletcher S., lieutenant United States navy; Thomas W., attorney at law, Lacqui Parle, Minnesota; Flora, wife of William N. Graham, cashier of Farmer's Bank. Aledo; Nota, and Lulu, both at home." Scienda died in 1861 in Denver, Colorado. The child not still living was Clayton W. Bassett, shown as age 5/12 in the 1850 census and died before the 1860 census. He was buried at Sugar Grove but no marker remains (more below).

In the spring of 1860, according to his autobiography, Isaac Newton Bassett was "advised by some friends to go to Colorado in the Pike's Peak gold excitement." (see further quote on our gold page.) Isaac had changed his mind and wanted to return to Aledo but his friends prevailed and he went on to Denver. He partnered there with John Atkinson of Aledo in a brickyard where Isaac kept the accounts and also opened a law office. Atkinson suggested that Isaac return to Mercer County and bring back his family and also Atkinson's family. There was no census in that area in 1860 to verify his location but the narrative of his return to New Boston is documented in the Lyon Journal linked below and the timing fits. Isaac is censused in Aledo in 1860 as is John Atkinson, so we are not sure about the "spring" reference.

When Isaac returned to Denver he found the business insolvent. "I was in a very embarrassing position, I had my wife and five children - the wife sick and no money... My wife died in January 1861 and left me with the five children." In another section of his autobiography, "When my wife died in 1861, I had her buried in a cemetery East of Denver and as marble or stone monuments could not be procured I procured a wooden one painted and lettered to mark her grave, hoping that when railroads got to Denver I could have the remains moved to Aledo, but the monuments were destroyed so that the grave could not be identified. I regretted this as I thought it would have been a comfort to her children as well as myself to have her ashes in the family cemetery.

"I was also unfortunate in losing the identity of Clayton's grave. He was buried at Sugar Grove, and I had a tombstone and materials to enclose his grave and a man paid to put them up which he was to do after I went to Denver, but he neglected it and when I returned I could not identify his grave. I have the names of my wife and Clayton Webster both on the monument in Aledo Cemetery." (This explains the inclusion of Scienda and Clayton in the DAR records of Aledo Cemetery.)

Isaac continues about the children while in Denver, " I was indeed desolate and would not have cared to live if it had not been for my children. I had been practicing law and continued to practice. I hired board for the four younger children and Fletcher, the older one boarded awhile with a family by a mill. I batched it until spring. Then I got a lady to take us all to board for about two months. When she left I got a man and wife to come and keep house for me.

"In the spring I was elected city attorney for Denver and continued to act as such until the 25th of July when I left with my children and returned to Illinois. For an account of this trip see the Journal of John Forsyth who traveled with Isaac for most of the way. It is interesting that the children are not mentioned in the journal. Isaac continues, "We traveled by team all of the way and were six weeks in coming back. When I returned, my sister Frances A. Rice and her husband took the four younger children and I and Fletcher had a home with my brother John who had moved into my house. I commenced housekeeping, my sister Mary being my housekeeper and had the children all together again. They were greatly rejoiced over it."

Isaac Newton Bassett married Caroline Harroun Yerty on 2/26/1862 in Mercer County (license date.) The 1882 History tells us that she was sister of J. E. Harroun (see Harroun on the Miscellaneous Families Page), and had a child Clara Yerty. Isaac's autobiography confirms the marriage occurred on the same date: "I had become acquainted with Caroline Yerty, a widow lady with one child and on Feb 26th we were married and we have now lived together happily for 39 years and are still in the old homestead." "My second wife...had only one child, Clara Belle Yerty, who was born April 6th, 1854 and lived with us until August 13, 1889 when she was married to A. J. Ingmire and still lives in Aledo."

Isaac and Caroline had four children, two of whom were deceased by 1882. Roy Hastings Bassett born 12/12/1863, died 3/29/1878, and is buried in Aledo Cemetery. A son Bertie died 6/26/1870, age 3 yr 3 mo. The other two were Victor Hugo Bassett, born 5/7/1871, and Bessie Bassett, born 2/13/1874.

Samuel Bassett Family of Keithsburg City

We are only mentioning this family briefly as they lived and worked in Keithsburg City, outside the subject matter of this web site. There is no known connection to the Bassett family above and we are including information about them so their descendants will not be confused with the above Bassett family. They first show up in Keithsburg in 1860 and are from Western Canada or "French Canada" in the various census records. In 1860: #852 Lewis Charboneax, 22, laborer, born Canada West; Permelia J., 22, born Ohio: Latrillo, 1, born Il; Samis Bassett, 25, born Canada West; Susan, 16, born Il.

The 1900 census indicates Samuel Bassett was born April 1831 in "French Canada" and that his parents were born France. He imigrated in 1860 and was naturalized. Wife Susan was born July 1844, in Il, parents born Ohio. The immigration date is a little off as he married Susanna Evans on 21 September 1859 in Mercer County according to Illinois marriage records.

From the 1870 census Samuel and Susan had children Lillie M, born about 1863; William, about 1865; Virginia, about 1867; Samuel (Jr) about 1869. We did not find them in 1880 but the 1900 census includes daughter Lana Hornburg, born May 1874; Lottie Fox, born July 1876; Maggie, born July 1876; John, born Jan 1882; and Sinclair, born Nov 1883. The census in 1900 indicates susan had 10 children, 7 living so we are missing one. The family is also of interest as many of them worked as button cutters in the Keithsburg factory in the early 1900's.