George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.3) online

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the state through his editorship of the Shawneetown News-Gleaner, and
in the columns of his paper his voice is continually heard on the side of
good government and progress. Through this paper he has accomplished
much for the public good, and the citizens of this section realize that if
the Shawneetown News-Gleaner can be persuaded to espouse a caus.e it
is a long step towards its success. As a politician Mr. Spivey has always
taken a prominent part in the work of his party, and is everywhere recog-
nized as one of the leaders of the Republican party in Southern Illinois.
As a business man he is also progressive and up-to-date, as will be seen
in a further account of his career.

Allen Thomas Spivey is the son of Thomas Jefferson Spivey, who was
born in Gates county, North Carolina, February 18, 1830. His father
was the founder of the family in this country, having been brought to
America at the age of two years. This rather young pioneer was Thomas
Sawyer Spivey, and was born in England, February 25, 1799. When
quite a young man he married Teresa Eason, his wife being still younger,
her age being fourteen. She was of Scotch descent. He received a fairly
good education for those times and came to Illinois in 1832, his profes-
sion being that of a school teacher. He settled in Shawneetown and taught
school for a number of years. He was greatly respected in the com-
munity, both for his learning and for his good common sense. He was
elected justice of the peace, and in 1856 was elected to the higher posi-
tion of county judge. He served in this capacity for four years. In 1860
he moved out to a farm near Shawneetown, and there he died in 1862.
His wife survived him for many years, and for a long time before her
death was a living example to all around her of the beauty of Christian
patience and fortitude, for she was blind for many years. She died in
1888, having reared the large family of ten children. Sallie, Murray,
Lydia and Thomas Jefferson were all born in North Carolina. Annie,
Henry, Mollie, Caroline and Louise were all born in Shawneetown. Of
these many children all have passed into the Great Beyond save two.
Caroline is unmarried and lives in Shawneetown and Louise is a widow
and lives in New Albany, Indiana.

Thomas Jefferson Spivey came to Shawneetown with his parents in
1832. He grew up here and received his education in the public schools.
When the gold fever swept over the country in 1849, he was seized with
the ambition to go to the west and try his fortune at picking up the nug-


gets. He went to California, but returned two years later, having suf-
fered disappointment in his search, like so many others. On his return
he bought a farm seven miles west of Shawneetown, and settled down to
the quiet life of the farmer. He was married March 12, 1857, to Sallie
Annie Smyth, born January 27, 1841, a daughter of Samuel Marshall
Smyth, who was a native of Londonderry county, Ireland, and has set-
tled in Gallitin county in youth. Success came to Thomas Jefferson
Spivey. His farm prospered and he won many friends through his pub-
lic activities. He was a Democrat, and although he never sought office,
yet he served conscientiously in several minor offices of the community.
He and his wife were both members of the Presbyterian church, and for
twenty-five years he was an elder in the Ringgold Presbyterian church,
while his wife was a leader in many of the church activities. Ten chil-
dren were born to this couple : Quintin E., Minnie, Marguerite, Addie,
Annie, William Walter, Samuel Simon, Gertrude, Allen Thomas and

Allen Thomas Spivey was born on the Spivey farm, seven miles west
of Shawneetown, on the 5th of April, 1875. He was educated in the coun-
try schools until he was of high school age, when he was placed in the
Shawneetown high school. He attended school during the winters and
during vacations he worked on the farm, so life did not have much play
time for this youngster. In 1894 he finished school, but he did not feel
that he was as well equipped for the world which, from his youthful ex-
perience, he knew was not one of ease, so he entered a commercial col-
lege .in Evansville. He remained there during the winter of 1894-1895
and until 1896 he worked at various occupations, gathering a broad,
general knowledge of different phases of business. In December of 1896
he commenced work as an apprentice in a printing office, having decided
that journalism was the profession which had the strongest attraction
for him. He did not believe that he could ever become a successful jour-
nalist unless he possessed some practical knowledge, and furthermore he
had no powerful friends to get him a position as ' ' cub ' ' reporter. After
his apprenticeship he followed the trade, working in various offices, but
it was not long before his chance came to get into the real work of jour-
nalism. In 1897 he formed a partnership with A. C. Clippinger, and
they published the Norris City, Illinois, Record. This venture not prov-
ing to be as successful as he had hoped, he sold out his interest and re-
turned to Shawneetown in 1898. Here he again took up his trade, and
worked at it until the winter of 1899, when he went to Henderson, Ken-
tucky, continuing to work as a printer. No opening seemed to be in sight
and, as nearly discouraged as it is possible for Mr. Spivey to become, he
gave up his trade and in the spring of 1900 went to St. Louis and entered
the employ of a wholesale sash and door company. The call of the print-
er's ink was too strong for him, however, and whem a chance came to
go back to his old trade he accepted it gladly. In this capacity he re-
turned to Shawneetown in the fall of 1900. He only remained in news-
paper work for a few months, however, becoming a bookkeeper in a hard-
ware store in the spring of 1901. He also served as the assessor of the
Shawnee township during the spring of 1901, and in April of that year
he was elected city treasurer of Shawneetown for a term of two years.

He had always been economical, and had denied himself many com-
forts in the hope that some day he might be able to buy a paper of his
own. Now his dream was realized, for with his small savings he invested
in a Washington hand press and some type, bought a little printing office,
and November 8, 1901, the first issue of the Shawneetown Gleaner was on
the streets. This was the turning point of his career. He was no longer
to knock about from pillar to post, for the paper was a success from the


start. So prosperous was it, in fact, that on the 2nd of March, 1902, al-
most exactly five months since the first issue, Mr. Spivey was able to an-
nounce his purchase of the Shaivnee News, a Republican newspaper. The
Gleaner had been the third newspaper in Shawneetown, and while the size
of the place scarcely warranted the publication of three papers it could
easily support two. Mr. Spivey, therefore, consolidated the papers of
which he was the owner, under the title, The Shawneetown News-Gleaner.
The paper continued to grow and prospects looked brighter every day.
The debts were all about paid off on the plant when suddenly disaster
came in the shape of a fire that destroyed the whole thing on the morning
of the 4th of June, 1904. The insurance was small and the loss was
heavy, but success had once come to Mr. Spivey and now nothing could
discourage him. Taking the insurance money as a nucleus he began all
over again ; bought another plant and continued to publish the paper
without missing an issue. His confidence was fully justified, for now the
paper is one of the most influential in Southern Illinois. He is now
president of The Southern Illinois Editorial Association, an organiza-
tion composed of almost every editor in Southern Illinois. He has the
confidence and respect of all of them and was the only person ever
elected to the office without opposition.

He was appointed postmaster of Shawneetown on the 21st of Janu-
ary, 1907, and is now serving his second term. Now that the Demo-
cratic party is beginning to show its strength, the Republican party
should congratulate itself upon the fact that such a loyal worker as Mr.
Spivey is to be found among its ranks.

Mr. and Mrs. Spivey are both members and active workers of the
Presbyterian church in Shawneetown, and in the fraternal world Mr.
Spivey is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, affiliating with
Warren lodge, and of the Masonic order, Chapter No. 14, of Shawnee-

Mr. Spivey was married in McLeansboro, Illinois, on the 25th of De-
cember, 1901, to Mary O'Neal Wright, a daughter of T. B. Wright. The
latter was a soldier in the Union army during the Civil war, and her
mother was Mary O'Neal, who was the daughter of John William
O 'Neal. Her father was the nephew of a man who was a political leader
in Democratic circles in Southern Illinois for many years. This man
was Judge Samuel Marshall, who was congressman for six terms, the first
time in 1855-1857, and the last time in 1873-1875. Mrs. Spivey was edu-
cated in the common schools of McLeansboro and later .attended college
in Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. and Mrs. Spivey are the parents of two
children: Mittase Wright Spivey was born on the 10th of September,
1902, and their son, Allen Thomas Spivey, Jr., was born on the 1st of
October, 1911.

Mr. Spivey possesses those characteristics that make a man loved
and honored by the community. He is straight-forward and conscien-
tious in all of his business dealings. His prosperity has been built up not
through snatching the bread from the mouths of someone else, but by
his own honest, industrious efforts. He is known for his generosity and
his charity to all who are in need, and he is a man to whom his family,
his God and his home mean more than all of the wealth and fame in the
world. He has added much to the material prosperity of the town, not
only in the erection of his beautiful modern home, which is both com-
modious and attractive, but also in the business block occupied by the
postoffice and other offices, which he owns. He is also the owner of other
property throughout the town. He feels that although he has had a stiff
battle with life, yet in his ambition to succeeed he has not torn down the


work of others, for his philosophy is, "Work and application to this
work, and you will find that the world has room for us all. ' '

WILLIAM A. WILLIS. Possessing the foresight to recognize the future
of Sesser as a commercial center and the courage to take advantage of the
opportunity presented to him, William A. Willis came to this city some-
thing less than seven years ago with but little capital other than shrewd
business ability, and through wise investments has won himself a place
among the substantial men of his adopted locality. Aside from being an
extensive land owner he has acted in the capacity of postmaster of Ses-
ser since becoming a citizen here, and in his administration of the gov-
ernment 's affairs has proven himself an able official of a rapidly-growing
community. Mr. Willis was born in Jefferson county, Illinois, Febru-
ary 19, 1854, and is a son of Josiah and Anna Eliza (Cockrum) Willis.

Tolliver Willis, the grandfather of William A., was born in Tennes-
see, and came to Illinois with his family at an early day, the remainder
of his life being spent here in agricultural pursuits. His son, Josiah
Willis, was born in Jackson county, Tennessee, in 1824, and was a lad
when brought to Jefferson county, Illinois. His mother dying when he
was still a youth, he was bound out to a blacksmith at Edwardsville,
Illinois, to learn the trade, and when the Civil war broke out he enlisted
in Company A, One Hundredth and Tenth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer
Infantry, as regimental blacksmith, remaining in the service two years
and ten months. On his return from the army he purchased a small
farm, and continued to operate this and conduct a 'smithy until his
death in 1907. Mr. Willis had been an adherent of Democratic princi-
ples up to the time of the candidacy of Blaine and Logan, but at that
time, owing to his intense admiration for General Logan, he became a
Republican, and that party received his support during the remainder of
his life. Josiah Willis married Anna Eliza Cockrum, daughter of Mat-
thew F. Cockrum, a native of Kentucky, who became one of Franklin
county's wealtiest and most highly esteemed citizens and left a large
estate to his family at his death.

William A. Willis received few advantages of an educational nature
in his youth, and his energies as a lad were devoted to tilling the soil of
his father's farm and working in the blacksmith shop. Inheriting me-
chanical ability, he became a skilled blacksmith and something of a ma-
chinist, and for two years worked at the latter trade in Benton. Subse-
quently he removed to Tameroy, and for the next five years was en-
gaged in selling machinery for Alva Blanchard, and later followed the
same line as a traveling salesman. In 1893 he purchased a farm in Jef-
ferson county, and was engaged in farming until December 16, 1905,
when he moved to Sesser. Mr. Willis was the first postmaster of Sesser,
then a village still in its infancy, and the first day's cancellation of
stamps amounted to twenty-two cents. That the business of the office has
increased may be seen by the fact that the daily cancellations at this time
amount to from five to ten dollars per day. As the business has ad-
vanced Mr. Willis has improved the service, and the courteous and oblig-
ing manner in which he discharges the duties of the office have made him
popular with all who have met him in an official way, and the verdict is
universal that no better man for the office could be found. While he has
never been an office seeker, Mr. Willis has been tendered office by the peo-
ple of his community in each section of which he has lived, and while
residing in Jefferson county was supervisor of his township for eight
years. Subsequently he was the Republican candidate for county treas-
urer, and the high esteem in which he was held by. the voters of the
county was shown when in that stronghold of Democracy he was defeated
by only thirty-five votes. A popular member of the Odd Fellows, he


has passed through all the chairs in that order. Mr. Willis has prospered
in a financial way as a result of wise and far-seeing investment of his
means, and he is now the owner of fourteen lots in Sesser, as well as four
residences and a large business block, property in West Frankfort and an
excellent farm in Jefferson county. His success has come as a result of
his own efforts, and he is known as a man who while looking after his
own interests has always been ready to support movements for the bene-
fit of the city's interests.

In 1882 Mr. Willis was married to Miss Rachel Hawkins, of Perry
county, Illinois, who died in 1888, and to this union one child was born :
Velma, who is a trained nurse in St. Louis. Mr. Willis was married in
1903 to Mollie Hartley Kirkpatrick, and they have had three children:
Lillian May and Russell V., who are in school ; and William H.

BERNARD JOHN MEIRINK, M. D. One of the prosperous and popular
physicians of Germantown, Bernard John Meirink, M. D., is a close stu-
dent of the science which he has chosen as a profession, and in its practice
is meeting with well deserved success. A native of Illinois, he was born
July 3, 1872, in Breese, Clinton county, of pioneer ancestry, his grand-
father, Henry Meirink, Sr., having been an early settler of this section
of the state.

The Doctor's father, Henry Meirink, Sr., was born in Germantown,
Illinois, in 1842. Left an orphan when but three years of age, he was
brought up in a family named Kniepman, receiving but meagre educa-
tional advantages. As a boy he worked at farming and odd jobs, finally
learning the carpenter's trade, which he followed successfully until 1906.
Having then by persistent labor, thrift and good management accumu-
lated a competency, he^retired from the active cares of business, and is
now spending his days in pleasant leisure at Breese. He is a stanch Dem-
ocrat in politics and a faithful member of the Catholic church, to which
his wife and family belong. He married, in 1869, Anna Schonefeld, of
Breese, and to them two sons and five daughters have been born, Bernard
John being the second child in order of birth. His only brother, Henry
Meirink, Jr., is a carpenter in Breese.

Brought up and educated, primarily, in Breese, Bernard J. Meirink
attended the parochial schools until fourteen years old. He subsequently
spent three years in the Franciscan College at Teutopolis, Illinois, and in
1890 was graduated with the degree of A. B. Beginning life then as a
teacher, he taught for six years in the Becker school in Wade township,
during which time he took up the study of medicine, for which he was
eminently fitted. Continuing his studies at the Saint Louis Medical Col-
lege, he was there graduated with the degree of M. D. in 1899, and the
following ten months was engaged in the practice of medicine at Dami-
ansville. Coming from there to Germantown, Dr. Meirink has here built
up a large and lucrative patronage and is meeting with flattering re-
sults in his professional pursuits, and has also made for himself an en-
viable position in both the business and social affairs of his adopted home.

The Doctor is a member and the president of the Clinton County
Medical Society; a member of the State Medical Society; and of the
American Medical Association. He is a Democrat in politics, active in
public affairs, ajid is now serving his third term as mayor of Germantown.
He is rendering the city noteworthy service, a fine system of water works
having been installed under his administration.

On October, 1899, Dr. Meirink was united in marriage with Frances
Becker, of Bartelso. the daughter of Henry Becker, a pioneer farmer of
Wade township. The Doctor and Mrs. Meirink are the parents of three


children, namely : Laura, Edward and Paul. True to the religious faith
of his ancestors, Dr. Meirink is a member of the Catholic church.

FRANK T. I. LEPPO. Liberal-minded, enterprising and progressive,
Frank T. I. Leppo, of Xenia, is a fine representative of the self-made men
of Clay county, having in early life measured his own ability and hewn
his way straight to the line thus marked out. Through his own untiring
efforts he has met with deserved success in his career, being now an ex-
tensive land owner and an important factor in advancing the mercantile
interests of the county, as a dealer in hardwood lumber and ties, having
built up a modest and remunerative trade. A son of Jabez Leppo, he was
born in Carroll county, Maryland, May 14, 1861. His grandfather, Jacob
Leppo, a life-long resident of Maryland, served as a soldier in the War
of 1812.

Jabez Leppo was born May 21, 1825, in Maryland, where he lived and
labored for many years. Migrating to Tazewell county, Illinois, in No-
vember, 1868, he followed farming there for awhile, and then settled in
McLean county, Illinois, where, after renting a farm for two years, he
bought land and engaged in farming on his own account. Subsequently
trading his land for a residence in LeRoy, Illinois, he continued as a resi-
dent of that place until his death, in 1908. He was a Democrat in poli-
tics, but took no active part in public affairs. Both he and his wife united
with the Methodist Episcopal church when young, but during his later
years he became a member of the Universalist church.

Jabez Leppo married Katherine Burns, who was born in Maryland,
December 25, 1835, and died in Illinois, in 1886. Her father John Burns,
was a native of Maryland, and was in business there as tavernkeeper on
the turnpike road. He moved to Tazewell county, Illinois, where for a
number of years prior to his death he bought and managed a farm.

Obtaining his elementary education in Maryland, Frank T. I. Leppo
completed his early studies in Illinois, attending school in both Taze-
well and McLean counties. Reared to agricultural pursuits, he worked
by the month as a farm laborer a short time, and he farmed for himself
until twenty-nine years old, when he began as a dealer in grain and live
stock. ' Coming to Xenia, Clay county, in 1890, Mr. Leppo first engaged
in the orchard business, later buying and shipping cattle and live stock,
also embarking in mercantile pursuits. He has been fortunate in most
of his ventures, his present trade as a dealer in hardwood and ties being
fair and lucrative. Mr. Leppo also owns five hundred and seventy acres
of improved land in Clay county, the larger part of which is devoted to
the raising of grain, the remainder being either good timber or pasture
land. He has likewise property interests in other places, owning consid-
erable timber land in Arkansas.

Mr. Leppo 's business is one of the largest of the kind in the county.
He uniformly supports the principles of the Democratic party at the polls,
and although he has never been an aspirant for political honors he has
served as alderman. Mr. Leppo has never married, and being entirely
free from domestic cares and tribulations has ample leisure to attend to
his personal affairs.

FRANCIS 0. HARRISON, M. D. After thirty-four years .of faithful and
conscientious labor in the field of medicine in and about Christopher, Illi-
nois, Dr. Francis 0. Harrison is one of the most highly esteemed physi-
cians of Franklin county, and during his long and useful career has built
up an enviable reputation not only in his profession but as an able busi-
ness man, a successful agriculturist and a citizen of sterling worth. Dr.


Harrison was born near Mulkeytown, in Franklin county, November 6,
1846, and is a son of Christopher and Mary (Swain) Harrison.

The paternal grandfather of Dr. Harrison, Lemuel Harrison, was a
native of North Carolina, from which state he came to Franklin county as
a pioneer, and here became successful in farming, and held numerous
offices within the gift of the people. He served as county surveyor for
some time, and until his death in 1851 acted as circuit clerk. His son,
Christopher Harrison, was born in Franklin county, and was engaged
in farming here in 1850, at the time of the gold rush to California. Join-
ing the throng that crossed the country to attempt to make their fortunes,
he was one of the unfortunates who contracted cholera and he died in a
boat on the Mississippi river, living but six hours. His wife, Mary Swain,
was the daughter of John Swain, who was born in Tennessee and came to
Illinois early in life. He also, 'was engaged in agriculture, became well-
to-do, and at the time of his death, which occurred when he had reached
advanced years, he was well known all over Franklin county.

Francis 0. Harrison was able to secure only a meager schooling, as
the death of his father left the family in humble circumstances, and the
help of the sturdy young son was needed in cultivating the little prop-
erty the parent had left behind. He was an ambitious youth, however,
and lack of attendance at the country schools did not prevent him from ac-
quiring an education, as whatever time he could find from his work was
spent in reading and study, and thus he became well informed in a gen-
eral way. He worked on the home property until he was twenty-two
years of age, at which time he was able, by investing the money which
his habits of industry and economy had enabled him to accumulate, and
by going into debt for a part of the property to purchase himself a little
farm, and this he started to cultivate. It had been his ambition from
youth, however, to enter a professional life and when he had cleared his
land from debt and could see that he was making progress, he started
to study medicine, with the result that he subsequently entered the Eclec-
tic Medical Institute at Cincinnati, Ohio, and was graduated therefrom
in 1878. On his return to his farm he "hung out his shingle," and at
once began a practice that has grown year by year until today there is no
better known physician in Franklin county. In the meantime he con-
tinued farming, and at one time was the owner of five hundred acres of
land, but in 1909 sold off a farm of two hundred acres. In addition he
is a stockholder and director in the First National Bank of Christopher,
has various commercial and financial interests and valuable real estate

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.3) → online text (page 21 of 98)