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Thomas Cochran, Whiteside and Carroll County

Like so many of the OTRs, Thomas was not an orphan, but he came from the New York Juvenile Asylum with a group of 15 children to Fulton, IL in 1864. Originally, 32 children had left the asylum by train on 27 Jun 1864. Like many children who came on the trains, we will see that he lived with several families before finding a "home."

During a newspaper interview in 1932 Thomas Cochran talked about his experiences. At Fulton, Tom was indentured to a Prof. Covert who was on the faculty of a college there. They apparently didn't get along and he was "given" first to a Mr. Aylesworth who ran a dry goods store, and then to a Mr. Greene who ran a grocery store; both in Fulton. Later Greene sold the store, and Thomas said "the fellows that bought it opened a branch at Thomson and I came here to run it for them. Pretty soon they needed some money, and I bought the store, and have been here ever since, now being Thomson's oldest merchant." It was on 18 Jan 1871 that Thomas moved to Thomson to manage the grocery store which he later bought. You will see that in the obituary the story is slightly different from Thomas' own account.

Sidebar: The college near Fulton was the Western Union College, founded in 1861 by Col. Covert. In 1866 it was funded by the state and called the Illinois Soldier's College. Its purpose was to provide an education for soldiers and soldiers' sons. In 1873 its purpose changed again and was called Northern Illinois College, but by 1903 it was Hansen's Military Academy. Colonel D. S. Covert, the first guardian of Thomas Cochran, was the founder of Western Union College and ran it for five years.

Though he started with nothing, Tom did quite well for himself. In 1893, in addition to the grocery store, he owned 60 acres in Section 35 of Savanna Twp, 1 acre in Section 14, 2 acres just west of Thomson, a small tract with house in Section 20, and 70 acres in Section 5 - all in York Twp. Obituary:

Thomas Cochran, veteran Thomson merchant, passed away at his store at Thomson Tuesday noon. Funeral services will be held Thursday afternoon at 2 from the home of his son Ely Cochran with interment in Lower York Cemetery.

Death claimed the end of a long career for Thomas Cochran, 85, who passed away Tuesday noon, just as the whistle blew, ending a career that started when he came west from an orphanage in New York state to Fulton in 1864.

For the last 65 years Mr Cochran has been associated with the Fulton and Thomson communities. For the past 63 years he has lived in Thomson and operated a general store with the exception of a year or two some 40 years ago when he was obliged to give up because of ill health. His mind was always clear and bright , a remarkable faculty which he retained until the last. His health the past winter was poor, he being confined to his bed, and it was realized for some time that the end was not far away. Yet even during sickness Mr Cochran retained an active interest in business and those who wished to seek his advice could recieve the best of worth while information from him.

Coming to Fulton in 1864, Mr Cochran was taken into the home of Mr Aylesworth who conducted a general store at that place. He served his apprenticeship in the Aylesworth store, and in 1871 the senior Mr Aylesworth started a general store in Thomson, placing his son and Mr Cochran in charge of same, and on a partnership basis. Mr. Cochran purchased the half interest of his partner in 1873 and has since remained in business here, with the exception of a year or so as previously mentioned, due to illness. His store for all these years has been in the same location.

The stories about Mr Cochran as a merchant are legend. It has been said many times by older residents that in his prime he could wait on more customers at once than any man ever seen behind a counter. Not only that but as soon as the last item was purchased, Mr Cochran would tell to the penny the total amount of the bill, figuring the sums in his head as he made up the customers order. In filling his orders he used a heavy grade of wrapping paper, which he made into a funnel, and then securely wrapped and tied at both ends. He carried carload stocks of flour and feed, and his shelves were always piled high with the kind of merchandise useful and needed in a smaller community.

During his entire lifetime, Mr Cochran kept his own set of complete books, on his store, and tenants. He could tell to a penny just how all accounts stood without referring to his ledger and his mind has often been termed one of the fastest at calculating and figuring of any in Thomson. He lived a long and useful life and he too realized that the end was near. We are glad that he honored Thomson for so many years with his business and his presence.

Thomas Cochran , son of Alexander and Margaret Cochran, was born in New York City on February 11, 1851. He came to Fulton, Whiteside County in 1864 as one of a group of orphan boys who were sent west to be placed in suitable homes. His mother died when he was a year and a half old. His father remarried. He had three half brothers, one still living, James Y. Cochran of E. Orange, N.J. The information here is from another researcher and edited for this space. Research: History of Carroll Co. Illinois, H. F. Kett & Co, Chicago 1878; Carroll County Review, Thomson, Illinois, 10 Mar 1932; Obituary, Thomson Review, 30 April 1936; 1893 Carroll Co, IL Platbook.

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