John M. (John McAuley) Palmer.

The bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) online

. (page 48 of 83)
Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 48 of 83)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Youngblood has been honored by election to the state senate, representing the
forty-seventh district in that division of the law-making body of the common-
wealth from 1872 until 1874, while from 1880 until 1882 he was a member of the
lower house of the general assembly. Socially, he has been connected with the
Masonic fraternity since 1856, and was master of Benton Lodge, No. 64, A. F. &
A. M., from 1863 until 1873. He .was married December 23, 1858, in Perry
county, Illinois, to Miss Narcissa E. Eaton, a daughter of West Eaton, and they
have five children : Ransom A., who was born February 16, 1861 ; Dougherty
V., born July 19, 1863 ; Joseph E., born September 29, 1865 ; Louisa R., born
June 4, 1870; and Laura A., born September i, 1872.

William B. Webber, a prominent attorney of Urbana, is the subject of this
biographical mention. Among the early settlers of Champaign county, Illinois,
was Thomson R. Webber, who was born in Shelby county, Kentucky, in 1807,
and came to Champaign county in 1833. By reason of his strong mentality and
superior ability he soon acquired leadership and became an active factor in the
Democratic party, his influence being widely felt in political circles. He was
elected to represent Vermilion, Champaign, Piatt and Coles counties in the con-
stitutional convention of 1847, an d was again elected a member of the constitu-
tional convention of 1863, but the constitution adopted by that convention was
not ratified by the people. He died December 14, 1881.

Hon. William B. Webber, like his father, also became prominent in politics.
He was born in Urbana, Illinois, October 31, 1836, was educated in the public
schools, and at the age of seventeen was appointed deputy circuit clerk under his
father, who was then clerk of the circuit court. Later he began the study of law
under the guidance of Judge William D. Somers and Captain J. C. Moses, and
was admitted to the bar in the year 1863, since which time he has been a leading
representative of the legal profession in Champaign county. Immediately after
his admission to the bar he formed a copartnership in the practice of his profes-



THE BENCH AND BAR OF ILLINOIS. 951

sion with his preceptor, W. D. Somers, then one of the most able lawyers of that
county, with whom he continued for seven years. Mr. Webber has been re-
tained as counsel or advocate in the trial of many important cases, involving very
intricate and leading questions in the circuit, appellate and supreme courts of
Illinois, many of which involved the constitutionality and legal construction of
the drainage law of Illinois. In fact Mr. Webber was attorney in the first case
appealed from the county court of Champaign county to the supreme court of
Illinois, in which the decision was rendered that the method of making special
assessments for drainage purposes, as provided by the drainage law, was consti-
tutional. This is reported in Moore versus the People, Illinois Reports, volume
105, page 376. His preparation of cases is thorough, and he is therefore ready
for any attack that the opposing counsel may make. His practice brings him
a good income.

In 1877 Mr. Webber was nominated by the Democratic party for the posi-
tion of county judge, and received a very flattering vote, running three hundred
ahead of his ticket, but failed of election, owing to the very strong Republican'
majority in the county. Elected to the state legislature as the representative
from Champaign, Piatt and DeWitt counties, he took his place in the general
assembly in 1885, and was a very active and influential member of that body.
He was chairman of the drainage committee of the house, and was also chair-
man of the joint drainage committee of both house and senate, also an active
member of the judiciary and several other important committees. He was in-
strumental in securing much needed legislation, the most important of which
was a bill for an act to revise what is known as the drainage and levee act,
drafted and introduced by Mr. Webber, which is now a statute law of the state.
The farm drainage act, which originated in the senate, being after various amend-
ments recommended by the joint drainage committee, of which Mr. Webber was
then chairman, was also reported by him to the house, and it was largely due to
his influence that it became a law. Also to Mr. Webber is largely due the credit
of securing the appropriation for the University of Illinois in 1885, the bill for
such appropriation being introduced by him, and of the much needed change of
the name of that institution of learning from Illinois Industrial University to
University of Illinois. The bill for such change was passed through great oppo-
sition.

At the spring election of 1895 Mr. Webber was elected mayor of the city
of Urbana, and immediately took a stand in favor of public improvement. He
drafted and recommended the adoption of several ordinances providing for
street paving,^the most important of which passed the council by the casting
vote of the mayor,- and thus secured several miles of street pavement in the city.
While mayor he also drafted and favored the passage of the ordinance which
created the present sewer system in the city of Urbana, and he still studies closely
the questions of public concern, taking an advanced and progressive stand upon
all matters pertaining to the general good. He is still engaged in the active
practice of law.



952 THE BENCH AND BAR OF ILLINOIS.

Mr. Webber married Miss Sarah D. Barnett, of Shelby county, Kentucky,
and their pleasant home in Urbana is noted for its hospitality.

Robert J. McElvain, county judge of Jackson county, Illinois, and an hon-
ored resident of Murphysboro, was born at DuQuoin, Perry county, on the 2Oth
of March, 1849, an d is a son of Joseph Harvey and Esther McElvain. On the
maternal side he is of German lineage, and on the paternal side of Scotch de-
scent. His paternal great-grandfather was one of the heroes who fought for the
independence of the nation and founded the American republic. The father of
the judge was a native of Kentucky, and followed the occupation of farming as
a life work.

In the usual manner of farmer lads Judge McElvain spent the days of his
boyhood and youth. He says that his only military experience was drilling
with the boys of the neighborhood. It was when the war of the Rebellion was
in progress and the martial spirit prevaded the land. On Sunday, therefore, the
small boys would assemble, and with cornstalk guns these courageous little war-
riors put many a flock of geese to flight and razed many a mullein stalk ! Through
the week the Judge assisted in the labors of the farm or pursued his preliminary
education in the common schools. Later he continued his studies in an academy
and then engaged in teaching school for four years, in Jackson and Perry coun-
ties. During that period he spent his leisure time in studying law under the
preceptorship of Colonel James H. Nunes and Judge Parks, and in 1878 he was
admitted to practice at the Illinois bar. He continued a member of the profes-
sion in DuQuoin and Perry counties until 1881, when, desiring to gain still
greater proficiency in his chosen calling, he entered the law department of Mc-
Kendree College, where he was graduated in 1884, with the degree of LL. B.

His professional career has been crowned with a due measure of success,
and he is accorded a leading position among the jurists of southern Illinois.
Locating in Murphysboro after the completion of his collegiate course, he was
elected state's attorney for Jackson county in 1884, filling the position until 1888.
He was master in chancery from 1889 until 1894, and in the latter year was
elected to the bench of the county court. While in the active practice of his pro-
fession, his thorough and exhaustive preparation of cases made him a foe to be
dreaded when in the court-room. He seemed almost intuitively to grasp the
strong points of law and fact, while in his briefs and arguments the authorities
were cited so extensively, and the facts and reasoning thereon presented so co-
gently and unanswerably, as to leave no doubt as to the correctness of his con-
clusions. On the bench he administers justice with a fair and impartial hand,
and his decisions are based upon a comprehensive knowledge of the law in its
application to the evidence presented. His eminent position at the Jackson
county bar is a merited tribute to his ability, resulting from earnest, honest
labor.

In Elkville, Jackson county, Judge McElvain was united in marriage to Miss
Mary A. Schwartz, a representative of one of the oldest families of the county.
They have one son, Robert J., who was born September 4, 1880, and they also
lost one child, Zattie G., who was born May 15, 1875, and died in 1888.



THE BENCH AND BAR OF ILLINOIS. 953

In politics the Judge is an uncompromising Republican, unfaltering in his
support of the men and measures of the party. He does all in his power for its
advance, growth and success, but has never aspired to office outside the line of
his professional labors. In early life he united with the church and his sympa-
thies.are now with the Christian church, of which his wife is a member. In May,
1887, he became a member of Leonidas Lodge, No. 87, Knights of Pythias, and
is now grand prelate of the grand lodge of that order.

Judge William Wills Barr, who for a third of a century has been a promi-
nent representative of the legal profession in southern Illinois, was born in Cen-
ter county, Pennsylvania, on the 8th of May, 1845, an d ' s a son f James S. and
Charlotte B. (Stage) Barr. His father was a man of strong intellectuality who
devoted his life to teaching. In the common schools Judge Barr acquired his
preliminary education which was supplemented by a course in the Bloomington
(Indiana) Law School, in which institution he was graduated in the class of 1866.
He had taken up the study of law the year previous in the office and under the
direction of Hon. F. M. Youngblood, of Benton, Franklin county, Illlinois. In
April, 1867, he was admitted to the bar, and opening an office in Benton, con-
tinued in active practice there until 1876, when he removed to Carbondale,
where he has since made his home. He has ever been a diligent student of the
principles of jurisprudence, and his knowledge of the law is broad and compre-
hensive. He possesses keen power of analysis, never loses sight of a detail that
may advance his cause, and at the same time gives to each point its due promi-
nence. He is clear and cogent in his reasoning, and his deductions follow each
other in logical sequence.

Judge Barr exercises his right of franchise in support of the men and
measures of the Democracy. His marked ability in the administration of public
affairs and his well known loyalty to American interests have led to his selection
for several positions of public trust. In 1866 he was appointed master in chan-
cery of Franklin county for a term of two years, and in 1870 was elected to rep-
resent his district in the twenty-seventh general assembly of Illinois. In 1872
he was elected state's attorney of Franklin county, filling that position for four
years, and in 1886 he was elected county judge of Jackson county, in which
office he was continued by re-election until 1894. During his eight years' serv-
ice upon the bench he administered the law with such a fair and impartial hand
that he won the highest commendation of the bar, regardless of political affiilia-
tion.

Since 1868 Judge Barr has been a member of the Masonic fraternity, is a
member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and is grand dictator for the
state of Illinois of the Knights of Honor. His home relations are very pleasant.
On the I5th of October, 1870, he was married at Tamaroa, Perry county, to Miss
Alice G. Breinzer, a native of Philadelphia, and they have two children, Jessie
G. and Bertha A., aged respectively twenty-four and twenty-two years. Their
home is a hospitable one and the members of the household occupy an enviable
position in social circles where true worth and intelligence are received as the
passports into good society. The Judge is a very popular citizen, his honorable



954 THE BENCH AND BAR OF ILLINOIS.

life and commendable characteristics, combined with a genial, kindly manner,
having won him a host of warm friends.

John J. Rea, of Urbana, is one of the native sons of Illinois. He was born
October n, 1852, his parents being John J. and Sarah P. Rea, of Lewis county,
Kentucky. In 1849 they removed to Champaign county, Illinois, where the
father engaged in his usual occupation of farming until 1863. Our subject
spent his early boyhood days upon the farm, assisting in the labors of field and
meadow until fifteen years of age, when he entered school at Farmer City. Sub-
sequently he was employed as a salesman in a grocery for three years in Ma-
homet, Illinois, and on the expiration of that period he engaged in that line of
business on his own account for a short time. Later he followed school teach-
ing, and at the same time devoted his leisure hours to the study of law, under
the guidance of the firm of Somers & Wright.

In 1880 Mr. Rea was admitted to the bar and immediately afterward formed
a partnership with Judge Sim, under the firm name of Sim & Rea, which con-
nection was continued for two and a half years. Since that time he has been
alone in business, and his practice has steadily increased as he has demonstrated
his ability to solve successfully the intricate problems of both civil and criminal
law. He has been four times elected town supervisor, although the town usu-
ally gives a Republican majority of about two hundred, while he was the Demo-
cratic candidate. During President Cleveland's administration he was tendered
a position in the second auditor's office, at a salary of two thousand dollars per
year. He was also offered the position of federal attorney of the Indian Terri-
tory, but refused both honors, in order to continue in the practice of law, in
which he is meeting with excellent success. He has twice served as city attorney
and for eight years was United States commissioner. He has been retained as
counsel and advocate in the trial of many very important suits involving large
private interests and intricate law problems.

In 1882 Mr. Rea married Miss Minnie Fugate, daughter of Dr. J. T. Fu-
gate, of Urbana, Illinois, and they have two children, Thurston Wayne and John
Carlisle, aged respectively fifteen and twelve years.

Spencer M. White, among the younger members of the bar of Urbana, has
in the practice of his chosen profession won a position not inferior to that occu-
pied by many men who are many years his senior. He was born near El Paso,
Illinois, June 27, 1868, and is a son of John White, an agriculturist of Urbana.
Reared on his father's farm, he assisted in the cultivation of the fields and the
garnering of the harvests. His education was acquired in the schools of the
neighborhood, and later he engaged in teaching school for three years, giving
good satisfaction by reason of his ability to impart clearly and concisely to others
the knowledge he had acquired. On the expiration of that period he began read-
ing law in the office of J. J. Rea, of Urbana, and after mastering the principles
of jurisprudence to a considerable extent, was admitted to the bar on the I3th of
January, 1894. Shortly afterward he entered into partnership with O. B. Dob-
bins, formerly of Kentucky, and a graduate of the Wesleyan Law School.

Hardly had Mr. White been admitted to the bar before he received the nomi-



THE BENCH AND BAR OF ILLINOIS. 955

nation of the Democratic party for the office of county judge of Champaign coun-
ty, but the Republican majority in the county is so strong that he failed of elec-
tion. He has now served as city attorney for two years, and is very faithful in
the discharge of his duties.

Mr. White was united in marriage to Miss Lizzie B. Hedrick, of Fisher, Illi-
nois, July 1 5th, 1896, and in the community they have many friends. Mr.
White is a gentleman of earnest purpose, of strong determination and of inde-
fatigable energy, and has already achieved fair success in his profession.

Joseph William Rickert, whose life record is one of distinctive honor, was
born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on the Qth of July, 1840. His parents were An-
drew and Margaret (Slund) Rickert, the former a native of Alsace, France, born
November 8, 1808; and the latter born in Bavaria, Germany, in the same year.
The father was a carpenter by trade. Emigrating to America he took up his
residence in New Orleans, Louisiana, and in 1832 cast his first presidential vote
for Andrew Jackson. While the family resided at Vicksburg, Joseph W. Rick-
ert, then but three years of age, was playing upon one of the hills of that city,
when he slipped and fell, breaking his left arm. An unskilled surgeon, who did
not properly attend to the fracture, rendered him a cripple for life, but though
this and other disadvantages were before him, Mr. Rickert has achieved a splen-
did success in his chosen profession, and stands to-day as the peer of any member
of the Waterloo bar. In 1845 he accompanied his parents on their removal to
Monroe county, Illinois, the family locating upon a farm about eight miles south
of Waterloo. His preliminary education, acquired in the common schools, was
supplemented by a thorough and comprehensive course in the St. Louis Uni-
versity, at St. Louis, Missouri, which he entered in 1857. He spent seven years
in that institution, completing the classical course, which embraced both literary
and scientific study. He also studied the French, German and Spanish lan-
guages and was graduated in 1864, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Four
years later his alma mater conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts, and
he is now a member of the alumni association of the university. From boyhood
he cherished the desire to enter the legal profession, but the limited financial
resources of his family necessitated his entering upon some work that would
yield a moneyed return, and after his graduation he began teaching school, de-
voting five years of his life to that profession, in Monroe and Marion counties,
Illinois. While engaged in teaching in Central City he also pursued the study
of law under the supervision of the late H. K. S. O'Melveny, who was then a
resident of that place, and who has recently died, in Los Angeles, California. In
1868 he permanently left the schoolroom in order to devote his entire time to his
law studies, which he continued in the office of Johnson & Hartzell, at Chester,
Illinois.

Upon examination by the late Judge Byran he was found qualified for the
bar, and accordingly was licensed to practice in the courts of Illinois. Locating
in Waterloo he has since been engaged in practice at that place, and by reason
of his superior ability and his judicious investments in various enterprises he has
won a handsome fortune, and is now one of the wealthy men of his county. He



956 THE BENCH AND BAR OF ILLINOIS.

is certainly deserving of great credit for his success. He started out in life in
very limited circumstances and has depended entirely on his own efforts. Ener-
gy, enterprise and sound judgment have contributed to his prosperity, and year
by year he has added to his income until he has now a handsome competence,
that will abundantly meet all his wishes through the last years of his life. His
professional career has been successful, and brilliant, and he is now one of Mon-
roe county's most eminent attorneys. His legal attainments are of a high order
and insure his success, and within a short time he has secured a large clientage
which has connected him with the most important litigation of his section of the
state. In addition to his law practice he is recognized as one of the leading
business men of Waterloo. He is one of the original partners in the private
bank which was organized in 1882, and which is still in existence, under the name
of the Commercial Bank. He is one of the principal stockholders and a charter
member of the Waterloo Milling Company, which was organized in 1887, and
he owns a large amount of the stock of the Harrisonville Telephone Company,
together with large tracts of land in Monroe county.

Through twenty-five years Mr. Rickert has been prominently identified with
every progressive or public-spirited movement of the city or county, and has
been an active factor in advancing the educational, material, social and moral
welfare of Waterloo. It was largely through his efforts that the city water-
works, now in successful operation, were established. In 1869 he was elected
county superintendent of schools, which office he held until 1873, and during that
period succeeded in raising the educational standard to a high degree. In 1874
he was elected a member of the twenty-ninth general assembly of Illinois, from
the district comprising Monroe, Perry and Randolph counties, and accordingly
was a member of the last legislature to convene in the old capital at Springfield.
In 1876 he was elected state's attorney for Monroe county and re-elected in
1880, acceptably serving in that capacity for eight consecutive years. In 1888
he was elected state senator for the forty-eighth senatorial district, and as a mem-
ber of the upper house gave support to every measure which he believed would
prove of general benefit to the commonwealth, and also voted with the famous
"one hundred and one" who elected General Palmer to the United States senate.
He has also served as a member of the school board of Waterloo for ten years,
and as a member of the city council for six years, and is alike faithful in local and
state offices, his labors being for the general good. In politics he has always
been a Democrat, and he is firm in his belief in the principles of the party.

Mr. Rickert was married, in St. Louis, Missouri, May 22, 1873, to Miss
Minnie Ziebold, a daughter of G. Ziebold, a prominent miller of southern
Illinois, now residing at Red Bud. To Mr. and Mrs. Rickert .were born the
following named children : Josephine L. ; Minnie E. ; Nelson A. ; George F.,
who died December 4, 1880, at the age of eight months and eighteen days;
Luella C. ; Charles J., who died November 5, 1897, at the age of ten years and
twenty-four days; Isabel M., who died April 28, 1892, at the age of two months
and twenty-nine days; Marie M., and Marguerite L. Rickert, of whom five
daughters and one son still live. The dearest place on earth to Mr. Rickert is



THE BENCH AND BAR OF ILLINOIS. 957

his home, and his greatest delight is ministering to the welfare and happiness of
his family. He takes great pleasure in the education of his children and in pro-
viding them training in all the higher branches of study and artistic accom-
plishments. He is a man of very scholarly tastes and strong intellectual endow-
ment and his extensive and well read library indicates his familiarity with the best
production of literature. He is connected with no social organization except
the Waterloo Literary Society, which was incorporated in 1876, and of which
he is a charter member. In religious faith he is a Catholic, but is liberal in his
views and tolerant of the belief of others. He is a man of kindly and sympa-
thetic nature, true to his own honest convictions and fearless in their expression,
but freely accords to others the right of opinion. Of undoubted integrity, un-
tiring industry, fine intellect and superior professional and business ability, he is
known and recognized as one of the leading men of the state.

Elijah Whittier Blaisdell. "Both justice and decency require that we should
bestow on our forefathers an honorable remembrance," wrote Thucydides. Such
a course is very possible in regard to the ancestry of the Blaisdell family, for it
numbers many men of prominence who have left their impress for good upon the
history of the nation. They come from the old Norse stock, and from records
still extant we find that a Danish family of that name emigrated to Wales before
the country was subdued by Alfred the Great. Its members were mostly forge-
men and sailors. In later records it is learned that Sir Ralph Blaisdell, Knight,
married a member of the royal family, and that several of his descendants were
members of parliament. The progenitor of the American branch of the family
was Enoch Blaisdell, who died in Wales. His widow and three sons Enoch,
Abner and Elijah came to America about twenty years after the landing of the
Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, and settled at Newburyport, Massachusetts. The



Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 48 of 83)