William Fairchild Drackley was my great-great grandfather. I am uncertain of his birth date – his obituary states he was born on 15 February 1867, his biography says he was born in February of 1870, but according to the 1870 United States Census he was born in March of 1870. Most of the censuses after that seem to argue for an 1870 date but I am still uncertain of it. William was born in Seneca, LaSalle, Illinois to Richard Drackley and Abigail Fairchild. William was the fourth of six children born to Richard and Abigail. Richard was a farmer.
According to his biography, in 1893 he became the manager of a 1,100 acre cattle ranch owned by Standard Coal Company in Seneca. William married Mary Alice Wilmerth on 1 September 1897, in Morris, Grundy, Illinois. Mary Alice was born on 27 April 1872, in Mexico, Oswego, New York. She lived there until 1892 when she moved to Seneca. In 1899, their first child, Alma Irene was born. The 1900 United States census shows the family living in Vienna township, Grundy, Illinois. Shortly after, the family made their way to Radcliffe, Hardin, Iowa. There their next five children were born (including my great grandmother).
In 1911, William purchased eighty acres of land for $4,800 in Richfield, Wood, Wisconsin. He moved the family there in 1912. While there, he was mentioned in the newspaper for having a flock of domesticated wild mallards. In 1913 he had two hatchings – one with fourteen ducks and the other with seventeen. He said they were much easier to raise compared to regular ducks, very hardy and just as big. That year also brought the death of his mother who was living in Iowa. According to the newspaper he left right away and took the train to be at her funeral.
According to his biography, William did not hold on to that property for long. He purchased a new eighty acres for $5,000, also in Richfield, in 1914 and moved the family there. By now the family was complete as their last child, Elizabeth, was born in 1913. Along with farming, the family also raised sheep. According to her daughter, Clara often told of eating mutton growing up -- it must have been often if she remembered it! In 1917, family and friends gathered as William and Mary Alice celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary. According to a newspaper item, they received a one hundred piece set of china along with other matching pieces. In his biography which appeared in the Marshfield History Books, while living in Richfield he was a town assessor and a clerk for the school district.
The 1920 census finds the family farming on their land in Richfield. Living with William, Mary Alice, and their seven children is Mary Alice’s brother Francis. Alma, the eldest child, is working outside of the home as a saleslady in a general merchandise store. On 31 May 1926, Mary Alice passed away. Though it states her health had been declining during the previous months, her cause of death was listed as apoplexy or stroke. Less than a year later, William sold the farm to the Old Line Life Insurance. He would spend the rest of his time staying with his children a few months at a time. His granddaughter, Mary Ann remembers him staying at her house. They would sit on the front porch and watch the cars go by. She said he smoked a pipe, was very smart, and loved raisins and lima beans (though probably not together!).
In 1930 William was staying with his daughter, Alma, and her family. William is a laborer on a farm – presumably the family farm. The next year, William has several letters to the editor posted to the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune. One grouping of letters was regarding prohibition (he was for it) and the second grouping was about prices that farmers got for their crops and dairy goods (he wanted the best price and thought farmers were being taken advantage of).
According to his obituary, William spent seven years living in Fresno, California. Daughter Olive and her family were living in California, so he was probably staying with them. He returned to Marshfield, Wisconsin, in 1939, and was staying with his daughter Elizabeth and her family. His health had been declining for close to a year when he passed away on 1 September 1939. William Fairchild Drackley is buried, along with Mary Alice, in the Richfield cemetery.