Among the men to whom has been vouchsafed an honorable retirement from labor in recognition of activity, earnest purpose and successful accomplishment in former years Mr. Abbott is numbered. He makes his home at No. 448 North Avon street, Rockford, and is a native of Rockland county, New York, born January 11, 1839. His parents were Thomas and Nancy (Blauvelt) Abbott. The father, who was born in Rockland county, New York, was of English descent, and his father, John Abbott, was likewise a native of Rockland county. In the year 1856 Thomas Abbott came to the west, establishing his home in Rockford, where he followed the occupation of farming, although in the east he had learned the shoemaker’s trade. Here he became the owner of one hundred and sixty acres of land in Rockford township, whereon he resided until 1878, when he sold out and took up his abode at Eldora, Hardin county, Iowa. He was also a preacher and exhorter. He had twenty-one children by his two wives, ten of whom are now living, but Thomas J. Abbott is the only one residing in Winnebago county. The father departed this life in July,> 1904, at the very venerable age of ninety-three years, while the mother of our subject passed away in 1853.
Thomas J. Abbott pursued his education in the public schools of New York and Illinois, and when not busy with his text-books his time was devoted to the labors of the farm, and he continued to assist in the cultivation of the fields upon his father’s land until after the inauguration of the Civil war. He watched with interest the progress of events in the south, noted the indications of the oncoming storm, became a champion of republican principles and cast his ballot for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. When war broke out upon the country he announced his allegiance to the Union, and on the 1st of August, 1861, he enrolled as a member of Company G, Forty-fourth Illinois Infantry. The company was organized by Major Hobart, and the first captain was M. L. Sabin. The Forty-fourth Illinois was formed at Chicago, and its commander was Colonel Charles Knoblesdorph. Mr. Abbott served continuously until September 25, 1865, having re-enlisted January 1, 1864, at Blains Crossroads, East Tennessee, becoming a member of the same company and regiment. He served as a private until December, 1864, when he was promoted to sergeant and afterward to first lieutenant, while at the time he was mustered out he was holding the rank of adjutant. He was twice wounded, being shot in both hips at Adairsville on the 17th of May, 1864, carrying the bullet until September, 1865, while six years passed before the wound healed. He now has in his possession this bullet, which for nearly two years was imbedded near his spine. Always in active duty, he proved a brave and valiant soldier. His regiment first went in pursuit of Price in Missouri, being thus engaged from September, 1861, until the fall of 1862, after which they participated in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, and thence proceeded to Cincinnati, Ohio, and again crossed the river to Covington, Kentucky, being attached to the Army of the Cumberland. The first battle in which Mr. Abbott participated was at Pea Ridge, and later he was in the engagements of Perryville, Stone River, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the siege of Knoxville, the Atlanta campaign and the battles of Franklin and Nashville. The regiment went to eastern Tennessee and was afterward sent down the Mississippi river to Texas, where it remained until mustered out. Mr. Abbott also had three brothers in the army, one of whom gave his life in defense of the Union cause.
When the war was over and the country no longer needed his aid Mr. Abbott returned to the north with a military record of which he had every reason to be proud. He engaged in farming in Rockford township until 1888, and afterward was connected with other business interests, but since 1898 has lived retired. He now owns two houses and lots in Rockford, one where he resides and one adjoining, and his property stands as the visible evidence of his life of industry and thrift.
On the 29th of March, 1864, Mr. Abbott was married to Miss Adeline E. Kilburn, who was born in Rockford in 1846, and is a daughter of the late Milton Kilburn, the first probate judge of the county, who came here from New Hampshire in 1835. The Kilburns were among the oldest families of New England, the first representatives of the name in the world having come to America on the Mayflower. Judge Kilburn was very prominent and influential in Winnebago county, and his efforts in behalf of public progress were far-reaching and beneficial. In the east he had conducted business as a druggist, but after his removal to the west was identified with farming interests in Rockford township. Mr. Abbott was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife in 1902, her death having occurred on the 1st day of December of that year.
In politics he has been a republican since the time when he voted for Abraham Lincoln, and he has served as highway commissioner, constable, sidewalk inspector and health officer, and in all these offices has been prompt and faithful in the discharge of his duties. He is a valued representative of several fraternal organizations, including Nevius post, No. 1, G. A. R., of Rockford, in which he is now quartermaster. He likewise has membership relations with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Red Men, and is a very prominent Mason, belonging to Star in the East lodge, No. 166, A. F. & A. M.; is past high priest of Kishwaukee chapter, No. 24, R. A. M.; is a member of Crusader commandery, No. 17, the K. T.; has attained the thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite in Freeport consistory, S. P. R. S., and is a noble of Tebala Temple of the Mystic Shrine. Mr. Abbott is a man of genuine worth, ever loyal in all life’s relations, commanding the respect and good will of all with whom he has been associated, his record in days of peace being equally commendable with his record as a soldier.
Source: Charles A. Church, Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago County, Illinois (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 645-646.