John Hossack: Abolitionist, Underground Railway Railroad Conductor and Station Master, Canal Builder, Merchant, Fugitive Slave Law Violator, Spark for the Civil War.


James Alexander

John Hossack of Ottawa, Illinois.  Abolitionist, Underground Railway Conductor, Canal Builder.  Grain and Lumber Merchant.  Crusader for Human Rights and Liberty.  Man of God.  He feared God and loved his Fellow Man.



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Direct Descendants of John Hossack of Ottawa

James Alexander Hossack was born March 4, 1848, married Ermina Bell Dewey, Nov. 18, 1874. She was born Sept. 11, 1851 and died May 10, 1907. James died Oct. 5, 1892, age 44 years. Both were buried at Ottawa, Illinois.  James and Ermina had five children.  James is said to have died under mysterious circumstances.  He is reported to have died from blood poisoning in Peoria at the home of a daughter.


Elmira Bell Hossack married Kenneth R. Wagner in 1915.


Carrie Louise Hossack married Frank Mates in 1902.


Alberta Ermina Hossack married Elwyn C. Hulbert in 1906, followed by Jean C. Bushnell in 1916, and Edgar P. Wagner in 1918.


Martha Lens Hossack married Walter Scott Pope in 1911.


John William Hossack married Juanita Knight in 1916.

James Alexander Hossack's Family (thanks to Marj Weir):

Grandmother Bell, Elmira, Carrie, Alberta, Mother Ermina Bell Dewey Hossack, and in front, Martha and John (circa 1900).

bulletThe E-Mail and follow-ups 6/4/01: 

From: WeirMarj

What a happy surprise rose among my email thorns!

William Wirt Calkins and his wife Louise Hossack raised my grandmother after her father, James Hossack was killed (under mysterious circumstances in Chicago). William Calkins' injuries in the war prevented their having a child of their own, which is why his branch of the Calkins line ends there.

We have some very interesting material about John Hossack including a several individual and group family portraits and a book printed at his death extolling his life's achievements, among which was some dramatic anti-slavery activities.

Thank you so much for sending this information.

Dear Cousin:

By now you should know about all you really needed to know about the early Hossack clan.

As for me, I am grandson of Alta Putney, the daughter of Milo and Belle Hossack Putney. Belle died in childbirth with twins, and the four Putney girls spent time in the Calkins household, too.

The family of James Alexander Hossack is the only line that I had not communicated with or declared extinct. I am so glad that I have found some issue from that line.

Needless to say, your contact is the culmination of a quest that started more than 10 years ago. Talk about a rose among the thorns of e-mail!

From: WeirMarj


I have just been to the website and am overwhelmed!

I think I can contribute some useful information to your impressive work. I haven't been able to see the whole site because of some annoying interference. I will try again from home when I have more time.

I live in St. Louis, MO, so going to Ottawa, which I've wanted to do for a long time anyway, for the street dedication and re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate in August would be something I'd make an effort to do. I have scanned some photos we have of William W. Calkins, the entire family, and a few others and will send them soon. For the time being, here's some information which I can amplify later if you are interested.

James Alexander married Mina Bell (that may be her last [married name, I believe is correct-jp] name or just her middle name). Their children were Louise, Martha Lens, and John. Louise married a man named Blaul and later a man named Mates, I believe. I do not think she had children, but I will check this. Martha Lens (was my grandmother. She married Walter Scott Pope (of New York) and they had four daughters....Walter Scott Pope, taught math at Morton High School and was a dean at Morton Junior College in Berwyn.... 

I don't have a copy of "The Wheel," but would love to see it. I have scanned and OCR'd the volume I told you about and can send you that, too. It makes me very proud. You're right about the other daughters. I was just going on memory as I wrote. Elmira married Kenneth Wagner and they lived in Washington, DC, at the end of their lives. Both were such characters, they'd make a good movie. We called her Aunt El, sometimes Elma. She lived the early part of her life in Chicago, too. I don't know much about Alberta.

The final resting place of James Alexander Hossack at the Ottawa Cemetery.  James' is the central stone with his wife Ermina (Mina) to the south (right).  Ermina's first husband, John E. Dewey, rests under the gothic stone.  Ermina's parents are to the rear.  Ermina's brother Frank E. Bell and his wife, Carrie, are on the other side of James:

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This website is produced by Jay W. Preston to honor John Hossack, the Abolitionist of Ottawa, Illinois.  The father dedicates this to his son, Yujin Jay Preston (1979-1999), daughter Elika, and daughter Yuli, great great great grandchildren of John Hossack. Permission to reprint this material is granted when this notice is included in full.  2000 - 2010 Jay W. Preston.  For information, comments or contributions of time, money, information, materials, or manpower to this site: E-mail Copyrights of works cited, quoted, or excerpted remain with the respective owners, if not in public domain.