James Snyder was already old when he arrived in Turner. Born in the Mohawk Valley of New York, he married Clarissa Downer, (an extended cousin of Avery Downer, founder of Downers Grove) in Rome, New York.
War for these farmers meant that they could not trade with their northern neighbors, and that they had to be ready at all times to join their militia companies whenever the alarm was sounded. Enlisting officially on February 28, 1813, James’ own testimony and that of others show that the official records of times only reflect a portion of their actual service.
Besides responding to many alarms and skirmishes, James served in several battles in the area, and participated in helping move heavy cannon with ox teams. After one battle, a huge ship’s cable, weighing about four tons, was stranded about eight miles from the port. Men loaded as much as possible onto a wagon, attached three pair of oxen to it, and then carried the rest on their shoulders in teams of about 100 men at a time, taking several days. The cable was then able to be used in more ship-building by the American Navy. After the war the Snyder family remained in New York before heading west to Indiana, and hence to Ogle County, Illinois, by 1836 before settling more permanently in Rock Run Township of Stephenson County. The family grew and spread out, with several children and grandchildren serving in the Civil War.
In 1869, James abandoned Clarissa and left his life there. By 1871 he was living in Turner, and in 1873, after 62 years of marriage, Clarissa was granted an uncontested divorce. A son-in-law provided James with money in exchange for mortgages on his land in Stephenson. In Turner, James soon became acquainted with a widow, Sarah Heslop, who had arrived here with her husband from England about 1850. James and Sarah were married in 1874; notice of their marriage was so striking that it was published in one of the New York City newspapers.
James lived until 1886, befuddled at the end, but still clear in talking about his early war experiences. His obituary called him “one of the old line pioneers working his way into the wilderness of western New York where he made for himself a home for nearly a quarter of a century, from there he came to Michigan, Indiana, hence to the unbroken acres of Illinois, where in the near vicinity of Freeport at a time of life when a less sturdier man might look for quiet for his declining years he was to be found with ardor and elasticity of extended youth, forming anew and building afresh, a western home.
Sarah lived 10 more years before being laid to rest next to James in Oakwood Cemetery.