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Coles County, IL Biographies


Frank Griffith
Farmer;, Sec. 5; P.O. Mifflin; was born in Marion Co., Ind., Dec. 15, 1826; emigrated to Coles Co., Ill., from there to Iowa Co. in 1844; engaged in teaming and working on a farm; he entered 80 acres and bought in company with his brother 164 acres of land; his brother sold out, and he now owns 184 acres of land, and built a fine house in 1880; his wife, Adeline McReynolds, was born in Bond Co., Ill., in 1827. They married in 1857, and have five children - Samuel, John, Margaret A., James, infant (deceased). In politics, Republican; religion, liberal believer; Treasurer of Schools and Pathmaster; member of A.F. & A.M. Lodge, Mifflin; also Patron of Husbandry.[Source: "History of Iowa County, Wisconsin: Containing an Account of Its Settlement, Growth, Development and Resources..."; Chicago: Western Historical Co. April, 1881. Tr. by K. Mohler]



William B. Shirley
The gentleman whose history is presented in this article is one of the early characters of Wilson county where, in Colfax township, he resided many years, entering and improving a tract of the public domain. There were seven claim-eligibles in his father's family and all of them made filing and thus started the process of securing land title from the government. The Shirleys were among the first families of settlers in Western Colfax - Clifton township extended over and included their locality when they met there but it was soon afterward divided and the first election held in the new township of Colfax was held at the house of our subject's father, Charles M. Shirley. William Shirley was made the first treasurer of the township, gave bond at a cost of $1, but never had any funds in the treasury to be responsible for.

Charles M. Shirley, with his family, came to Kansas from Coles county, Illinois, shipping their goods and teams to Kansas City and driving down into the new country of Southern Kansas from the junction of the Kaw and the Missouri. He had passed the years from 1859 to 1870 in Illinois and had gone to Coles county from Grayson county, Kentucky, where our subject was born July 24, 1845. The father was born in Adair county, that state, in 1808 and was married there to Sarah Henderson. He learned the tanner's trade but took up farming in Illinois and Kansas. He was a Whig in politics and was elected justice of the peace as such in his county in Kentucky and held the office many terms. In 1860 he cast his ballot for Mr. Lincoln for President and furnished two sons for the volunteer army when the civil war came on. He died in 1872 and his wife survived till two years later, being the mother of the following children, viz., David T., deceased; Amanda J. Capps, of Effingham, Illinois; Samuel R., of Yates Center, Kansas, and Charles K., of Humboldt, Illinois, veterans of the rebellion; Marcus P.; Mrs. Mary Brown; William, our subject, and George T., all of Chanute, Kansas

William Shirley was a country boy in his youth and acquired a liberal education in the district schools and in college at Westfield, Illinois. He became a teacher in early life and engaged in country school work in Illinois and in Kansas for several years. In 1872 he was elected county superintendent of Wilson county and filled the office four years. His chief work in this capacity was organizing new districts, instructing new boards and visiting schools. The salary of his office was so reduced by some official act affecting the whole state that, during his second term, he was obliged to take up the ferule again to support himself while finishing his term of office. For some eight years after retiring from office Mr. Shirley was engaged in farming. In 1884 he came to Chanute to engage in mercantile business. He secured a clerkship with John Carter & Son, grocers, where he remained for a time, going next into the real estate business with J. J. Hurt & Brother. Following this connection he was four years police judge of Chanute after which, in December, 1895, he engaged in the general mercantile business in Buffalo, Kansas. He remained at this point till six years later, when, in 101, he returned to Chanute and became one of the firm of Shirley Brothers, leading grocers, composed of William and George T. Shirley.

July 15, 1875, Mr. Shirley married Miss Belle Hedges, a Wilson county teacher, who came to Kansas from Warrensburg, Missouri, in 1873, and who was a student in both the Missouri State Normal and the Kansas State Normal schools. She taught successfully several years, and was married at twenty years of age. James F. Hedges, Mrs. Shirley's father, was a Kentucky man and married in that state. Mr. and Mrs. Shirley have had a son and a daughter, viz., Walter L., who died at the age of seventeen, and Margaret, who is now grown and quite popular in Chanute society and a good and faithful worker in the M. E. church.

Mr. Shirley first voted for General Grant for president and has cast a ballot for each and every Republican candidate for preseident [sic] since 1868. He has been a member of the Chanute city council and of the board of education and has manifested a lively interest in all of the city's municipal affairs.  [Source: "History of Neosho and Wilson Counties, Kansas", Pub. by L. Wallace Duncan, Fort Scott, Kansas, Monitor Printing Co., 1902; transcribed by VB]


Dr. WILLIAM S. VAN METER
The subject of this memoir is a retired physician and surgeon of Thayer and one of those whose Influence for truth and right covers a field for moral work. The biblical quotation, "By their fruits ye shall know them," applies to the conduct of men of the 20th century as much as it did to that of men in the days of miracles or when the Great Teacher uttered the words of this quotation. The progress of Methodism in Kansas owes much to such men as Dr. Van Meter; men who have kept on the firing line in all its moral conflicts and headed all upward tendencies for righteousness and right-living among men.

Dr. Van Meter was born in Fayette county, Indiana, June 25,1827. He is a son of Joel and Mary A. (Crouch) Van Meter, natives of the states of Virginia and Maryland, respectively. The father came into Indiana in 1816, the year of its admission as a state, accompanied by his father, Abram Van Meter. The family settled in the heavy wood and cleared up a farm, a small one for this day. Theirs was the time of blockhouse building to protect themselves from the Indians and many are the lives that would have gone out by the blow of the tomahawk without them. Joel Van Meter's house was the temporary abiding place of the itinerant Methodist preachers and also the place for holding meetings before churches were built. He died in 1891 at the age of eighty-five, his wife dying in 1837 at thirty-two years old.

Our subject is the oldest of five children, only two of whom survive, viz., the doctor and a sister, Cornelia C. Payne, wife of John F. Payne, of Owen county, Indiana. The doctor attended school in Abington, Wayne county, Indiana, and when through with school he studied medicine under Dr. James Rubey at Abington. He began practice in 18I8 in Fulton county, Indiana, where he remained until 1854 when he went to Grandview, Illinois. In 1869 he came to Kansas and located in Neosho county where he took a claim, a tract of land which he improved and still owns. He is retired from active farm work and is devoting the evening of his life to kindly and charitable acts and to promoting the welfare of his family.

Dr. Van Meter was married in 1855 to Sarah E. Payne, a daughter of the late W. K. and Matilda Payne. The former died in Illinois in 1886 at the age of eighty-four and the latter died in Kansas at the age of seventy-six years. They were both members of the Methodist church and Mr. Payne was a playmate of Abraham Lincoln in childhood.

Four children were born to Doctor and Mrs. Van Meter, as follows: Myra P., who died at forty years of age, was the wife of T. M. Goode; Joel E., who died at nineteen years; Charles E., who resides on the home farm, is married to Lucy Houghton and has three children; Tillie, George and Joel; and Nannie, Mrs. Charles Wright, wife of a Wilson county farmer. The latter has two children, viz., John W. and Eunice.

The Doctor and Mrs. Van Meter are lifelong members of the M. E. church. The doctor has filled all the offices which are accorded to laymen, superintendent of the Sunday school for thirty-five years and several times a delegate to the annual conference of the church. In 1853 he was made a Mason, has been a charter member of two different lodges - in Edgar and Coles counties, Illinois - has passed all the chairs in the order and, in politics, votes and acts with the Republicans.

One incident which is not directly connected with the history of this family but which is worthy of note and will be of real interest to the descendants of our subjects daughter Nannie: John Wright who lived in Southern Indiana (and was the grandfather of Charles Wright, son-in-law of our subject) was a cousin of Abraham Lincoln and taught a school in which the great president was a pupil.

Dr. Van Meter's remote ancestors were, on his paternal side Dutch, and on the maternal side English. The date of the introduction of the Van Meter name into American biography is very remote in the history of our country and it can be said to have been truly pioneer.  [Source: History of Neosho and Wilson Counties, Kansas, Pub. by L. Wallace Duncan, Fort Scott, Kansas, Monitor Printing Co., 1902; transcribed by VB]



James N. Wayne
James N. Wayne, son of William Wayne, was born in Cole(s) Co., Ill., in 1825; came to Marietta with his father in 1845. On Jan. 7, 1847, he married Cynthia, daughter of Dr. Chester Pratt, of Fennimore, Grant Co., Wis. They have had nine children  -  Jasper, born June 16, 1850; Florence, born Feb. 21, 1852 and died Sept. 15, 1852; James N., Jr., born Oct. 18, 1853 and died Feb. 21, 1855; Jane, born Jan. 15, 1856, wife of Rolla Harrison; William A., born April 1, 1859; Chester E., born Nov. 7, 1861; Walter, born May 24, 1864 and died March 21, 1869; Mary M., born Oct. 11, 1867, and Frank, born April 16,1871. William A., the third son, lives with his mother on the old homestead on section 35, town 8, range 4 west. They own two farms, 240 acres in all, with valuable improvements. [Source; History of Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin, Illustrated (1881); transcribed by Vicki Bryan]

 


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