Biography of Benjamin Franklin McGath

Benjamin Franklin McGath is one of the old-timers in Champaign County, and has witnessed its growth and development since 1861, the same year that he went out to do service as a Union soldier. He made a creditable record in the army and his entire life has been a record of patriotic devotion and duties worthily and successfully performed.

His birth occurred in Vermilion County, Indiana, March 15, 1841. He is the only survivor of a family of ten children, six sons and four daughters, born to William and Nancy (Fannon) McGath. He was the eighth in order of birth. His father was born near Wilmington, Ohio, grew up and received his education there and also married in Ohio and went across the country in pioneer style to Indiana and settled on a farm in Vermilion County in the valley of the Wabash River. His death occurred there about 1847 and he was one of the pioneers in that section. He was a Jeffersonian Democrat and he and his wife were active Methodists. His wife was born in Ohio and was of German ancestry. She was a kind and loving mother, and after her husband’s death she lived for sixteen years at the home of her son Benjamin, and her death occurred in 1900. She was laid to rest at Mansfield.

Benjamin F. McGath grew up in Indiana, acquired a common school education, and came to Illinois when twenty years of age. He had been here only a short time when he enlisted in the Second Illinois Cavalry under Colonel Berry. He was trained and equipped in the Springfield barracks, and was never called into active service during his first four months’ term of enlistment. After that he did some recruiting and then joined the Seventy-first Regiment of Illinois Infantry. This regiment became a part of the Army of the Tennessee under General Grant, and he performed his duties as a soldier in several of the memorable campaigns of the Mississippi Valley. He was present at the battles of Corinth and luka and was finally mustered out and received his honorable discharge at Mattoon, Illinois.

Mr. McGath made his material success in life as the result of hard work and persistent energy. As a young man he worked as a farm hand at $15 a month. Farming has always been his active pursuit and from the soil he has gathered sufficient wealth to provide for his family and for his own needs. In Champaign County he had accumulated a farm of eighty acres, but in 1873 he sold out and moved to Kansas, buying a half section of 320 acres in Russell County. His move to Kansas was an unfortunate one, since it took him into the state during the period when Kansas was scourged by grasshoppers, persistent drought and every other vicissitude known to a farming population. The five years he spent there he raised only one satisfactory crop. Finally selling his land, he returned to Champaign County, soon afterward removed to Vermilion County, Illinois, but for the greater part of his active career was a farmer in Champaign County.

On July 3, 1873, the same year that he moved out to Kansas, Mr. McGath married Miss Permilla Jane Kilgore. Five children were born to their marriage, three sons and two daughters, and four are still living. Clella C., the oldest, is the wife of J. C. Herriott, and their home is at LaJara, Colorado. Mr. Herriott is a farmer and a barber. They have a daughter, Fay. Clella is an active member of the Methodist Church and received her education in the Mahomet High School and for a time taught in Vermilion County. Royal K., the oldest son, is also a resident of LaJara, Colorado, and is a barber running a shop with his brother-in-law. He was educated in the Mahomet High School, is a Republican in politics, and married Miss Katie Brown. Bertie, the third child, is a practical agriculturist at Lynne, Illinois, and has made a success as manager of a large farm of 320 acres. He was educated in the common schools, is a Republican and a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, and he and his wife are active Methodists. He married Miss Carrie Moore, and their children are named Cleo, Lloyd and Opal. Mary A., the youngest child, is the wife of Edgar Moore, also a farmer, and they reside at East Lynne. Their children are Glenn and Bennie Guy. They are members of the Methodist Church.

The record of their children is one that Mr. and Mrs. McGath may review with pride and satisfaction. Mrs. McGath was born in White County, Indiana, January 22, 1848, and represents a family of early settlers in that section’ of Indiana. Her parents were John C. and Margaret (Carr) Kilgore. Her father was born in Indiana in 1813, three years before Indiana was admitted to the Union, and he died in 1892. He was a practical farmer, and moved to Mahomet, Illinois, when Mrs. McGath was ten months old. Her mother was also a native of Indiana and died when Mrs. McGath was five years old. In their family were six sons and six daughters, three now living. Mrs. McGath’s sister Mary is a member of the Methodist Church and is married and lives in Livingston, Illinois. Her other sister, Silance, lives at Ogden, Illinois, the widow of William Hubbard, and she is also an active Methodist. Mrs. McGath was educated in the common schools and with her husband is a loyal and devout member of the Methodist Church. She has made her home a place of hospitality and has always been devoted to her children and her many friends. Mr. and Mrs. McGath now have a comfortable residence east of Mahomet on a tract of six acres, which furnishes them a beautiful environment for their declining years and also plenty of activity. Mr. McGath is a Republican and has given his zealous support to the public schools. Mr. and Mrs. McGath in their later years have made several trips to the far West, including Colorado, and have wisely and judiciously used the means accumulated by a lifetime of earnest effort and toil.


Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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