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Mr. Rountree's life was one of unselfish usefulness. He never showed any desire to popularize himself or make public his many public and private services. And while he lived to a ripe old age, he literally died in the harness.
The Hillsboro Democrat of March 5th, 1873, announced the death of Mr. Rountree in the following words:
“The Hon. Hiram Rountree died at his residence in this city March 5th, 1873, in his eightieth year of age.
Judge Rountree was one of the oldest settlers of the State, and for many years occupied many positions of honor and trust.
He was a man of excellent scholastic attainments, a lawyer by profession, but at various times engaged in business pursuits.
He was of fine ability and most scrupulous honesty. No man had ever more fully the confidence of the people he served or had business relations with than he. As a public man his character stands in striking contrast with the loose spirit of morality of the city. There survives him one son A. H. H. of this city, one daughter Mrs. D. D. Shumway of Taylorville and his wife. The funeral will take place at the M. E. Church on Friday next at one p. m." Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber.
A few weeks ago Mr. I. S. Blackwelder, now of California, wrote me that you had asked him to prepare for the Journal a sketch of the Hon. Hiram Rountree. But that he had not the data at hand to prepare such a sketch, and he asked me to try to get up such an article and send you. With my limited time, I have tried to prepare such an article as I could. It is hoped that it will answer the purpose of your request.
Very truly yours,
A PIONEER TEACHER-HELEN J. BUSS.
By ESTHER PERRY HORNBAKER. Miss Helen J. Buss, one of the oldest teachers in the state of Illinois, for forty-seven years a teacher in the schools of Will County, resides with relatives at Oregon. In 1845 at the age of six she came to Illinois in a prairie schooner drawn by oxen and lived for some time thereafter in a log cabin; in 1922, at the age of eighty-three, she attended the campaign meetings of Mrs. Lottie Holman O'Neill, Illinois' first woman representative, in the General Assembly of Illinois, spent a week at Chanute Field with her aviator nephew, was reading “This Freedom," and discussing the French occupation of the Ruhr. Devoted to learning, a constant reader of the best in literature, a lover of nature, with faculties unimpaired, Miss Buss is today the same interested participator in the life about her that she has always been.
By the early thirties of the last century the movement into the west was in full swing. Lured by the fertile lands offered for sale by the government, thousands emigrated into the Mississippi Valley. The roads were crowded with travellers, some in wagons drawn by horse or oxen, some on horseback and some on foot pushing their belongings in carts before them. Many drove herds of cattle and accommodated their pace to the slow moving animals that grazed along the way. All carried provisions and stopped at the little settlements to buy supplies; sometimes the men added to their store by hunting and fishing, for game and fish far more plentiful than in our day. They cooked their meals by the roadside and found shelter at night at some farm house or slept in their wagons. Many stopped at settlements on the way and worked there for a year or more but always with the idea of going on when the times should be more favorable.
Among those who undertook this journey into the west were John C. and Abagail Hall Buss, the parents of Helen J. Buss. Born in Bristol, Vermont, of Scotch, Welsh, and English parentage, they were married in Canada where both were living at the time, and went at once to Buffalo, New York. In 1839, while they were living at Dunkirk, New York, their second child, Helen J. Buss, was born. When she was a little more than two years old the family moved to Conneaut, Ohio, and here Miss Buss' brother began attending a primary schoo taught by his aunt, an experienced teacher and a great student. The boy thought that his little sister ought to do the same things that he did, so each evening he got her up to the table in her high chair to study her lessons and it was in this way that she learned to read and spell. Again the family moved, this time to Cleveland, then a little frontier town, and later to Newburg where the brother again entered school. He begged his Mother to allow his little sister to go with him and the Mother, thinking it would be for a few days only, consented, and so Miss Buss' school life began in 1842, a month before her fourth birthday. The little girl was placed in a spelling class where a prize was offered to the best speller and she was very anxious to win it; nothing would induce her to remain at home and when the snow was too deep for her to walk to school, her Father had to carry her.
In 1845, in company with a neighbor named Hampton, Mr. Buss and his family began the last stage of their journey into the west. In a wagon drawn by oxen and driving their cattle before them, they slowly made their way across Ohio and Indiana to Will County, Illinois. To the little brother and sister the days must have been filled with excitement as they watched the countless travellers they met upon the road and as the wonders of the new country were revealed to them. It must have seemed that the whole world was on the move and that life was one long holiday.
The Hamptons were originally from the Isle of Man and when they reached Wilmington, Illinois, found there a family of old friends, also Manx people, and Miss Buss remembers with what joy Mr. and Mrs. Hampton talked to them in their own language which sounded strange enough to the little girl.
The two families decided to take up land and settle at Reed's Grove near Elwood for the early settlements in Illinois were all near groves and the prairies were uninhabited except