Matilda Johnson Plews.

Some interesting Menard County homes online

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South of Greenview, Route 29

This was a large stock and grain farm. It has been said that the Potawat-
ami Indians annually made sugar at Sugar Grove. Perhaps this prompted Har-
mon Marbold as a side line to m ak e use of the grove of maple trees on his
farm. A news item in the March 1, 1907 issue of the Petersburg Observer
states: "Over 1100 trees are tapped, 800 more could have been tapped had the
supply of buckets not given out. The output annually is something over 3000
pounds of sugar, and 550 gallons of syrup".

The house John H. Marbold built stands vacanttoday. The house and farm
are owned by Mr. and Mrs. Carl Miller of Greenview.


Mosfers House

Squire Davis Masters and his wife Lucinda Young Masters, who lived on
a farm six miles northof Petersburg, gave this home to their son Hardin
Wallace Masters, a young lawyer, when he was elected States Attorney
of Menard county. Before Masters became a candidate for States Attorney,
the family lived on a farm near Atterberry. The family moved into this little
white frame house in the early 1870 's. Here the family lived until 1881 when
they moved to Lewistown.

Hardin Masters married Emma Jane Dexter and they were the parents
of Edgar Lee Masters, Madeline Masters (Stone), Thomas Davis Masters, who
was born in this house, and little Alexander, whose death occured in this house
when he was five years old^

Edgar Lee Masters was born in Garnet, Kansas in 1869. When he was 13
years old the family moved to Lewistown. Here he grew to manhood, attended
Knox College, and studied law in his father's law office. He eventually went
to Chicago where he practiced law and wrote the renowned Spoon River Anthol-
ogy, Mitch Miller, and many other books which made him one of America's
outstanding poets. As he became more engrossed in writing he gave up his law
practice and moved to New York.

Edgar Lee Masters was twice married. His first wife was Miss Helen
Jenkins. Three children were born to this marriage: Hardin Wallace Masters,
Madeline Masters (Gebhart), and Marcia Masters (Schmid). He was married
the second time to Miss Ellen Coyne. They had one son, Hilary Masters.

Edgar Lee Masters died in 1950. His remains were returned to Peters-
burg for burial in Oakland cemetery.

The real estate upon which this home now stands was purchased by the
city of Petersburg, and by it dedicated on September 20, 1960, for the purpose
of this Edgar Lee Masters MemoriaL Shortly thereafter the house was moved
from its original location at 528 Monroe Street, which was needed for public
school purposes, to this site, restored and placed in its present condition.

Where the house is now located stood the old Harris Opera House, a two-
story brick structure, erected by the Masonic fraternity in connection with the
Harris Guards, at a cost of $10,000.





Corner Jackson and Eighth Street, Petersburg


McNeely Home

Hon. Thompson Ware McNeely and his wife M. Henrietta Dirickson Mc-
Neely purchased a block of ground from Amory K. Johnson at the south
edge of the city, which was covered with blackberry briers and oak
trees, and built a home which they called "Edgewood" because of the wooded
grove which extendedjust south of the block, 30 acres of which were also owned
by Mr. McNeely. The house was built in 1876, the contractor being John Car-
ver, who built many homes in this community.

Mr. McNeely came to Petersburg from Jacksonville where he was born
in 1835. His father and mother were natives of Kentucky. After coming to
Menard county, Mr. McNeely lived for a time with the Robert Conover family
near Tallula, until his father, Robert McNeely moved to Petersburg and
engaged in the mercantile business. His store was located on the west side
of the square. After being employed by his father for a short time, he attended
school in Peoria and Galesburg where he studied law. After being admitted to
the bar he enteredthe law department of the University of Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1868 T. W. McNeely was elected on the Democratic ticket as a member
of Congress from the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois, serving two
terms in Washington, since he was reelected in 1870. It was in Washington
that he became a close friend of William Jennings Bryan, who visited in the
McNeely home many times.

Mrs. McNeely was the daughter of Col. and Mrs. L. L. Dirickson of Berlin,
Maryland. The McNeelys' had one daughter. Miss Betty, who married Nelson
Horner Greene of Tallula.

The house, a two-story white frame, has a hipped roof and is crowned by
a cupola. Eight of the ten rooms in the house have fireplaces, one of which is
onyx, the other seven marble, one being hand-carved and was imported from
Italy by the McNeelys. The original plastering in this house is very ornate
with molded cornices and ceiling medallions, differing in each room. The
woodwork is of walnut, the walnut stairway extending to the third floor.

After Mr. and Mrs. McNeely moved to a smaller home, the house and
adjoining land became the property of JohnHurie. For many years this house
stood vacant.

The house passed through various ownerships and in 1944 came into the
possession of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas V. Plews, who like the original owners
took delight in its handsome formality, which they were able to restore.

Dr. Plews was born in Cobourg, Ontario. After graduating from Queens
University at Kingston, Ontario, he practiced medicine in Brantford, Ontario
for a time, coming from there to Petersburg in 1926. Dr. Plews was a 33 De-
gree Mason. Since his death in 1962, the house has been occupied by Mrs,
Plews and her sister. Miss Ruth Johnson.


316 West Washington Street, Petersburg


Montgomery House

Shis little brick house stands at the corner of Fifth and Antle streets,
and was built in 1855 by Benjamin Montgomery. Little is known of this
family, only that his wife was named Priscilla, and that in 1866 they sold
the house to James S. Bryant. In 1886 after Mr. Montgomery's death, Mrs.
Montgomery removed to Brownsville, California, with her daughter, Mrs.
Jennie Smith, and died there in 1888.

The timbers, floors and walls are very substantial, and of interest is
the paneled living room where each wide panel has been outlined with a tiny
design, the design being stained a darker finish. The old walnut fireplace has
been bricked up in recent years. The first shingles on this house were "cut
shingles" of oak and walnut.

James Sims Bryant and his wife Arteceia Bryant were members of one of
the oldest families of Petersburg. James Bryant was a blacksmith and wagon
maker, making many ofthe implements used on the farms by the early settlers.
The blacksmith shop stood where the Standard Oil Station is now located, and
was later operated by Hardy S. Peterson. Just east of the old blacksmith shop
at one time stood the old Presbyterian Church which was built in 1841, one of
the main organizers of this church being Dr. John Allen. In 1881 it was pur-
chased by the Bryants. Afterthis church was torn down a building was erected
where the Bryants made their wagons and buggies. They were built entirely
and painted in this shop.

Mr. and Mrs.Bryantweretheparentsof four children, Samuel, Cornelius,
Douglas and Lucy Anna (Lemley).

Douglas Bryant followed the blacksmith business and as Samuel Bryant
grew to manhood he also associated himself with his father and became an
expert mechanic. At the death of his father he became head of the thriving
firm and carried on the business for many years. As he grew older the paint
shop was removed to a small building west of his house.

Many people will remember the mural painted by Samuel Bryant in the
Menard County Circuit Court room, which remainedthere for many years. He
also designed and painted the Honor Roll of World War I veterans of Menard
county which stands in the hall of the Menard County Court House.

Because of his knowledge of history of Petersburg and through a desire
that people know more of that history, Samuel Bryant wrote several articles
of historical interest which were published in the Petersburg Observer, and
treasured by a great many people.

Samuel Bryant, after living in this house for nearly 60 years, moved
across the street and a half block to the south to the house now owned by Mr.
and Mrs. Leslie Miller, where he lived with his sister, Mrs. Lemleyc Here
Sam Bryant died in 1925.

This home is now owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Loren Anderson^
They are the parents of eight children, Edwin who died in 1965, Allen, Gertrude
(Cooney), Myrtle (Williams), Opal (Cox), Lacona (Pierson), Edna (Brown) and
Jessie (Drummond).




Morfin Neff House

<^^ he first 80-acre landgrantwherethis house stands was obtained in 1829
/ "> by Felix G. Greene. In 1829 William Greene came into possession of the
^^ 80 acres east, and in 1836 sold 19 acres to Mentor Graham. Felix
Greene later sold 40 acres to Mentor Graham.

It is believed this house was built by Martin Neff, a native of Virginia. In
1883 the family moved from this community and the farm was sold to Henry
PYank Cupp, who was also a native of Virginia. The Cupp family lived here for
16 years when they moved to Ava, Illinois.

This house, which is located about three and a half miles southwest of Pe-
tersburg, is of great interest due to the fact that incorporated into the house
is the old log Baptist church which was built in 1826, and was used during the
week as a subscription school house. It was in this log building that Mentor
Graham taught school. The church stood one half mile to the south and was
moved to this location. It is a large room, and is said to be warm in the winter
and cool in the summer. The massive sills in this room denote its extreme
age. This house has seven rooms downstairs and four upstairs.

The home was eventually sold to Rev. George Fades, who along with op-
erating his farm, acted as a part time minister in the Talluia Baptist Church.
Rev. Fades was first married to Miss Amanda Lowe. They were the parents
of thirteen children: William (married FdithDerry), Mae (Zack Minor), Minnie
(James Minor), Louella (Lee King and later Thos. Fades), Wolford (Mary Burk-
holder), Mary (Anhur Bast), Fstill (Goldie Purvines), Irving (Grace Antle),
Thomas, Cedric (Geraldine Bast), Thelma (William Orth) and two children who
died in infancy. Mr. Fades was married the second time to Miss Amelia Hend-
ricker. After Mr. and Mrs. Fades moved to Talluia to make their home, the
home was occupied by Mr, and Mrs. Irving Fades and their two daughters,
Marie and Joan.

This farm was later owned by Isaac Meece, who sold the farm to Mandle-
bert W. Baker. The farm at that time consisted of over 300 acres.

Today this house is owned by Mr. and iMrs. Alfred LaBarre of near Spring-
field and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Reimer and their two sons Kenneth
and Roger and Mr. Reimer's mother, Mrs. Nettie Reimer.



Pillsbury Home

^"^ he old grist and woolen mill which was built in 1840 and owned by Hardin
{ 'S Bale, who later sold a half interest to Samuel Hill, was located at the
^-^ corner of Main and Spring Street, (now Seventh and Lincoln AveJ This
large three-story mill burned to thegroundinl86o, at a loss of 8150,000. The
land where this mill stood, as well as the remainder of the block of ground, was
purchased by Joseph H. Pillsbury. Two houses stood on this block, one a brick
house which is now owned by Misses Opal and Zelia Power, and a frame house
which was torn down manyyears ago. The alley which now runs north and south
was not opened up until 1908. A large ditch was located on the mill quarter of
this block, but was later tiled and used as a horse lot.

The Pillsbury family lived in the small brick house which stands just east
of the Baptist Church, and is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs, Albert Doyen. Here
the family lived until 1872 when they moved into their new home, a two-story
white frame house which was built by Mr. Pillsbury. This house stands at the
corner of Eighth and Jefferson and is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Bert

Joseph H. Pillsbury was a nativeof New Hampshire and was born in 1830,
the son of Alpha and Margaret Caverno Pillsbury. His father died when he was
a year old. He cam e to Menard county in 1836 with his mother where he grew to
manhood. Mrs. Margaret Pillsbury was married a second time to James Golds-
by, the first sheriff of Menard county.

Mr. Pillsbury became a school teacher, teaching in the first free school
in Menard county. He studied law under T. L. Harris, was admitted to the bar,
and was elected County Judge of Menard county for two terms. He also served
as Police Magistrate, County Commissioner and Master in Chancery.

In 1861 Joseph H. Pillsbury was married to Miss Susan Morris Gardner
of Springfield. Her father was Hiram Gardner, after whom Gardner Township
in Sangamon county was named. They were the parents of five children: Alice,
John and Mary, who died in childhood, Joseph B. and Susan.

Joseph H. Pillsbury died in 1899 and Mrs. Pillsburj- in 1906.

Joseph B. Pillsbury married Miss Emma Cooper, who was a granddaugh-
ter of John Bennett who built the home which is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs,
William Menichetti. They were theparents of three children: George, who died
in childhood, Lyman and Ross.

Lyman Pillsbury, who became County Clerk of Menard county, was mar-
ried to Miss OUie Thomson. They were the parents of Richard Adair, Glenn
Thomson, Rozena Ann (Binger), Howard Cooper and Earl Lyman Pillsbury,

Ross Pillsbury married Miss Inez Bradley of Belle Plains, Kansas, They
moved to Chicago where they have resided for several years. They are the
parents of Donald Arthur, Mary Helen and Theodore Ross Pillsbury.



Purkapile House

^1 ames Purkapile, who was born in Greene county, Kentucky, inherited a
/ tract of land on Route 97, about three miles south of Petersburg, from
<y his father, John Purkapile. The deed to the original land was signed by
John Quincy Adams in 1824. This eight-room house was built in 1868 by James
Purkapile, the brick being burned near what is now the Horace Nance farm. The
mortar and the lime camefrom Rock Creek, as did the large rocks used in the

James Purkapile was thrice married. His first marriage was to Miss Polly
Goldsby. They had one daughter who died in childhood.

His second marriage was to Miss Annette Nance. This marriage was
blessed with ten children: William R., who married Ella Carman; Frank; Sarah
Jane, who first married Thomas Armstrong who died in the Civil War, and then
George Weatherby; John, who was badly wounded in the Civil War; Eton, killed
in the Civil War; Emma, who married Will Spears; Annette, who married
Thomas Rutledge; Charles, who married Mary Ellen Stith; Elizabeth and Mar-
iette, who died in childhood. Charles and Mary Ellen Stith were the parents of
four children: Sudie Purkapile who married Horace Nance; Nina, who married
Palmer Nolting; Kate and James who died in childhood.

His third marriage was to Mrs. Catherine Houghton Nance. To this mar-
riage one daughter, Mary Ellen (known as Nell), was born. Mentor Graham was
a private tutor to little Mary Ellen Purkapile.

Mary Ellen Purkapile was married to James S. Miles, a young school
teacher, who taught in various schools in Menard county. Following the death
of Mr. and Mrs. Purkapile, Mr. and Mrs, Miles became the owners of this
home. Mr. and Mrs. Miles were the parents of three children: James S. Miles
Jr., Anna Catherine, and one child who died in infancy.

The porch across the front ofthis house was added by Mr. and Mrs. Miles,
and at one time this house was one of the finest homes in the county. When the
marriage of Miss Anna Catherine Miles to John Ainsworth of Mason City
occurred, the reception was held here, and among the many guests who attend-
ed was Governor Len Small, who was a close friend of the Miles family.

A huge walnut tree stood in the northeast corner of the front yard. At the
back of the yard stood a cider press. It was under this tree that Abraham Lin-
coln would stop to rest, and drink cider, served by the Purkapile family. This
large tree was destroyed by a storm in later years, the walnut logs were saved,
and from them canes were made, with Lincoln's profile carved on the handles^,
The canes were carved by Frank Phillips.

Today the house is occupied by James S. Miles and his son, James Miles


Time has taken its toll of this old house, yet despite its threatening dis-
solution, it is still one of Menard county's important landmarks.





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William C. Smoof Home

5 his house is located on the rich rolling prairie between Petersburg and
Greenview. It was built by a prosperous landowner and stockraiser,
William C. Smoot nearly a century ago. Of brick construction, with
arched windows and carved modillions under the eaves, this house is striking
in appearance. William C. Smoot was also the owner and builder of Hotel Smoot
in Petersburg, now the Hotel New Salem, He also built the two-story brick
apartment building which is located just north of Hotel New Salem.

William C. Smoot was born in Kentucky in 1830, the son of Coleman and
Rebecca Wright Smoot. Coleman Smoot was born in 1791 and Rebecca Smoot
in 1795. In 1832 they came to Menard county and settled on the farm where this
house now stands. Coleman Smoot bought this land from David Onstott who
came to this community in 1825. Onstott moved from Menard county to Ark-
ansas. The log cabin which Coleman Smoot erected stood on a knoll about one
quarter mile north and west of the present house.

William Smoot married Catherine Engle, daughter of William Engle of
Sugar Grove precinct. They startedhousekeepinginaframe house which stood
east of the present house, and when the large brick house was built, this frame
house was moved across the road to the west. They were the parents of seven
children: Coleman; Mary, who married John W. Terhune; Chairles, who mar-
ried Tempe Clark; John, who married Minnie Brooks; Anna, who married Dr.
Thomas Powell Antle; Edward, who married Eva Summers; and Becky, who
died in childhood.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Smoot were the parents of four children: Harry,
Marshall, Paul and William Clay. Mr. and Mrs. John Smoot had three children:
Mabel, Harold and Catherine. Dr. and Mrs. Antle had one son: William Smoot
Antle. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Smoot had two children: William and Mary.

Following the death of Mr. and Mrs, William Smoot, the house was oc-
cupied by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Smoot and their two children.

This house, with its spacious Victorian rooms, is now the home of Mr. and
Mrs. Arthur Johnston.




George Speors House

^^ he life story of Mary Neely is of such interest, that it is small wonder

(^ that Putnam's Magazine and Harper's Weekly each published the story

V-/ of her life. Like a saga of Indian days, Mary Neely and her father were

captured by Indians, her father was killed and Mary remained a captive for

three years before she was able to escape.

Mary Neely was born in South Carolina in 1761, the daughter of William
and Margaret Neely. The Neely s were the parents of ten children. Desirous of
moving his family to the state of Tennessee, Mr. Neely, accompanied by his
sixteen year old daughter Mary, joined with six other pioneers, emigrating to
the state of Tennessee to make preparations for the arrival of their families.
Twenty other families had settled in the community. It was here that her fath-
er was killed and Mary was taken as a captive. She escaped in the state of
Michigan three years later.

Mary Neely was married to George Spears, a Revolutionary soldier, in
1785. In 1824 they sold their possessions inGreen county, Kentucky and came
to Sangamon county (now Menard) Illinois, and settled at Clary's Grove, about
three miles east of Tallula. Clary's Grove was named for John Clary, the first
permanent settler in Menard county who settled therein 1819. Clary sold this
farm land to Thomas Watkins,Watkins later sellingthe farm to George Spears.
Here Mr. and Mrs. Spears built a log cabin. The country was sparsely settled
at that time, friendly Indians coming every fall to hunt.

Mr. and Mrs. Spears were the parents of the following children: Hannah,
who married James White, for whom White Cemetery north of Tallula is
named; William Spears; Mary Spears; John Spears; Solomon Spears; David
Spears; Elizabeth Spears and George Spears Jr.

In 1827, their son George Spears Jr., started burning brick on their farm
for a new house. Clay for the bricks was tramped by oxen. The house was con-
structed a short distance from their log cabin. Upon completion, the elder
George Spears and his wife Mary and the George Spears Jr. family moved into
the house on New Year's Day in 1829. The rooms to the north were occupied
by the elder Spears' while the rooms to the south were occupied by the younger
family. Each family had separate basements.

This house was conspicuously grand in its day, being the first brick house
built in Menard county andthe second brick house within the territory of Sang-
amon, Menard, Mason, Cass and Logan counties. People traveled for miles to
see this twelve room house when it was completed. This house has eight rooms
downstairs, four upstairs, and two large halls. The woodwork is of walnut and
the flooring blue ash. Five of the six simply carved walnut mantels remain in
the house today. Interior walls are thirteen inches in thickness, and in the
basement one may observe the manj large straight logs used as joists. Laths
are hand hewn and the plaster was mixed with hog hair.

George Spears Jr. married Maria Blank enship and they were the parents
of Mary Conover Spears who married William T. Beekman; Elizabeth Spears
who married George C. Spears; William Spears, known as "P^iddler Bill";
John Q. Spears; and Henry C. Spears, a Civil War veteran.

George Spears Sr. died in 1838. His widow continued to live in this house
until her death in 1852 at the age of 91 years. J. Colby Beek'man of Peters-
burg was a great -great -grand son of George and Mary Neely Spears.


Mr. and Mrs, Spears were buried in the Spears cemetery on a knoll west
of the house, but were later removed to Greenwood Cemetery west of Tallula,
where their remains rest on the east slope of the cemetery.

The Spears family was instrumental in or gani zing the Clary's Grove
Church, which was one of the first churches in the county, being organized on
Christmas Day in 1824. Members met in varioushomes in the community un-
til the little log church was built. This congregation later built the Baptist
Church in Tallula in 1871.

The cabin that the Spears family- had occupied prior to moving into their
new home was moved to the village of New Salem to a lot which George Spears
Jr, had purchased there for $14. He later sold the cabin to Samuel Hill of New
Salem fame for S500. After the people of New Salem moved to Petersburg and
the surrounding communit\, the cabin was again moved and stood on a lot near
the west end of Sheridan Road in Petersburg, where the home of the late Lloyd
Chalcraft now stands. It was eventually purchased by Almon Hurd and moved
across the road about a quarter of a mile north from the Hurd home, now the
home of Mrs. H. S. Peterson, west of this city. Mrs. Peterson is the daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. Hurd.

This farm remained in theSpears family from 1824 until 1952 when it was
sold to Johnll. Walker of Ashland. This house is now owned by the John Walker
estate and is occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Estel Tedder and family.

John Holey Speors House

Situated about three miles east of Tallula,isthis beautiful two-story red
brick home, designed in the Georgian colonial style, built by John Haley
Spears in 1840.

Mr. Spears married Louisa Radford and they were the parents of seven
children: John Haley Spears Jr., Joe Spears, Frank Spears, Letitia Spears,
Elizabeth Spears, Mattie Spears and May Spears.

The John Haley Spears family later moved from this farm to the home
which had belonged to Robert Perkins, a large frame house, located about two
miles east of Tallula on Route 123, now owned by the Mrs. Lynn Greene heirs.

After Mr. and Mrs. John Haley Spears moved from this home, it was oc-
cupied by Mr. and Mrs. George C. Spears. Mrs. Spears was the former Eliza-
beth Spears, daughter of George Speeirs Esq., and was a first cousin to her

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Online LibraryMatilda Johnson PlewsSome interesting Menard County homes → online text (page 5 of 7)