John Carroll Power.

The History of Menard and Mason Counties, Illinois online

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reside shortly after marrying, at which time this was but a wild and desolate country ;
the trials and hardships of a pioneer life are yet fresh in their memory ; they began in
life together, with willing hands and determined minds, but no means ; their honeymoon
was spent quite differen'ly from the custom of the present day ; they set out on a wed-
ding trip from Clary's Grove to where they now live, and together built their first
house, which was a log cabin, 12x14 ; it was completed the same week, and they settled
in their new cabin home -with a happiness not surpassed in any home ; with industry
and perseverance, they have gradually built themselves up to their present high stand-
ing ; after assisting their children to property, they yet have 106 acres of land, and
one of the finest farm residences in Menard Co. ; they are the parents of seven chil-
dren, three only of whom are now living, viz. Mary M. (now Mrs. G. E. Boston, of
Morgan Co.), Winfield S. and James E. ; the two latter remain upon the old home-
stead ; as a family, they are highly respected.

GEORGE W. CODINGTON, farmer ; P. 0. Tallula ; son of Joseph and Jane
E. (Leeper) Codington ; was born where he now lives Oct. 11, 1831, upon the old
homestead where his parents settled in 1831. They came from Barren Co., Ky. ; they
raised a family of eight children, and improved a large tract of land ; they were indus-
trious, well-to-do and much-respected citizens. They died and are buried upon the
homestead farm. His father died April 13, 1863, at the age of 70, and his mother,
June 12, 1866. They left a good property to their ^children. The subject of this sketch
owns 312 acres of the old farm. He married Miss Mary A., daughter of George G.
and Elizabeth (Clark) Waring, Nov. 26, 1868. She was born July 3, 1846; they
have two children George H. and Amanda F.

JOHN A. DINKEL; P. O. Tallula; was born in Baden, Germany, Sept. 19,
1838; son of Philip and Catharine (Spingler) Dinkel ; was brought to this country by
his parents in 1847, coming directly to Springfield, 111., and locating upon a farm where
he was raised and schooled, and where his father raised a famjly of five children. His
father died there in August, 1857, and there his mother still survives. The subject of
this sketch entered the army with the 10th I. V. Cav., and served three years and three
months. He participated in a number of engagements and skirmishes, escaping without
injury. After the war, he returned and engaged in the cabinet business, which he has
since followed. He married Miss Elizabeth Stahl, of Springfield, May 13, 1865 ; she
was born March 26, 1847. They removed to Tallula in September, 1869, and became
manufacturer and dealer in furniture and undertaking, which he has since continued.
They are the parents of six children Elizabeth, born Sept. 13, 1867 ; Sophia, May
13, 1870, died Dec. 31, 1874; John, born Aug. 31, 1872; Frederick, June 4, 1875;
George S. and William W., born Oct. 3, 1878 ; William W. died July 29, 1879. Mr,
and Mrs. Dinkel are members of the Baptist Church.

ISRAEL FROGLEY, farmer; P. 0. Tallula; was born near Oxfordshire,
England, July 25, 1819; son of Israel and Elizabeth (Phillips) Frogley. He is the
.second of a family of six, and came to this country in 1840, and remained in the. East-
ern States until 1856, when he and family came to Illinois, locating in Menard Co. ; in
1861, lie bought his present home farm, locating upon it in 1862. He now owns 358 acres
of land, with fine farm improvements, the result of his own energy. His first wife was
Miss Susan Blinko, of England. They were married March 27, 1850; she died in
1851, leaving one child John B. His present wife was Miss Susan McArd, of the
city of Brooklyn. They were married Dec. 26, 1854, and have raised a family of six
children Israel, George, William (deceased), Elizabeth, Amelia, Mary E.

WILLIAM G. GREENE, farmer and banker, Tallula; son of William and
Elizabeth (Graham j Greene, who were of English descent. His grandfather, Jarvis
Greene, was one of the pioneers of Kentucky, emigrating there from North Carolina



710 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES:

while the country was yet a wilderness ; he was killed by the Indians during the battle
of Blue Lick, in August, 1781. It was in a fort at Bryant Station, erected by Daniel
Boone as a protection against Indians, that William Greene, father of the subject of
this sketch, was born ; his early life was spent in the Kentucky wilds, and at the age
of 21, he married, remaining in Kentucky some ten years; then removed to Overton,
Tenn., and engaged in farming, locating on the Cumberland, near the mouth of Obeys
River. It was at this place that William G. Greene was born, Jan. 27, 1812. His
father remained about fifteen years in Tennessee. At that time, the tide of emigration
was turned toward the fertile and beautiful lands of Illinois, and Mr. Greene resolved
to try his fortune in the new country ; the farm was accordingly disposed of. a few
household goods and other articles were packed together in a wagon and the family,
the younger members in the rude conveyance and the older boys trudging along on foot,
started on their northward journey. The region to which they were directing their steps
was not yet known by the name of Illinois. The French settlers of St. Louis had
bestowed upon it the name of St. Gamil, and Sangama, Sangaman and Sangamon were
variations of this. The family reached a point in what is now Menard Co., near where
Tallula now stands, and there settled and purchased from one Royal Potter a farm
This spot was afterward the residence of the elder Mr. and Mrs. Greene until their deaths.
William waS a boy of 9 when the family made Illinois their home ; thenceforth his
history was closely identified with that of the Prairie State. His early education was
such as the rude advantages of a community destitute of any system of public instruc-
tion could furnish. The first school he attended was kept in a log schoolhouse, built
by the combined efforts of the neighborhood ; it stood on Rock Creek, and the school
was taught by a man named Compton. He afterward was a pupil of T. M. Fletcher,
one of the pioneer teachers in that section of the State, who taught under the old shed
of a band-mill. But though the facilities for obtaining an education were necessarily
very restricted, to the active mind of young Greene they were enough to form the
basis of a sound and substantial education, studying as he did in the summer, under
the shade of the wildwood, and in winter, by the flickering light of the back-log fire.
The house of Greene's father was within a few miles of Salem, and when Abraham
Lincoln made that his home in 1831, Greene became one of his acquaintances and &
friendship was formed that lasted till the. death of the latter. Lincoln was then 21 and
Greene three years younger, but, as far as education was concerned, the latter had the
advantage, and from him Lincoln learned his first lesson in English grammar. In
1832, Greene laid aside his studies and enlisted in the Black Hawk war. Lincoln was i
chosen Captain of the company raised at Salem. They served their country for twenty
days, but they were days characterized by hardship rather thin glory. It was in 1832, a
when Mr. Greene was 20, that he entered into his first speculation, which deserves f
mention, not only on account of its success as a first business venture, but by reason ot
its historical association with Lincoln, the incident being mentioned in detail by Hol-
land in his life of Abraham Lincoln and by other biographers of the distinguished
President. A man named Reuben Radford kept a small store in New Salem ; the " Clary's
Grove Boys," an organized band of desperadoes and a terror to the community, often
visited the village and kept Radford in constant alarm. He had kept the place two
or three weeks, when one night he went over to his brother-in-law's, a few miles away,
and left a younger brother. Jackson Radford, in charge, instructing him if the "Clary's
Grove Boys " came, not to let them have but two glasses of whisky apiece. That very
night they came ; they were refused the whisky and thereupon turned young Radford
out and helped themselves. Before they dispersed, the store was pretty well torn out
and the contents lay in a confused mass on the floor. It happened the next morning
Greene had started before daylight, with a bag of corn before him on a horse, to the old
mill, just below Salem, in order to be first with his turn. Just before reaching Salem,
he was passed by a man riding rapidly on horseback ; it was Radford, who had heard of
the fate of his grocery and was galloping to the scene. Greene arrived on the spot a
moment after Radford, just in time to hear him exclaim, '' I'll sell this to the first man
that makes me an offer." Greene rode up to the solitary window and sticking in his



TALLULA PRECINCT. 711

bead, and taking a hasty glance at the state of affairs, said, " I'll give you $400 for it."
The offer was at once accepted, with the understanding that the purchaser should have
six months in which to make payment. Greene met Lincoln a short distance from the
store and the latter proposed to go over and take an inventory of the contents ; this
was done when the value was found to amount to over $800. The same day, he sold
the store to Lincoln and a man named Berry ; they taking Greene's place on the note
for $400 and giving him, in addition, $265 in money and a fine horse, saddle and bridle,
belonging to Berry. Radford would not consent to the arrangement about the note unless
Greene became their security, to which at last he agreed. The business soon went to
pieces. Greene assisted Lincoln to close up the store and then, as surety, was com-
pelled to pay the note of $400 to Radford. Thus Lincoln became indebted to Greene
for that amount. In their conversation, this was invariably humorously alluded to as
the " National Debt." Six years later, when Mr. Greene had removed to Tennessee,
and Lincoln had become a lawyer in Springfield, the latter wrote him, stating that
he was ready to discharge the liabilities of himself and former partner to the
utmost farthing. The friendship between Greene and Lincoln was never interrupted.
Horse-racing was then one of the amusements common in tho vicinity of Salem and
Lincoln was frequently selected as judge in these races. The honesty of his decisions
gained for him the soubriquet of " Honest Abe," in bestowing which upon him Mr.
Greene bore his part. In 1833, Mr. Greene became a student of the Illinois College,
at Jacksonville. Leaving home with $20 in his pocket and a homespun suit of
clothes on his back, he determined to have an education if energy and economy could
carry him through. He entered the industrial department, where students were
paid 8 to 10 cents per hour for their labor. Here began a course of unflagging
industry, which was increased rather than diminished through the three years' course
at this institution, and in which was laid the solid foundation of a liberal educa-
tion. He worked every hour of the day not occupied by recitations and pursued
his studies far into the night; for Saturday's work he would receive seventy-five
cents ; he prepared his own food, which cost him thirty-five cents per week. He
was not long in attracting the attention of Dr. Edward Beecher, then President of
the school. His perfect lessons, his happy faculty of making clear the most puzzling
problems and his wonderful industry during working-hours, caused Dr. Beecher to
interview him on several occasions for the purpose of having him enter the theological
course, Beecher and Sturtevant promising to furnish him means to take him through to
graduation ; but he told them that the Lord had never called him to preach and, more-
over, he believed that in his case a self-earned education was essential to after success.
He aimed to clear a little more money every day than he spent, and so well had he em-
ployed his time that when he left school, at the end of three years, he had two good suits
of store clothes, eighty acres of land that he had entered and $60 in money, $40 more
than he had left home with. Richard Yates was a student in the institution at the
same time, and a lasting friendship was formed between the two. On one occasion,
whJe Yates was a guest of Greene's during a vacation, the latter took him up to
Salem to make him acquainted with Lincoln. They found him flat on his back on a
cellar door, reading a newspaper. Greene introduced the two, and thus the great War
Governor of Illinois and the great War President began their acquaintance. At the
conclusion of his college course, Mr. Greene went to Kentucky, near Danville, where
he first became a private tutor in the family of Mr. George Carpenter, a prominent
man of the neighborhood. He also taught a Grammar School by lectures for a time
with great success, and then went to Tennessee and took up his residence in White Co.
in the central part of the State. He here became Principal of the Priestley Academy.
It was during his residence here that he became acquainted with the lady who is now
his estimable wife ; her maiden name was Louisa II. White ; she was the daughter of
Woodson P. and Nancy White ; her father was one of the first citizens of the county,
and for several terms was a Representative in the State Legislature. Their marriage
was celebrated March 31, 1837; Mr. Greene was 25 and she 17 years of age. He
continued to teach school for a few months after his marriage and then returned to



712 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES:

Illinois, remaining eighteen mouths ; then again returned to Tennessee, and was
appointed Deputy County Sheriff. In 1842, he removed to Mississippi and settled at
Aberdeen, but, on account of the unhealthy climate, he resided there but six months
and then removed to Memphis, where, on a capital of a little more than $100, he
started a grocery and provision store. The two and a half years of his residence in
Memphis were occupied with this and other business operations in which he met with fav-
orable results and acquired a considerable amount of property. In the spring of 1845,
he returned to Illinois with his family, now consisting of wife and three children, each
of whom were bora in different .States. He purchased a farm in Mason Co., on Quiver
Creek, and began operations as a general land-dealer and farmer, in both of which he
was very successful. He sold his property in Mason Co. in 1853, and purchased the
farm near Tallula, on which he has ever since resided. Here he engaged largely in
farming and stock-dealing, meeting with a success similar to that which has characterized
almost every enterprise in which he has engaged. He has always farmed on the principle
that there are two ways of doing a thing. As he says himself, " Everything has two ends
a right end and a wrong end. If you begin at the wrong end, everything will go wrong ;
if you begin at the right end, the seasons, the elements, all Nature, become your helpers.
Every farmer should become rich if he works in harmony with Nature. I court her
with all the devotion a young husband brings to his bride. Nature is not a slave ; she
is a friend and an ally." In addition to agriculture, his attention of late years has
been directed in other channels. He has largely assisted in the development of the
railroad system of the State. He was one of the original Directors of the Tonica &
Petersburg Railroad, which has since become incorporated with the Jacksonville Divi-
sion of the Chicago & Alton Railroad. He was interested in building up several towns
along the line ; Mason City is one of these ; Greenview has its name from him, and he
was one of the original founders of Tallula. His keen business foresight brought him
in possession of several town sites alonj the route of the Chicago & Alton Railroad, and
afterward, when the towns became built up, he was enabled to realize a handsome return
from his investments. The Jacksonville Division was in a very precarious condition at
the conclusion of Fates' administration as President ; the whole enterprise, indeed, was
in serious danger of a collapse. Mr. Greene was at that time one.of the Directors, and
at the earnest solicitation of his colleagues, particularly Yates himself, consented to
assume for a time the Presidency. The energy and business sagacity which he brought
to his duties, were effectual in placing the road on a firmer basis than ever before known.
The company was saved from bankruptcy, and the judgment of the oth.er directors
thoroughly justified in assigning him the task. He was active in obtaiaing the charter of
the Springfield & North-Western Railroad, was one of the original Board of Directors and
its first President. It was largely through his energy that subscriptions for the build-
ing of the road were obtained and a part of the road constructed. Upon the road pass-
ing into the possession of the present lessee, Mr. Greene retired from the management.
Mr. Greene has never divided his forces but has given his energies supremely to busi-
ness. When Mr. Greene had decided on his life course, he threw overboard the solici-
tations of Lincoln and Yates and set himself to work at his chosen calling. He,
however, played an important part privately in one political campaign ; that p:irt was
not as a politician but as a friend. In 1859, Richard Yates was an aspirant for the
Governorship of [llinois, but Leonard Swett seemingly stood an equal chance for the
nomination. The canvass prior to the Convention was carried on with great warmth
and Yates was fearful of the result. Lincoln had established himself at Springfield
and, in his recent debates with Douglas, had earned a national reputation. As the
Convention day drew near, Yates felt that he must make a friend of Lincoln and
decided that their old companion Greens was able to manipulate the nutter to the satis-
faction of both; accordingly, Yates cam? to see Greene and told him he was certain ot
the nomination, provided Lincoln could be induced to " lean " to his side ; moreover,
that Lincoln stood a favorable chance for the Republican, nomination for President and
he asked Greene to interest Linooln in his favor in the race for Governor ; in return,
Yates would use his influence to bring Lincoln into prominence as a candidate for the



TALLULA PRECINCT. 713

Presidency in I860. Mr. Greene assented to the arrangement; they rode over to
Springfield and once more the three, who had made acquaintance at Salem a quarter of
a century before, stood together. Their circumstances had greatly changed since their
first meeting ; one had become an a :tive member of Congress and now, with high hopes,
was looking forward to the gubernatorial chair ; his college friend, aided only by his
energy and shrewdness, had hewn his way through obstacles, before which others would
have retreated, and raised himself to wealth and prominence ; the third was rapidly
growing into fame as a statesman. Little did any of them think what tremendous
issues were gathering around the path of one of that trio. Greene and Lincoln retired
to the consultation room of the office ; there Greene unfolded to Lincoln the desire of
Yates for his support. There had been a coolness between the two for some years, and
Lincoln was glad of an opportunity to lay the Christian's coal of fire on the head of
Yates. Greene next broached the Presidential matter ; he showed Lincoln the feasibility
of his aspirations, and revealed the plan of introducing him to the East ; Yates would
write Congressman George Briggs a letter and have him work up a call from the New
York Central Committee for Lincoln to deliver an address on the political condition of
the country at the Cooper Union. " In fact, Abe," continued Greene, " Dick considers
your destiny and his linked together, and that letter is. now on its way to New York."
Yates was nominated and elected ; Lincoln was invited to New York, and, in the follow-
ing May, received the Presidential nomination. * Mr. Greene voted for Yates for Gov-
ernor in 1859 and Lincoln for President in 1860. When the rebellion broke out, his
sympathies were warmly enlisted in support of the Administration, and Central Illinois
knew no stronger Union man than William G. Greene. Tnree of his sons enlisted in the
army and fought during the war. When, at the darkest hour of the struggle, the Govern-
ment called for money, with a firm confidence in the result which never forsook him, he
did not hesitate to do what he could to furnish the Government with means to carry on
its work. Upon the passage of the internal revenue law, considerable trouble was appre-
hended from its working in the Ninth Illinois District, in which Menard Co. was
embraced. President Lincoln selected his old friend Greene as the man above all others
to put the law in successful operation in the district. With some reluctance he accepted
the appointment, but, after the work of collecting the revenue was thoroughly organized
and the danger of conflict between the authorities and the people had passed, the office
was resigned. His friendship with President Lincoln was still maintained and he was
frequently his guest at Washington, where he always met with a cordial greeting. The
"President relied much on his judgment in giving correct statements of the condition of
popular sentiment throughout the country in regard to the war. In his own section,
his assistance was important in preventing threatened collisions between agents of the
Government and parties disaffected with war measures. His influence was always
sought by aspirants throughout the State for political appointments at the hands of the
President. He continued an earnest supporter of the Administration while Lincoln
remained in office, and, when at last the hand of the assassin finished the work of the
people's President, just as he had brought the country safely through the horrors of a
civil war, nons mourned more sincerely over his untimely grave or lavished richer honors
on his memory than his old-time friend, William G. Greene. Mr. Greene has been
closely identified with business enterprises near his home, and his energy and capacity
have done much toward the development of the manufacturing and commercial interests
of the county. In connection with Mr. J. A. Brahm, in September, 1866, he estab-
lished at Petersburg the first bank in Menard Co., known as the Banking House of
Brahni & Greene ; he also owns the South Valley Coil Shaft, of Petersburg, and is
one of the principal parties who have brought to their present successful operation the
woolen-mills of the same place. In the town of Petersburg he has ever taken a deep
interest, maintaining that it should be made the manufacturing center for which its
natural advantages adapt it. The growth of the town has afforded him peculiar grati-
fication. Mr. and Mrs. Greene have had nine children, six of whom are now living,
who bid fair to become worthy citizens of this or any other community in which they
may ultimately locate. The only daughter, Miss Katie, has just completed a classical



714 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES:

education at Stuttgart, Germany, where she has been for the last three years. Well
may Mr. and Mrs. Greene be proud of their only daughter, for beyond a doubt she is
the most accomplished lady of Central Illinois. We see in the life of William G.
Greene, a boy in the early times of Illinois, with very little aid from parents or any
other source, pursuing a life of honest industry, using his time to the best advantage,
dutifully aiding his parents in making their settlements in the new country, and edu-
cating himself and making and saving money and property at the same time. We find
him going to mill mounted upon the back of one of his father's sturdy farm horses,
buying for a mere nominal sum, of a man in despair, his store rifled by roughs, and
gelling it the same day at an advance of several hundred dollars to Abraham Lincoln,
the future President, then a young man ; we next see him at Illinois College, work-
ing his way, keeping up with hia classes and saving money; and now. a man honored
and still in the vigor of his old age, a very wealthy farmer and banker, in his quiet and
beautiful home, surrounded by his noble family. He is public spirited and liberal, and
a devoted Christian. Few men there are who can look back over their past life with more
satisfaction than Mr. Greene, who now in his ripe old age lives to see the usefulness and
prosperity of his children, who look to their parents with honor and pride, as they
have lived a noble life and climbed up from poverty, until now possessed of property



Online LibraryJohn Carroll PowerThe History of Menard and Mason Counties, Illinois → online text (page 82 of 110)