Biography of Samuel B. Varney

Samuel B. Varney. As told on other pages of this work, the founding and early growth of Champaign was largely due to the construction of the Illinois Central Railway. One of the first active settlers in the community was Samuel B. Varney, a pioneer whose influence did much for Champaign in its formative stages and whose name is one to be spoken with respect and cherished with honor. He died when Champaign was a small and struggling town, and the only one of his children still living is Mrs. L. V. Crane, who resides at 412 West Church Street in Champaign.

The late Samuel B. Varney was born in Albion, Maine, April 27, 1812. He spent many years in his native state, engaged in farming, in the strenuous endeavor to coax a living from the rocky soil, and was also a merchant, manufacturer and hotel proprietor. When the Illinois Central Railway was built large bodies of land were granted to the company as a bonus, and the company sold this land to investors in many parts of the country. One of the buyers was Samuel B. Varney, who acquired a quarter section four miles from the then new town of Champaign. After making this investment Mr. Varney came to Illinois in 1859, when the railroad had just been completed, and at the same time he bought four lots in the J. P. White Addition, the first addition made to the town of Champaign. On one of those lots he erected his home in 1859, and that old residence is still standing as a landmark of the larger city which has grown up around it. Mr. Varney was in a position to take advantage of the many opportunities then existing in Champaign County, and he not only acquired large property interests, but also did much to improve the city of Champaign. He was especially interested in the West Side Park, helped to plant many trees, and in other ways beautify the new town.

He lived only about a half dozen years in Champaign. His death occurred in the city of Chicago, at the home of his daughter Mrs. Crane, November 19, 1866. He had gone to Chicago for medical treatment, but did not survive.

Mr. Varney married in 1833 Miss Sarah Pierson, who was born in Montsville, Maine, but was a resident of Bangor at the time of her marriage. She died in Maine in 1844. In 1845 Samuel R. Varney married Lucy J. White, who died at Champaign in 1895. Samuel B. Varney was the father of eight children. His son Charles P. Varney, who died in 1900, made a record as a soldier in the Civil War, being a surgeon with the Twenty-sixth Illinois Infantry for four years, and afterward served as revenue collector in Georgia.

Mrs. Lauzarah V. Crane, the only living child of the late Samuel B. Varney, was born at the old Varney home at South Levant, Maine, October 19, 1835. She now owns and occupies the old homestead acquired and improved by her father in 1859. She came out to Champaign with her father and was then twenty-four years of age. She had been liberally educated and was one of the first teachers in the public schools of Champaign. On August 26, 1863, she married Archibald M. Crane, of Chicago. Mr. Crane died in Livingstone County, Illinois, in 1879. In 1894 Mrs. Crane returned to her old home in Champaign and has lived here ever since. Mr. Crane was a member of the Masonic Order and was active in the Presbyterian Church.’

Mrs. Crane became the mother of six children, the two youngest dying in infancy. Edward S. is now a resident of Cleveland, Ohio; Charles M., of Chicago; Jonah, of Hartford, Connecticut; and Lauzara B. is the wife of Lee C. Emerson, of Champaign.



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

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