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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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his appointment on the committee on invalid pensions, and he has de-
voted all of his time and energies to the encouragement of legislation
that will place the ex-soldier of the Civil war beyond the possibility of
want during the few brief years still left him on earth. He supported
the well-known "Sulloway bill" most vigorously, and hoped for its
passage in the Senate, after the house had given it a good majority, but
it fell a victim of interests antagonistic to the brave old soldier.

For many years Captain Thistlewood was a prominent and influential
worker in the affairs of the Grand Army of the Republic, becoming a
state factor in its membership, and being elected, in 1901, department
commander of Illinois. He is a frequent attendant at the national en-
campments of the order, and its society is the only one on which his name
is enrolled.

On September 6, 1866, Captain Thistlewood was united in marriage
with Sarah A. Taylor, of Mason, Illinois, a daughter of Seth B. Taylor,
a wagon maker by trade and a native of Ohio. Two children have been
born to Captain and Mrs. Thistlewood, namely : Benjamin R., who mar-
ried Hattie Gibson, died in February, 1910 ; and Blanche. The Captain
and his family are communicants of the Methodist church.

DANIEL W. STRINGER. Today scientific farming is not looked upon
as it was in the days of Horace Greely, as a sure means of depleting a
bank account, but is looked upon as the only way for a cultivator
of the land to attain financial success. At any rate, Daniel W. Stringer,
of Pulaski, Illinois, has assumed that attitude in directing the affairs
of his farm. How well he has succeeded is attested by his standing as
one of the progressive and substantial farmers of Pulaski county and by
the appearance of the farm itself. He has followed this one vocation
throughout the whole of his independent career. At the outset forty
acres, two ponies, and the personal qualities of industry, thrift and
self-reliance constituted his chief assets, and that forty now comprises
a portion of his tract of one hundred and twenty-five acres forming his
splendidly improved homestead. His is one of the attractive farms of
this section, and its substantial improvement is the embodiment of the
progressive ideas of its owner. He has given his attention chiefly to



1554 HISTORY OP SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

grain raising and fruit growing and has been very successful along
both lines.

Mr. Stringer is a native of Kentucky, born in Livingston county,
that state, August 4, 1855. He is a brother of William M. Stringer and
a son of William and Mary (Elmer) Stringer. The parents were mar-
ried in Kentucky and had resided in that state a number of years before
their removal to Ripley county, Missouri, from whence they returned
eastward to Pulaski county, Illinois, in September, 1862. This vicinity
remained their home until their deaths, both having passed away in the
nineties in advanced years, the father having reached the age of seventy-
seven.

Daniel W. Stringer was one of the younger of their eight children,
the other members of the family being: Jane, who married William
Tomerlin and died in Missouri ; Lucilla, who became the wife of Noah
Tomerlin and died in Pulaski county, Illinois ; Wesley, deceased ; Sarah,
now Mrs. William Atherton and a resident of Pulaski; William M., a
successful farmer in this vicinity; Malinda, who died as Mrs. James
Axley ; and Mary M., the deceased wife of Cyrus Lacky, of Pulaski.

In June, 1874, Mr. Stringer was united in marriage to Miss Mary
Atherton, a daughter of John and Margaret (Soney) Atherton. Mrs.
Stringer was the second in order of birth and is the only one living of
four daughters born to her parents, the date of her birth having been
February 5, 1857. Her sisters were: Catherine, who died at Seymour,
Missouri, as the wife of A. M. Fruster; Lucy, who became the wife of
Webster Dille and died in Pulaski county, Illinois; and Emma, who
married John McCormick and is buried at Pulaski. The children of
Mr. and Mrs. Stringer are : Ira, who married Myrtle Thornton and re-
sides at Pulaski ; Charles, who is still in the parental home ; Oscar, who
married Miss Rena Rife and is a farmer near Pulaski; and William,
Lucy, Ella and Ernest comprise the remaining children. The family
are members of the Christian church.

Politics has not interested Mr. Stringer further than the exercise
of his right of franchise as a Republican. He sustains fraternal mem-
bership in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and is a past noble
grand of his lodge and has been a representative to the state Grand
Lodge.

HON. WILLIAM A. SPANN. A resident of Vienna whose reputation
is more than local and whose high standing in the professional world is
assured is the Hon. William A. Spann, a well known legal light and
senior member of the firm of Spann & Spann, attorneys-at-law. The
Spann family is of North Carolina origin, that having been the native
state of William Spann, grandfather of the Hon. William A. Spann,
who so worthily represents the present generation of the house, and
whose father, Silas H. Spann, emigrated to Southern Illinois, settling
with his family at Jonesboro in 1853. Silas Spann was engaged in the
mercantile business for a long period, but retired from that line of
commercial activity ten years before his death, which occurred in Jan-
uary, 1895. The older Spann was married four times, his first wife
having been Miss Martha Scott, a daughter of Jesse and Nancy (Martin)
Scott. Mr. Scott was of English descent, while his wife was born in
Ireland. Mr. and Mrs. Spann became the parents of four children,
two of whom died in infancy. Mary, who married Mr. Martin and
William A., of this brief review, are the surviving members of their
family, and the mother's death occurred in 1843. The second matri-
monial alliance of Silas Spann united him with Elizabeth Fullard of
Alabama, who become the mother of five children, two of whom survive



HISTORY OP SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 1555

at this writing. They are Charles P. Spann and Mrs. Delia Pool. The
death of Mrs. Spann occurred in March, 1857. Charlotte Alexander, of
Jonesboro, became the third wife of Mr. Spann, and of that union five
children were born. Of this number three are living, namely: Silas,
Ernest and Mrs. Minnie Rendle. The date of the mother's demise was
1877. Mr. Spann subsequently married Mrs. Cox, and one child, now
deceased was the result of their union.

Judge William A. Spann was born October 6, 1840, in Cherokee
county, Alabama, on a farm, but while he was still small his father re-
moved with his family to Jonesboro, Illinois, and the son was the recip-
ient of such education as was afforded in the public schools of that place.
Upon the completion of his education Mr. Spann took up agriculture as
an occupation and for ten years operated farms near Jonesboro and in
Johnson county, becoming a resident of the latter named section in
1861. He was not entirely satisfied with the conditions in Johnson
county at that time, however, and in a short time returned to Union
county, remaining there until 1873, when he again took up his residence
in Johnson county.

Mr. Spann was a man of ambitious character and had always cher-
ished a desire to become a member of the legal fraternity, and in further-
ance of this commendable ambition he began the study of law in
November, 1870. He possessed a fine intellect, which soon grasped the
intricacies and logic of his studies, and a few years later he opened an
office at Vienna, and in March, 1877, began the practice of his profession
there.

It was but a short time until he had attained distinction in his prac-
tice and had acquired an extensive clientele, his services being in wide
demand, not only in the various counties of Southern Illinois, but cli-
ents also came from Missouri and Kentucky to avail themselves of his
talents in cases requiring legal adjudication. Judge Spann 's reputa-
tion as a lawyer and an eloquent pleader is second to none in this section
of the state, and he has achieved conspicuous success in handling difficult
criminal cases.

He has always evinced an active interest in politics, and he has been
repeatedly honored with high official position. In 1880 the people
elected him as a representative to the state legislature, his run being
made on a Democratic ticket, and so faithfully and effectively did he
discharge his duties as a legislator that he was returned to the office in
1882. His election to the county judgeship occurred in 1906 and he
served most ably in that 'important capacity for one term.'

Judge Spann has valuable property interests, among his holdings be-
ing a fine farm in the northern part of Johnson county and a beautiful
residence in Vienna. In December, 1861, Judge Spann was united
in marriage with Miss Narcissa Simpson, of Johnson county, daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. William Simpson. Of this union were born six chil-
dren: Mrs. Flora Hess: Mrs. Martha Cantwell; Lulu, the wife of Levi
J. Smith; Ida, wife of Robert E. Gillespie, who is cashier of the Union
Trust Company of East St. Louis; Hal, who followed in his father's
footsteps by entering the legal profession and is now a partner with
him in the law firm of Spann & Spann; and William. The death of
Mrs. Spann occurred in 1885. Judge Spann married a second time,
in May, 1893, leading to the altar Mrs. Etta M. Blanchfill, of Vienna, a
daughter of Frank McCarmell, of Oxford, Indiana. Mr. Spann was be-
reaved of this wife in October, 1909. His third wife, to whom he was
married on October 12, 1911, was Mrs. Mary E. Goodall, of Marion, a
daughter of Mrs. Aikeman. She presides with graciousness over the
Spann home, which is one of the most hospitable in Vienna. Judge



1556 HISTORY OP SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

Spann is a man of strong social tendencies, and is an honored member
of the Knights of Pythias. He is the possessor of broad sympathies, is
liberal in his benefactions and enjoys the confidence of a large circle of
friends and acquaintances.

JOHN CLAY WILLIAMS. Prominent among the foremost citizens of
Pocahontas is John Clay Williams, who is actively identified with the
financial prosperity of Bond county as a banker, and as a man of enter-
prise, ability and integrity is closely associated with the advancement
of the material interests of town and county. A son of William Davis
Williams, he was born August 8, 1859, in Saint Jacob, Madison county,
Illinois, of brave pioneer stock.

His grandfather, Aaron Williams, a native of Maryland, was a youth
of a daring and venturous spirit, who in his search for fortune made
two trips on horseback to Illinois while it was yet wearing territorial
garb, one in 1815 and one in 1816. In 1818, just as Illinois was admitted
to statehood, he came from Baltimore to Fayette county, Illinois, locat-
ing in Vera, where he took up a tract of wild land, from which he im-
proved a farm. He married Sarah Barton, of Saint Clair county, Illi-
nois, and was thereafter engaged in tilling the soil until his death.

Born on the parental homestead in Fayette county, William Davis
Williams received a practical training in agriculture while young, re-
maining beneath the parental roof -tree until after attaining his majority.
In 1849 he joined a band of gold seekers and made an overland journey
to California, where he followed mining for six years. Returning to
Illinois in 1855, he settled in Saint Jacob, Madison county, where he
was engaged in general farming until 1891. Coming then to Pocahon-
tas, Illinois, he lived retired until his death, in 1899, making his home
with his son. Soon after his return from the Golden state he married
Ellen Virginia Hayes, of Saint Jacob, who died nearly a quarter of a
century before he did, passing away in 1875. He belonged to the Bap-
tist church, and was an active member of the Ancient Free and Accepted
Order of Masons, with which he united in 1855, at the time of his death
being one of the oldest and most highly esteemed members of the lodge.
He took great interest in local affairs, and held various offices of trust,
having served as school director, while for many years he was township
supervisor.

The oldest son and second child of his parents, John Clay Williams
lived on the home farm in Madison county until twenty years of age,
when he went to New Mexico on an exploring expedition. Finding
nothing to specially interest him in that unsettled country, he returned
to Saint Jacob, where he was engaged in general mercantile pursuits
until 1883, being junior member of the firm of Karges & Williams. Sell :
ing out his interest in the firm in that year, Mr. Williams became travel-
ing salesman for a wholesale house, with which he was connected in that
capacity for five years. In the meantime, however, in 1884, he had
bought back his interest in the firm of which he had formerly been a
member, and, in company with Mr. Louis Ryan, continued the business
under the firm name of Ryan & Williams. Giving up traveling in 1889,
Mr. Williams was actively engaged in business as a merchant at Poca-
hontas, Bond county, until 1905, being quite successful in his operations.
In that year, in company with Mr. P. M. Johnson, of Saint Elmo, Illinois,
he established the Bond County Bank, a private institution, and has
since carried on a substantial business. In 1899 Mr. Williams was ap-
pointed postmaster at Pocahontas, and has held the position since.

Mr. Williams married, in 1893, Naomi Olive Lindley, of Pocahontas,
a woman of culture and refinement, eminently fitted for the duties of



HISTORY OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 1557

wife and mother. She passed to the life beyond in November, 1908,
leaving five children, namely: John L., Benjamin Oliver, Marie, Ellen
Virginia and Joseph Aaron. Politically Mr. Williams ever supports
the principles of the Republican party, and religiously, there being no
church of his own faith, the Baptist, in Pocahontas he attends the Metho-
dist Church, and is serving as one of its trustees. Fraternally he is a
member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Order of Masons; and the
Order of the Eastern Star; of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows;
of the Modern Woodmen of America ; and of the Knights of the Macca-
bees.

GEORGE L. GAHM. The Johnston City State Bank, one of the most solid
and substantial financial institutions in Southern Illinois, has been for-
tunate in .securing for its officers men of wide and varied experience in
the banking business, whose integrity and probity have never oeeu
questioned, and in whom the people of the community repose the utmost
confidence. In this connection may be mentioned George L. Gahm,
cashier of this bank, who has spent practically all of his business career
in the same line in this section. Mr. Gahm is a product of Jackson
county, Ohio, and was born November 25, 1877, a son of Henry J. and
Anna Mary (Motz) Gahm.

The grandfather of George L. Gahm, Jacob Gahm, was born on the
river Rhine, at Keisterlauten, Germany, in 1810, and was there married
to a Miss Geip, who died during the forties, having been the mother of
these children : Jacob, who is a farmer in Jackson county, Ohio ; John,
who died in that county as a farmer and left a family; Phoebe, who
married Henry Baker and resides in Saline county, Illinois ; and Henry
J., the father of George L. Gahm. Jacob Gahm came to the United
States and settled in Jackson county, Ohio, was married three times here
and died in 1883, having been engaged in agricultural pursuits. Henry
J. Gahm was born in Jackson county, Ohio, in 1848, and grew up abso-
lutely without mental training in school, being able neither to read nor
write when he reached manhood. It is a strange commentary upon fair
Ohio, for universal education is one thing for which that state stands.
However, conditions sometimes control in opposition to constant tempta-
tions to the god of learning, and Henry J. Gahm 's school was the school
of hard work. His task lay frequently in the wood, where, with axe
or grubbing hoe, he dealt the forest its death blows and helped to bring
under cultivation the soil which was the support of the old folks at
home. When he went out into the world, observation taught him many
things of value, and it is not surprising to know that he was able suc-
cessfully to cope with his fellows and literally to carve a place for himself
among the modest tradesmen of his community. Coming to Saline county
in 1882, he settled on a farm near Galatia, being engaged in agriculture
until 1890, when he moved to Ridgeway, there entering the merchandise
business and later purchasing a livery and engaging in dealing in horses.
He has continued to reside there to the present time and is respected and
esteemed by all who know him as a man who has been the architect of
his own fortunes. Mr. Gahm married Anna Mary Motz, daughter of
John Motz, from Katzweiler, Germany, another Rhine city, and these
children have been born to this union: John Jacob, assistant cashier of
the Johnson City State Bank and married to Millie Stricklin ; Frank K.,
who is traveling for I. Gains & Company, of Evansville, Indiana ; George
L. ; and Gallic, who married C. C. Shewmaker, of Ridgway, Illinois.

George L. Gahm was educated in the district schools in Ridgway
and in Fairfield, Illinois. He finished no prescribed course and can be
said to have had only a good common-school education. He began his



1558 HISTORY OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

business career as a humble employe of the Gallatin County Bank at
Ridgway, and was both a clerk and bookkeeper under the direction of
D. K. Widemann, and acquired a splendid foundation for a commercial
life during the four years he was in the bank. Leaving that institution,
Mr. Gahm spent a year as merchant's clerk in Eldorado, Illinois, with
C. P. Burentt & Sons, but then returned to banking and took charge
of the bank at Thompsonville, Illinois, the affairs of which he continued
to conduct for three years. On February 2, 1905, Mr. Gahm came to
Johnson City and accepted the cashiership of the reorganized bank of
which the Johnson City State Bank is the successor, and has contri-
buted very materially to the development of a strong financial institution
here. The president of this bank, Peter Wastier, is one of the most cap-
able business men of this section, and there are other stock-holders who
have amply demonstrated their financial ability.

The Gahms have ever comported themselves as unassuming citizens,
have allied themselves with Democracy for governmental reasons, have
not desired political preferment, and by training are connected with the
Lutheran church. George L. Gahm is an Elk of Marion Lodge, No. 800,
and he and his father are Chapter Masons, while Jacob and Frank have
only the master degrees. All of the members of this old family are well
and favorably known here, and in whatever walk of life they have been
placed have distinguished themselves by their strict integrity and in-
dustry.

On June 22, 1898, George L. Gahm was married to Miss Anna D.
Combs, daughter of Dr. G. W. and Hannah (Hemphill) Combs, whose
other children were: Professor Fuller Combs, a teacher in the city
schools of Spokane, Washington; Samuel, who is engaged in farming
near Ridgway, Illinois; George E., of the same address; Agnes, who
married J. H. Campbell and resides at Greenup, Illinois; and Miss
Ella. Mr. and Mrs. Gahm have an interesting daughter, Mary Eliza-
beth, who was born in 1904.

MAX PRILL. How proud a man must be when he can point to his
own hands and say, "You, together with that curious mechanism men
call my brain, made me what I am!" Is there any one so justified in
displaying vanity as a man who has been the arbiter of his destiny, who
has had no one to interpose themselves between himself and Fate, who
has made his own decisions, fought his own fights, and reached the top,
unassisted by any human agency? Such a man is Max Prill, of Cen-
tralia, Illinois. Coming of German stock, it is not surprising that he
should possess the industry and dogged perseverance of that race. He
also inherited the philosophical turn of mind which gave him the power
of clear thinking and logical reasoning. These traits, together with the
knowledge that he gained of men as he grew in years, have helped to make
him one of the most successful business men in Centralia and one of
the leaders of the Democratic party in the state of Illinois. He came
to Centralia fresh from Germany, and the first business enterprise that
he put his hand to was a success. From that time on he has steadily
advanced until now he is not only a wealthy man, but, better than that,
the homesick young German has become one of the men upon whom Cen-
tralia depends, one of those whom she trusts to rule, knowing that he
will do so honestly and wisely.

Max Prill was born in Germany, on the 25th of December, 1860. He
was the son of Andrew and Matilda (Mueller) Prill, who were both
natives of Germany. Andrew Prill was a successful mill-owner, and a
man of sterling character, but he is only a vague memory to his son
Max, for he died in 1869, when the boy was only nine years old. He



HISTORY OP SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 1559

served in the army three years, and both he and his wife were members
of the Evangelical church. They spent all of their lives in Germany,
and reared a family of eleven children, of whom all but three are dead.
Mrs. Prill outlived her husband, dying in 1882. Of his ancestry Max
Prill knows very little, for he lost both of his parents before he had
reached the age where he thought of such things.

Max Prill received what knowledge he obtained at the hands of
school masters before his fourteenth year, for at that time he began to
support himself. For six years he worked at various occupations in
Germany, and later served three years in the Emperor's Guards in the
City of Berlin. Then, his mother having died the year before, he con-
cluded to come to America. He came to Illinois in 1883, and settled in
Centralia, where he opened a hotel. The honest business methods of the
young German, and his warm and genial disposition, brought him many
patrons, and business soon began to prosper. He managed this hotel
until 1897, and then he was made agent for the Sehlitz Brewing Com-
pany, and he wholesaled beer for the above concern. He is now presi-
dent of the Centralia Ice and Cold Storage Company, one of the most
prosperous corporations in the city, and was also for several years a
director of the Centralia Building & Loan Association. His business
ability is unquestioned, and no matter what venture he undertakes it
seems to come out successfully.

It is in the political field that Mr. Prill has gained the widest repu-
tation. He is a Democrat and has been one ever since he arrived in Cen-
tralia. He began to take an active part in politics as soon as he became
a citizen of the United States, and has never ceased since that time to
fight for the success of the Democratic party. He is now an alderman,
for fourteen years having held this office, and he was reelected for two
more years. From this it is evident that his principles admit of no
frauds being played on the people, for, though the people may be fooled
for a few years, they can not be fooled forever, and had he not played
fair with his constituents they would have discovered it long ere this. In
1911 he ran for state senator but was defeated by one hundred and forty
votes. In his own township he was victorious by over three hundred
votes, whereas before the township had always polled a Republican ma-
jority of five hundred. Another evidence of his popularity. He is the
present Democratic candidate for state senator from the Forty-second
district of Illinois, and since receiving the nomination for this high posi-
tion he has been the recipient of numerous letters of congratulation and
endorsement from prominent men. For two years he has served as a
member of the state central committee, for many years has been a mem-
ber of the county Democratic committee, and is now the chairman of the
Marion county Democratic central committee.

Mr. Prill clings to the memories of his Fatherland, and believes that
one can be a better citizen of the United States if he does not forget the
country of his birth. He, therefore, is a prominent member of the Ger-
man order known as the Independent Order of Treubund. He is also
grand secretary for the Illinois branch of this order, and also president
of the Centralia Turn Verein, the leading German organization of the
city. He is a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Eagles and also the



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 73 of 98)