Randolph County Illinois
Note: Some of these may be abstracted, instead of complete transcriptions. We're adding the complete biographies slowly but surely!
The abstracted bios were transcribed by Jeana Gallagher unless otherwise noted
Francis Schifferdecker, a farmer near Red Bud, was born at the village of Heinstadt, Baden, on the 13th of December, 1829. His father was Joseph Schifferdecker, a farmer and land owner, and his mother was named Teresa Bopp before marriage. Francis was the fifth of nine children. In his fourth year the family came to America. They landed at Baltimore in October of the year 1833, and settled in York County, Pennsylvania, where Francis began his education, attending a common school for six months. After living four years in York County, the family moved to Cumberland, Maryland. This was in the year 1837, and in 1840 the family started West to obtain if possible a homestead of their own. In June of that year the Schifferdeckers arrived in Monroe County, Illinois, and Mr. Schifferdecker's father bought land three miles south of Burksville, on the old Kaskaskia road. One hundred and twenty acres were purchased, and three years afterward two hundred and forty additional, making in all three hundred and sixty acres. Mr. Schifferdecker was not eleven years of age till the December following the arrival of the family in Monroe County, but he went to school only for a brief period. One winter he attended School in the neighborhood of where his father lived, and another at Waterloo, the County seat. He worked at home on the farm till he was about twenty-two. After leaving home he was in a store at Waterloo, and there remained six months.
In the year 1852 his father died. Two years after this occurrence he bought out the interest of the other heirs, and began farming on his own account on the homestead, the principal management of which had been entrusted to him after his father's death. On the 20th of January, 1854, he was married to Lidwena Wagner, also a native of the Duchy of Baden. Mr. Schifferdecker kept at farming till the spring of 1864, when he engaged in the mercantile business at Burksville in partnership with Mr. Paul C. Brey, now the popular County clerk of Monroe County. In the fall of 1864 he sold his farm south of Burksville. December, 1865, he wound up the merchandising business at Burksville, and the following year bought a farm of two hundred acres, two miles southeast of Red Bud. Here Mr. Schifferdecker has since been engaged in farming, a pursuit which he has followed with success. His first wife died, on the 8th of February, 1868, and the following December he was married to Lidwena Laforge, a lady of French descent, born in St. Clair County. Mr. Schifferdecker had seven children by his first wife, one of whom is deceased, and has three by his present marriage. Mr. Schifferdecker has been a Democrat in politics, and an intelligent and industrious farmer.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
Andrew Schoeppel came to Randolph County in the year 1839, when five years old. He is a native of Germany. His birth-place was the town of Baireith, in Bavaria. His father's name was John George Schoeppel. Andrew was born on the fourteenth of January, 1835. There were five children in the family, who grew up, and Andrew was the second of these. In the fall of 1839 his father left Germany with his family to make his home in America. They landed in New Orleans. It was the intention to go to Jefferson City, Missouri, and settle somewhere in that locality, but in ascending the Mississippi the boat was frozen up in the river opposite Kaskaskia. This incident occasioned them to land at Kaskaskia, and once in the town, the family determined to remain in that section of the country.
Mr. Schoeppel's father was a tailor by trade. After working a couple of months at Kaskaskia he moved out in the country back of the bluff and settled at a point nearly a mile north of where Ellis Grove now is. Here he united with his occupation of tailor that of a farmer, and living a peaceful and industrious life, died in 1858. John, Andrew, Martin, and Frederick Schoeppel are his sons, all living in the neighborhood of Ellis Grove. A daughter, Elizabeth, is now the wife of William Albright.
The Schoeppel family, on their first arrival in Illinois, were in very moderate circumstances. It cost something in those days of subscription schools to send children to school, and Mr. Schoeppel's father was too poor to send his boys to school to much extent. Andrew went to a German school a month and a half, and five months to an English school. This comprehended all his education under the instruction of a teacher, but he studied at home and acquired knowledge fitting him for the transaction of all ordinary business.
In the year 1858, at the time of his father's death, Andrew bought a farm joining the one on which he now lives. He resided here till the time of the war, 1863, when he was drafted into military service. He then sold his farm and bought a smaller one a mile north of Ellis Grove. After being on it a year he bought the one he now owns. Mr. Schoeppel is now in the possession of one hundred and seventy-five acres of land, lying near his present residence. He has been successful as a farmer and trader. He has embraced every opportunity of bettering his circumstances, and in the main has prospered. For twenty-one years he has run a threshing machine and been busy at that.
Mr. Schoeppel has been three times married. His first marriage occurred when he was twenty-four. His wife was Wilhelmina Begeman, and she died about ten months after the celebration of the nuptials. His second wife was Catherine Kistner, whom he married in June, 1862, about two years after the death of his first wife. She died on the twenty-fifth of May, 1866. He married his present wife, Elizabeth Ruppert, in 1868. Mr. Schoeppel has three children living, Martin Douglas, Henry, and Louise. The boys are by the second wife, and the last by the third.
Mr. Schoeppel has been a Democrat in politics. For many years he has been a member of the German Methodist Church, and has been one of the estimable members of the community.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
William Schuchert, of Chester, is one of the enterprising business men of Randolph County. He first took up his residence in Chester, in the year 1848, and has been in business for himself as a merchant since 1867. In company with a large number of worthy citizens of Randolph County, Mr. Schuchert is of German descent. His native place is Otterndorf, a town of some eight thousand inhabitants, in the Kingdom of Hanover. Here he was born, on the twenty-eighth of September, 1832.
His education was obtained in the public schools of his native town, which he attended from the ages of six to fifteen. His father's family was composed of only two children, William and John F., both of whom are now citizens of Chester. His mother died at the age of fourteen. When William had reached his sixteenth year, he emigrated to America in company with his father. The younger brother, John F., remained behind in the old country. The father and son landed at New Orleans on the first of January, 1848. William remained in the city of New Orleans till the next July. His father, meanwhile had come to Chester, and William arrived at the same place in the summer of 1848, then about sixteen years of age.
Mr. Schuchert remained in Chester for about four months, and during this time he was an apprentice at the blacksmith's trade. In the spring of 1849, Mr. Schuchert took up his residence in the city of St. Louis. He continued here but a short time. In June of the same year, he returned to Germany for the purpose of bringing over his brother, John F. The money to make this trip, Mr. Schuchert had saved himself out of wages of ten dollars a month. He returned from Germany in November, 1849, found his way to Chester, and there entered as clerk in the store of John O'Neil.
Mr. Schuchert held that position till the spring of 1852, and then went to California, where the gold mining excitement was then at its height. During the six years of his stay in California, he was employed as a clerk in a hotel at Marysville, on the Yuba river. The year 1858 marked his return to Illinois. He engaged his services as clerk in the store of the late H. C. Cole, who was then carrying on a merchandising business in connection with his mill. He continued with Mr. Cole nine years, till 1867, and then bought out Mr. Cole's interest in the store, and took charge of it himself. From that time he has been engaged in the mercantile business, and has carried it on with considerable success, and is widely known as one of the most enterprising, liberal, and public-spirited merchants of Randolph County. He still retains the old stand at Cole's Mills, where he has built up a large trade.
Mr. Schuchert's marriage was celebrated in April, 1860. His wife was formerly Miss L. F. Castllaw, who was born in Tennessee, but was living in Randolph County at the time of the marriage. Mr. Schuchert is a Republican in his political principles, and has voted generally for the candidates of that party since 1860. In all respects he is a worthy member of the community, and by close attention to his affairs, and careful management, he has won his present standing as a business man. His life exemplifies the results of industry and enterprise. He landed in the country without capital, a boy in his sixteenth year, and aided only by his own habits of thrift, economy, and enterprise, has gained the place he now occupies among the substantial and influential citizens of the community.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
Schulze, Henry was born in Germany on 17 Nov 1838. His family came to the US in 1849. His parents were Charles (d 1879) and Dorothes (Welge). In 1861 Henry married Caroline Opperman, she was born in Germany and died in 1871. They had 6 children. Henry's second marriage was to Mary Brammer, who died in 1876 leaving one child, Mary. Henry's third marriage was to Lousia Hornbustle of St Louis, they had one child, William. (1894)
Dr. W.J. Seely
On first coming to Randolph County, Dr. Seely located at Evansville. In the spring of 1866, he removed from there to Red Bud, and has acquired a large share of the medical practice in that section of country. He was born in Westchester County, New York, on the seventh of December, 1832. In 1838, his family emigrated to Washington County, Ohio. In this State his education was acquired, the rudimentary part of it in the common schools in the neighborhood of his home, while he pursued the more advanced studies, in the Barlow University, a school of excellent reputation in that part of Ohio. His father, a sea captain by occupation, had left no very abundant provision for the family, and Dr. Seely was obliged to earn the means necessary for a continuance of his studies. After leaving the University some time was employed in teaching school, and he afterward had charge of the books of a mercantile firm.
He began his medical studies under the direction of Dr. William F. Clark, a prominent physician of south eastern Ohio. After making a thorough preparation for the profession, Dr. Seely began practice with his old preceptor, Dr. Clark; and afterward, in the spring of 1861, became to Randolph County, Illinois, and located at Evansville, which town, it was then popularly thought, would become the County seat of Randolph. In the year 1866, the Dr. removed to Red Bud, and there entered into a partnership with Dr. Beattie, which was maintained only for a year. Dr. Seely has remained a resident of Red Bud, and few physicians of the County have surpassed him in the extent and success of his practice. He was married in December, 1864, to Miss M. Elvie Robbins, a native of Washington County, Ohio, but a resident at the time of Red Bad. There have been two children by this marriage.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
Connecticut, "The Land of Steady Habits," was the birth-place of Edward Seymour, one of the old residents of Randolph County. He was born at Farmington, in Hartford County, on the twenty-ninth of March, 1801. The family was one which for a long time had been resident in Connecticut. His father's name was Luther Seymour and his mother's name Rebecca, her maiden name having been Curtis. His father's family consisted of five children, of whom Mr. Seymour was the second. Mr. Seymour's father was a carpenter and joiner. His education he received in Connecticut, his opportunities consisting of the ordinary common school instruction afforded by the Connecticut common school system. In the year 1815 his father died, before Edward had reached his fifteenth year. He was then apprenticed to the trade of a house joiner. For five years he was an apprentice to this business, which he learned thoroughly, but never followed to any great extent. Connecticut has long been celebrated for the manufacture of clocks wooden and otherwise, which the citizens of that State seem to have been able to turn out with greater facility and excellence than the residents of any other section. Then, as now, one of the leading establishments of the kind was the widely known Seth Thomas works, of Plymouth. Here Mr. Seymour found employment when he became twenty-one. He remained about eight years, including one year in which he worked at Terry's establishment, and became thoroughly conversant with that business.
About the year 1830 Mr. Seymour began business for himself, undertaking the manufacture of clocks, with the different processes of whose construction he had become thoroughly familiar. He located his works at Unionville, Connecticut, a small settlement at that time, but now grown to be a manufacturing point of considerable importance. About the same time he was married to Miss Harriet A. Johnson, of Bristol. He carried on the clock business with success till the year 1838, when a disastrous fire swept away the works, and caused great financial loss to the partners.
It was then that Mr. Seymour determined to remove West. An older brother, Elisha Seymour, had come to Randolph County about the year 1822, and settled on the place where Edward Seymour now lives. A tannery was formerly established at this place, with whose management Elisha Seymour was connected. For some years after his removal to Illinois Edward Seymour was engaged in settling up the affairs of the clock business, and attending to other interests. He lived in Randolph County till the year 1849.
At this time the news of the discovery of gold in California reached Illinois. The fabulous reports of fortunes to be gained in the new El Dorado drew away large numbers of daring and adventurous men to the Pacific slope. Among these were Edward and Elisha Seymour. They left Randolph County in April, 1849, and taking the overland route across the Plains and through the Rocky Mountains, did not reach California till the next December. Mr. Seymour went to work at mining gold as soon as he arrived at the mines. He was principally engaged in this occupation during his stay in California, carrying it on with varying success, sometimes reaping a rich reward for his labor and sometimes falling far behind his expenses. The brothers kept in each other's company till May, 1851, when by a sad accident the older brother, Elisha, was drowned in the Salmon river near its mouth. He had volunteered to ferry over a Spaniard during a dangerous stage of the river, and in doing this, though a skillful oarsman and an expert swimmer, he met his death.
In a few months Mr. Seymour turned his face homeward. In the winter of 1851-1852 he made the journey, sailing from San Francisco, crossing the Isthmus of Panama, and landing in New York. For some time after his return he was sick at his old home in Connecticut, and on his recovery came on to Randolph County to settle up his brother's estate. His brother, Elisha, it may be mentioned, had married Sarah McDonough, the daughter of Stacey McDonough, one of the early pioneers of Illinois and Randolph County.
Mr. Seymour has since been a resident of Randolph County, and has been engaged in farming. He lives on the old place formerly occupied by his brother. As a farmer he has been successful, and he now has the ownership of three hundred acres of land in Randolph, and that much more in Washington County. Mrs. Seymour departed this life in September, 1872, after a married life of forty-three years. This union was blessed with two children, George D. and Henry E., both of whom are living in the County. In his early life Mr. Seymour's political principles attached him to the Whig party. On the decay and final dissolution of that organization, and the rise of the Republican, party, he became a Republican, and as such has since continued to act. His life has been quiet, but one honorable to himself, and of benefit to the community.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
John R. Shannon
The lives of few citizens of Randolph County have been so eventful as that of Mr. John R. Shannon, of Chester, and few families can trace back their ancestry to an earlier date in the settlement of the County.
The Shannon family is of Irish origin, and of Presbyterian antecedents, and occupied a good position in the County Antrim, in the north of Ireland. Here John Shannon, the grandfather of the subject of this biography, was a substantial farmer. The family early manifested its patriotism and a dislike of oppressive authority. When the unfortunate rebellion of 1798 broke out, John Shannon joined the forces under Robert Emmet, and held the position of Captain in the insurgent army. On the failure of that disastrous movement, Captain Shannon, along with others who had actively participated in the cause of the rebels, stood in danger of his life. An armed force was sent to seize him at his home. He was successful, however, in maintaining his concealment, and that night made his way to the sea-coast, where he embarked on a vessel bound for Charleston, South Carolina. A year afterward his wife and two sons joined him in America.
Captain Shannon settled down in the Abbeville district of South Carolina as a planter. He lived on a plantation adjoining that of the ancestors of John C. Calhoun, and remained in South Carolina till the time of his death. He raised a family of five children, of whom the father of John R. Shannon, Robert G. Shannon, was the third, born in the Abbeville district, South Carolina, in the year 1800.
About the year 1818, some months previous to the admission of the State into the Union, quite a large colony emigrated from South Carolina to Illinois. Among these colonists was Robert G. Shannon, then in his eighteenth year, whose former life had been spent in South Carolina, where his family occupied a very respectable position in society. Soon after coming to Randolph County, his mother's family, with whom he had come in company, returned to the South, this time to Mississippi and Alabama, while Robert remained behind and engaged in teaching school. This occupation he followed for two or three winters in Randolph County, after which he engaged in the New Orleans trade, making several trips down the Mississippi in a keel-boat, a pursuit for which he was fitted by a like experience in South Carolina, on the Savannah River. On coming of age he re-visited South Carolina and that part of Alabama where his mother had made her home. He here secured some property to which he had fallen heir from his father, and likewise traded to some extent on the Tombigbee River.
In the year 1822 Mr. Shannon's father returned to Illinois, and the year following was married to Mary Anderson, the oldest daughter of Colonel David Anderson, who in his life-time was a prominent man in Randolph County. Colonel Anderson had come to Illinois from the Abbeville district, of South Carolina, toward the close of the year 1804. This colony, which arrived at the Irish Settlement, at the mouth of Plum Creek, on Christmas day, numbered thirty-one members, and comprised the families of David Anderson, James Anderson, John McClinton, and Adam Hill. David Anderson, who afterwards obtained the title of Colonel, settled on the Kaskaskia River, about a mile above the mouth of Plum Creek, and became a leading and popular man in the community from the time of his arrival. He was a strong, athletic man, of benevolence and kindness of disposition, a warm friend of religious enterprises. He was known as a man of integrity and ability, and was often called upon to fill responsible public positions. For several years, under the territorial government, he was one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas, whose jurisdiction was something of the same nature as that of our present County Court. As Colonel of the militia he was a favorite. He was of the same Irish stock as the paternal branch of Mr. Shannon's ancestors, and the family had lived in the same district of country in the north of Ireland. The Andersons had emigrated to South Carolina at a period previous to the Revolutionary war, in which struggle some of the members of the family took part on the side of the colonists.
Directly after his marriage, Robert G. Shannon moved to a point a mile south of where the town of Sparta now stands, and engaged there in the business of a merchant. In the year 1827 he moved to the site of Sparta, having purchased a couple of acres of land now occupying the centre of the town. The town was originally laid out by John Armour, the proprietor, and the place received the name of Columbus. Mr. Shannon continued a citizen of the town till his death, which took place in the year 1849. The first post-office established here bore the name of Shannon's Store, and Mr. Shannon was for a long time Postmaster. For many years he was the only merchant doing business in that section of the country, and it was no uncommon thing for him to have customers from points seventy-five to one hundred miles distant, in the region now embraced in Washington, Perry, St. Clair, Franklin and Jackson Counties.
Robert G. Shannon had nine children, of whom John R. Shannon was the oldest son and second child. He was born on the twenty-eighth of December, 1826, on his father's first location a mile south of the present town of Sparta. The next year the family moved to Sparta, and the next youngest sister, Nancy Amanda, who afterward married Dr. C. W. Dunning, now of Cairo, was the first child born in the village. Of the nine children, John R. Shannon is the only one now living.
His early education, Mr. Shannon received in Sparta, as the little village subsequently came to be called. In 1845, when in his nineteenth year, he entered Shurtleff College, at Alton, and for three years attended its sessions. He left that institution in 1848, and the year following occurred his father's death. Mr. Shannon took charge of his father's business at Sparta, and for three years carried on the store. In the fall of 1849 he was united in marriage to Lorette M. Hamlin, of Salem, Illinois. His wife, by whom he had one child, since deceased, died in the year 1851.
The next year, 1852, Mr. Shannon quit the mercantile business at Sparta, and in the fall set out for California, which at that time was attracting large numbers of emigrants. By reason of a detention of several weeks on the Isthmus of Panama, he was seized with the Panama fever, and was unable to enter upon any active employment for six months after his arrival in California. As soon as strong enough he engaged in mining for gold, and as a miner and occasionally as clerk, he passed three years. For the last three years and a half of his stay on the Pacific slope, he was a farmer in Butte County, in the valley of Feather River, a tributary to the Sacramento. He took quite an active interest in politics, and in the year 1855 was a candidate for Assessor and Treasurer of Sierra County, of which he was then a resident. The Know-Nothing excitement, however, which that year, swept everything before it, defeated him. An interesting episode was his connection with Walker's famous Nicarauga [sic] expedition. He enlisted in Walker's forces, and took part in raising a company of men, but the vigilance of the authorities succeeded in preventing the departure of the filibusters, and Mr. Shannon and his comrades were thus saved the disasters of the unfortunate campaign.
The year 1859 found Mr. Shannon back at his old home in Randolph County. He served as Assistant United States Marshall in 1860, and in this capacity took the census of Randolph County. The succeeding year he performed the duties of Deputy Sheriff. In the spring of 1862, he established, at Chester, the Picket Guard, a Democratic weekly newspaper. Mr. Shannon had previously had considerable experience in the editorial profession. He had filled the position of editor of the Register, a paper published at Sparta in 1849, and had also managed the publication of the Prairie Democrat, a campaign paper published at the same place in 1852. He continued at the head of the Picket Guard till the year 1865, when he severed his connection with the paper, and went back to Sparta, where for a year he was proprietor of the Shannon House. In November, 1866, he was elected Sheriff of Randolph County, having previously been clerk in the office under Sheriff McBride.
In the year 1868, Mr. Shannon received an honor, which bears testimony alike to his standing and worth as a citizen, and his popularity in the party on whose principles he has founded his political faith. He received the nomination at the hands of the Democratic State Convention, as State Auditor. With the whole Democratic State ticket, he was defeated. The opposing candidate was General Lippincott with whom Mr. Shannon had been personally acquainted in the days of his California experience. In the fall of 1869, he was elected County Clerk, an office which he filled for four years.
Mr. Shannon's second marriage was celebrated in May, 1862. His second wife was formerly Miss Alice Jones, a native of Wayne County, Illinois. Three children have blessed this union.
Mr. Shannon's life has been one of activity and adventure, and a hundred noteworthy incidents in his career might be mentioned to which our limited space will hardly allow us to refer. In addition to being a strong, vigorous, and perspicuous writer, he possesses no mean abilities as a popular speaker. A fearless determination marks his character. In his private relations, he is social and genial, with a constant willingness to oblige and accommodate. His reputation for integrity, and for being a man of his word has never failed him. Such qualities always attach friends to any man, and form a sufficient reason for Mr. Shannon's popularity in Randolph County.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
James D. Simpson
The Simpsons in the vicinity of Ruma, Randolph County, are representatives of an old family which took part in the first settling of the State of Maryland. The family originally resided in England, and the branch from which the subject of our biography is descended was attached to the Catholic faith. On account of religious persecutions the Simpsons joined Lord Baltimore's colony, which began the settlement of Maryland in the year 1634. They received from the King a grant of thirteen hundred acres of land, located in what is now St. Mary's County, Maryland, where the family lived for several successive generations. Mr. Simpson's grandfather was named Joseph Simpson, and he took part in the Revolutionary war as one of the Maryland "minute men," a body of volunteers who held themselves ready to repel invasion or take the field against the enemy at a moment's notice. Joseph Simpson married a lady named Montgomery, of French descent. Toward the close of the Revolutionary war there was born by this marriage James M. Simpson, who became the father of James D. Simpson. James M. Simpson received his early education in Maryland, and lived there till he was fifteen years of age, when his father moved to Kentucky, and settled in Washington County, near Beardstown. That part of the State was just then settling up. There were no schools, no teachers could be obtained, and young Simpson entered on the career of a school-master, which he followed for some time. James M. Simpson was married at the age of twenty-four to Mary Boone, and afterward followed farming and carpentering. His first wife died, having borne him five children. His second wife was Monica McAtee, a native of Maryland. This marriage occurred January the eighth, 1815. By the second wife eight children grew to maturity. The second was James D. Simpson, now of Randolph County. He was born in Grayson County, Kentucky, September 11, 1821.
In the year 1828 Mr. Simpson's father moved to Illinois, and located ten miles south of Springfield, on Sugar Creek, in Sangamon County. Here Mr. Simpson first went to school. He was seven years old at the time of the removal of the family from Kentucky. That district of Illinois was at that time but sparsely settled, and the greater part of his education Mr. Simpson received from his father. In the year 1838 the family came to Randolph County. His father located on the farm adjoining the one on which Mr. Simpson now lives. He worked at home until twenty-two, when he bought a small tract of land and began farming for himself. In September, 1847, he was married to Eliza Mudd, the daughter of James Mudd, an early settler of Randolph County. Mr. Simpson has since lived in the same neighborhood, and has been actively engaged in farming. He owns six hundred acres of land in the vicinity of where he lives. Mr. and Mrs. Simpson have had nine children, all of whom with one exception are living. On all subjects Mr. Simpson occupies an independent position, and is one of the best citizens of the section where for many years he has resided.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
Charles L. Spencer
The editor of the Valley Clarion, Mr. Charles L. Spencer, was born in Angelica, Allegany County, New York, on the eighteenth of April, 1839. George Spencer, also a native of New York State, was his father. The Spencers in America are a branch of an old English family. Mr. Spencer's grandfather emigrated from England to America, in the year 1795, and settled in Washington County, New York.
Charles L. Spencer was the oldest of a family of six children. He began the life of a printer at an early age. When only eleven years old, he entered the office of the Allegany County Advocate, where he worked some time. He left home at the age of fifteen, and began a nomadic life, in the course of which he worked on newspapers in the large cities of several States, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Part of the time was also spent in Canada. For four or five years he was stationed at Cincinnati, and during his stay here, worked for a leading publishing house, and on the Cincinnati Enquirer.
From Cincinnati he went to Memphis, in the year 1858, and filled the position of foreman of the Memphis Bulletin till the spring of 1861, when the breaking out of the civil war between the North and South threw both sections into a state of feverish excitement. Mr. Spencer took his place with the Confederate army, and acted as newspaper correspondent for Memphis papers. He was ostensibly connected with the Lynchburg (Virginia) Artillery. He was present at the first battle of Bull Run, on the twenty-first of July, 1861, and sent reports of the battle to the various newspapers with which he was connected. He was in Virginia about a year, and in this time took part in the various campaigns, and was a witness of all the principal battles. From the theatre of war in Virginia, he went to Pensacola, and was present at the evacuation of Bragg in the summer of 1862. From here he made his way back to Memphis, and arrived in the city five days before its capture by the Union forces. At Memphis he resumed his position as foreman of the Bulletin. From Memphis Mr. Spencer went to Washington, D. C., and was stationed in that city nearly a year, employed on Forney's Chronicle. He was in Washington at the time of its investment by Jubal Early's forces. A few months were then spent in the oil regions of Western Pennsylvania. He was there at the time of the assassination of President Lincoln in the spring of 1865.
Mr. Spencer afterward spent six months in visiting his family and his early friends, from whom he had been separated several years. He was subsequently at Washington; in the year 1866 was employed at Philadelphia on the Public Ledger; and from Philadelphia returned again to Memphis, and in that city filled the position of foreman of the Memphis Post. In November, of the year 1869, he came to Chester and took charge of the Valley Clarion. With Mr. Spencer's record as editor and proprietor of the Clarion, the people of Randolph County are already well acquainted. He is a newspaper man of experience and ability, and under his management the paper has prospered, and acquired a high standing and wide influence in the County. Mr. Spencer, himself, is a man of decided convictions, liberal in his general views, and Democratic in his political faith. His wife was formerly Celeste L. Rice, a native of Allegany County, New York.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
Albert N. Sprague, Esq.
Mr. Sprague is one of the self-made men of Illinois, and has worked his way up from a plow-boy on the farm to an honorable footing among the lawyers of this section of the State. He was born March 1st, 1841, in the city of Brooklyn, N. Y. About 1843 his parents moved to Perry County, Illinois. There Mr. Sprague's mother died, in 1852, after which his father married a second time, and survived till 1864. Although Mr. Sprague's early literary advantages were limited to the old pioneer schools of former days, and therefore not of the very best quality, he nevertheless made good use of his time, and such educational facilities, as were then furnished, and by the time he had reached the age of eighteen, he had mastered the common branches then taught in the district schools, and was thereby qualified to become a teacher. He taught some five years, availing himself in the mean time, of the advantages of the old Presbyterian Academy, formerly established at Sparta; and pushed up his studies till he became a very good Latin and English scholar. During his literary studies he chanced to come into the possession of a law book, read it, took a fancy for the profession, and resolved to study the law at once. He accordingly commenced a course of legal reading under Mr. Lewis Hammack, of Pickneyville, a leading lawyer of that place, completed the necessary course of reading under that gentleman, and was duly admitted to the Bar in 1868. He barely commenced a practice at that place when he was induced to locate at Sparta, of this County, where he has since resided, and where he has already built up a lucrative practice. Mr. Sprague is yet a young man, is a diligent student, of untiring industry, and has before him a promising future. In the fall of 1862 he chose as a life partner, Miss Nancy Brown, the daughter of Joseph Brown, a well and favorably known old settler of this section of the County. Mr. Sprague has been enabled to create around him pleasant circumstances, and .as he is profitably situated, it is to be presumed that his community may claim him as a fixture.
The Spragues trace their history back to Plymouth Rock. They were among the pilgrims landed there by the May Flower in 1620. Mr. Sprague's great-grandfather, Jethro, was a native of Massachusetts. He spent his last days in the territory of Maine, and there Mr. Sprague's grandfather was born and raised, also his father, Averill, who raised a family of eight children by his two wives. His first wife, Mr. Sprague's mother, was Miss Mary A. Brittain, and his second, was Miss Sarah Thomas, who died in Perry County, in 1862, and by whom he had two children. It would be a pleasure if the necessary materials were accessible, to trace this old family in its branches and meanderings back to the time when the ancestry landed on this Continent, but unluckily, as in the cases of most American families, the records have either been lost or carelessly preserved, and we have only a faint outline left. They have not only been an intellectual but an honorable people, and some of their names have appeared in literary and official circles.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
Mr. Steele is one of the very few old citizens still living, who was born in this County when Illinois was a territory. His natal day was September 20th, 1815, four years before the State was admitted into the Federal Union, and his birth-place was Section sixteen, at the old homestead of his father, near the site of Steelville, a town named in memory of the family. He grew up to manhood in this community, and had very few educational advantages, but supplied early deficiency by a diligent use of such books as could be procured at that day. Often in his boyhood days has he gathered bark from fences and old logs with which to make a light to guide his reading at nights; and on Sundays, and at such times as not employed in labor on the farm, he might always have been found poring over the contents of some useful and instructive book. When he reached the age of manhood he had a mind well stored with valuable information, wrote a beautiful hand-writing, and he was elected to the office of Constable, being about the only young man of his settlement well qualified for the duties of this office. He held this position some thirteen years in succession, as long as he could be prevailed on to accept it. He remained at home with his parents, employed in his official duties and in conducting his father's farm up to the time of his marriage to Miss Catharine McMurdoe in 1843. In 1844 he located on his present farm, in Township 5-5, then a raw tract of land where the prairie grass waved in wild luxuriance as high as the head of the horseman who traversed it. Here he has since lived, improved and prospered. This farm now embraces something over 400 acres, and is a choice location, good drainage, water and soil. He owns another farm near Georgetown or Steelville, and various other tracts, making his landed possessions in all a fraction over 1,600 acres. He has devoted his time principally to farming, though he has done considerable in the live stock trade, especially in young cattle.
In 1845 death entered his household and carried to the grave his beloved wife. She was the daughter of James McMurdoe, one of the old and highly respected settlers of this County, and who is yet living near the city of Sparta. She was an excellent wife, a true lady, and left behind her as the pledge of her plighted love one son, now a young man of fine business qualities, and employed as Mail agent on the St. Louis and Cairo Railroad.
Mr. Steele's second and present wife was Miss Nancy Thompson, daughter of Samuel G. Thompson, a well-known gentleman who served this County a number of years as its official surveyor. By this lady he has had seven children - five living, viz.: Mrs. Mary A. (William J.) Crawford, of Coulterville, Miss Emily J., Abner, Miss Carrie and Miss Idella. Two died in infancy, viz.: Martha and Elizabeth.
Mr. Steele has occupied a prominent and leading position among the people without striving for it, ever since he reached his legal majority. He has never sought office, but at the solicitation of his many friends he has accepted a number of positions, simply because the requirements of the community seemed to demand it. For the last thirty years he has been either school trustee, treasurer or director. In 1858 he was elected to the office of Sheriff; and served the County in this capacity one term, and made for the people an excellent and careful officer. He was the nominee on the Independent ticket, and beat the regular Democratic nominee by a handsome majority. During the late civil war he was assistant enrolling officer for the County, and in 1870 he received the appointment of Census Commissioner, and associated with himself in this work, Mr. John Myers, of Red Bud. In the various positions which he has filled he has always proven himself honest, capable and efficient, and not a breath of suspicion has ever been blown against his name, either in public or private life. Though now about sixty years old, he is hale and hearty, has a clear mind, and nerves as steady as lead, and there are very few, if any, of our very fine penmen who can write so beautiful and legible a hand.
Mr. Steele's ancestors were early and prominent actors, not only in connection with the affairs of this County, but in the events connected with the history of the State and the nation itself. His grandfather, Captain John Steele, was in the old Continental army and commanded a company under the immediate command of General George Washington himself. He was commissioned to the captaincy by Governor Rutledge, of Virginia, and was in all the principal battles of the revolutionary war, from Bunker Hill to Yorktown, and distinguished himself on many occasions for his bravery and gallant bearing. After the close of the war he went to Tennessee, staid several years near Knoxville, then lived a short time near Nashville, and finally arrived in this County with his family in 1798. He had expected to go on to Missouri, but not liking the system and influences of human slavery he determined to remain in Randolph County. He was an uncompromising opponent of slavery in all its social aspects, and not only fought for the principles of free government and personal liberty, but made a practical application of them to all men. Five of his sons, George, Archibald (the father of our subject), James, John and Thomas, were soldiers in the war of 1812, were early rangers against the Indians in this State, and cast just five votes for Illinois to become a free State at the adoption of its constitution in 1818.
Archibald, Mr. Steele's father, was born in Tennessee, near Knoxville, was there raised to manhood, and came with his father and family to this County in 1798. After remaining a short time near Kaskaskia he came with the family and settled near where Georgetown was afterwards laid off, about the beginning of the present century, and where he assisted in building a fort for the protection of the small settlements against the Indians. He afterward married Miss Elizabeth Flack, daughter of John Flack, the second white settler of Perry County, his predecessor being a Mr. Buckoo Cox. By this wife he raised a family of eleven children. There were six sons, who all live in this County, with the exception of Jefferson, who is dead. Their names are Anthony, Riland, Merritt, Jasper and Lindsay. The last mentioned was a soldier in the Union army during the late rebellion. Three daughters are yet surviving and reside in the County, viz.: Mrs. Lucinda Hill, Mrs. Minerva Koen, and Mrs. Harriett McMurdoe, and three are dead, viz.: Elizabeth, Mrs. Mehala Morrison and Mrs. Delila Susbury. The father of these died in 1859, and their mother in 1873, and their remains now rest in the Steelville cemetery.
The Steele family came to this country from Ireland, though they date their history back to Scotland, among those who were there persecuted for conscience' sake. At the beginning of the settlement and colonization of this country, they turned their attention to America, and here found an asylum securing religious and political privileges not to he enjoyed in the old world. It cannot now be definitely determined at what precise time they arrived here, but it must have been, from known facts, very early. They have always been a patriotic, moral and liberty-loving people, and as far back as information reaches, have been marshalled against the system of slavery. To an extent, Mr. Steele has walked in the traditional footprints of his fathers, and has been one of the strong pillars in support of the Union and the principles of freedom within his County during the dark days of the rebellion. Originally he was a Whig, and when this party dissolved, he went with the Free Soilers and finally with the Republicans. He has, we believe, been one of the delegates of this County to all the State conventions of this latter party since it as had an existence. He was largely instrumental in the nomination of that fine statesman of Illinois, Governor Yates, and gave his undivided influence toward his election. Mr. Steele has raised up a family in the highest respectability, and brought up also a number of orphaned children, and those who may call at his home will find in him and his estimable lady true specimens of old-fashioned generosity and hospitality of by-gone times.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
One of the old residents and prominent citizens of Randolph County in the vicinity of Red Bud is John Stoehr. He lived for some years in Monroe County, near the Randolph County line, taking up his residence there in the year 1843, and moving into the town of Red Bud in 1857.
John Stoehr was born near the city of Friedenstadt, in the Kingdom of Wurtemburg, Germany, on the twenty-ninth of January, 1825. His father, whose name was also John Stoehr, was a farmer. The maiden name of his mother was Barbara Langle. There were only three children in the family, of whom John was the oldest and the only son. His two sisters both are living, the one in Ohio and the other in Red Bud, the latter the wife of Mr. John J. Helver. The first eight years of Mr. Stoehr's life were spent in Germany. All the schooling he received was in this period.
In the year 1833 the family emigrated to America, landing in the city of Baltimore on the fourth day of July. The anniversary of national independence was being celebrated in the city. The shipping in the harbor was covered with flags, the streets were gay with banners, the noise of cannon mingled with the hundred lesser sounds brought into requisition to assist in celebrating "the glorious Fourth," and young Stoehr gained a most favorable impression of American institutions. After a week's stay in Baltimore, the family journeyed by wagon to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where a boat was taken which carried them down the Ohio to Cincinnati. After stopping a few weeks in Cincinnati, the family settled in Dark County, Ohio. The new country did not seem to agree very well with the health of Mr. Stoehr's father. Almost immediately after coming to Ohio, he was taken sick. He was first seized with fever and ague, other diseases followed, and he died in the spring of 1837, four years after leaving Germany.
The sickness of Mr. Stoehr's father left the family without support. John began working for himself at the early age of eight years. He found employment in a brick-yard at Dayton for three summers, every fall taking home his earnings to his father. After his father died he ran one summer on the river as a cabin boy on a steamboat, on one occasion ascending the Missouri as far as the Yellowstone region. In the fall of 1838 he went to Cincinnati for the purpose of learning the carpenter's trade. He served a regular term of apprenticeship for three years. The rigorous circumstances which compelled Mr. Stoehr to devote his early years to labor, shut off at the same time, all advantages in the way of obtaining instruction. All the schooling he enjoyed was that which he received in Germany before coming to America. He, however, felt the need of securing an English education. He bought books, studied nights, and thus acquired a knowledge of English which became of great service to him in after years. In the year 1841, just after finishing his trade, he left Cincinnati for St. Louis, and worked at the carpenter's trade in the latter city and vicinity for about two years.
In the year 1843 Mr. Stoehr came to Monroe County, and settled on a piece of land one and one-half miles north-west of the present town of Red Bud. On the fifteenth of June, 1844, he was married to Magdalen Rahn, who, like her husband, was born in Germany. One child has resulted from this marriage. After the occurrence of this event he followed farming and carpentering together, but finally gave up the latter occupation and devoted his attention entirely to farming. His farm, which was composed of about two hundred and forty acres, lay in the corner of Monroe County, a mile and a half to the north-west of Red Bud. In the spring of 1857, he left the farm and moved into Red Bud, which had then grown to be a place of about one hundred inhabitants. In the fall of 1865, he began the brewery business at Red Bud in partnership with Mr. John H. Meyer. This business, after being successfully carried on for two years, was sold out. For several years Mr. Stoehr had also been acting as the agent of several insurance companies at Red Bud. In 1868 he was elected Police Magistrate, and has since occupied this position, performing its duties in a manner highly creditable to himself and satisfactory to those who have entrusted him with their business.
Mr. Stoehr is a man widely known throughout the community, and has received many evidences of the popular confidence. For fifteen years he was School Trustee of his township, and was a Director of the Cairo and St. Louis Railroad, under appointment of the Governor of the State. He still exercises his duties as Police Magistrate, and the adjudication of the cases which have been brought before him has been accomplished with great impartiality and correctness of judgment. During his long term of service the charge of prejudice and self-interest was never brought against him. Mr. Stoehr has been an earnest and devoted Republican in politics. He began his political career with a connection with the Democratic party, voting for Polk in 1844, but all his life in sentiment he has been an anti-slavery and free-soil man. He was one of the founders of the Republican party in the vicinity of Red Bud. He voted the Free Soil ticket as early as 1854, cast his ballot for Fremont in 1856, in the days when Republicans were few in number, and has since remained firm in his adherence to the Republican party, the triumph of whose principles he has witnessed.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
The name of Savinien St.Vrain has been long and honorably known in Randolph County. Though a native of the city of St. Louis, the greater part of Mr. St. Vrain's life has been spent in this section. His first public office, that of Treasurer and Assessor, he held in the year 1843, and from that time he has been prominently before the people, filling a various times the offices of Treasurer, Sheriff, and Circuit Clerk. His father, Jacques D. St. Vrain, was a member of the French nobility, and was compelled to flee from his native country at the time of the French Revolution. The family name was originally spelled Delusiere. Mr. St. Vrain's father was known as Jacques D. St. Vrain, while an older brother was called Charles Dehault Delassus Deluisere, the Delassus who figures so conspicuously in the early history of the Missouri country, and who for several years occupied the position of Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louisiana, under the Spanish government. Jacques, a young man at the time of his leaving France, settled in the neighborhood of St. Louis, on coming to America. He subsequently married Felicite Dubreil, of American birth, though her ancestors were of French extraction. There were eight children by this marriage, six sons and two daughters. The only one of these now living is Savinien St. Vrain, whose name heads this biography. Ceran St. Vrain, one of the older children, removed to New Mexico, where he became a Colonel, distinguished himself in military service, rose to be a trader of wide reputation, and died a few years ago after having amassed a considerable fortune.
Savinien St. Vrain was the sixth child, born in the city of St. Louis, on the thirteenth day of September, 1806. His early life was spent in the city and neighborhood. His education he received in St. Louis. He attended the Catholic College, the first one ever founded in the city, whose site was near the old Cathedral. His father died when Savinien was about the age of ten, and his mother moved with her family to farm some miles north of St. Louis. At this period, Mr. St. Vrain came to St. Louis for the purpose of attending school. He was in the city three years, and all this time was an inmate of the house of his uncle, Charles Delassus, who had been the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Louisiana.
It is interesting to recall the circumstances of those early days. The St. Louis of Mr. St. Vrain's earliest recollection was but a small village. Fourth street was then unknown, and the town was composed of scattering houses strung along the river for about a mile. Mr. St. Vrain was about eighteen years old when he completed his education at St. Louis, and he soon after came to Kaskaskia, in Randolph County, where he filled the position of clerk in the store of an older brother who had moved to Kaskaskia some years before. Mr. St. Vrain remained in Kaskaskia for some years, and then went to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, where he was also clerk in a mercantile establishment. His next place of residence was Fredericktown, Madison County, Missouri, where he managed a store for a Mr. Pratt. In the year 1829 he went from Fredericktown to the City of St. Louis and for some time was employed in the service of Minard & Sire, a leading firm of that place. In the latter part of 1829 he found his way back to Kaskaskia.
His first marriage occurred on the twenty-second of February, 1830, to Miss Virginia Minard, the daughter of Hypolite Minard, who bore a conspicuous part in the early history of Randolph County. Directly after his marriage, Mr. St. Vrain undertook the management of a saw mill, and was thus occupied some ten or twelve years. Up to this time he had paid but little attention to politics, though he was a member of the Whig party, and had voted for Henry Clay in 1836, the first time he was candidate for the Presidency. During his residence in Kaskaskia, he had, however, made many friends, and was popular wherever known. It was mainly through their persuasions that he was induced to offer himself as a candidate for the office of Treasurer of Randolph County. This was in 1842. Mr. St. Vrain was elected to the position, and in 1843 entered on its duties. The work of assessing the county was all done by Mr. St. Vrain himself. Now fifteen to twenty persons are occupied in performing the same duties. At the expiration of his two years' term as Treasurer and Assessor, Mr. St. Vrain remained in private life till 1850, when he was elected Sheriff to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John P. Thompson. Mr. St. Vrain had proved himself so popular and efficient in the discharge of the duties belonging to that position, that in 1852 he was elected Sheriff of the county. Under the old constitution, a Sheriff was ineligible to a second term immediately succeeding one in which had been in office, and according at the conclusion of his term, Mr. St. Vrain surrendered the office and devoted his attention to farming. In 1856, he was however again elected Sheriff.
For the last fourteen years, Mr. St. Vrain has filled the office of Circuit Clerk. He was first elected to this position in 1860, and has since continued to hold it.
Mr. St. Vrain's first wife, Virginia Minard, departed this life in the year 1853. Four years after, in 1857, his second marriage occurred. The maiden name of the lady was Virginia Guthrie, a native of Kentucky, but who was a resident of Randolph County at the time of the celebration of the marriage. By the first wife there were nine children, of whom three are now living, John T., William, and Julia. The latter is the wife of Lille Perry, of St. Louis. One of the sons, Edmond St. Vrain, died in 1873. He had been elected Assessor and Treasurer of Randolph County, and was widely and popularly known throughout the County at the time of his death. By the second wife Mr. St. Vrain had been the father of eight children, of whom, Minnie, Savinien, and Estelle are living.
We have stated that Mr. St. Vrain, in his early life, was connected with the Whig party. He retained his connection with that organization for a number of years, and then, like a large portion of the old Whigs, he found his way into the Democratic party. Mr. St. Vrain has since continued a Democrat, and holds the entire confidence of that party in Randolph County. For his first office of Assessor and Treasurer, he ran as an independent candidate, but to the various offices to which he has since been elected, he has been the regular nominee of the Democratic conventions.
The length of time for which Mr. St. Vrain has occupied public positions, speaks plainly enough of his fidelity as a public officer and of his popularity with the people. He has attended closely to the duties of his position, and during his service of over fourteen years, has seldom been absent a week at a time from the Clerk's office. He came to Randolph County when a young man, not yet having attained his majority, and during his whole life since, much of which has been spent in positions of public trust, his actions have been open to public scrutiny and criticism, and the result has been that he has received commendation on all sides for the qualities which mark his private and social relations, as well as those which have been noteworthy in his public career.[Source: "An Illustrated Historical Map of Randolph County, Ills."; by John R. Williams, pub. by W. R. Brink & Co.; 1875; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
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