JOHN ROBERT LAUGHLIN is one of Mendon Township’s oldest native citizens, has been a leading and prominent stockman for half a century, and the esteem in which he is generally held is well expressed by his fellow citizens in their reference to him as “Bob” Laughlin, and when Bob Laughlin’s opinion is expressed on some matter of farming or stock raising or community affairs it receives all the consideration and respect which is its proper due. The Laughlins as a family have been well known in northern Adams County since pioneer times. John Robert Laughlin was born on a farm four miles northwest of Mendon January 15, 1841. The old house in which he was born is still standing. His parents were Benjamin and Sarah (Robinson) Laughlin. Benjamin Laughlin was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1806, a son of John Laughlin, who came to America from Ireland.
In 1831, when Quincy contained only three houses, John Laughlin and his four sons, William, Wilson, Benjamin and Johnson, rode into this region on horseback and prospected over the surrounding country until they had satisfied themselves with some choice tracts of land, which then could be obtained by merely entering at the land office and paying the stated fee of a dollar and a quarter per acre. In the same fall Benjamin Laughlin began the erection of a double log house in which his son John Robert was born some ten years later. However, after their tour of inspection the Laughlins returned to Kentucky, and there busied themselves with the contriving of a flatboat on which they brought their household goods and their people to St. Louis, and from there up the river by steamboat to Adams County. Besides the four brothers mentioned there were two unmarried sisters. Sarah, one of these, afterwards married James Rankin and lived near Breckenridge in Hancock County, Illinois. Violet, the other daughter, married Matt Forsythe, and lived in Hancock County near the Adams County line.
John Laughlin, the father of the four brothers, bought land near Ursa, and this land was occupied by his son Johnson, who died there at the age of sixty years. This Ursa Township farm was about five or six miles distant from the place of settlement of the Laughlin family in Mendon Township. John, the grandfather, lived with his sons until his death when about eighty-seven or eighty-eight years of age. His second wife survived him some years and his first wife and the mother of his children died in Kentucky. Three brothers, William, Benjamin and Wilson, all settled adjoining farms in Mendon Township.
Wilson married Ellen Hightower, and he died on his farm at the age of sixty–five and his widow subsequently lived in Quincy but died at Mendon. This farm has since been sold. It adjoined the place of Bob Laughlin on the east. William Laughlin’s farm lay east of that of his brother Wilson.
William Laughlin was honored with many township offices, and died in Mendon at the age of seventy-five. None of his children remain in Adams County. A daughter of Wilson Laughlin is the widow of Charles Miller, of Mendon.
Johnson Laughlin also left no survivors.
Benjamin Laughlin spent his life on his father’s farm, and also bought the 160 acres adjoining on the north and at his father’s death acquired his tract of two hundred twenty acres. He also owned a farm of two hundred sixty acres in Ursa Township which had been previously operated by his brother Johnson.
With all this land under his control he carried on farming operations in proportion, and was one of the leading cattle raisers and feeders in the county. He was permitted a long life and died at the age of eighty-six. He is buried in Franklin Cemetery. He had laid out this cemetery on some of his own land, and named it Franklin for his own middle name. This cemetery was at the Free Will Baptist Church, an organization that has since been disbanded, though the old church is still standing. Benjamin’s wife, Sarah Robinson Laughlin, died in 1916, at the age of eighty-six. Their family consisted of five sons and two daughters, four of whom reached maturity: William, who left Mendon a number of years ago and moved to Chariton County, Missouri, where he died and where his widow and sons still live; the second in age is John Robert; Benjamin, a farmer in this vicinity, died at Marcelline, one of the inland villages of Adams County, about two miles west of the Laughlin farm, in 1910, at the age of sixty-three, leaving a widow and two children; and Dudley, also a farmer at Marcelline.
It is generally true that the American farmer who has made the best success at his business is the one who has remained longest on the job. Bob Laughlin has not only lived all his life on a farm but has been content to acknowledge no other important interests away from farming, though he has rendered such service as he could to his community, helping forward projects that were worthy and cooperating with his fellow citizens when his cooperation was needed. At the age of twenty-one his father gave him a farm, and later he bought out the other interests and now owns the 220 acres which was originally taken yup by his grandfather. Later he bought 100 acres on the west, giving him a complete half section in one farm, and since then has added another eighty acres nearby and recently bought fifteen acres. One improvement has followed another, and twenty years ago he built the comfortable residence which now houses the family. In 1881 he erected a barn that was one of the best in the county at that time, being of the familiar bank construction, 40 by 60 feet in ground dimensions and with 20-foot posts.
For forty years Mr. Laughlin specialized in horses and jacks, and has had as many as sixty-five head of these animals at one time. He has also been unusually successful in growing wheat, and has raised some splendid crops of that cereal. His farm now comprises as fine a body of land as is found anywhere in the county and with as good improvements. He has hired labor as well as worked hard himself, and has given every detail of the farm his personal supervision. In politics he is a democrat, as was his father before him, but in local issues is strictly independent, and has never allowed his name to be presented as a candidate for office.
At the age of twenty-four, Mr. Laughlin married Eliza Ann Randolph. She was left an orphan when a small girl and was reared in the family of a cousin. Mrs. Laughlin died in 1903, after they had been married forty years. There were two children, George and Sarah Elizabeth. The latter is now Mrs. John Austin and lives at Brookfield, Missouri. George Laughlin, the only son, died at the age of forty-eight years. He was a farmer and was also in the automobile business at Quincy. He married Sarah Shepherd, who is still living and makes her home with Mr. Laughlin, and her two children have practically grown up in the home of their grandfather. The children are Ruth and Hazel, the former the wife of Chester Miller, and the latter the wife of George Sauble. Chester Miller and George Sauble are now operating the Laughlin farm. Mr. and Mrs. Miller have one son, Robert Lee Miller.
File contributed by: Barbara Freeman
Source: Quincy and Adams County History and Representative Men, pp 742-43; by David Wilcox. Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1919.