Montgomery County Illinois History

532 South Main Street
Hillsboro, Illinois

Built in 1840, the first owner was Benjamin Shurtleff, a Boston architect and Illinois landowner. Benjamin Shurtleff bought the house for his daughter, Sally Shurtleff Freeman, who moved here from Boston in May 1840, bringing household furnishings with her. In 1849, Mrs. Freeman sold the house and furnishings to William and Delilah Brewer, who had moved to Hillsboro from Kentucky in 1839.

William Brewer was elected Probate Judge in 1843, the first Whig ever elected in Montgomery County, and served three terms. In 1850, he was elected by Montgomery, Bond and Clinton Counties to serve in the State Legislature for two terms. He was also a Justice of Peace for 20 years, as well as being a Hillsboro merchant and landowner. Judge Brewer died in 1883, leaving three surviving children. His first wife had preceded him in death in 1865, and his second wife continued to live in the home until she died in 1890.

In 1900, Sarah Brewer Sawyer (daughter of William and Delilah Brewer) wife of A. A. K. Sawyer, a Hillsboro merchant, moved back into her girlhood home and remodeled it. The large front porch was added at that time, double openings made in some of the downstairs rooms, and central heating, electricity and plumbing installed. Originally, there was a fireplace in each room; now there are only four - three downstairs, and one upstairs. Many pieces of the original furnishings were kept, and to them were added pieces which A. A. K. and Sarah Sawyer purchased when they went to housekeeping in 1858.

A. A. K. Sawyer died in 1905 and his wife in 1919. She left the house and furnishings to two of her children, Edgar and Nellie Sawyer, who continued to make their home here until they died. Nellie Sawyer survived until 1954, and the house and furnishings were then left to a niece, Evelyn Sawyer Tobias (the great granddaughter of William Brewer) who, with her husband, Albert, continues as the fourth generation to own and live in the home.

Most of the furniture and accessory pieces in the home date from the periods of 1840, the 1860's and 1880's , up to the present.

The furniture in the north parlor is representative of the original pieces sent from Boston in 1840. All except the small piano have been refinished and reupholstered. The piano and stool were used as part of the furnishings of General Lafayette's apartment in Boston when he visited there in 1825. They are rosewood with inlaid brass, and the stool still has the original cover. It was purchased at auction after General Lafayette left Boston and was sent here with the original furnishings.

The large square piano in the southeast sitting room was purchased in 1878. The walnut mantel in this room was taken from a home built in 1838. However, the one in the den and the one in the upstairs bedroom are original to this house. The one in the north parlor was put in when the house was remodeled in 1900.

All of the sofas, settees and chairs in the house represent the periods from the 1840's, 1860's, 1880's, up to 1970.

Three of the beds were made locally in the 1840-50 period. One is walnut, one pine stained walnut, and one sycamore stained cherry. The hand carved pineapple poster bed and the chest used with it are mahogany and were sent from Boston in 1840.

The front door, including the brass hardware and locks, is original, as are the doors and latches upstairs.

At the rear of the breezeway (which was originally the woodshed) but under the roof, is the outdoor privy with its walnut door and original siding. The hand hewn oak and walnut beams with wood pegs and the wide sheathing boards show the construction that was used throughout the house.

The large walnut-desk in the breezeway was originally used by Edgar Sawyer in a grocery store on Main Street about 1884.

Posted in: Hillsboro
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