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Notable Family Members
Notable Phelps Anson Green Phelps, Merchant and philanthropist Austin Phelps, Congregational clergyman, theologian and author Chance Russel Phelps, Private, USMC Charles Edward Phelps, Congressman, Judge, Author Delos Porter Phelps, Lawyer and U.S. Assistant Treasurer Edward John Phelps, Lawyer, educator Dr. Francis Phelps, Representative and Senator Francis G. Sanburn, Pioneer Resident of Knoxville, Illinois George M. Phelps, Master telegraph instrument maker and inventor Dr. Guy Rowland Phelps, Founder, Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance John Phelps, Clerk of the Court at the trial of King Charles I Judge James Phelps, Judge and Congressman Judge John Jay Phelps Judge, merchant, and entrepreneur. Judge John Phelps, Constitutional Convention Signatory from Connecticut John Wesley Phelps John Wolcott Phelps, Brigadier General, United States Volunteers Mary Ann Phelps Rich, Latter-day Saints Pioneer Mary Phelps Jacob, Inventor of the Brassiere Noah Phelps, A Patriot of 1776 and Revolutionary War Spy Oliver Phelps Merchant, Revolutionary War veteran, Representative, Senator land promoter Rev. Philip Phelps First President, Western Theological Seminary Richard Phelps, Bell-founder for Churches Throughout England John Smith Phelps Lawyer, Repesentative, Governor Samuel Shethar Phelps, Jurist, Congressman, and Senator Samuel Phelps, English Actor.html Stephen Sumner Phelps, Illinois Pioneer and Origin of the Hawk Eye State Name Thomas Stowell Phelps, Rear Admiral and Civil War Veteran William Walter Phelps, Congressman, Ambassador, and Judge William Wines Phelps, Judge, Latter-day Saint, Publisher and Writer William Lyon Phelps, American educator, author and critic

Francis Granger Sanburn

Pioneer Resident of Knoxville, Illinois

Among the prominent citizens of Knox County and businessmen of Knoxville whose interests have been identified with the growth and development of the latter place, from childhood to the present time, is the subject of this biographical sketch. He was born in Knoxville Oct. 4, 1343, for 43 years has been a resident of that place, and is at present one of its most substantial and respected citizens, holding the position of President of the Farmers' National Bank.(1)

The father of Mr. Sanburn, John Gold Sanburn, was one of the early settlers of Knox County, and was born in Canandaigua, Ontario Co., N. Y., March 13, 1797. John's father, Nathaniel Sanburn, was a native of Connecticut, and born Feb. 6, 1757; and Nathaniel's father, Jedediah Sanburn, was a resident of New Hampshire and Connecticut.

Nathaniel Sanborn, paternal grandfather of our subject, was a farmer and singing-master by vocation; that is, he devoted his time to agricultural pursuits, except during the winter months, when he was engaged in teaching music in what was then known as the winter-evening singing-school. His wife was formerly a Miss Hannah Gold, a native of Connecticut, and born Feb. 17, 1763. She was a woman of great energy and enterprise. In 1790, Nathaniel Sanburn emigrated with his family to what was then called the "Far West," and located on the present site of the busy city of Canandaigua, where he purchased a tract of timbered land, which is at the present time included within the corporate limits of that city, and fronts on Main street. A few years after their location there Mrs. Sanburn returned to her native home, making the entire journey alone through the trackless wilderness on horseback. Their house at Canandaigua was open to the traveling public and became a favorite stopping place.

He died at that place June 25, 1814, aged 57 years. He was a member of the Masonic fraternity, an old pioneer of that county, and a gentleman loved and respected by all who knew him. His wife survived him many years, her death occurring Nov. 6, 1856, at the venerable age of 94 years. From the history of the Holland Land Company's Purchase, published by O. Turner in 1851, we quote: "Mrs. Hannah Sanburn is the oldest surviving resident of the village (Canandaigua) and with few exceptions the oldest upon Phelps & Gorham's purchase. She is now in her 88th year, and exhibits but few of the infirmities of that advanced age, with faculties, especially that of memory of early events, but slightly impaired. The author found her in high spirits, even gay and humorous, enjoying the hearty laugh of middle age when her memory called up some mirthful reminiscence. Upon her table were some of the latest publications, and she alluded in conversation to Headley's fine descriptions in his "Sacred Mountains," as if she had enjoyed them with all the zest of her younger days. She had just finished a letter in a fair hand, showing but little of the tremor of age, which was to be addressed to a great-granddaughter.

To Mrs. Sanburn I am greatly indebted for reminiscences of pioneer events at Canandaigua. Nathaniel Sanburn, husband of Hannah Sanburn, died in 1814. There is scarcely a pioneer settler in the Genesee country that did not know the early landlord and landlady. Mrs. S. was the daughter of James Gold, of Lynie, Conn., and the aunt of James Gold, of Albany. Her sons, John, William and Nathaniel, live in Illinois. Her third daughter was the first white child born in Canandaigua. is now 60 years of age, and the wife of Dr. Jacobs, of that city. Another daughter is the wife of Henry Fellows of Penfield, and another is the wife of Erastus Granger, of Buffalo, while a fourth is a maiden daughter residing with her mother. Early in the spring of 1990, Mr. Sanburn came with his wife and two young children to Schenectady, where he joined Judah Colt, and the two chartered a boat, with which they came to the head of navigation of the Canandaigua outlet. Mrs. S. gives us a graphic account of this journey. The last house the party slept in after leaving Schenectady, until they arrived at the cabin on the Canandaigua outlet, was the then one log house in the now thriving and busy city of Utica. It was then crowded with boatmen from Niagara. Mrs. Sanburn spread her bed upon the floor for herself, husband and children, and the boatmen begged the privilege of laying their weary heads upon its borders; after that they camped wherever night overtook them; on the Oswego River they took possession of a deserted camp, and just as they had prepared their frugal meal, two stout Indians came and claimed the camp and threatened to eject them.

The conflicting claim was amicably adjusted, but Mrs. S. says it was the first of the Indian race she had ever seen, and she could not help but become a little frightened. Mr. Sanburn moved into the log hut that he had erected in the Robinson neighborhood, where, however, they staid but a short time, Mrs. S. choosing to go where she could have more than one neighbor within eight miles, and they consequently removed to the little village of Canandaigua. Mrs. S. says that in May, 1790, there were residing at that place Joseph Smith, living on the bank of the lake; Daniel Brainard, in a little log house near the present cemetery; Capt. Martin Dudley, in the house built by Mr. Walker, and James D. Fish, in a log house down near the lake. Gen. Chapin, who had been there the fall before, had erected a small frame house for his family, but it was unoccupied, and Mr. Sanburn moved into it until he was enabled to erect a small frame house on the Atwater corner, and after moving into it engaged as "mine host, " which, with exception of that which had been kept by Joseph Smith, was the first tavern west of Seneca Lake, and was the only one for four years. Mrs. Sanburn enumerated among her early guests many who became prominent in the country's history, such as Oliver Phelps, Charles Williamson, Aaron Burr, Thomas Morris, Rev. M. Kirkland, Augustus and Peter B. Porter, James and William Wadsworth, early judges of the Supreme Court of this State, Bishop Chase and many other eminent men, but few of whom are living at this writing. Mrs. Sanburn well remembers the Dickering Treaty of 1794, and gives a graphic description of scenes and incidents of this treaty, which space will not permit me to copy. The first Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions was held at the house of Nathaniel Sanburn in Canandaigua in 1794; there was a grand jury and one indictment found. The first permanent church organization was that of St. Matthew's Church, organized Feb. 4, 1799, at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Sanburn, at Canandaigua."

The father of the subject of this notice was the sixth child in order of birth of his parents' family. He was raised on the farm and grew to manhood in his native county, receiving an academical education at Canandaigua Academy. In 1817 he went to Ohio, where he taught school one year. In x818, he started West on a prospecting tour in company with some other young men. They made their way to the Ohio River, where they secured a small boat and drifted down the waters of that river to a little above the mouth of the Wabash River. During this trip they visited Illinois, and later he returned to New York, having made the greater portion of the return journey on foot. After his return home he engaged in clerking at Black Rock, which he continued until 1825. That year he again started West and joined an elder brother, who was in the land business at Vandalia, Ill., and assisted his brother, and dealt in land to some considerable extent until 1830. He then came to this county and located at Henderson Grove, where he put in a stock of goods and was the first to engage in mercantile pursuits at that place. He continued to do business there until the county seat was located at Knoxville, in the spring of 1832, when he removed his stock of goods to that city.

Mr. Sanburn had been instrumental in securing the organization of the county, being secretary of the meeting which was called to elect a committee to present a petition to the judge of Fulton County for the organization, and when the county was organized he became the first Circuit Clerk. When the land of this county was placed in market by the Government, Mr. Sanburn entered a tract, which he superintended and had cultivated and improved, although he continued to reside in the city. After continuing in active mercantile business for a few years he retired from the same, and at the time of his death, April 14, 1865, he was the owner of quite a tract of land, a portion of which has since been made a part of the present city of Knoxville. He also owned at the date of his demise a well-improved farm adjoining the city. He was married Nov. 3, 1831, to Alethea Owen. She was born near Geneva, Ontario Co., N. Y., and was the daughter of Dr. Noah and Elizabeth (Gilmore) Owen. Her father having died, she, in company with her mother and brother, came to this county in 1829 and settled near the present site of Gilson. There were seven children born to Mr. and Mrs. Sanborn: Elizabeth, wife of James Fitch, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio; Mary L., wife of E. L. Phillips, of Galesburg; John Henry, died Dec. 1, 1883, at Abingdon; Charles W., a resident of Berea, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio; Francis G., subject of this notice; Alethea, a teacher, and Walter G., a resident of Chicago. The father had filled various official positions, among which were Circuit Clerk, Clerk of the County Commissioners' Court, Postmaster and also Assistant Assessor of Internal Revenue. He was a member of the Episcopal Church and was Senior Warden of St. John's Church, Knoxville, for many years.

Francis G. Sanburn was educated in the city schools of Knoxville and supplemented the same by a two years' course at Knox College. Upon his father's death he served his unexpired term as City Clerk, and was elected to the position the following election. In 1866 he resigned the position to which he had been elected, to engage in teaching in Sparta Township. He was appointed Assistant Internal Revenue Assessor, which office he filled with credit. In 1868 he went to Kansas, and spent one season as a clerk in a dry goods store at Topeka. Returning to this State, we find him, in 1869, as Assistant Post-master at Watseka, where he remained till the fall of 1871, when he resigned and returned home. In the spring and winter of 1872 he was industriously occupied at Topeka, Kan., and in the following fall, 1873, he again returned to this county and was employed by Phillips Bros., commission dealers and loan agents, with whom he remained until the fall of 1875. November 1 of that year he accepted the position of clerk in the First National Bank of Knoxville, and in the following December was elected Cashier. He continued to act in that capacity until the charter of the Bank expired. In January, 1885, the Farmers' National Bank of Knoxville was organized, and Mr. Sanburn was elected its President.

He is a gentleman of far more than ordinary business ability, and one who takes great interest in the development of his city and county. His past has been an honorable one, and his accumulation of this world's goods is attributable to his own indomitable energy and perseverance. He is a liberal contributor to all measures calculated to advance the interest of the community in which he resides, and likewise to charity.

Mr. Sanburn was married Aug. 1, 1878, to Miss Mary H. McCracken. She was born in Franklin County, near Columbus, Ohio, Jan. 9, 1852. She died Feb. 7, 1881, leaving one child-Mary L., born Feb. 6, 1881. Mr. Sanburn cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln, and has ever since voted with that party which he so ably represented. Religiously, he is a member of the Presbyterian Church.


(1) Excerpted from Portrait and Biographical Album of Knox County, Illinois. Biographical Publishing Company, Chicago, 1886.