HENRY A. WEBBER, of Rockton, is a native of Somersetshire, England, born August 19, 1837. His father, William Webber, was born in England, in March, 1801, or 1802, and died at the age of eighty-five years while on a visit to one of his daughters in Burritt township, Winnebago county. He was a native of Devonshire, whence he removed to Somersetshire, where he became a large landowner and when he decided to come to America with his family his property was all sold by auction, which was carried on in the regular English style, it taking three days to dispose of his possessions. It was almost like a fair, tents being pitched for the convenience of the crowd, while the food and drink were served after the old-time English custom. He brought his wife and all of his eight children with him to the United States, landing at New York, and by way of the great Lakes they proceeded to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, thence driving across the country with ox-teams to Rockton. Mr. Webber was a man of considerable means and on reaching his destination he purchased six hundred and forty acres of land, for which he was able to pay cash. He followed farming on an extensive scale, making his home in Winnebago county from 1849 up to the time of his death. His wife bore the maiden name of Mary Hake. She too was a native of England and died at the age of eighty years. They were the parents of eight children: Mrs. Margaret Wilcox; William, who is now living in South Dakota; John, a resident of California; Catherine, the widow of John Griffith; Henry A., of this review; Mrs. Mary Arnold; Herman J., who resides in Rockton; and Thomas, deceased. The family home was also about two miles south and just a little to the east of Rockton, and the father was one of the most prominent and honored of the pioneer settlers of his portion of the county.
Henry A. Webber spent the first ten years of his life in his native country and then came with his parents to America in 1849. He has resided almost continuously in Illinois. He was reared upon his father’s farm in Winnebago county and afterward went to Chicago. He had previously learned the carpenter’s trade and in Chicago he was one of the carpenters who laid the first planks for the building of the stockyards, this work being executed in 1865. Mr. Webber has always been of an inventive turn of mind and has produced some fifteen different inventions upon which he has secured patents, including the Webber reaper and mower, the Webber automatic gate, a railroad snow plow, a railroad track grater, and a Webber angle sieve fanning mill, which he is now manufacturing in Rockton at the old plant which is operated by water power and which was built by Mr. Webber and his brothers, William and John, a number of years ago, when they were engaged in the manufacture of the Webber reaper and mower. Our subject is now devoting his attention to the production of the fanning mills. With his brothers he continued the manufacture of the reaper and mower for fifteen years with much success. He has lived a life of marked industry and his continued energy furnishes an example that is well worthy of emulation.
At the time of the Civil war Mr. Webber responded to the country’s call for troops, enrolling at Rockton in response to the first call. He afterward marched to Rockford, a distance of fourteen miles, to enlist. In days of peace he has been equally loyal to his country and has performed capable public service in local positions, being most true and faithful in the discharge of the duties that thus devolved upon him. His political allegiance is given to the republican party, which he has supported unswervingly since attained his majority.
In 1867 Mr. Webber was united in marriage to Mrs. Sarah A. Kennedy, nee Jewell, the widow of the late Samuel Kennedy, who was a veteran of the Civil war. He enlisted from Ohio in 1861 in response to the first call and was discharged on account of illness, dying soon afterward. He left one son, Elmer J. Kennedy, a native of Ohio. Mr. Kennedy was a blacksmith and wood-worker by trade, following those pursuits until he offered his services to the government in defense of the Union. After the death of her first husband, Mrs. Kennedy made a visit to Illinois and formed the acquaintance of Mr. Webber. Later she returned to Ohio and soon afterward Mr. Webber went to that state and they were married. They have two living children: Minnie C., now the wife of William Alden, by whom she has three children, Harry, Ralph and Ruth; and Gertrude, who married Thomas R. Higgins and has one child, Dorothy.
Source: Charles A. Church, Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago County, Illinois (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 452-453.