George S. Davis
It gives us pleasure to represent in this volume the native-born sons of this county who are now helping in various ways to carry forward its interests. Among these figures the subject of this brief life record, who is a successful farmer residing in Pickaway Township, Shelby County. He was born in Ridge Township March 8, 1853, and is the son of James Davis, who was one of a family of pioneer settlers of Illinois. His father was a native of Nicholas County, Ky., of which his father, Joshua Davis, a native of Maryland, was an early pioneer. He resided in Nicholas County until 1833, and then with his wife and five children emigrated to the still more recently settled State of Illinois. The journey to their new home was made by way of the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Naples, and thence to Morgan County, where the grandfather of our subject rented land for a time. He subsequently removed to this county, which at that time was sparsely settled, and deer, wolves and wild turkeys were found in abundance. There were no railways, and the farmers used to take their grain to St. Louis as the principal market, going thither with ox-teams, and also driving their hogs and cattle there to sell. Grandfather Davis cleared a good farm from the tract of unimproved which he bought after he came to the county, and in the comfortable home that he built up thereon his eyes closed in death January 4, 1868, at the ripe age of eighty years. The maiden name of his wife was Leah Still. She died in 1857 at the age of fifty years. Both were faithful Christian members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and carefully reared their children in the same faith.
The father of our subject was young when his parents brought him to Illinois, and here he grew to manhood and married, taking as his wife Margaret Leach. She was born in Ohio, a daughter of Amos and Susan (Moyer) Leach. She reared eight children, six of whom are living. After marriage, the parents of our subject resided in Ridge Township a few years, and then his father bought a tract of wild land in Pickaway Township, to which he removed his family. He labored hard to improve a farm, which under his management became one of the most desirable in the vicinity, and there in the midst of his usefulness he was taken from his family and friends by the hand of death. He left behind him a good record of a life well spent.
In the district school our subject received a practical education, and on his father's farm was well drilled in agricultural pursuits. He remained an inmate of the parental home until he was twenty-four years old, giving his father needed assistance in tilling the soil, and he then married and began farming for himself on rented land in Okaw Township. Four years later he bought the farm on which he now resides in Pickaway Township. He has its eighty acres of rich prairie land under admirable cultivation, and has provided it with neat and substantial buildings, all of the improvements indicating that he is a thrifty, careful manager, and has a clear understanding of the best methods of conducting his work.
In the making of a home Mr. Davis has had the cheerful assistance of a helpful wife, to whom he was married May 13, 1877. Mrs. Davis bore the maiden name of Emma Day. She is a native of this county, and a daughter of England and Mary (Foot) Day. Mr. and Mrs. Davis have four children, whom they have named Dora, Fred, Millie and Earl. Our subject and his wife are sociable, hospitable people, who have many friends in the community, and in them the Methodist Episcopal Church has two active working members. Mr. Davis is a decided Republican in his political views.[Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
H. A. Davis
The gentleman whose name is at the head of this sketch is a general farmer and a breeder of horses. The tract of land of which he is proprietor comprises one hundred and sixty acres, and is located on section 33, Pickaway Township, Shelby County. Mr. Davis secured this land directly from the Government in August, 1852, and since then has devoted himself to improving it. Our subject came to this county, when yet a small boy. He is a native of Kentucky, being there born June 9, 1826, and is the son of Joshua and Leah (Stitt) Davis, natives of Maryland and Kentucky, respectively, but of Scotch-Irish ancestry.
After marriage our subject's parents began life in Nicholas County, Ky., and there five of the children were born. About 1833, the family removed to this State, coming by way of the Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, up to Naples, and thence over into Morgan County. There Mr. Davis Sr., rented land for some time and was engaged in farming. Later they came to this county settling here in a very early day, and purchasing some new and unbroken land of the Government. The parents ended their lives in Ridge Township, the father, January 4, 1868, and the mother February 18, 1857. They were then aged respectively eighty and fifty years, and had been members, for a great many years, of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Our subject is the third in order of eight children, of whom there were three sons and five daughters. Four of these children are yet living. The youngest son ws killed at the battle of Chickamauga during the War of the Rebellion. His name, John H. Davis, and the memory of his bravery ad loyalty will ever be cherished by family comrades and friends. He of whom we write was reared under the home roof in this county, where he became of age. He has been a close and appreciative observer of all the changes that have taken place in the history of the state from the '30s to the present time. The original of our sketch has been fairly successful in a business and financial way since starting out in life for himself.
Mr. Davis was married in this township and county, early in life to Miss Elizabeth Robinson. Their marriage was celebrated in March, 1858. The lady was born in Bourbon County, Ky., and came to Shelby County, this State, in February, 1857. She died at her home here in June, 1867. She was the mother of five sons, namely - James, Henry Alex., John H., George B. Mc., and William G. Feeling the need of companionship after the death of his wife, our subject was again married, the lady consenting to preside over his home and be a mother to his children, was Miss Mary Rice. They were married in 1869. She is a native of this State although her parents were Kentuckians, where they lived for some time. They passed away from life at their daughter's home in this township, June, 1871. She was in middle life at the time of her decease and left one child, Rosa B., having lost a son, Frank, previous to the birth of the child mentioned. Our subject was again married, this time to Mrs. Elizabeth Yunkins. She was born and reared in the State of Alabama, and was married to a southerner who died in the southern army. By her present marriage she is the mother of two children, namely: Cora B. and Samuel T. She had one son by her first marriage, Thomas Jefferson. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
Henry F. Day
Henry F. Day, Mayor of Moweaqua, and its leading merchant, has long been preeminent in the commercial, public, political and social life of Shelby County, and has been an important agent in raising it to its present position as one of the foremost counties of Central Illinois. He is of English birth and ancestry, born March 7, 1835, in Birmingham, his father, John Day, being a prominent business man of that city. His grandfather was a manufacturer of fine guns, and was a life-long resident of Birmingham. The father of our subject died in his native city in 1849, and his mother died in 1851. Her maiden name was Rebecca Crane, and she spent her whole life in Birmingham. The following are the five children that she reared: Rebecca, Betsy, John, Henry and Thomas. John died in Birmingham, and the others followed our subject to this country. Rebecca married James H. Elsum, and settled at Moweaqua; Betsy married Thomas Hudson, and also located at Moweaqua; Thomas, who first settled in Boston, and later at Moweaqua, served in the late war in the Fourteenth Illinois Infantry, and now resides at Memphis, where he is engaged in the mercantile business.
Our subject was fourteen years old when his father died. He was at that time an independent, self-reliant lad, with a full share of the pertinacity and pluck common to the English stock, and he soon set forth in the world to see life for himself. He set his face toward the United States of America, and embarking December 5, 1849, on the vessel "Parliament," he was soon out on the ocean, sailing toward Boston, where he landed the 24th day of the following January. He had been well educated in the schools of his native city, and immediately after his arrival in Boston he secured a position as clerk in a bookstore, and subsequently became one of the book-keepers of Nash, Callender & Co. In 1854 he took up his residence in New York, where he engaged for a time in the insurance business. In the latter part of 1855 he went back to his old home in England, and after spending several months amid the scenes of his boyhood, he returned to the United States in the spring of 1857. He was undecided where to locate and what to do, when good fortune led him to ask the advice of his friend, Tom Ponting, to whom he went in Chicago. That gentleman told him that he thought that the then newly founded village of Moweaqua presented many advantages to an energetic, wide awake young man, who desired to establish himself in business. A hint is sufficient to the wise, and our subject was not long in acting on his friend's suggestion. He arrived here in May 1857, and the following February found him fairly started in a lucrative mercantile business, which he has conducted ever since, with remarkable financial success. He began in a small way, gradually increased his stock, and has built up a large trade, that is by no means confined within the limits of the city, but extends far beyond, much patronage coming to him from the surrounding country. He now has two stores at Moweaqua, one for the sale of clothing and gentlemen's furnishing goods, boys' wear. etc, and the other for the sale of groceries, dry goods, hardware, agricultural implements, glassware, etc. Both establishments fitted up in good style, are well managed, and are stocked with first-class goods and a large assortment in every line, at reasonable prices.
The marriage of our subject with Miss Louisa M. March, of Jacksonville, Ill., was celebrated June 3, 1862. Mrs. Day is a daughter of Edward and Harriet (Stevenson) March. She understands well how to preside over her home, and has helped her husband and children to make theirs the scene of true hospitality and a pleasant abiding-glace, replete with every desirable luxury and comfort. These are the names of the children of Mr. and Mrs. Day: William L., Henry M., Claire, Harriet M., Mary Crane, Edna L., Aileen and Bessie Eleanor. William, a resident of Concordia, Kan., married Grace Hinman, and they have two children - Eloise and Vance.
Not only has Mr. Day borne an important part in extending the business interests of Moweaqua, but he is a conspicuous figure in its public life as the present Mayor of the city, to which position he was called in 1891 by his appreciative fellow citizens, who recognize his talent for affairs, and know that with him at the head of the local government all enterprises inaugurated for the benefit of, the community will receive every needed encouragement, and that all matters of civic import coming under his jurisdiction will be given careful attention. Our subject is a leader among the Democrats of this section, and has represented them at numerous county, district and State conventions. Mr. Day is prominently known in social circles for his connection with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows as one of its foremost members in Shelby County. He belongs to Shelby Lodge. No. 274, and to Moweaqua Lodge. No. 1013, K. of H. He has represented the Shelby Lodge at the Grand Lodge several years, was for ten years Assistant Secretary, and has been Grand Reporter of the State Lodge of K. of H. since 1886.[Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
Eugene F. Des Larzes
Our subject is a native of that country which boasts the most beautiful scenery on the globe, whose mountains tower skyward and are girdled by the overhanging, misty clouds, and a country the aspirations of whose people are as high as its mountains. One of the earliest European nations to cast aside every vestige of tyranny and to declare itself a Republic, the sons that Switzerland sends out from her borders are worthy representatives of the mother country. They stand high in science and high in the ethics of nations. Our subject, who resides on section 6 of Rural Township where he settled in l865, comes from the land of European freedom to that of America. He was born in Switzerland August 15, 1822, and is a son of Benjamin and Mary Des Larzes.
He of whom we write was a half orphan in early childhood, his mother having been taken away and leaving to her bereaved husband five children whose names are as follows: Benjamin, our subject, Frank, Margaret and Morris. Benjamin now resides in Colorado. Frank makes his home in Faribault, Minn. Morris lives in Meeker County, Minn.
The father of our subject while still in his native land, married a second time and in 1849 came to the United States. Two children were the fruit of this marriage, Kate, who became the wife of Charles Geneva and resides in Oregon, and Lewis, who died in Assumption, this State; he was unmarried. Upon coming to the United States the family settled first in Dodge County, Wis. on a farm, but in 1863 they removed to Kankakee, Ill., whence in 1865 they came to Shelby County and settled in Rural Township, where the father purchased one hundred and twenty acres of land. Here his wife died, and in 1885 he went to Faribault, Minn. to reside with a daughter.
The gentleman of whom we write came with his family to this county and in 1858; while residing in Wisconsin, he was married at Kankakee, Ill., to Louisa Morend. She was born in Switzerland and came to the United States with her parents, Lewis and Mary Morend. Mr. Des Larzes continued his residence in Wisconsin until 1863, and then removed to Kankakee County, this State, and in 1865 he again removed to Shelby County and purchased his present home. He is the owner of one hundred and twenty acres of land in a high state of cultivation. Mr. and Mrs. Des Larzes are the parents of three children whose names are Lewis E., Adele and Hortense. They are bright and attractive children. Politically our subject is an advocate of and voter with the Republican party, its platform being consonant with his ideas of the equity and policy that should rule so great a nation. In his religious views he is a follower of the Roman Catholic Church.[Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
The gentleman whose name is at the head of this sketch is a member of the well-known firm of Mautz & Diddea, of Stewardson. A biographcial [sic] sketch may be seen of the senior member of the firm under the name of T. P. Mautz. Mr. Diddea is a wide awake, progressive business man. His interests are involved in several directions, in all of which he is successful. He was born in Schuylkill County, Pa., June 1, 1849 and is a son of Christian and Margaret (Gumahley) Diddea, who were natives of Germany, and in 1847, emigrated to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania and were there married. In 1857, they came to Illinois and first located at Sheffield, where the father worked as a coal miner, that being his trade; while at Sheffield he held the important post of road boss in the mine. In 1865 the family came to Shelby County and settled on a new farm in Prairie Township, their farm comprising eighty acres. Here the father died in 1871 while yet in middle life, being only forty-six years of age. The mother still survives and lives in Stewardson, having attained sixty-four years. Our subject was one of nine children, seven of whom lived to be grown. Their names are Peter, Margaret, Jacob, Elizabeth, Frank, Carrie and Amelia. All of the children are respected members of society, being useful and intelligent men and women. The original of our sketch was a small boy when the family settled in Illinois. His first school days were passed in the public schools of his native plate after which he attended the private schools of Sheffield, and finished at Teutopolis. In 1865 the family came to Shelby County, and he assisted in the improvement of the farm on which the family settled. He resided at home until 1871, when he was married to Elizabeth Leffler, a daughter of Jacob and Catherine Leffler. She was born in Hocking County, Ohio, in 1849. After marriage our subject rented some land and followed the calling of farming until 1881 when he came to Stewardson, and was for a space of two years, partner in the implement establishment of G. S. Baldwin. After this time he became a member of the firm of York & Mautz, and later, the business was carried on under the firm name by which it is at present known. Mr. Diddea and his wife are the parents of six children, two of whom are living. They are Ida B, and Emma E. Our subject erected the finest residence in the town of Stewardson in 1888. The original of Our sketch is a follower of the Democratic party, believing in the tenets of free trade and sovereign power. He has been awarded several local offices under his party, having been Constable from the time when he cast his first ballot, nine consecutive years. He also occupied the position of Township Clerk for three years. Socially Mr. Diddea is a member of the Masonic fraternity, also the Modern Woodmen of America. He has with his other business, been engaged in the livery business since 1886, and is now a member of the firm of Diddea & Turner. The firm has the finest livery stable in Shelbyville; they also have a good barn at Stewardson. Our subject also owns one hundred and twenty acres of land, and the firm of Mautz & Diddea owns land which they cultivate.[Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
The gentleman whose name is at the head of this sketch and of whom it is our pleasure to give a short history in outline, is a native of Germany, being there born September 11, 1840. Up to his fifteenth year he passed his boyhood days in his native land being engaged upon a farm and in school work, which in Germany is obligatory upon all the subjects of the Emperor. Thus he was in a manner fitted for the duties of manhood, although it must have taken him some time to adjust himself to American manners and customs and ways of thought, on coming to this country. On leaving home, he came to America landing from a German steamer at Baltimore, Md., and from there went to Cincinnati, Ohio. He was first employed near Cincinnati in the mixed duties of attending to a brick yard, and farming, and was thus engaged for four years, after which he came to Madison, this State.
While in Madison County, our subject was employed as a farm laborer and continued work in this way for four years. On his marriage, he rented land which he operated for four years and at the expiration of that time, came to Shelby County and settled in Richland Township, where he has since been a resident. Here he is the owner of three hundred acres of finely improved land. Upon this tract he has erected a good and substantial set of buildings. His home is comfortable and pleasant and his barns adequate for the large crops which are annually his farm products.
Mr. Diepholz was married in Madison County, Ill. to Miss Caroline Wirth, who like himself, was a native of Germany, but who had emigrated to America at an early age. Our subject and his wife are the parents of four children, whose names are Fred J., Henry, Caroline and Hermann. He of whom we write is an honorable and upright man who is highly regarded by his neighbors and fellow-townsmen. He has been elected to fill several important offices in the township government and has been Assessor of Richland Township for three years, also Highway Commissioner for one term and has done efficient service as School Director. In politics, the original of our sketch is a Democrat. Religiously he and his wife are communicants of the Lutheran Church of their township, and have ever been generous supports and faithful adherents of that religious body. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
The owner of the farm located on section 36, of Richland Township, is a most loyal and appreciative German-American citizen. Full of energy and vitality Mr. Doehring has not allowed himself to be distanced in his agricultural efforts by any of his neighbors. He was born in Germany, September 21, 1821, and he has now arrived at a point where he can look back upon the changes of his own life in relation to those changes that, as a whole, have taken place during nearly three-quarters of a century. He was reared on a farm in his native land and there remained until he was twenty-three years of age when he came to America. He landed in New York and from there went to Ohio. The Bohemian spirit seemed to have possessed our subject at this period of his life, for from Ohio, he has removed in quick succession to Kentucky, Indiana, remaining a while in St. Louis, Mo., thence came to Madison County, this State, where he settled and began the serious business of life, remaining there twenty-six years, during which time he was engaged in the business of farming. In the spring of 1869 he came to Shelby County and settled in Richland Township, where he has ever since been a resident, and to which he has given the efforts and results of his mature and ripened years. Mr. Doehring has erected a good set of buildings upon his farm which comprises three hundred and twenty acres. He was married in Madison County, this State, about 1848, to Dora Brockmeier, who was born in Germany. By her he became the father of six children, three of whom are living. They are Frederick, Herman and Dora, all names that are associated with some of the greatest productions in German literature. The daughter is now the wife of Lewis Miller. Mrs. Dora Doehring died January 11, 1889. She was a good and capable housewife, a tender helpmate and fond mother, ambitions for her children, and self-sacrificing to any degree that they might have every advantage. What better eulogy can we give the mother than that she made home pleasant? Mr. Doehring has always followed the calling of farming, in which he has been reasonably successful. In his political relations he is a Democrat, believing that that party works more for the interest and advantages of the people at large than any other. Mr. Doehring has filled several public offices in the township gift. While in Madison County he held the office of Supervisor for one year, and discharged its duties satisfactorily to its constituents. He, with his family, is a member of the Lutheran Church. The farm upon which he at present lives bears evidence of careful attention, thoroughly well cultivated, its buildings are in excellent order and our subject's home residence is the epitome of comfort and neatness. He is a good man and a good citizen. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois. . . ." Published by Biographical Publishing Co., 1891, tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
A native of France, our subject now resides on section 4, of Rural Township, Shelby County. His residence in the county dates from 1861. He was born in Burgundy, France, March 24, 1815. He has one brother and one sister, each of whom has been to the United States to pay their brother a visit. Doubtless they find the Americans too busy to attract them here permanently for surely the country itself is not more "triste" than their own laughing France. The story of our subject is one of effort, perseverance and ambition. Restricted in early advantages he was determined to receive an education, and attended such schools as the portion of the country in which he lived afforded, frequently walking from four to six miles in order to recite the lessons that he had prepared to a master. But success attended his efforts, and he finally became cashier in a bank in France.
In 1837, Mr. Domas set sail for the United States and after fifty-seven days spent on the ocean and gulf, he landed at New Orleans, glad to find there many countrymen who could speak his native tongue. When he reached the United States he had nothing but a ten-cent piece and was compelled to sleep two nights among bales of cotton. There he was engaged in clerking in a store which position he continued to occupy for a year; but as the city air did not agree with him, he removed to the country and taught school; that is, he gave instruction in French, for two years. He was then engaged in Carey's Academy, near Cincinnati, where he taught French. Among his students were two grandsons of William Henry Harrison. While thus engaged, our subject was pursuing the study of the English language, and during his two years stay here, he acquired a fluent use of his adopted tongue.
Mr. Domas then returned to Louisiana, and was engaged in teaching both the French and English languages, for a few years. He then dropped the business of a pedagogue, and engaged in commercial life, dealing in general merchandise. He was also a speculative dealer in real estate, etc. In 1861 he came to Illinois, and purchased his present farm, or rather, bought it on contract. The land was but little improved and had no buildings. He now has fair improvements and is the owner of two hundred sixteen acres of land. He followed general stock-raising for some years, but now gives his attention wholly to the raising of sheep.
Our subject was married in 1848 in Assumption Parish, Louisiana, to Virginia Haydel. The lady was a native of the State in which she was married, as were also her parents. The Haydel family being one of the oldest and wealthiest families of that State. Before the late war Mrs. Domas' grandmother was reputed to be worth more than a million dollars, but like so many other Southerners, the fall of the Confederacy was the death blow to her financial position.
Our subject and his amiable wife have been the parents of eleven children, only five of whom are still surviving. Four of their children were victims of that dread disease, diphtheria, and were taken away in one month, the living children are, Emily, Damas, Alda, Dumas D. and Delmas. Emily is the wife of Ernest Cancini. Damas resides in New Mexico, where he is a prominent man. Alda is the wife of Eugene Durand. Politically our subject is a Democrat. While in Louisiana he was Postmaster and held the positions of Notary and Justice of the Peace for over twenty years. Mr. Domas was reared a Catholic and still adheres to that faith. While in Louisiana he was very successful in business, but when the Civil War broke out, he lost a sum amounting to $50,000. He has now, however, to a great degree, retrieved these losses and today is in a good financial position.[Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
William L. Donnel
William L. Donnel, one of the most prominent and intelligent gentlemen residing in Shelby County, who is thoroughly public-spirited and capable of being a leader of thought and action in his township, resides on section 21, Ridge Township. His father was John M. Donnel, a native of Tennessee, as was also his mother, Elizabeth Jerregan. After marriage this couple settled in Rutherford County, Tenn., and thence emigrated to Montgomery County, Ill., about the year 1827. They afterward made their home n Vandalia, this State, where the life of Mrs. Donnel terminated near that place. Her husband who survived her, died in Williamson County, this State.
He of whom we write was the eldest in a family of twelve children, and was born in Rutherford County, Tenn., January 22, 1820; he came to Illinois with his father who was in limited circumstances and in order to assist his parents he worked out when he was a boy doing farm labor. During the winter of 1839-40 he moved the goods and press of the editor of the State Register with whom he had pleasant relations, as the older man appreciated the bright qualities of the boy. In March, 1840, he came to Shelby County, Ill., and engaged in farming upon his own account in Ridge Township. In June, 1846, he settled on section 21 of the latter township where he has since been a resident.
Mr. William Donnel was married January 6, 1842, to Miss Mary Ann Roys, a daughter of Daniel and Hannah (Roys) Roys, both natives of Kentucky. Daniel Roys passed away from life in Ride Township, but his widow still survives him and is now at the advanced age of eighty-seven years and makes her home with our subject. Mrs. Donnel was born in Rush County, Ind., April 13, 1825. Mr. and Mrs. Donnel have had eleven bright and interesting children, three of whom died in infancy. The surviving children are: Elizabeth J., the wife of John H. McDonald; Mary Ann, who married J. J. Himes; Sarah H., the wife of Charles Small; William L. Jr., who took to wife Miss Nettie Busby; George W., a clergyman of the Missionary Baptist Church in Oregon, whose wife bore the maiden name of Elizabeth Neal; James W., who married Sarah Killam; Charles H. and Dora W. are at home.
Our subject has held the office of School Trustee for seventeen years and during that time has been very efficient in forwarding the educational interests of the township. He has also taken an active part in political affairs, casting his first Presidential vote for James K. Polk and being a worker in the Democratic ranks. In his religious connection he was formerly identified with the United Baptist Church but is now a member of the Christian Church. He has always been engaged in farming and stock raising and has erected upon his farm a first-class set of buildings and has two hundred acres in fine shape. He is a man keenly alive to the necessity for progress in the affairs of the neighborhood both social and industrial, and is truly appreciative of all good things whether intellectual or material. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
Rev. Jasper Lewis Douthit
Here we have another of those "high-minded men" who constitute the real strength of a State. A native prophet, sure to have had his share of the usual buffetings, a zealous missionary in the home field, one early inured to poverty and toil, who has never faltered in the onward, upward the right, without his name no list of the worthies of Southern Illinois would be complete. As a "Unitarian Oberlin," his story has been briefly told in a small pamphlet published in Boston, from whose pages mainly have been gathered the following facts: Jasper L., son of Andrew E. and Mary Ann (Jordan) Douthit, was born in Shelby County, about four miles east of Shelbyville, October 10, 1834. His great-grandfather, Evan Douthit, a "Hard-shell" Baptist minister, of Welsh-Scotch ancestry, emigrated with his family from North Carolina to Tennessee, and thence, about 1830, to this county, where he was a pioneer settler and preacher. Two or three years later, accompanied by a number of his descendants, like the patriarch of old, he again journeyed in search of a new home, finding at length a permanent abiding place in that part of Mexico which is now Texas. There continuing his pulpit labors even when so old and feeble that he needed to be supported by a man standing on each side of him as he spoke, he lived to be more than eighty years old. His wife long surviving him attained the remarkable age of one hundred and fifteen years.
Andrew E., grandson of the above named, and son of John D. and Elizabeth (Ellis) Douthit, both members of the "Hard-shell" Baptist Church, was born in Tennessee. He came with his father and grandfather to Shelby County, Ill. The Douthits entered Government land and also bought a tract of Francis Jordan, an early pioneer of Shelby County. Members of the Douthit and Jordan families in Texas took part in the war which secured the independence of that State.
The mother of our subject was a daughter of Francis Jordan. She was born at a fort in Franklin County built for protection against the Indians. Early left motherless, busied with housework, and living in the backwoods where educational advantages were of the slightest, she nevertheless taught herself to read and write. A woman frail of body, but of strong conviction, being accustomed to think for herself, she did not hesitate to denounce the evils of slavery and intemperance at a time when the popular opinion of the neighborhood was decidedly on the other side of these great questions. Her religious views, as they were gradually developed, growing with her growth, and as silently, were of the liberal Christian type, and were such as enabled her with cheerful courage and a beautiful devotion to duty, to perform the labors and endure the trials of a life of constant toil and care. With the exception of a short stay in Texas, his father and grandfather having been induced to join their kindred in that State in 1843, remaining however through one cotton harvest, the youth of our subject was passed in active labors on the home farm in this county, with but scant opportunity for schooling or even for home study. The family Bible was his first reading book. Other well conned volumes were Robinson Crusoe, Life of David Crockett, Weem's Life of Marion, and Grimshaw's History of the United States. He early set his heart on becoming a minister of the gospel. Such was his thirst for learning, and the inability or unwillingness of his father to indulge him in this direction, that he left home and let himself to work as a day laborer with the shovel on the Illinois Central Railway to earn money to defray his expenses at a boarding-school. Two joyful years were now spent by him at Shelby Seminary, where he paid his way partly by teaching, partly by building fires, sweeping and other work. Uniting with the Methodist Church, though without endorsing all the articles of faith, he was offered a license to preach. This he declined. Next enrolled as a student at Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Ind., he continued living on frugal fare and doing janitor's work until he fell sick and was forced to go home. A brief business experience in a book and drug store, culminating in a failure with the financial flurry of 1857, marriage in the meantime with Miss Emily Lovell, of East Abington, Mass., and a period of school teaching for both, were what the next few years brought to his life. In 1858 came a new departure. Mr. Douthit felt that he must go forth to seek a wider field of action; he was led to seek a position in the Boston office of Fowler & Wells, famous phrenologists and publishers. He was soon employed as a lecturer on phrenology and hygiene. Traveling in this capacity in Massachusetts, he met many Abolitionists but failed to make the acquaintance of any Unitarians. The anti-slavery sermons and addresses of James Freeman Clark and Theodore Parker were read by him with exceeding interest.
The following year found our subject again in Illinois living with his family on a farm in Shelby County. His first vote for President had been cast in 1856 for James Buchanan. In the winter of 1861 he became associate editor of the Shelby Freeman, the first paper in this part of the State to stand for "Free soil, free labor and free speech." Accepting the appointment of Government enrolling officer, at a time when Knights of the Golden Circle and others were bent on forcible resistance to the draft, his life was often in no little danger. Several shots were one night fired through the open doors of his home. None the less did he discharge his patriotic duties without flinching.
The voice within still prompted our subject to preach the Gospel on the lines of the larger hope. To his wife came the happy thought that his words might be acceptable in Unitarian pulpits. At the suggestion of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Robert Collyer was appealed to for advice. His response was a cordial invitation to come to the Unitarian Conference soon to be held at Detroit. Thither he went and was there ordained to the Christian ministry June 22, 1862, Revs. Robert Collyer, Dr. George W. Hosmer, Charles G. Ames and others taking part in the services. In school-houses, dwelling-houses and groves of Shelby and adjoining counties, people came together to "hear Jasper preach." Feeling the need of better equipment for his work, he was enabled through the kindness of friends living at a distance, who had heard of his zealous and effective itinerancy, to take a three year's course at the Meadville Theological School (Unitarian), where he was graduated in June 1867. Since that date, with the exception of a brief term of preaching at Princeton, Ill., his ministry has been confined to the towns and villages of his native prairies, mostly within the familiar haunts of his boyhood. At the "Log Church" east of Shelbyville, he preached to a congregation of woodchoppers and their families, receiving for his first year's work a big jug of molasses, given by a poor foreigner. The next year the contributions amounted to about $10. Mrs. Douthit taught a subscription school to eke out a support for the family. The Sunday-school sessions were sometimes disturbed by people angered at the speaker on account of his advocacy of temperance. The first Christmas tree in Shelby County was set up in the "Log Church." And there it is said, was sung, probably for the first time in this county, the hymn. "Nearer my God to Thee."
Mr. Douthit was instrumental in organizing a church at Salem, now Oak Grove, where a house of worship was built for the joint use of the Campbellites and the liberal Christians, Elder John Ellis, of the former sect, being an efficient helper; Unity Church at Matoon, and a Christian Union Church near Mode. Our missionary began regular preaching at Shelbyville, in the old court-house, February 15, 1874. A Sunday-school was soon started, books for a library being received from Dr. James Freeman Clarke's church in Boston. In May thirteen people signed a statement professing "faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God and the Savior of men," and acknowledged the Bible as the divinely authorized rule of faith and practice. In November a church of twenty-one members was fully organized. Hon. George Partridge, of St. Louis, offered the gift of $500 toward building a house of worship. This encouraged the people to contribute liberally of their humble means to the same end. Orthodox ministers united with the liberal in the services at the laying of the corner stone, November 21, 1875. As the result of a protracted series of evening meetings held in February and March, 1876, by Mr. Douthit, with the help of the good Elder Ellis, the church roll was increased to nearly one hundred members. The 8th of May saw the new house completed and dedicated, Dr. Clarke, of Boston, preached the dedication sermon in the morning and Dr. Eliot, of St. Louis, preached in the evening, when Mr. Douthit was installed as pastor. The building was made to accommodate about four hundred persons, and the church and Sunday-school has since witnessed to a healthy growth and unabated interest in its Christian faith and life.
In October, 1870, Robert Collyer wrote to the Christian Register, "I can hardly tell how much good Mr. Douthit has done in that region. It is simply wonderful. He has wrought with such a manful and Christian valor as to win his way, where any other man, one thinks. must have failed. It is worth my while," he adds, "to say that his best helper and inspirer, after God, is his wife." Elder John Ellis, writing in 1876, reports "Brother Douthit as having exceeded beyond his expectations," and adds: "He is a Channing Unitarian and sails under that banner, and yet is what I would call a real, out-and-out old-fashioned, Orthodox, Evangelical, Congregational, progressive, liberal Christian."
A sketch of Mr. Douthit in the memorial volume of Shelby Seminary, by Hon. George R. Wendling, contains these words of high appreciation: "I will testify everywhere that his whole life-work and example in this county has been an evangel of peace, temperance and purity."
In 1880 Mr. Douthit began the publication of a paper, Our Best Words, a brave exponent of Christian truth and practical righteousness, which grew to be a welcome visitor in many homes. The prospectus for the new series began in March, 1888, is an admirable declaration of lofty principles, worthy to be quoted in full, did space permit. In its commendable endeavor "to translate the dialect of a scholaristic, thought-burdened Unitarianism into the every-day language of the common people," Our Best Words stood without a rival in the West or in the East. Having dropped its denominational character the paper is now continued as a weekly, "independent in all things and neutral in nothing that concerns human welfare." It earnestly advocates the principles of prohibition to the liquor traffic and favors the work of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Douthit are Helen Maud, married to Joseph Garis; George L., Robert Collyer and Winifred. Robert C. following the footsteps of his father, is now (1891), a student at Meadville Theological School.[Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
Theodore F. Dove
Theodore F. Dove, who is practicing law at Shelbyville, Shelby County, has gained distinction in his profession in the courts of this county, where, at one time, he occupied a prominent position as an educator, and during his residence here his name has ever been closely associated with the best efforts of the citizens of Central Illinois to promote its social and religious advancement, and its well-being generally. Among the pioneers of Ohio who were active in its early development was the Dove family, of whom Henry Dove, the grandfather of our subject, was then the head. He was born in Rockingham County, Va., February 7, 1765, coming of one of the old Colonial families of that State, and there he grew to manhood and married, taking as his wife Mary Magdalina Altarfer, who was also born in the Old Dominion, January l, l775, the date of her birth. Grandfather Dove lived in his native State until 1804, and he then took his wife and the five children that had been born to them across the border into Ohio, making the journey over the mountains and through the intervening rough country with pack horses, and there founded a new home in the primeval forests of Fairfield County, of which he was one of the earliest settlers. He had previously visited that locality in search of a suitable location, journeying on horseback and carrying his silver for the purchase of land in his saddle bags. He invested in a tract of heavily wooded land in what is now Bloom Township, paying there for at the rate of $2.50 an acre. There was a log cabin on the land, in which the father of our subject was subsequently born. His father replaced it after a few years by a more substantial hewn log house, 20x30 feet in dimensions, which is still standing and is used as a dwelling. For many years there were no markets for produce nearer than Cincinnati, and consequently stock was very cheap, and horses, cattle and hogs were driven to Baltimore to be disposed of. The highest priced horses would bring but $40 at Fairfield, large hogs sold there for $1, and steers were sold from $6 to $8 each. The people raised their own food, varying the fare occasionally by a haunch of venison or bear meat, or wild turkey. for all kinds of game then abounded. By years of faithful toil the grandfather cleared a farm, on which he passed his closing years serenely, dying at a good old age in 1856. His wife preceded him in death many years, dying in 1817. She was a notable housewife. was expert in spinning and weaving, and clad her children in garments of homespun.
The father of our subject grew to a stalwart manhood under the pioneer influence that he obtained in his native county in the days when he was young. The school that he attended was taught in a log house, rudely furnished with slabs for seats, which were without backs. and there were no desks such as are in use at the present day. Holes were bored in logs, into which wooden pins were inserted, and a wide plank placed upon them answered the purpose of a more elaborate writing desk for the large scholars. Mr. Dove resided with his parents until he attained his majority, and he then began his independent career as a farmer by renting the old family homestead. He afterward purchased the interest of the other heirs, and still retains the farm, although he ceased to occupy it in 1883, when he came to Shelbyville, and is living here in retirement at a venerable age. He has always been a devoted adherent of the Democratic party since he cast his first Presidential vote for Gen. Jackson more than half a century ago. Religiously, he is a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which he joined in 1829.
Mr. Dove was first married May 21, 1835 to Mary Small, who was born in York County, Pa., March 18, 1814, and was the eldest daughter of John and Elizabeth (Loucks) Small, who were also Pennsylvanians by birth. The mother of our subject died September 1, 1877, leaving behind her the record of a life spent in well-doing, and the blessed memory of a true womanhood. She was reared in the faith of the German Reformed Church, but after her marriage united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, to which her husband belonged. Of that marriage eight sons and seven daughters were reared to maturity, of whom twelve are living. April 19, 1883 the father of our subject was married to a sister of his first wife, Tarcy Hall Small, and in her he finds a devoted companion.
Theodore F. Dove, of whom this sketch is principally written was born on a farm in Bloom Township, ten miles northwest of Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio, April 22, 1846, said farm being also the birthplace of his father, Elijah Dove, who was born there July 27, 1811. Theodore gained the preliminaries of his education in the local district schools, and afterward pursued a liberal course of study at the Fairfield Union Academy, from which he was graduated in 1869, his proficiency in mathematics having won him the compliment of being selected to teach a class in that branch while a student in that institution. He subsequently entered the Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, Ohio, and in due time graduated from that with a high standing for scholarship. He first turned to teaching after he left college, and was thus engaged in his native State until 1874, when he came to Shelbyville to accept the position of Superintendent of the city schools. Our subject's work as an educator was, however, but a means to an end, as he purposed to adopt the legal profession, and in preparation therefore he devoted his spare time to the study of law. At the close of the school year in 1875 he returned to Ohio, and was admitted to the bar in Delaware County. He came back to Shelbyville and resumed the charge of the schools, which flourished under his care, and he held his office until 1876. In that year he again returned to the State of his nativity, and for three months practiced law at Columbus. He next opened an office at Danville, Ill., and was in that city until April, 1877, when he came to Shelbyville to enter into a partnership for law practice with W. J. Henry. He severed his connection with that gentleman in August, 1879, and since then has carried on his legal business alone. He enjoys a good practice, and has an enviable reputation as one of our most trustworthy lawyers, and his clients feel satisfied that he will use his best efforts in their behalf, knowing also that he is well versed in all the technicalities of the common law, and understands thoroughly how to employ his knowledge to the best advantage so as to impress the jury. The marriage of Theodore Dove with Miss Alta W. Clark was consummated December 27, 1877, and the home that they have established in this city is a cheerful, cozy abiding place, its pleasant hospitalities being one of the social features of the community, where host and hostess have made many friendships during their residence here. Their two sons, Theodore C. and Frank Roy, complete their household. Mrs. Dove is, like her husband, a native of Ohio, her birthplace at Mechanicsburg, and she is a daughter of Dr. John and Elnora (Williams) Clark. In local affairs, our subject has done good service as a member of the Shelbyville School Board. He is unswerving in his allegiance to the Democratic party, as he believes its policy the best for the guidance of the nation. He is prominent socially as a member of various organizations, the Masonic Lodge of Carroll, Ohio; Modern Woodmen of America; and of Big Four Lodge, No. 436, Order of Tonti. He and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, their names being associated with those who are most liberal in its support, and who by the daily example of lives guided by Christian principles have contributed to raise the moral standard of their community. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois. . . ." Published by Biographical Publishing Co., 1891, tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
James H. Downs
James H. Downs, a prosperous farmer residing on section 18, Ridge Township, Shelby County, is a son of Electious Downs, who was born in Virginia, October 13, 1803, and afterward removed to Maryland thence to Ohio from there, to Illinois, where the grandfather, Daniel, died at the home of Electious in Ridge Township. The mother of our subject was in her maidenhood knows as Mary Ann Stiffler, and was born in Washington County, Md., October 26, 1800, and after becoming the wife of Electious Downs resided for a short time in Hagerstown, that State, and then removed to Delaware County, Ohio. This couple remained in the Buckeye State until 1845, when they emigrated to Shelby County, Ill., and settled in Ridge Township, which they made their home until called away by death he on August 18, 1873 and she died July 29, 1881.
The subject of this sketch was the seventh in a family of eight children, and was born in Delaware County, Ohio, May 4, 1837, being thus about eight years old when he came with his parents to Shelby County, since which time Ridge Township has been his home. He had thorough training in the duties of a farmer-boy and has always followed agricultural pursuits and stock-raising. The schools of this county, which he attended were as good as any country schools of that day, and were carried on mostly by subscription. The boy was industrious and attentive to school duty and made a good start in this direction which has ever served him in good stead through life.
James Downs was married in Ridge Township, March 22, 1860, to Miss Jane Oller, a daughter of William and Eliza J. (Johnson) Oller. Her father was born in Virginia, May 5, 1818, and her mother, in Chambersburg, Pa., and is living in Shelbyville, Ill.; her birth occurred September 12, 1821 and they came to Shelby County, about 1840, settling in Ridge Township, which they made their permanent home, and where Mr. Oller died, July 31, 1874.
Mrs. Jane Downs was born in Ridge Township, February 15, 1845 and here her married life has been spent. Mr. Downs now owns nearly one thousand acres and has erected a valuable brick house which has delightful surroundings and he has placed other excellent buildings upon his farm.
Mr. and Mrs. Downs are the parents of four children; Jennie, the wife of Dr. A. P. Rockey, of Assumption, Ill., who is the mother of one child Stella, born May 18, 1886; William E., who died in infancy; Dora A., now the wife of John J. Smith, of Ridge Township and Ora B. Mr. Downs has filled the office of Highway Commissioner for about six years and in politics inclines to the doctrines set forth by the Democratic party, yet is independent in regard to his vote, aiming to cast it always for the best good of the community and to help in placing in office the best man for the place. Besides the valuable property owned by Mr. Downs in Shelby County, he is interested in a coal mine at Assumption and has twenty fine buildings lots at Decatur, Ill. He has a good residence and excellent surrounding in every way and his wealth is the result of his energy, enterprise and integrity. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
David Drake is a worthy member of the farming community of Pickaway Township, Shelby County. He was born in Fairbanks Township, Sullivan County, Ind., March 22, 1836. He is a son of Benjamin Drake, who was a native of Ohio, of which his father, James Drake, was for some years a resident, settling there in pioneer times, prior to his removal to Indiana in 1817. He was one of the first settlers in Fairbanks Township, where he bought a tract of Government land, on which he at first built a log house for the shelter of his family. At that time, and for some years after, the county was sparsely settled, and deer, wild turkeys and other game were very plentiful. The grandfather of our subject continued to reside in that region on the farm that he had developed from the wilderness until his death.
The father of our subject was but eight years old when the family sought to build a new home in the primeval forests of Indiana, where he was reared to pursuits of industry. He early learned the trade of a tanner, and then bought a yard, which he operated for a time. He finally sold it and engaged in farming for awhile. He then bought another tan-yard, and carried on a tannery in connection with farming some years. He lived to a ripe age, dying on the home farm in Sullivan County, Ind., in 1880. He had married in early manhood, Sally Gross, who was born either in North or South Carolina, and died at the home of her son in Sullivan County in 1885. She was the mother of ten children, all sons.
Our subject received his education in his native county, where he grew to a stalwart manhood. The first school that he attended was taught in the primitive log schoolhouse of pioneer days. It had a clay and stick chimney, being heated by a huge open fireplace, and in the aperture made by a log being taken out of the side of the house a row of window glass admitted the light. The benches were made of slabs without backs, and the furniture of the school room was entirely of home manufacture.
Mr. Drake resided with his parents until he was twenty-two years old, when his father gave him a tract of timber land in Fairbanks Township. He built a log house, and in that humble abode he and his bride commenced their housekeeping, and lived in happiness for some time. He improved that land and made it his dwelling place until 1869, when he sold it at a good price in order to identify himself with the farmers of Shelby County, as he had a high opinion of the fertility of the soil of this region and the many other advantages it possesses, and rightly judged that he could do well at his calling in a section so favored. He purchased eighty acres of his present farm, which is pleasantly located on section 14, Pickaway Township, and he has since added to his realty, and now has one hundred and twenty acres of choice farming land, finely cultivated and amply supplied with good improvements, including a substantial set of farm buildings.
April 15, 1888, our subject took an important step in his life whereby he secured the companionship and assistance of a devoted wife in the person of Miss Keziah Anderson. Their union has been blessed with children of whom these seven are living: Alexander, Mary Frances, Cameron, Charles, Sarah J., Commodore and James V. Alexander married Viola Polly, and has one child named John; Mary Frances married George Williamson, and has three children - Ellsworth, Rosanne and Etta; Sarah married John M. Hill, and has two children - Martha and Lydia.
Mr. Drake is sound in his political views which find expression in the tenets of the Democratic party. Both he and his good wife are members in high standing of the Baptist Church, and their community finds in them true friends and kind neighbors, who are ever ready to extend a helping hand to those who are in trouble and want. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
James A. Duncan
Whether our subject can trace a lineal descent from Duncan, King of Scotland, whom Holinshed has chronicled and Shakespeare has made famous in the wonderful tragedy, Macbeth, the writer knows not, but it is a good name, and one which he who hears it, may be proud of. Doubtless of Scotch descent, our subject's father was born in Delaware County, Pa., in 1788. His mother who in her maidenhood was Mary E. McKeever, was a native of Virginia. After marriage, they first settled in Belmont County, Ohio, and then came to Shelby County, this State, locating in Richland Township in 1838, where both parents passed away. The mother died April 30, 1862. The father survived her two years, his decease taking place April 10, 1864. Mrs. Duncan, our subject's mother, was of Irish ancestry.
James Duncan, Sr. was the father of six children which included four sons and two daughters. Our subject was the eldest of this little brood and was born in Belmont County, Ohio, August 27, 1834. The original of this sketch was but four years old when his parents removed to Shelby County, and here he grew to manhood in Richland Township, where he has always made his home, so that he has a pretty accurate idea of what pioneer life is, although the country was not such a wilderness in his boyhood as it was on the coming hither of some of the older settlers. When he became old enough to enjoy society, the district in which he lived was well settled, and boasted some of the best people in the State.
In 1859 Mr. Duncan was married in Ash Grove Township to Miss Nancy J. Evans, who was a native of Shelby County. She was the mother of three children whose names are John, Robert and Caledonia. John married Miss Lillie Wilhite and made a home of his own. Caledonia is the wife of Charles Rubel. Mrs. Nancy J. Duncan died in Richland Township, August 25, 1867. Two years later, January 27, 1869, he was married to Mrs. Hannah Stevens. She was the widow of Lowrey Stevens and a daughter of Isaac and Rebecca Jones, and was born in Butler County, Ohio, August 21, 1836. By this marriage, our subject is the father of one child whose name is James O.
The original of our sketch has always followed the pursuit of agriculture. He settled on the farm where he now lives in the spring of 1857. During the last years of the war, he responded to the call for volunteers and enlisted in September 1864, in Company B, of the Twelfth Illinois Regiment, and served for somewhat over three months. He of whom we write takes a fairly active part in political matters. He is a follower of the Reform party, his political theories being all that the name of his party implies. The esteem and confidence reposed in him by his fellow citizens is evidenced by the fact that he has been elected to many important local offices. He has been Highway Commissioner and School Director for a number of years and each of these positions has been filled to satisfaction of his constituents. He shows his loyalty to his calling by allying himself to the Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association. He with his wife, has ever taken an active part in religious affairs. They are both members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in which they are ardent workers. He has been Steward of his church for several years and also has held the position of Trustee.
Mr. Duncan is the owner of an excellent farm comprising two hundred and eighty acres of land, upon which have been placed the best of improvements. The latest and most improved farm implements are in use upon his farm, to further his efforts in making the place a model of agricultural neatness and productiveness, and this he has fairly accomplished, the place being worthy of attention to all who take a pleasure in advanced ideas regarding agriculture which is conducted in a scientific way. There are good buildings upon the place, his residence being a home in every sense of the word, architecturally attractive and practically comfortable. His barns and outhouses are neat and of good size. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
The gentleman of whom we are about to give a short biographical sketch in outline, resides on section 22, of Richland Township, Shelby County. He is a native of this State, and of American parentage, although his ancestors were probably Scotch. His father was James Duncan, who was born in Delaware County, Pa. His mother, who was before her marriage a Miss Mary McKeever, lived to see her son take an honorable position in life. They died in Richland Township. Six children were permitted to group up around them. Of these there were four sons and two daughters, our subject being the fifth child in order of birth.
Samuel Duncan was born Richland Township, May 8, 1842. He was reared to manhood on his father's farm and in his native township, always having lived here with the exception of one year during which time he was in the army. He enlisted September 18, 1864, in Company B, of the Twelfth Illinois Infantry, and served until July, 1865. Although the severest fighting was over at the time of his enlistment, he took part in several small engagements, he received his discharge at Washington, D. C. Mr. Duncan has always been engaged in agricultural pursuit, making a specialty, however, of stock-raising. For fifteen years he was engaged in buying and shipping stock to the city markets. His farm bears the impress of having fine management, as every part is well cultivated. He owns one hundred and sixty acres, which is equally divided in the raising of general produce and the grazing of cattle.
The original of our sketch entered the matrimonial relation in Richland Township, October 9, 1864, his bride being Miss Harriet C. Balch, who was born in Coles County, Ill. Well mated and having tastes and sympathies in common, they have made a happy home. During the years that they have lived together three children have come to them; Mary E., Ida A., and Retta O. Mary E. is the wife of Samuel Richards. The parents of Mrs. Duncan were Jonathan J. P. and Elizabeth (Nicholson) Balch, the former was probably born in Indiana, and the latter was a native of Tennessee. They came to Shelby County and settled on Sand Creek, but remained here only a short time, returning to Coles County, where the mother died. At the date of this writing (May, 1891) the father still survives. Mrs. Duncan is one of twelve children born to her parents, she being the third in order of birth. She was born in Coles County, Ill., November 14, 1844. Our subject has taken an active part in local politics, being an ardent Republican. He has held several offices in the gift of the township in which he lives, having been Deputy Sheriff and constable, and he is now School Director. His wife is a member of the Presbyterian Church and our subject himself is a liberal supporter of the Gospel. Mr. Duncan was the first man who introduced and commenced the breeding of registered Hereford cattle, and is today the only breeder in the county. He has sold and shipped out of his herd in fifteen different States. His herd at the present writing numbers one hundred and forty head. [Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
George A. Durkee
The original of our sketch is a worthy representative of an old and well-known family of the New England States. From them he has inherited a strong mentality, which has been intelligently directed and he is now recognized as being one of the intellectual, broad thinking men of this section. His superior mental caliber is recognized by his townsmen, and he has been appointed to some positions of honor and trust. Several times he has been sent as a Republican delegate to the State Conventions and is the proud possessor of a souvenir of one of these missions, in the shape of a gavel made out of a rail which Abraham Lincoln hewed out with his own hands. This he received as Chairman of the County Central Committee.
George A. Durkee is a grandson of Dr. John Durkee, a native of Vermont, who came of American parentage, although very likely of French extraction. He studied to become a physician and followed his profession for many years, although he was at the same time proprietor of a large farm which he continued to manage until the end of his life.
He married his wife in Vermont. The lady's maiden name was Corinna Winters. She was born and reared in the Green Mountain State, and after the birth of their first son, David, who was the father of our subject, Dr. Durkee and wife removed to the Genesee Valley, New York, when that section was new. After ten or twelve years, the family continued Westward and settled in Indiana, in the same year in which the State was admitted to the Union, 1816. They settled in Vigo County, near Terre Haute. The country was quite wild at the time. They had proceeded thither down the Ohio and up the Wabash Rivers, in an old style keel boat. The State was just beginning to be settled when they came. They procured a tract of Government land upon which they began to make a home. It was there that David F. was married to Freelove Frink, about 1820. The lady was born and reared in New York, and was a young woman when she came West with some of her neighbors.
After the marriage of David F. and his young wife, they began life as farmers near Terre Haute, and there our subject was born April 1, 1823. In the spring of 1825, David F., wife and children moved to Tippecanoe County, Ind., and there secured a tract of Government land, upon which they made many improvements, and they secured a comfortable home died, the Doctor aged sixty-three. His wife survived him for some years and passed away at four score years. They were members and adherents of the Presbyterian Church and were well known and highly respected pioneers of Indiana.
In 1848, David F. Durkee, wife and children, emigrated to this State, making the journey by the overland route and bringing their worldly possessions with them by teams. They made a settlement on good land in Pickaway Township, Shelby County, and here they made a home and some progress toward improving the farm. They later retired to Shelbyville, and there David F. died December 28, 1871, being then seventy years of age. His wife died at the home of her daughter in Wells County, this State in 1881. She was born in 1798, and was a member of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Durkee was an old line Whig in politics and an active local politician, though not an office seeker.
Our subject is the eldest of a family of eight children, three of whom are yet living. A brother James is a banker in Eureka, Kan., and a sister, who is now Mrs. William Tackit, of whom a biographical sketch may be found in another part of this volume. He of whom we write became of age in Tippecanoe County. He remained with his father until his marriage, working in his mill and factory. He married Miss Salome Ellis, their nuptials being celebrated March 5, 1846. The lady was born in Ohio, near Dayton, August 7, 1826. She was quite young when her parents, James P. and Elizabeth (Swyhart) Ellis made a settlement in Tippecanoe County, Ind. There her mother died in middle life. Later, Mr. Ellis removed to Illinois, and died at the age of eighty years, in Iroquois County, in Indiana. He and his wife were pioneers Mr. Ellis was brought up under the Quaker persuasion, but in later years neglected to follow the customs of that church. Mrs. Durkee was one of a large family, being chiefly reared in Tippecanoe County. For many years she has been a true and loving wife to her husband, ever studying his interests, and presiding over his home with grace and dignity. She has been his intelligent helpmate in securing and improving the three hundred and forty acres, which their fine farm comprises. Our subject secured his first one hundred and sixty acres of land from the Government. He has improved the whole of what he now owns.
Mrs. Durkee has presented her husband with six children, two of whom were taken away while babes. The living children are Walter B., Fannie, James Edward, besides one daughter who died in 1881. Walter took to wife Bell Kelley, and is a farmer in Holland Township. Fannie is the wife of Albert White and lives in Shelbyville. James Edward lives on a farm in this township and made Jennie French, his wife. The daughter who died was the wife of S. A. Martin, and passed away in her thirty-first year. Mr. and Mrs. Durkee are kind and hospitable people and have a host of friends in this county. Mr. Durkee is one of the leading Republicans of the country, but not an office seeker. He is an ex-President of the Agricultural Society of the county, having occupied this position for a great many years. He has been Vice President and Director from the second year of its organization.[Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, Illinois..."; Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1891; tr. by G.T. Transcription Team]
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