BEZALEEL SPENCER, who is engaged in general farming and stock-raising on section 6 in the town of Byron, is numbered among the honored pioneers of this county, his residence dating from 1846. It is only by a written record that we can perpetuate the lives and deed of those who have been important factors in the upbuilding of the State, and few have borne a more important part in that work than the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. He was born on the 16th of April, 1826, in Greenwich, Washington Co. NY. and is a son of Bezaleel and Levena (Johnson) Spencer, who were also natives of Washington County. By occupation the father was a contractor and builder, and his death occurred while absent from home, engaged in the erection of a large building. Three children were born to the worth couple - Bezaleel, of this sketch; Elijah M., who is engaged in farming in the town of Byron; and Derastus H., who is engaged in the manufacture of bluing paddles and Echo baking powder. He began operations on a small scale, but as trade increased, he increased his facilities and now has en extensive business. His son, Archie E., is a leading pharmacist, and has rendered valuable assistance to his father in the compounding of elements used in the articles manufactured.
After the death of her first husband, Mrs. Spencer became the wife of Joseph Watson, and of that union three children, two daughters and one son, were born. When news was last received from him, the son was a resident of Iowa; Amanda is now deceased, and Martha J. is the wife of Harrison Dalrymple, a resident of Utah. The mother of this family died about the year 1866, when seventy years of age.
The educational advantages which our subject received, were limited to those afforded by the district schools of his native county. His father dying when he was a babe, only six months old, he made his home with Mr. Watson until fifteen years of age, when he was thrown upon his own resources, and started out to fight life's battle with the world. He was apprenticed to the trade of blacksmithing, and for his services was to receive his board and clothes, but after serving a term of two years, as his employer provided him with no new clothing, he abandoned the trade, and turned his attention to other pursuits. With but thirty cents in his pocket, he started on foot in search of employment. He journeyed on for sixty miles, and at the end of the third day, weary and footsore, reached the home of an uncle, who told him that he might possibly secure employment with his son-in-law. The next morning he again started on his way, and on reaching the man in question, was engaged at farm labor at the small compensation of $7 per month. Not content with the limited education which he had received, he wished to continue his studies, and the following winter, boarding in the home of his cousin, he attended the district school. The next year he was again employed at farm labor at $10 per month, and during the next winter again pursued his studies. For a few years he spent his time in that manner, working during the summer months for the means which would enable him to pay his board and other expenses while attending school during the winter season. He thus secured a fair knowledge of the simpler branches, but by subsequent reading and observation has largely supplemented the knowledge then gained. In the spring of 1846, when twenty years of age, we find him in Fond du Lac County. On his arrival he found that his cash capital consisted of only $24, yet with a resolute will he determined to make for himself a home in this Western State, and carve out a fortune in the almost unsettled wilderness. He had made the trip from Milwaukee on foot, traveling through deep mud, but at length reached Fond du Lac, then a mere hamlet with a few scattering houses, and but little business. In connection with his brother, he purchased 120 acres of land on section 6, in the town of Byron, which he still owns. On leaving the hotel, he found that he had left his pocketbook containing all his money, which he was fearful of never seeing again, but on his return he found his lost treasure. After making a location, he at once began working to secure the necessary funds to complete the payment for the property, and engaged in various lines of work, scorning no employment, however humble, by which he might earn an honest dollar. During the summer months he engaged as a farm laborer for seven years, and during that time paid off his entire indebtedness, including principal and 25 per cent interest. In 1853 he turned his attention to the development of the farm, and in 1856 the brothers added to their original purchase a tract of 143 acres, making in all 263 acres of land.
On the 20th of January of that same year, Mr. Spencer was joined in wedlock with Philema N Pelton, a native of Trumbull County, Ohio and a daughter of Samuel and Matilda M (Kelley) Pelton. The young couple began their domestic life upon the farm where they have since made their home. The brothers continued operations together until 1869, when by mutual consent they dissolved partnership, the property being divided in a satisfactory manner between them. Mr. Spencer now owns a fine farm of 193 acres of land as the result of his indefatigable labor, enterprise, energy and perseverance. Few, starting in life with as limited a capital, have attained as great a degree of success, but the joint efforts of himself and wife have overcome all difficulties, until they are now numbered among the wealthier citizens of Fond du Lac County. The work of cultivation has been carried steadily forward until where once was a wild and barren prairie, waving fields of grain greet the eye. The many beautiful and useful improvements have all been made by the owner, and many of the trees whose welcome shade protects the home from the glowing heat of summer, were planted by his hand.
Four children were born to this worthy couple - Edwin I., who is engaged in the real estate, loan and abstract business in Wichita, Kan., wedded Miss Eva Felch, a native of Fond du Lac County, and two children grace their union, Ione C. and Ray F.; Gay A., the second in order of birth, became the husband of Miss Jessie Atwood, by whom he had one child, Claude, who has made his home with our subject since he was two weeks old. The mother died at the birth of her child, and Gay was again married to Miss Annie Walker, of Lewiston, NY. He is also engaged in the real estate and loan business, and is a prominent citizen of Russell, Kan.; Minnie I., wife of Harry J. Germond, a resident of Oconto, Wis., has two children by her marriage, Vina and Garth; her husband is manager of a drug store in Oconto; Vina M., the youngest member of the Spencer family, is still with her parents. The mother of Mrs. Spencer for a number of years also found a pleasant home with her daughter. She and her husband were numbered among the pioneer settlers of the town of Byron, of 1846. Mr. Pelton died in 1859, and his wife removed to the home of her daughter, where her last days were spent surrounded by loving care and watchfulness. The tide of life slowly ebbed away, and on the 3d of march, 1887, at the age of seventy-six years, she closed her eyes in the last long sleep. Mr. and Mrs. Pelton were consistent members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and were true and devoted Christian people.
A friend to education, Mr. Spencer provided his children with excellent advantages in that direction, and two of them were for some time teachers of recognized ability in the county. They have all become useful men and women in the several communities in which they reside and are an honor to their parents. In politics Mr. Spencer is a stalwart Republican, but has never sought or desired public preferment. When solicited to accept an official position, he has always declined the honor, never having held an office except that of member of the School Board. He then put forth every effort and exerted his utmost power to advance the educational interests of the community, and has done efficient service for the schools of his neighborhood. Few have longer been residents of Fond du Lac County than he whose name heads this sketch, and it is with great pleasure that we present this brief record of his life to the people among whom he has so long made his home. Honored and respected by all, he is a worthy and valued citizen, and is held in universal esteem.