Biography of Robert Groves

Robert Groves, now living retired at Sidney, when in his prime was regarded as one of the keenest and best judges of live stock in Champaign County. He has had a long and useful career, and one that is deserving of more than passing mention.

Mr. Groves was born in Rush County, Indiana, at the town of Fairview, September 17, 1839, son of Joseph and Nancy (Baker) Groves. The original Groves came from Havre de Grace. Maryland, and distributed themselves in the states of Kentucky and Indiana. A more remote origin of the family is found in Holland, where Hans and Jacob, known in English as John and Jacob, Graff lived and emigrating from that country they bought land from William Penn in Pennsylvania. The name Graff became in time Grove. These two brothers married and settled in Pennsylvania and reared large families who in subsequent generations moved to Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and other states. From the first they were noted as progressive and ambitious men, and it used to be a common saying in Pennsylvania there was never a lazy Groves known. They excelled as hunters and were among the brave frontiersmen. On one occasion two Groves brothers, John and Mike, were returning with some young men from a deer hunt in Pennsylvania. They met a small war party of Indians, from whose belt hung the scalps of the Groves boys’ parents and neighbors. The Indians by their grimaces indicated to the boys how the parents looked while being scalped. The boys hastened home, found the village in ruins and the bodies of their parents, and then and there vowed vengeance on the perpetrators of the massacre. With two companions the Groves boys followed the Indians three days and finally came upon the place where they were camped at night. The Indians had stacked their arms on the bank of a creek, and all were asleep except one left on guard. Mike Groves, who was able to speak the Indian language, instructed his companions to fire when he gave the signal in the words, “Surround them, boys.” Creeping through the tall grass until he reached the place where the arms were stacked, he grabbed up all the guns and threw them over the bank into the creek, at the same time yelling in the Indian language, “Surround them, boys.” He himself shot the guard while his companions fired, each one killing an Indian. The red men made a race for their arms, were fired on a second time, and being completely routed they ran for their lives. The white men followed them two days, and drove them entirely from that part of the country. This was the last Indian raid recorded in Pennsylvania, and the citizens were so grateful to the Groves boys that they named the township Groves Township in their honor. Thirty years ago the old creek was drained, and the old rusted flintlock muskets were recalled as testimony to this brave attack.

At one time Jacob Groves of Sugar Creek, Pennsylvania, was charged by a big buck deer which he had wounded. Having no time to climb a tree he grasped the enraged animal by the antlers, matching his strength against that of the wild beast. They fought round and round in the brush until they got close to a white oak sapling, and while holding on for his life with one hand the hunter twisted the sapling around the deer’s neck, and slowly by inches brought the head to the ground and dispatched the animal with his hunting knife. He returned home too exhausted to carry the meat and with his clothing torn in shreds.

The grandfather of Mr. Robert Groves was a licensed Methodist Episcopal preacher and also a soldier in the War of 1812. Rev. William A. Groves of Oil City, Pennsylvania, was also a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and J. W. Groves and wife, Mrs. M. Groves, were ministers in the Advent Christian Church. Mrs. Groves was state evangelist in Ohio and Washington. They” organized several churches in Pennsylvania and Ohio. At Mount Liberty, Ohio, they held a tent meeting, organizing a fine church of ninety-nine members. Mrs. Groves has engaged in evangelistic work from Buffalo, New York, to Vancouver, British Columbia, preaching in thirteen states in the Union and also in the Canadas. They have one son, Don Welcome Groves, now of John Day, Oregon. Mrs. Groves is author of an interesting book, entitled “Broken Links in Error’s Chain,” which has received some favorable press and pulpit comments. It is an argument against the mythological and traditionary personal Satan, shown to be purely a relic from the Dark Ages. The work accomplishes the commendable purpose of driving sin home where it belongs, the heart of man.

The family of Joseph Groves consisted of nine children, five sons and four daughters. They were all educated in the Fairview schoolhouse in Rush County, Indiana. Robert, who was the fifth in age, grew up in that Indiana district, and at the age of twenty-eight laid the foundation of his own home by his marriage to Sarah W. Ginn of Connersville, Indiana, a daughter of Gabriel and Hannah (Wood) Ginn.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Groves located near Fairview on rented land, but the next year moved to Wabash County, where they farmed for three years. In 1870 they came to Sidney, Illinois, and this has been their home for forty-seven consecutive years. During all this time Mr. Groves has been engaged successfully in buying live stock, and for many years shipped to market at Buffalo. He was considered one of the best judges of live stock in a section where live stock men rank second to none, and many have said that what Robert Groves did not know about stock was not worth knowing.

Into their home were born three children, Mabel, Howard and Carl. Mr. and Mrs. Groves gave them the best of educational advantages, including the Sidney High School. The daughter Mabel took up teaching as a life work, graduated from the Normal College, and is now living with her parents at Sidney. The son Howard was well embarked on a promising career when at the age of thirty-four he lost his life in a railroad accident at Litchfield, Illinois, July 3, 1904. At the time he was employed as a train dispatcher with home at Decatur, Illinois. He left a widow, formerly Miss Mollie Cook, and one son, Robert Cook Groves, who is now in the United States army in Battery F of the artillery at Long Island.

At the age of seventy-seven Mr. Groves carries his years gracefully, is hale and hearty, and takes a keen interest in all that goes on round about him, including the welfare and activities of his many friends. He has prospered in life and has always kept his character of integrity unsullied. He is widely and affectionately known as Uncle Robert Groves. He had a close and intimate acquaintance with many of the prominent men of Champaign County, including the late Judge Cunningham and Colonel Busey, and for a quarter of a century has banked with the Harris family at Champaign. Mr. and Mrs. Groves have for many years been identified with the Christian Church, but their daughter is a Presbyterian. Politically Mr. Groves is a stalwart Republican, having grown up as such and has never felt that his confidence in that party and its principles was misplaced.



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

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