Captain William N. Berry, the oldest settler in Lake township, Clark County, SD, was born November3, 1840 in Cumberland County, IL, and died at his home in Lake township Nov. 8, 1909, aged 69 years 5 days. He together with Capt. S. O. Cromack made the first homestead filings in Lake township on the 12th day of September 1881, on which he continued to reside until the date of his death.
His life has been an eventful one, and his records as an old soldier is interesting as well as indicative of his loyalty of heart and soul. The family of Berry's date back to colonial times. In 1774 John Berry is recorded as having removed to Maryland from Virginia. He was a native of Ireland and served in the Revolutionary War. His son also, John, settled in Carolina and his son Joseph who served in the war of 1812 was the father of John L. Berry who was born in Tennessee the father of Captain William N. Berry.
Capt. Berry was the second of a family of six children and the eldest of those who grew to maturity. At the age of 18 he entered the Illinois college at Jacksonville with the ambition to graduate in the law course, but during the second year of his schooling the president on April 1st 1861 called for 75 thousand volunteers and he enlisted as a private in Company B 21st Illinoise volunteers the regiment of which General Grant was appointed Colonel, and served in this regiment until June 1861. After the battle of Frederictown when he was promoted fromt he ranks to Second Lt for conduct on the battlefield and transferred to Comapny L 5th Illinois cavalry, and was soon afterward promoted to First Lt. The seige of Vicksburg was the next general engagement that he was in and during the siege he was detailed by then General Grant to take forty picked men from his army corps and proceed into the heart of the enemy's country to destroy the railroad bridges over which were carried supplies from the base to the confederate army in which undertaking they were only partially successful being captured after riding 400 miles in 4 days. He was then started for Libby prison but made his escape and after only four days of liberty was recaptured and landed in the prison at Richmond the capital of the southern confederacy where he was kept a prisoner of war nearly a year but again escaped and after innumerable adventures and terrible hardships gained the union lines once more was given 30 days furlough, after which he rejoined his regiment was detailed, chief of scouts on General Shaubs staff, served on General Shaubs staff as adjustant general and on General Custer's staff as inspector general, and was then promoted to the rank of captain. he was in 43 engagements besides the siege of Vicksburg. He was mustered out of the service on Oct. 1, 1865 after continuous service of 4 years and 6 months; all of shich, except for the year spent in prison, was at the front where they were making history. He never applied for a pension until he was totally incapacitated for manual labor, and in February 1908 congress passed a special act granting him 30 dollars a month during the balance of his life in recognition of his service to his country. After the war on Dec 3 1865 he married Margaret Diehl and to them were born five children, Logan, John, George and Linnie who were born in Cumberland county Il, and Lessie the youngest was born on the homestead on the banks of Willow Lakes, all of whom have grown to man and womanhood in this neighborhood. John and George still residing here, Logan residing in Perkins county and Linnie and Lessie residing in Meade county this state.
Deceased served in the Territorial legislature in 1887 and was a member of the board of county commissioners of Clark county for a number of years. He has left the record of a life well spent, as we have often heard him say that the height of his ambition was to see his children grow to useful men and womanhood and to leave to them and their mother an untarnished name. The crowning glory of his life is an amition realized.
Transciribed from clipping in scrapbook. Clark County SD newspaper. 1909.