Genealogy Trails

Richland County, Illinois
Genealogy and History

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Elijah NELSON -- now, familiarly, known among his old acquaintances as "Uncle Elijah", and earliest living settler in the county, was born on March 15, 1803, and is a native of Abbeville District, S.C. When a child he was taken by his parents to Franklin County, Tenn., where they remained until the autumn of 1816, when they moved to Posey County, Ind., where they lived four years. At the end of this time, they moved to Watertown, near Olney, where he followed farming and teaming; also cared for the stage-drivers, fed their team, and kept tavern, this being the first tavern ever kept in the county. He also ran the first stage line from Vincennes, Ind., to Saint Louis, Mo., via Vandalia, and while thus engaged, formed the acquaintance of Gen. Winfield SCOTT, Gen. William H. HARRISON, Gen. Zachary TAYLOR, Gen. Lewis CASS, Hon. Thomas H. BENTON, Hon. James COOK, Hon. Zedick CASEY, Gov. BOND, Gov. COLES, and many other distinguished men, among whom was the eccentric Lorenzo DOW, who frequently made his house a stopping place. When he came to the county, he entered 320 acres of land, on which stood his tavern. Of this land, he had 240 acres improved. On this farm, he lived forty-four years, when, selling out in 1864, he moved to Olney, Richland County, and purchased a house and lot. He also purchased 160 acres of land in Section 29, where he now resides. Mr. NELSON was the second county Commissioner of Richland County; he assisted in hauling the timber to build the first jail in Olney, in 1843; also hauled the hewed logs which built the first school-house in Olney in 1842. In this school-house were held the courts of Wabash, Edwards, Lawrence and Richland counties. At that time the Methodists held their services in this house. He was married September 16, 1830 to Lucy BUNCH of Shelby Co, Ky. She was born in 1812, and died on April 1, 1845. Six children were born to them, four of whom are living; William R. who was a soldier in the Confederate Army, now living in Arkansas, James R. who in 1861, enlisted in the Sixty-Third Illinois Infantry, and served during the war; Isabella (now Mrs. LANIER) and Sarah E. (now Mrs. C. BEAKMAN). He was next married on February 22, 1850, to Mrs. Minerva J. LANIER, of Posey Co. Ind., born March 6, 1819. Three children were born to them. [Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois: Historical and Biographical; F.A. Battey & Co, 1884] 

ELIJAH NELSON, the oldest resident of Richland County, and an honored citizen, resides on section 29, Olney Township. He was born in South Carolina, March 15, 1803, and is the youngest in a family of fourteen children, eight sons and six daughters, nine of whom grew to manhood and womanhood. The parents were James and Sarah (Ford) Nelson. The former was born on the James River, in Buckingham County, Va., where he remained until about thirty years of age, when he went to South Carolina. He had learned the shoemaker's trade when a young man and followed the same during his early life, but later engaged in farming. Accompanied by his wife, our subject and one daughter, he emigrated to Richland County, Ill., in 1820, and, purchasing wild land, opened up a farm. He thereon resided until his death, which occurred at the advanced age of ninety-three years. He was of Dutch extraction. His wife was also born in Buckingham County, Va., and died at the age of about seventy-eight years.
When a small child, Elijah Nelson went with his parents to Tennessee, where he remained until thirteen years of age, and then accompanied the family to Posey County, Ind. In 1820, as before stated, he came to Richland County. He was then a young man of seventeen years. He remained upon the home farm of eighty acres, and for some years operated it. He also extended its boundaries from time to time, until he owned three hundred and twenty acres, located about two miles west of the present city of Olney. His nearest neighbor was then three miles distant, and the population of the county numbered only a few families. The nearest market was at Vincennes, Ind.. a distance of thirty miles.
On the 16th of September, 1830, Mr. Nelson was married to Lucy Bunch, who was born in Kentucky and came with her parents in an early day to Illinois. She died April 1, 1845, leaving two sons and four daughters, but the latter are now deceased. William R., who was a soldier in the Confederate army, now follows farming in Arkansas. James Robert, who was one of the boys in blue, now resides in Arkansas City, Kan. Mr. Nelson was again married, February 22, 1850, his second union being with Mrs. M. J. Lanier, whose maiden name was Minerva Simmons, and who was born in Posey County, Ind., March 6, 1819. They became parents of one son and two daughters. The eldest, La Fayette, a prosperous farmer of this county, was born March 19, 1851, and in 1871 married Catherine Slover, of Richland County. They had two children: Dora, wife of Elmer Cummings, a farmer of Champaign County; and Stella. Mrs. Nelson died in March, 1877, and on the 9th of May, 1878, La Fayette Nelson wedded Martha J. Brothers, and a son graces this union, Marion L. They have a pleasant country home, situated in the midst of a good farm of sixty acres. Martha J., the second of the Nelson children, is the wife of William Fentz, a farmer of this county. Ellen is the wife of Tom Merricle, an agriculturist of Wayne County.
Mr. Nelson remained upon his father's farm near Olney from 1820 until ) 865. He also ran a tavern, and his home was a stage-station for a number of years on the stage line between Vincennes, Ind., and St. Louis, Mo. He also engaged in teaming from the time of his arrival until the railroad was built, hauling provisions for the villages and the neighborhood. In 1841, when Richland County was organized, Mr. Nelson was one of the three appointed by the Legislature to survey the county, and was one of its Commissioners for a number of years in an early day. He hauled the logs to build the first jail and the first County Court House. This was in 1843. In 1839 he hauled the logs for the first schoolhouse of Olney. This was also used as a church and court house. Probably no man in Richland County has done more for its development and upbuilding than our subject, who, in earlier days especially, was prominent in all public works of improvement.
In politics, Mr. Nelson has been an inflexible adherent of the Democratic party since casting his first Presidential vote for Andrew Jackson. Seventy-three years of his life have been passed in this community, and no other citizen of Richland County has so long resided within its borders. He and his wife now reside upon their farm of one hundred and twenty acres, located five miles southwest of Olney. Although he has reached the advanced age of ninety years, he is still enjoying good health, does his own chores, chops his wood and goes regularly to Olney twice a week. As a building would be without a foundation, so would Richland County be without the work of Mr. Nelson. His name is inseparably connected with its history, his label's with its development, and his progressive spirit with its upbuilding. He can never be forgotten by the citizens of this community, for the part which he has played has been too prominent a one for his memory to fade away.   Portrait and Biographical Record of Effingham, Jasper and Richland Counties Illinois, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, Governors of the State, and the Presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), p.506 - Submitted by Judy Edwards


J.D. NELSON was born May 10, 1832, in Richland County, Ill. His father came to this locality in about 1820. Our subject entered forty acres of land where his house now stands; he now owns over 300 acres, mostly improved; he has a very comfortable house, which was built in 1867, and cost about $1300; his barn, built in 1875, cost about $500, his granary cost about $100-all of this property and improvements he has acquired by his own industry. He was married October 30, 1856, to Mary H. BROTHERS, of Richland County. She died December 28, 1879, in her fortieth year, leaving three children; Harriet E. (now Mrs. CRAIG), Stephen A. and John Henry. Mr. NELSON's second marriage was to Maggie STRONG; she was born in Ohio, and has borne one daughter Ruth. Mr. NELSON has held the office of Justice of the Peace, and he is now Township Trustee. [Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois: Historical and Biographical; F.A. Battey & Co, 1884]


William NEWELL - pork packer, and grain, wood and coal dealer, was born in Philadelphia, Penn., December 12, 1817, and is the eldest of three living children, born to John and Catherine A. (DONOVAN) NEWELL, natives of Philadelphia, and of Irish and English descent respectively. John and his wife were brought up in their native city, and he followed the wholesale grocery and provision business. In about 1830, he went to New York City, and engaged in the same trade the remainder of his life. Mr. & Mrs. NEWELL died within two years of each other. William was well educated, both in common and academic branches. When he was sixteen years old, he entered the stores of his uncles, William and Samuel NEWELL, and remained there some three or four years. In 1840, he went to Vincennes, Ind., and engaged in a grain and produce trade, and shipped down the river to New Orleans. In 1845, he removed to Evansville, where he engaged in the dry goods trade for three years, and in 1848, came to Olney, and engaged in general merchandise and pork packing combined; also in the grain, coal and wood trade. For many years, goods were shipped in a flat boat to New Orleans, by way of the Fox, Little Wabash, Wabash, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. Mr. NEWELL's business career has been very active and successful. He has been a member of the County Board of Supervisors and one of the city Alderman. He was married in 1850, to Catherine A. MACKEY, a native of Evansville, Ind. Mr. NEWELL is not a member of the church, but holds to the Presbyterian doctrine. He is a member of the I.O.O.F., and was charter member of both branches in Olney. He is a pioneer and Republican, and is highly respected. [Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois: Historical and Biographical; F.A. Battey & Co, 1884]

J.D. NICHOLS -- of the firm J. D. NICHOLS & Co., grocers, was born at Malone, Franklin Co., N.Y., in 1882, and is the second of the family of John S. and Maria (SMITH) NICHOLS. John S. NICHOLS was a pioneer farmer of Northern New York, and is yet in apparently active life at the age of eighty-one years, and his wife at the age of seventy-eight, both residing in this county. J. D. NICHOLS received an academical education, and afterward taught the higher branches for four terms.  In 1858, he married Miss Esther A. CURTIS, a native of New York. After an engagement of two years, in St. Louis, at telegraphy, he removed to Clinton Co, Il., where he purchased fifty-two acres and remained thereon for two years; this he afterward sold and purchased 320 acres, near Noble, where he resided from 1862 to 1881, when he rented said farm and moved to the town. Mr. NICHOLS is a successful business man; he commenced his present business in 1881, and took partner in December, 1882; they have a large stock and promise to do well. Mr. NICHOLS has served one year as Township Supervisor, and is a member of the I.O.O.F. Mr. and Mrs. NICHOLS have had five children- William (deceased), Mary (deceased), Frank (deceased), John and Nellie (deceased). [Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois: Historical and Biographical; F.A. Battey & Co, 1884]

B. M. NEASE, teacher, was born October 27, 1852, in Meigs County, Ohio, the son of Gideon and Eliza J. (Jewett) Nease. They were also natives of Ohio. At the age of 10 years he lost his parents; he then lived with his uncle about two years, and later with his grandfather till the age of eighteen years. In the spring of 1863 they removed to La Salle County, Illinois; he lived there in all about eight years, after which he returned to Ohio, remaining there about two years. In 1873 he came to Richland County. After teaching about three years, he was engaged in the drug business about two years. The past three years he has been engaged in teaching. Since the fall of 1883 he has had charge of the school in the village of Claremont. He was married in the spring of 1878 to Miss Essie Ravenscroft, of New Albany, Indiana. They have had two children, one living, Stephen G. Louisa May died September 7, 1883, in her second year. Both parents are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. [Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois: Historical and Biographical; F.A. Battey & Co, 1884]




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