John Greenlees

John David Greenlees (1791 - 1882)

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John David Greenlees
Born in Southend, Argyll and Bute, Scotlandmap
Husband of — married in Southend, Argyll, Scotlandmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois, USAmap
Profile last modified | Created 4 May 2018 | Last significant change: 17 Jan 2019
18:01: Joelle (Colville) Colville-Hanson edited the Biography for John David Greenlees (1791-1882). [Thank Joelle for this]
This page has been accessed 182 times.

Categories: Kintyre, Argyll | Migrants from Argyll to Illinois | Argyle, Illinois | 1860 US Census, Harlem Township, Winnebago, Illinois | Willow Creek Presbyterian Church, Argyle, Illinois | Charter Member, Willow Creek Presbyterian Church, Argyle, Illinois | Scottish Cemetery, Caledonia, Illinois | Illinois | Illinois Project-Managed.



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Beginnings in Scotland

John was born in 1791 in Southend, Argyll, Scotland. He was the son of George Greenlees and Martha Wilson . [1]

He and Helen Brown were married in Scotland in 1822. [2]

Escape to America

[3] John was a tenant farmer in Kytre, Scotland. Due to crop failures and bad market prices he was unable to pay his rent. He was forced to sell his farm, but the landlord was still not satisfied and had him arrested in 1836. His nephews, John and George Armour, had been to the United State and come back to persuade other tenant farmers in John's position to emigrate to Illinois. They provided for John and his family to sail to the United States.

As they prepared to leave, John was arrested at the dock and taken back to Campbeltown. His wife and children went on to Liverpool to go to America without him. When he returned to Campbeltown, a servant helped him escape. Some say he escaped wearing a wig and a woman's cloak.[4] He took a rowboat to Ireland, where he was able to get on another ship and actually reached New York before his family and was at the dock waiting to greet them when they arrived. [5]

John Establishes a Community in Illinois

John worked as a stone mason on an aqueduct of the Illinois and Michigan Canal at Ottowa.

He later established a claim and built a cabin on land located on the line between Winnebago and Boone Counties. At the time it was known as the Kintyre Settlement. Another settler, John Andrew named it "Argyll" after their hometown in Scotland. [6]

The first non-native to visit the Greenlees in their new cabin was Horace Dyer who had recently settled in the area.

John and Helen's 5th child, Helen, was born in 1838. She was the first child born in the settlement and may be the first European child born in the county. [7]

As more and more Scots came from John's hometown, Argyll became a well-established Scotch Settlement

John passed away in 1882 at the age of 91. He is buried with his family and other members of the settlement at the Scottish Cemetery in Caledonia, Illinois.


Martha (Parker) 1823-1849
Elizabeth (Tyler) 1825–1913
George 1828–1906
Charles 1830–1895
Janette (Gregory) 1832–1917
John 1835–1910
Helen (Ralston) 1838 - 1911
Ann (Turner) 1842–1918


From FindAGrave:
Belvidere Standard, Monday, January 2, 1883
Death of John Greenlee, Sr.Died, at the residence of his son, in Belvidere, on Saturday, Dec. 30th, 1882, John Greenlee, Sr.

The subject of this sketch was born Aug. 16th, 1791, at the Parish of South End, Argyleshire, Scotland. In 1836 he settled in this country as the pioneer of what has since been known as the "Scotch Settlement," and near what is known as the "Scotch church." The writer of this article became acquainted with him during the winter of 1838-9 and therefore knew him well.

He was a Christian and an admirer of John Knox, and early took an active part in establishing a church of his choice (1840) and was chosen an elder. Soon after he bore his part in building a house of worship, which has since been known as the Scotch church. He was positive in his principles, and ever active in every good work. His wife, who shared with him the trials incident to the settlement of a new country, died about eighteen years ago. They had eight children, seven of whom survive - three sons and four daughters - both parents leaving a bright example for them to follow.

As a citizen he took a lively interest in the progress of his adopted country, alway deploring the existence therein of human slavery, and always expressing an abiding faith in the justice of the Governor of the Universe. When, therefore, the slaveholders rebelled against the Union, he saw that the end of the iniquity had come. An early settler, a devoted Christian, and an ardent patriot have passed away - as a shock of corn fully ripe - in a good old age. A few of his companions in trial remain, but we shall soon follow.

1850 US Census

Harlem Township, Illinois [8]

Name: John Greenlee
Age: 60
Birth Year: abt 1790
Birthplace: Scotland
Home in 1850: Harlem, Winnebago, Illinois, USA
  • John Greenlee 60
  • Ellen Greenlee 44 (Helen)
  • George Greenlee 22
  • Charles Greenlee 20
  • Jennette Greenlee 17
  • John Greenlee 15
  • Ellen Greenlee 12
  • Ann Greenlee 9
  • John Parker 8 (grandson)
  • George Parker 3 (grandson)

1860 US Census

Harlem Township, Illinois [9]

  • John Greenlee 68
  • Ellen Greenlee 54
  • John Greenlee 25
  • Ann Greenlee 19
  • John Parker 18
  • George Parker 14

1880 US Census

Belvidere, Illinois [10]

Name: John Greenlee
Age: 88
Birthplace: Scotland
Home in 1880: Belvidere, Boone, Illinois, USA
Relation to Head of House: Father
Marital Status: Widower
  • John Greenlee 44
  • Nellie Greenlee 13
  • Elizabeth Greenlee 10
  • John Greenlee 88


  1. "Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), John Greenlees, ; citing Southend, Argyllshire, Scotland, reference - 2:16BHWDN, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,041,076.
    Name: John Greenlees
    Gender: Male
    Baptism Date: 16 Aug 1791
    Baptism Place: , Southend, Argyll, Scotland.
    Father: George Greenlees
    FHL Film Number: 1041076
    Reference ID: - 2:16BHWDN
  2. "Scotland Marriages, 1561-1910," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), John Greenlees and Ellen Brown, 03 Aug 1822; citing Southend,Argyll,Scotland, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 1,041,076.
    Name: John Greenlees
    Gender: Male
    Marriage Date: 3 Aug 1822
    Marriage Place: Southend, Argyll, Scotland
    Spouse: Ellen Brown
    FHL Film Number: 1041076
  3. as told in chapters 3 & 4 in Harvey, Daniel G.The Argyle Settlement in History and Story
  4. Harris
  5. Our History
  6. Chicago and North Western Railway Company (1908) A History of the Origin of the Place Names Connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railways p. 38
  7. Harvey, pg. 34
  8. "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 April 2016), John Greenlee, Harlem, Winnebago, Illinois, United States; citing family 40, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  9. "United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 December 2017), John Greenlee, 1860.
  10. "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 August 2017), John Greenlee in household of John Greenlee, Belvidere, Boone, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district ED 3, sheet 360D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0176; FHL microfilm 1,254,176.

See also:

  • Find A Grave: Memorial #53395557 Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 15 August 2018), memorial page for John Greenlee, Sr (16 Aug 1791–30 Dec 1882), Find A Grave Memorial no. 53395557, citing Scottish Cemetery, Caledonia, Boone County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Amelia Crombie-Christy (contributor 46861625) .


  • Greenlees are sometimes listed as Greenlee. I am using Greenlees for consistancy.

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John Greenlees Monument

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John is 22 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 23 degrees from Katy Jurado and 20 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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