Finis E. Downing

From: "Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois 1892", by Biographical Review Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois; pages 584-585, a reprinted by Stevens Publishing Co., Astoria, Ill., 1971, is sold by the Schuyler County Historical Society, Rushville, Illinois.
  Finis E. Downing, the present Clerk of the Circuit Court, and a resident of Virginia, was born in Virginia, Cass county, Illinois, August 24, 1846. Of his life and ancestry we record the following facts:
  Rev. Nathan H. Downing, his father, was the son of John Downing, son of William Downing. The father of William was a native of Scotland or Ireland, of Scotch ancestry, and was one of three brothers who came to America in early Colonial times. He settled in Virginia and there spent his last years. William Downing was born, reared and married in Virginia, and about 1784 moved to Kentucky, becoming one of the first settlers of Garrard county. For some years after his settlement there the Indians were numerous and troublesome, and the whites lived in block-houses. He cleared and developed a farm, and resided there till his death. John Downing was about eight years old when the family moved to Kentucky. He resided there till 1828, when, with his wife and ten children, he moved to Missouri, and settled in Marion county. He entered a tract of Government land, twenty miles from Hannibal, erected a log cabin, and there spent the remainder of his days, dying in his frontier home on the 7th of June, in 1832. The maiden name of his wife, grandmother of the subject of our sketch, was Susanna Hall. She was born in Virginia, daughter of Randolph and Sally (Woodson) Hall. Her death occurred at Newark, Knox county, Missouri, March 4, 1861. She reared nine of her twelve children.
  While John was a resident of Garrard county, Kentucky, his son Nathan H. was born there, November 11, 1811. The latter was seventeen years old when the family moved to Missouri. His youthful days were spent in assisting his father on the farm, and when he was twenty-one he entered Marion College, Marion county, Missouri, and worked his way through college. Before leaving Kentucky he was converted, and while a college student joined the Presbyterian Church. After completing his studies he was employed at various kinds of work. He subsequently bought an interest in a sawmill at Hannibal, which he operated six or seven years. In 1842 he came to Virginia. During this time he had severed his connection with the Presbyterian Church and had joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and was ordained as preacher of the Salt River Presbytery. He came to Virginia to accept the pastorate over a small society here and other charges in this vicinity. He was instrumental in building a church and having a college located here. His death occurred in Virginia, November 30, 1853. On March 16, 1836, he was united in marriage with Eliza J. Head, who was born in Boone county, Missouri, July 16, 1821, a daughter of Alfred R. Head, a native of Virginia. Her grandfather, William Head, was born in England; came to America and served in the Revolutionary war. After residing in Virginia some years, he moved to Missouri long before it was a State. He erected a block-house on his place, four miles from Rocheport, which is now known as Head's Fort. He resided there till death. His son Alfred, grandfather of Mr. Downing, went to Missouri with his parents, and on their frontier farm he was reared. All his life he was engaged in agricultural pursuits. He bought a tract of land near the old home in Boone county, and lived on it till his death. His wife, nee Margaret Heard, a native of Garrard county, Kentucky, was a daughter of John and Jane (Stevenson) Heard, pioneers of Howard county, Missouri. Her second husband was John Arnold, and her death occurred at the home of her son, Jesse Arnold, near Los Angeles, California. The mother of Mr. Downing is now a resident of Virginia. She reared three children, viz: John C., who served in the One Hundred and Fourteenth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and died in the service at Memphis, in 1863; Finis E., and Lucy J., who married Russel G. Middleton.
  The subject of our sketch was seven years old when his father died. He continued to reside with his mother, attending the public schools and working on the farm. When he was twenty years old he was employed as clerk in a dry-goods store in Virginia, remaining as such five years. Then he engaged in the mercantile business on his own account in Virginia, and conducted the same until 1869. Next we find him at Butler, Missouri, where he clerked till 1874, after which he returned to Virginia, and continued clerking here till 1880. That year he was elected to his present position; has since been re-elected twice, and is now serving his third term. He has been quite an extensive dealer in real estate, both in city property and farm lands.
  In 1868 Mr. Downing was united in marriage with Sue H. Payne, who was born in Fayette county, Kentucky, daughter of William B. and H. E. Payne. They have one son, Harry F., who graduated from Knox College in the class of '90, and from the law department of the University of Michigan in 1891.
  Soon after Mr. Downing was elected to his present office he commenced the study of law, and in January, 1887, was admitted to the bar.
  Politically, he has always affiliated with the Democratic party. He has served as a member of the City Council, and has been a member of the Senatorial and Congressional committees.
  Fraternally, Mr. Downing is associated with the Virginia Lodge, No. 544, A.F. & A.M.; Clark Chapter, No. 29, R.A.M.; Hospitaller Commandery, No. 31, K. T.; Saxon Lodge, No. 68, I.O.O.F., and Virginia Camp. M.W.A.

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