Biography of William Phelan
Saunders County, NE Biographies





William Phelan, now living retired in Wahoo, is numbered among the pioneer settlers of Saunders county, where he has long witnessed the changes that have occurred, his memory forming a connecting link between the primitive past and the progressive present. A native of Queens county, Ireland, he was born June 10, 1840, and when sixteen years of age sailed for the United States. The vessel on which he took passage dropped anchor in the harbor of New York on the 26th of June, 1856, and he left the metropolis for the middle west, establishing his home in Fulton county, Illinois, where he joined his father, William Phelan, who was also a native of Queens county, Ireland, and who had come to the new world in 1854. The mother died in Ireland and William Phelan, Jr., was accompanied to this country by a brother and a sister. The father was at that time engaged in farming in Fulton county, where he continued to make his home until his death, winch occurred when he was about eighty years of age.

After arriving in the new world William Phelan secured employment as a farm hand and remained for about eleven rears in Illinois. In the fall of 1867 he came to Saunders county on a prospecting trip and filed on a claim but did not prove up the property. He then returned to Illinois and in the spring of 1868 he drove across the country with Saunders county again his destination. He then homesteaded near where the town of Mead stands, securing eighty acres, on winch he put up a sod house. He was among the first settlers of that part of the county and the work of development and improvement seemed scarcely begun. His claim was a tract of raw prairie on which could be found no indication of settlement or of improvement. With characteristic energy he began to break the sod and till the soil and in time his labors wrought a marked transformation in the appearance of the place. Year after year he persistently, energetically and successfully carried on general farming until 1894, when he turned the property over to his sons and came to Wahoo. As the years have passed he has added to his original tract of land until he is the owner of three hundred and twenty acres, and his careful cultivation of his fields brought to him rich crops.

On the 18th of October, 1868, Mr. Phelan was married to Miss Harriet Council, who is a daughter of Alfred F. Council, and was born in Jefferson county, Arkansas, October 2, 1846, and with her family drove from that place' to Illinois by wagon. To Mr. and Mrs. Phelan have been born ten children: Fenton, who died in infancy; Mary, who was born September 19, 1865, and is now clerking in Norfolk; Thomas W., who was born February 27, 1868, and is now traveling for an implement house of Grand Island, Nebraska; James, who was born February 24, 1870, and makes his home at Mead; Dora Belle, who was born March 25, 1878, and is the wife of Hillery Will, of North Dakota; Sarah Cecelia, who was born April 8, 1875, and is the wife of Ed Klotz, a druggist of Wahoo; William Claude, who was born September 19, 1877, and is engaged in farming Ain Custer county, Nebraska; Ida Alma, who was born April 25, 1880, and is engaged in the millinery business in Chicago; Jesse Lewis, who was born October 26, 1882, and is managing the home farm; and Paul Blase, who was born February 3, 1890, and is engaged in the auto livery business in Wahoo.

Mr. Phelan and his family are communicants of the Catholic church and he gives his political allegiance to the democratic party. Although he has never sought nor held political offices he has served as school director, and the first school in his district was held in a sod building on his farm. His entire life has been one of unremitting activity. He early realized the eternal truth that industry wins and industry became the beacon light of his life. As the years have gone on he has so directed his labors that the obstacles and difficulties of his early life have utterly vanished and success has come in the place of privation. He is now a well to do citizen and, moreover, he is numbered among those who have contributed to the agricultural development of this section of the state.

From:
Past and Present Saunders County, Nebraska
A Record of Settlement, Organization,
Progress and Achievement
Charles Perky Supervising Editor
Vol. II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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