DR. JOHN ANTIS
From Root, NY to Mazon, IL
Contributed by Lisa Slaski
Transcribed by Joanne Murray
JOHN ANTIS, M. D.
The pioneer physician of any county, the first physician to locate permanently within its limits,
and who practiced medicine among the original pioneers, riding horseback over the prairies and
visiting the sick in the rude cabins of the early settlers, is an important figure in local history.
Dr. Antis, one of the best-known early settlers in Grundy county, was born in Montgomery county,
New York, March 17, 1817, a son of John I. and Catherine (Durkey) Antis. The Antis family was of
old Holland-Dutch stock which settled in New York. The grandfather of Dr. Antis was John Antis,
who spoke the language of his native Holland. He was a farmer and landholder, and a soldier in
our Revolutionary war. His children were John L., Margaret, Henry, James and Conrad. Mr. Antis
died at an advanced age in New York state.
John I. Antis, the father of the immediate subject of this sketch, was born in New York state and
married in Montgomery county, New York, to Catherine Durkey, of New England ancestry. Mr. Antis
was a blacksmith by trade, of the town of Root, Montgomery county, New York, and there he passed
his active life; and in his old age he came to Morris, Illinois, to live with his son, Dr. Antis,
and here, both he and his wife died. In politics he was a Democrat, and in every relation of his
life he showed himself an industrious and upright citizen and won universal respect.
Dr. Antis received a good common-school education, studied medicine with Dr. Amos Reed as
preceptor at Root, Montgomery county, New York, and gained the degree of Medical Doctor at a
medical college at Fairfield, Herkimer county, same state. Dr. Antis began the practice of
medicine at North Brookfield, Madison county, New York, where he remained three years.
He then practiced his profession three years in Allegany county, that state. In 1845 he came to
Morris, Illinois, and resumed the practice of medicine in the then pioneer settlement, where no
physician had located permanently before him, though one or two doctors from Indiana had tarried
there briefly. The entire community had only just begun to develop and the few scattered
settlements clustered about groves and water courses. The prairie lands were wild, wet and
unbroken, and few people believed that they would ever be settled. The wolves were numerous and
could be heard howling at any time of night and large herds of deer wandered at will over the
prairies. While the pioneers were a hardy race of people, there was a great deal of sickness in
this vicinity, malaria being the principal cause of disease. There were no supplies of medicine
to be obtained at Morris, and Dr. Antis has traveled to Ottawa and Joliet, making the long,
lonely journey on horseback to procure medicines, especially quinine, for which he paid frequently
seven dollars per ounce. He had a large practice and for a long time was the only physician at
Morris, and he was known among the pioneers far and wide. There were no roads across the prairies
in those days and in a wet season the mud was something terrible. There being no fences, the Doctor
rode across the prairies on horseback and often found the sloughs almost impassable.
Dr. Antis married Nancy A. Sweet, of North Brookfield, Madison county, New York. She was a
daughter of Samuel G. Sweet, and her father was a well-to-do farmer. His children were Mary,
Nancy, Phillip, John, Jeremy and Benjamin. Mr. Sweet died an old man, at North Brookfield, New
York. The Doctor came alone to Morris, in the spring of 1845, and his wife came out during the
summer of that year. Their children were Eudora A. and Mary. Mrs. Antis, a woman of many virtues,
lived to be seventy-two years of age, and died on their home farm in Mazon township, in 1889. The
Doctor practiced medicine for many years, and was the best known among the pioneer physicians
of the county. In the early days, about 1848, a serious accident occurred to Charles Houston.
In pulling his gun out of a sled in which he was traveling he discharged the gun and the charge
of buckshot passed through his arm above the elbow, shattering and tearing away the bone and
solid flesh for nearly two inches and making a large hole in the arm. It was a terrible wound.
At that time the Doctor had no regular case of surgical instruments and to this fact is probably
due the salvation of the arm, as, had he been provided with the facilities, the Doctor would
have amputated it according to the usual practice in similar cases. It was with many misgivings
and greatly against his judgment that he set to work to try to heal the wound and save the arm;
but by skillful and careful treatment through several weeks the wound was entirely healed and the
arm saved, and it proved to be for Mr. Huston a good and serviceable arm which he could manage
almost as well as before the injury, and continued to do so until his death a few years since.
In 1850 Dr. Antis bought his present farm in Mazon township, then consisting of one hundred and
sixty acres. He has added to it and now owns one of the finest farms in the township, consisting
of two hundred and forty acres of fine land. After the civil war he moved to his farm and has since made it his home.
The Doctor was one of the early gold-seekers to California, crossing the great plains in 1849 and
mining for gold at Trinity for two years. In politics he is a stanch Democrat. He is an honored
citizen of the county and has held the office of mayor of Morris several times and has been
supervisor of his township. A man of broad mind, a clear thinker, of independent views
and strong character, he has manifested much determination, and, like most pioneers, he is noted
for his sturdy honesty. He has an iron constitution, and at eighty-two years of age he is a strong,
hearty and well-preserved man.
[Note: a photo is included in the original work.]
Source: "Biographical and Genealogical Record of La Salle And Grundy Counties, Illinois." Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1900. Volume I, pages 520-22.