(Christian Cassel - John - Christian - William - Berry Hill)

Berry Hill Cassell (1822-1904)

Berry Hill Cassell was born on May 23, 1822 in the small village of East Hanover, Pennsylvania.  He spent his early life on his family’s farm there. Berry and his brothers started helping their father on the farm at an early age. As young boys, they learned to swing an ax, cradle and scythe which were the principle farm implements during that time. Whenever possible during the winter season, Berry and his brothers attended the local school which was held in a log cabin and did their lessons on a slab bench.

At the age of 16, in 1838, Berry traveled to Illinois to join his brothers, Augustus, Joseph and Christian, who had all ready settled in Putnam County. He lived there for 1 year and liked it so well that in the summer of 1839, Berry returned to Pennsylvania and talked his parents into joining them in Illinois. In the fall of 1839, Berry, his father, mother, and brothers - John, Henry and Michael started their journey to Illinois. They traveled down the canal from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The water was so low that steamers could not run so the family traveled by keelboat to Louisville, Kentucky. The trip took them 21 days.

In Louisville, Berry and his family rented a house to wait for low water. After a few weeks, they grew tired of waiting and purchased two one horse wagons. Berry and his family came by land from Louisville, Kentucky to Decatur, Illinois. There wasn’t any trail to follow through the prairie and the tall grass waved in along side and in front of them as far as the eye could see.

Fortunately once they reached the timber, there was a trail left by former travelers. By this time the weather was so severe that Berry froze his feet during the trip. They arrived in Decatur, Illinois on the November 20, 1839. By this time the snow was 4 foot deep and the weather so severe that they couldn’t travel any further. Berry notified one of his brothers in Putnam County, and one came to pick up his parents and younger brothers the following spring.

Decatur at that time was located in the center of thirty acres. What is now central park was then a timber and hazel brush patch. Berry is quoted as saying “It was the worst place for snakes in those days that I ever saw. I ran on to one big snake in there one day that caused me to run and  it was the only snake I ever ran from!” (The Decatur Review, October 12, 1904).

Berry had decided to stay in Decatur and try to make a living. He made friends with David L. Allen (a prominent land-owner) and Leonard Ashton (a stage driver). They took him under their wing and offered to get him a job. Berry had learned the tinner’s trade so Allen and Ashton talked him into setting up a shop in Decatur. His mother had given him $1.25, so Berry bought his tools from an old man who had a tinker’s outfit and wanted to get rid of the stock and set up shop in the basement of a store called “Peddecord Bros. and Co.” at the intersection of Park and Franklin streets. After buying a small box of tin plate, Berry was able to begin his business in the middle of January 1840.

By July 1, 1840, Berry had saved $75 and was able to buy a complete tinner’s outfit and the business moved to the first floor. In 1841, he bought a lot at the corner of South Park and Franklin streets and erected a small building to be used as his shop. Shortly afterward he sold the lot and moved the building to the lot at the corner of Water and East Main streets.

Berry continued in the business for another 10 years. In 1846, with the help from “Peddecord Bros. and Co.”, he was able to purchase stoves from Albany, New York. These were the first stoves brought to Macon County. The stoves were soon sold out and Berry ordered more from St. Louis, Missouri. The stoves and his goods were brought from St. Louis by farmers who traded there. At that time, there was very little money around and Berry did a lot of bartering.  He took the farmer’s product for his goods and traded the produce for supplies in St. Louis.

At the age of 21, on October 26, 1843 Berry married Louisa M. Schulty in Decatur, Illinois.  They were married by Reverend Daniel Traughter. Berry and Louisa had 5 children. They were Baron Hilton, Thomas Albert, Mary Elizabeth, William L. and Clara Owen. Mary and William died in childhood. Berry had beautiful penmnship that he honed by writing letters on tin with a scratch awl. He was an extensive reader and was very fold of music. Berry played the clarinet in the first band Decatur ever had. He also played several other musical instruments.

Berry continued to be successful in the tinner’s business and in the fall of 1852 sold his shop for $800. He became a partner in a hardware store with Henry Prather on East Main street. The store sold hardware, furniture, and agriculture implement. In 1853, the business was able to move to a larger building. Berry sold his interest in the store in 1855 and purchased a hotel called “Herald House”. He renamed it “Cassell House” and ran it very successfully for 2 1/2 years.  During that time, Berry became personally aquainted with Lincoln and Douglas during the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. They spoke in Decatur many times and always stopped at Cassell House. The convention of the editors of the state was held at the Cassell House in February of 1856 and named the date of the convention which was helf a few months later in Bloomington, which formed the Republican Party.

From 1857 to 1860, Berry had a hardware store in Monticello, Illinois. From 1860 to 1865, he had a grocery store in Decatur - then had a hardware store in Monticello again for 1 year (1865-1866). Business flourished and in 1851, he purchased 240 acres of land, the first 160 acres beginning at what is now the intersection of Wood and Broadway streets and they extended north to the old Wabash railroad. There was no railroad at that time and the Wabash later received its right of way from Berry. Berry soon bought more property that was located where the brickyards were in 1900, southeast of Decatur. Berry paid $12.50 a acre for the first land he bought. From 1866 to 1893 he had a real-estate business in which he was very successful. As the city of Decatur grew, he became rich on the sale of 40 foot lots at $1000 each.

In 1886, Berry erected a beautiful mansion on 8 acres of land commonly known at that time as “Cassell’s Hill”. It was located east of Broadway and north of Wood street in the city. Cassell’s Hill was a tract of land that was almost circular in form. The beautiful mansion was known by all as “Cassell’s Castle”. “Cassell’s Castle” had 22 rooms and the interior was finished in hard wood cut on Cassell’s Hill. Unfortunately, the house was destroyed by fire in 1915.

Berry continued living in Decatur for the remainder of his life, where he farmed and dealt in real estate. He served as a clerk for Decatur, Illinois from 1850 to 1856. He also was a charter member of the Decatur Lodge No. 186, 1.0 of Odd Fellows.  Berry became blind 12 years before his death and his health started to fail after his wife’s death on October 21, 1903. Berry died a year later at his home in Decatur from gangrene poisoning at 4 AM Wednesday, October 12, 1904. He was buried two days later at Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur, Illinois.

Louisa Margaret Schulty Cassell (1823-1903)

Louisa Margaret Schulty was born in May of1822 in Hagerstown, Maryland. In 1830 her family came west to Springfield, Illinois. They lived in Springfield until 1834, then moved to Decatur, Illinois. Louisa married Berry Hill Cassell on October 26, 1843 in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois. They had five children. Baron Hilton, Thomas Albert, Mary Elizabeth, William L. and Clara Owen. Mary Elizabeth and William L. died in infancy.

Louisa and Berry lived their entire adult lives in Decatur, Illinois. They started out their married life living in the back of a long building that Berry used the front half for his tinner’s shop. In 1855 they moved to the hotel that Berry now owned. Her husband continued to prosper and in 1887, built a beautiful 22 room mansion on what what known as Cassell’s Hill.

Louisa continued to live at Cassell’s Hill until about nine years before her death. At that time, she moved to he son, Thomas Cassell’s home. Two years before her death, Louisa became an invalid because of gangrene and dropsy. Her death on at 8:10 PM on October 21, 1903 was caused by gangreen of her left foot. After her death, Louisa was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur, Illinois.

Baron Hilton Cassell (1846-1922)

Baron Hilton Cassell was born on March 20, 1846 in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois. He was born in a long building used for a wagon and paint shop. His father had a little tin shop in the east end of the building and the family lived on the west end. At the time of his birth there were only about 1000 people living in Decatur. Baron spent his childhood in Decatur, Illinois and attended public schools there. He went on to attend “Normal School” of Bloomington, Illinois and graduated at the age of 22. After graduation, Baron went to work in his father’s hardware store in Montcellio, Illinois.

On March 18, 1872, Baron married Fanny Winfield Harrison in Clinton, Illinois. After their marriage they settled on Baron’s farm in Decatur, Township near Decatur, Illinois where Baron owned and operated 200 acres of farmland. Baron and Fanny had three children, Louis Byron, Fred Roy, and Otto Darrell. They also had an adopted daughter, Pearl Ada.

In 1893, the Baron’s farmland was valued at $250 per acre. He also had valuable stock, houses and lots in Decatur. His wealth at that time was estimated to be at $50,000. Baron was a firm republican and a member of the Masonic fraternity. In 1901, Baron moved from his farm to his father’s home “Cassell’s Castle” to help his father. His father died in 1904 and Baron inherited his father’s home. The house was destroyed by fire in 1915.

Baron spent the remainder of his life in Decatur, Illinois where he made a living farming and real estate. In 1905, he owned and rented out 20 houses in Decatur. Baron was a speculative builder and became well known by building houses for the purpose of sale. His wife died in 1912. Baron continued living in Decatur another 7 years. His death was caused by cander. After his death on December 7, 1919, Baron was buried in Greenwood Cemetary, Decatur, Illinois.

Fanny Winfield Harrison Cassel (1843-1912)

Fannie Harrison was born on October 17, 1843 in Ross County, Ohio. Her father was a farmer and Fannier grew up on a farm in Ross County, Ohio. Her father was also a distant relative of President Harrison. During the early 1860’s her father passed away and her mother moved the family to Decatur, Illinois.

Fannie married Baron Hilton Cassell on March 18, 1872 and they settled on his farm in Decatur township.. Fannie and Baron had three children, Louis, Fred and Otto. In 1901, Baron and Fanny moved to his father’s home in Decatur, Illinois. Fannie continued to live there the remainder of her life. Her death was due to heart trouble. After her death on Friday afternoon, October 4, 1912, she was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur, Illinois.