Biography of William M. Phenicie

William M. Phenicie, proprietor of the Sunny Prairie Farm in Stanton Township, has known Champaign County for over half a century and was a factor in making it one of the garden spots of the world whether considered from an agricultural standpoint or as the home of industrious and worthy people.

Mr. Phenicie is a native of Pennsylvania, having been born at Mercersburg in Franklin County, a son of Joseph and Susan (Conner) Phenicie. His parents were also natives of the same state and were of English and German ancestry. William M. was one of seven children, four sons and three daughters, all of whom were well educated in the district schools of Franklin County.

In 1861, the year the Civil War broke out, William Phenicie married Margaret Besore. She was also a native of Franklin County, a daughter of John and Mary (Mouen) Besore.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Phenicie located on one of his father’s farms, but two years later came out to Illinois, where two of Mrs. Phenicie’s brothers were living in Vermilion County. They spent only one year in that county, and then came to Stanton Township in’ Champaign County. Here they rented land and subsequently Mr. Phenicie bought 120 acres at $8 an acre from the Illinois Central Bailway. It was a tract of virgin prairie, without a single improvement, and their first home was one of the cabins such as dotted this county in pioneer times. The passing years brought evidences of their industry and good management, a good house was built, fruit and shade trees were planted, and the land was redeemed from the waste prairie and converted into a fine farm.

In the meantime children were born into their home to the number of six, three sons and three daughters. These sons and daughters were named Stephen H., Delia, George, Emma, Eva and Otis. All of them were educated in the local schools, while Otis completed his education in the St. Joseph High School. While Mr. Phenicie has been liberally rewarded in a material way, he finds the greatest satisfaction of his career in the worthy sons and daughters who have grown up and have found honorable positions in life for themselves. Stephen H. is a successful farmer in southern Michigan. He married Emma Funkhouser, and their seven children are Oscar, Ethel, Ernest, Opal, Claude, William and Euth. The daughter Delia is the wife of William Barricklow, also a Michigan farmer, and they have three sons, C. Dwight, Cecil and Carlos. George has one of the good farms of Stanton Township, and by his marriage to Etta Johnson is the father of five children, Merle, Abner, Roy, Harold and Chester. The daughter Emma is the wife of Adam Varner, and their family consists of Elmer, Vernie, Effie, Otis, Margaret, May, Letha and Clever. Eva is the wife of John Turner, a coal merchant at Urbana. Their children are Nellie, Marie, Ora, Amy, William and Norma. The youngest son and child, Otis, who lives on his father’s homestead, married, September 26, 1906, Lena Dunn, daughter of John B. Dunn. Otis and wife have an energetic young son, Arden, now ten years of age and a student in the fourth grade. Though so young, he takes a keen interest in aviation and flying machines.

The Phenicie home has not escaped the visitation of death, and in 1910 the good mother entered into rest. The lives of her children are an expression of her character and training, and by many acts of kindliness and good she endeared herself to a large community. Mr. Phenicie and his late wife were active members of the Prairie Hope Christian Church, and for years he was a trustee in that organization. In politics he is a Democrat, and proof of his public spirit is found in his service for a number of years as a school director.

When Mr. Phenicie came to Stanton Township there was not a public road, schoolhouse nor church in the entire community, and his own efforts and influence have cooperated with every movement for such improvement and advancement. Since the death of his good wife Mr. Phenicie has continued to live on the home farm, but has surrendered the responsibilities of its management to his capable son Otis, and in his cultured daughter-in-law finds a most capable home maker.



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

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