The story of the life's labors of no man adds such lustre to the pages of Edwards county history as does that of George Flower. An Englishman by birth; an American by choice. Well calculated by natural gifts, richly set with studied graces, to lend dignity to an English mansion, he loved rather the air of liberty and independence, breathed forth by American institutions, and became a child of her adoption. The charms of England, overhung as they were by the darksome wing of monarchical form of government were freely exchanged by him, for the toils and privations incident to pioneer life in the free air of republican America. No sordid ends were to be subserved in seeking a home in the then "far west." Wealth he already possessed; position and power the family had already acquired. The stirring, bold utterances of American Independence had thrilled him, and the broad statesmanship exhibited in our national constitution had riveted his attention and gave being to a hope of becoming an American citizen. The idea of a land where all were sovereigns engaged his profoundest sympathies and American representatives to the courts of Europe, such as Jefferson and Franklin, Adams and King, accepted by him as representatives of the talent and integrity of Americans, precipitated a realization of that hope. As he declares in his published history of the English colony of Edwards never occurred to him that the principles of liberty and man's political equality could be set forth, a perfect theory upon paper, and be but imperfectly rendered in practice. Possessed of large wealth he transplanted on our prairies the art and improvements of the old mother country.
He was born in Hertfordshire, England, in the year 1787. His father, Richard Flower, resided for many years in Hertford, the county town, twenty miles north east of London, where he carried on an extensive brewery. Having acquired a competence he retired from business, and lived upon a beautiful estate, called Marden, which he purchased, and which was situated three miles from Hertford. George Flower, in company with Morris Birkbeck made the tour of continental Europe, adopting a plan peculiarly their own and quite at variance with that of ordinary sight seers. They studied peasant life in all its rustic simplicity, and graphically did Birkbeck present to the world an account of their experiences in a work entitled "Notes of a journey through France." Soon after their return to England, they were introduced to Mr. Edward Coles, who was on his return from a diplomatic mission to Russia, an introduction which was succeeded by Mr. Coles' visiting Birkbeck at his home in Wanborough. An intimacy and friendship sprang up between them which doubtless had much to do in determining the location of an English colony in Illinois. George Flower was the first to come to America, on a tour of observation. Although disabused of many of his preconceived ideas he still recognized the fact that here were opportunities for the accomplishment of vast good. He sailed from Liverpool in April, 1816, in the ship Robert Burns, under command of Captain Parsons of New York. Fifty days after starting he arrived in New York. From here he wrote a letter to Ex-President Jefferson, to whome he had a letter of in roduction, from his old friend General La Fayette, which resulted in a kind invitation to go and enjoy the shades of Monticello. At the time Mr. Flower could not comply. He visited Philadelphia, where he met with Le Seur, the French naturalist, (who afterwards lived in Harmony, Indiana;) Dr. Wistar, John Vaughan, a philanthropist, and others. Gradually was there being outlined, through contact with such characters, the idea of the establishment of a colony in the west. On horseback he made the circuit of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia, which in concise language, he recounts in his published history, a history that at times is thrilling, again romantic and always instructive. In the autumn time he reached the home of Jefferson, with whom he passed much of the winter, returning to Philadelphia in the latter part of that season. Here he learned of the arrival of Mr. Birkbeck and family at Richmond. To meet and greet his old friend he hastened, and added another to the party of nine adventurers, for such they truly were. The party consisted of Mr. Birkbeck, aged fifty-four; his second son, Bradford, a youth of sixteen; his third son, Charles, a lad of fourteen; a little servant boy, Gillard, thirteen years old; Elias Pym Fordham, (a cousin of Flower's;) Miss Eliza Birkbeck, aged nineteen; Miss Prudence Birkbeck, aged sixteen; Miss Eliza Julia Andrews, twenty-five; Elizabeth Garton, a ward of Birkbeck's and himself. After consultation they decided to go westward; exactly where, was uncertain. To Pittsburg they went in an old-fashioned lumbering stagecoach, which breaking down, necessitated the party to walk twelve miles, into the city. Determined to see the country they fitted themselves out with horses, blankets; saddles etc., and wended their way to Cincinnati, Ohio, where they were joined by Mr. Sloo, the register of the newly opened land office at Shawneetown, in the territory of Illinois. He piloted them the first day to the residence of General Harrison, thence across Indiana; Mr. Sloo taking a southwesterly, and they a direct westerly course, from a point of separation, when about two-thirds of the way across the territory. From here they went to Vincennes, where a halt was called. For some weeks the party remained, and here at the house of Colonel La Salle, George Flower was united in marriage with Miss Andrews, Elihu Stout, a justice of the peace, and editor of the only paper there published, being the officiating magistrate.
Miss Andrews was the second daughter of the Rev. Modecas Andrews of Eigeshall, in the county of Essex, England. In his history Mr. Flower speaks of her as being a woman of rare intelligence and excellent education, to which she united an energetic character and a courageous spirit; an affectionate wife, a devoted mother, a kind friend and a good neighbor, she proved herself in all the relations of life a true and noble woman. When misfortunes and poverty came to her family in the later years, she met the changed circumstances with a cheerful spirit and unsubdued courage. She was of the best type of an English countrywoman and preserved to the end of her days, the characteristics of her nationality. With her high shell comb and her tasteful turban, no weary guest will ever forget her cheery welcome, or the satisfactory and kindly manner in which he was entertained. All the old settlers of Edwards county, who now survive and who shared her hospitality call her memory blessed.
It was determined on leaving the family at Princeton, to enable Flower and Birkbeck to reconnoitre.
They started out in search of prairies, and in Edwards county found them in all their luxuriant growth of grass, and enticing beauty. In August 1818, Wanborough was laid off and in October following Albion. Soon after the parents and immediate family of Flower, located on Albion, where the "old Park house" was upreared and whence their hospitality was dispensed. The master spirit of the colony; the directing genius was George Flower. He it was who introduced improved methods of husbandry, imported fine cattle and sheep from the best herds of England, and when in 1823 it was attempted to legalize African slavery in Illinois, no one enlisted with a truer heroism than he. So nearly balanced were the contending parties of the state, that the note of the English colony, ever true to the instincts of freedom, turned the scale, a handful of sturdy Britons being the forlorn hope to stay the triumph of wrong and oppress ion, whose success might have sealed forever the doom of republican and constitutional liberty in America. When the pro-slavery advocates found themselves beaten, before the might of right and justice they sought to harass and render miserable the life of free blacks, and this it was that caused George Flower to come forth the champion, as he was the originator of the idea of colonization of free negroes, in Hayti. His arguments arrested the attention and gained the co-operation of many leaders of thought and molders of public opinion throughout the north. Although the plan met with but partial success, its conception and management reflect great credit upon the originator, and place him high among the ranks of human benefactors.
Mr. Flower's clear, philosophic bent of mind made him the peer of leading statesmen, who sought his counsel, and exchanged with him views on public polity that present a running commentary on the formative history of republicanism. Among his correspondents he numbered Jefferson, La Fayette, Cobbett, of England, Madame O'Connor, of Ireland and the Counte de Lasteyni, of France.
He met with reverses which seem the inevitable lot of all colonizers. Financial embarrassments surrounded him, and compelled his retirement from life's activities. Here he lived again in memory his eventful career, and gave to literature a resume of the hardships he had endured, the trials he had encountered, the triumphs he had experienced, in the volume entitled "A history of the English settlement in Edwards county."
He was a clear, simple writer. His narrations are straightforward and highly interesting. The account of long, wearisome, horseback journeys, encountering friends and foes, of the primitive dismalness of Cincinnati; of the period placed on immigration by the waters of the Wabash; of the floods and unbridged rivers; of the retreating Indians, painted as he found them at Vincennes, as if ready for war, when their hearts were cowed before the white man's might; of the back-woodsman who equally dreaded the advance of true civilization; of the town of Albion pre-arranged by two men, germinating in a log inn, a smithy, followed by a store, a meeting-house, court-house, jail and newspaper, are presented with a perspicacity at once forcible and inviting.
Of his ancestors George Flower wrote in the evening of his life. "They were men of strong and impulsive feeling. One of them, William Flower, is recorded in print in Fox's Book of Martyrs," where he is represented as tied to the stake, the fagots piled about him, refusing to recant; but offering his hand, which the executioner has lopped off, and is holding on a pike, as an atonement for an act which he acknowledged to be wrong striking a priest with a wood-knife whilst officiating at an altar. His mother was a Fordham, a family that made their name famous under Cromwell.
A brother, Edward Fordham Flower, after a sojourn in Illinois of five years, returned to England, where he became Mayor of Stratford upon Avon. To him the world is indebted for the recovery of the Stratford of Shakspeare. He preserved relics of the great poet; put his house in perfect order; erected a theatre; opened a Shakspearean library and museum. Here he entertained Emmerson Fields, "George Eliot," (Miss Evans), and others who loved associations clustering around the memory of the Bard of Avon.
A cousin of George Flower, Sarah Flower, by maiden-name, afterwards Adams, wrote the world-wide words of "Nearer my God to thee," and a sister Eliza set the words to music. The members of the immediate family of George Flower are scattered. A son, Alfred, is a very acceptable and popular preacher in the Christian church, Paris, Illinois; a grandson, Richard, is a leading physician and scientist of Boston; another, George E., is an able proclaimer of the truth in the Christian church in Paducah, Ky., as well as a writer of power, beauty and pathos.
Mr. Flower died on the 15th of January, 1862, under the loving and sad watch of friends at Grayville, White county, Illinois, where death had claimed his companion but a few hours before. They had often expressed a hope that united in life they should not be divided by death. The hope was gratified, and together their spirits winged their flight from their clayey tenements.

Extracted 12 Aug 2017 by Norma Hass from 1883 A Combined History of Edwards, Lawrence, and Wabash Counties, Illinois, pages 212-214.

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