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Rufus L. Wheeler, Page 383
RUFUS L. WHEELER is a well-to-do farmer and the oldest living settler, by a few days, in Lima Township. His home is on section 5. He has lived in this county since July 21, 1844, and we are glad to present his history to his many friends and well-wishers, who are scattered far and wide. In a family of five children, he is the eldest, and was born September 12, 1831, in Oswego County, N. Y. His brother Nelson lives in Sheboygan, and Emma, the only surviving sister, is the wife of Aminzel Piper, a barber doing business in Sheboygan.
Richmond Wheeler, our subject's father, who was born in Oneida County, N. Y., was self-educated, and was reared on a farm. He married Miss Sallie Alberson, and in 1844 came to Wisconsin, by way of the Great Lakes. On arriving near Sheboygan, the water was so shallow that a small yawl-boat conveyed the passengers to the shore. The place was only a hamlet, and that portion of the city from where the large stone Catholic Church now stands as far as the Soldiers' Monument was covered with brush and pine trees, and Indiana Avenue was a dense wilderness. Indians were very numerous, and the father often hunted with the red men, killing deer in Lima Township and Sheboygan Falls. He was one of the earliest settlers, and lived in Lima Township when it was called Wakefield, and later Wheat Valley. He was an old-line Whig and afterward a Republican. A supporter of the public schools, he was a prime mover in organizing the first school established in the district. The parents were both members of the Baptist Church, in the faith of which they died, the father on September 17, 1883, and the mother on the 17th of February, 1886, both being laid to rest in the Dye Road Cemetery.
A boy of thirteen when he came to this county, Mr. Wheeler received such limited educational advantages as were afforded in those early days. His boyhood home in this region was a log cabin. His father had pre-empted eighty acres of wild land at $1.25 per acre, on which not a sign of an improvement had been made. He worked for some time at sawing timber, and was from his youth acquainted with hard work.
The marriage of Mr. Wheeler and Miss Sarah Randall was celebrated March 22, 1855. The lady was born in Oneida County, N. Y., March 8, 1839. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler had seven children. Hattie is the wife of R. S. Lloyd, a general produce merchant of Sheboygan. She is a lady of intelligence and culture, and became the mother of four children: Loren; Florian; Dora, who died at the age of fourteen months; and Almond Clarke. Hettie is the wife of Frank E. Pettengil, who was born in Bangor, N. Y., and was reared in Wisconsin, his father being a resident of Winnebago County. Belle, an adopted daughter of our subject, is now the wife of Henry Reed, a farmer of Lyndon Township. For thirty-one years, Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler traveled the pathway of life together, sharing each other's joys and sorrows, but November 27, 1892, Mrs. Wheeler departed this life, and was laid to rest in the Dye Road Cemetery. She was a kind and loving mother and wife, and her vacant place in the home circle can never be filled.
On commencing life for himself, our subject began empty-handed, and has acquired what he now possesses by hard, honest toil. He has sixty acres of well-improved land, one of the best farms in the township, on which is situated a beautiful country home. The owner has long been considered one of the most prominent citizens of the county, and is a man of sterling worth. He is a stanch Republican, and cast his first ballot for Gen. John C. Fremont. For a number of years he has been Supervisor, and has been Clerk, Treasurer, and Director of Public Schools in his district, which fact shows the interest he takes in educational affairs. Religiously, he has been a free-thinker and a respecter of true religious teaching. Mrs. Wheeler, who believed with her husband, was a pronounced medium of the foremost rank, and was recognized as a lady of great influence. When she came with her mother to Sheboygan, they went to the best hotel in the city, a building which was covered with bark, the counter being a long board, resting on two nail-kegs. This shows what a remarkable change has taken place since those early days.
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