Notes on the History of Sullivan in 1853

John R. Eden, article reprinted in Moultrie County News, June 5, 1973.

               In a former article I gave a general view of the buildings in Sullivan, and their surroundings, when I located here in the summer of 1853.  In this I propose to show, in a general way, who resided in the village at the time, and the business in which they were engaged.  And in future articles I expect to give some account of the men with whom I became associated, in addition to their mere employment.

               In the brick building, heretofore referred to, where the Odd Fellows building now stands, John Perryman was engaged in the business of a merchant; he resided on the west side of Main street, where Gauger’s Lumber Yard is now located.  In the frame building east of the Perryman building fronting the public square from the south, Bushrod W. Henry and David Patterson, as partners, carried on mercantile business.  William B. Porter was their clerk.  Dr. W.B. Duffield had his office in a room of the same building in the upper story, and resided in a building now owned by George w. Hoke at the corner of Adams and Washington street.  I occupied the room with Dr. Duffield as my office, which was my first office in Sullivan.  William g. Haydon carried on a store in the two story frame building, then standing at the southeast corner of the public square.  Across the street north of this, where Cawood’s hardware store is now located, east of the public square, Lafayette Stewart carried on a general store in a one story frame building.  On the same street north of Stewart’s and fronting the public square from the east, Orange C. Martin carried on a mercantile business in a small frame building.  About that time Dr. William Kellar established his office in a one story frame building immediately north of Martin’s store.  The doctor resided in a two story frame building in Kellar’s addition on Monroe street, where the Byroms now reside, which was the best residence property in the village.

               On the north side of the street and north of and fronting the public square, was located at the east end, where Cummins hardware store now stands, a small frame building in which Keedy & Brown carried on a saloon.  There was a small building Keedy & Brown’s, fronting the public square, in which some one made or mended shoes; and where the opera house now stands there was a tavern, kept by William Rale.  At that time the village had no policeman, and some of the rougher element, that usually gets out as soon as civilization becomes established, still remained in the county.  This part of the population when in town made the saloon their headquarters.  They at times indulged in fist fights and other disorderly conduct, as a result of which the north side of the square then, and for a long time subsequent, was called “Sod corn row.”

               At the northeast corner of the square Thomas Randol was engaged in the manufacture of furniture.  Peter Smith was also a cabinet maker, and W.P. Corbin was then in the furniture business as he is now.  The difference being that then he and his employees manufactured the furniture he sold, whilst now he buys it at the factory.

               At the northwest corner of the public square James Elder was in the mercantile business.  Simon Kearney, who afterward became sheriff, was his clerk.  Judge Elder then lived in a two story frame house where the First National Bank is now located.

               Eden (J.E.) & Hilligoss carried on a store in a little one story building on the west side of the square, south of Elder’s residence.  J.E. Eden was then postmaster and kept the post office in the store room.  He resided in a little building on the north side of Harrison street, about opposite the present residence of T.H. Scott.  Hilligoss resided on the same street, about where Dr. Miller’s office is now located.  J.J. and W.L. Haydon carried on a store on the west side of the public square in a two story building, on the ground floor, where Albert Wyman’s building is located.  William L. Haydon lived in the upper story of the same building.  Ambrose Meeker carried on a blacksmith shop where Craig’s blacksmith shop is now located, on the west side of Van Buren street, and lived in a little one story frame house still standing, just south of the shop.  Owen Seaney carried on a blacksmith shop at the corner of Harrison and Van Buren streets, immediately west of the Eden Furniture store.  F. P.  Hoke carried on a blacksmith shop in the southeast part of the then village.  David L. Pifer manufactured buggies on Jefferson street at the place where Merritt & Woods Implement Store is now located.  He manufactured the first buggy I ever owned.  R. B. Wheeler, Andrew Shortess, Mr. Higginbotham, the father of John T., and A. Bankson were carpenters here at that time.  Shortess lived at about the same place where his widow now resides.   Dr. J.W. Hitt at that time had an office on the west side of the public square and resided at the place where T.H. Scott now resides.  Dr. Wilhite then practiced medicine here and resided on the west side of Main street, on the next block north of Gauger’s lumber yard.  Dr. William and John Stevens and Dr. Burch also practiced medicine here at that time.

               Joseph Thomason resided and kept tavern in the old house still standing on Monroe Street, west of Dunscomb’s livery barn, now owned by E.O. Dunscomb.  Homer Gibbs, the father of N. Gibbs of Mattoon, then resided at the corner of Jefferson and Madison streets, where Mrs. Harris now lives.  John Reese, Sr., I think, had a carding factory in the west part of the village.  William Taylor had a harness shop in town.  E.D. Cleveland was then a justice of the peace and resided on Adams Street in the southeast part of the village.  Amos Waggoner then resided in town, and I believe, he was associate judge.   His younger sons, E.E., Joseph H. and F.M. , resided with him.  His oldest son, Isaac, also resided here, and afterwards held a number of minor offices.  Beverly Taylor also resided here.  Wm. R. Lee was a resident and frequently held minor offices.  Allen M. (Mote) Brown was a resident and successful business man, and was afterwards sheriff of Coles county.  Daniel D. Randolph, a school teacher and afterwards county surveyor, made his home here.  The late Judge Meeker, then a young man, resided with his father, Ambrose Meeker, and worked in his father’s blacksmith shop and Samuel Brooks, who was a blacksmith, worked in the same shop.

               Moses Underwood was a resident here and handy to do most any kind of work.  Rev. James Freeland was a well educated Presbyterian preacher and an ardent teacher.  The first sermon I heard preached after locating in Illinois, was preached by Mr. Freeland in a school house on Sand Creek.  He was engaged in organizing a school and erecting a seminary building in town.  When his work had been but partly done, he died, when yet young.  Thomas M. Barber was the only lawyer here when I came.  He was a college bred Pennsylvanian and an able man.  His health soon failed and he went back home and died, and for one or two years I was the only lawyer in the county.

               In 1853 James Elder was County judge.  J. Wilson Lloyd was circuit clerk, John a. Freeland was county clerk, Joseph Thomason was sheriff, John Perryman was master-in-chancery.  Parnell Hamilton was county surveyor and Arnold Thomason, assessor and treasurer.  It may be supposed that in so small a town and sparsely settled county, we had a surplus of doctors and merchants and mechanics.  It must be remembered, however, that it that time Windsor and Mattoon were not competitors in business with Sullivan, for at that time neither Windsor nor Mattoon were in existence.  With the exception of Ellington’s store on Whitley Creek and John Love’s store at Lovington, the nearest competitors the Sullivan merchants had were at Charleston, Shelbyville and Decatur.  With the exception of Dr. Everett, located at Nelson, Dr. Williamson at Lovington and a “root” doctor on Whitley creek, the Sullivan Physicians were no more cramped by competition than the merchants.  We then had no separate clothing store, hardware, boot and shoe or grocery store, nor even drug stores.  Each of the merchants in town undertook to supply his customers with everything now on hand in our special commodity stores.  The doctors had a very wide range of practice.  To give some idea of the distance to their patients, I will relate how I first met Dr. Everett, then located at Nelson.   I was visiting a sick relative on Sand Creek and dr. Everett came as the attending physician.  The doctors had a wide range in which to practice.  They furnished their own medicine and instead of giving a prescription to a drug store, they carried the medicine in the medicine case as they went their rounds.

               The blacksmiths made their own horse shoes and nails and many other implements now supplied at the factories.  We had no barber in town and every man had to shave himself or let his beard grow.  These were pioneer ways in pioneer days.

               It might be inferred, as at that time the county had been recently settled, the village having been established but about six years and the county having been organized about ten years,  that civilization was in a crude state, that the rough element predominated and overrode law and order.  Such was not the situation.  My impression is that a large majority of the adult population of Sullivan in 1853 were members of the church.  This, however, is merely an opinion based on memory alone, and might be contradicted by church statistics.  This much is true, that without ordinances or municipal officers and with but few police officers of any kind, the people of Sullivan were as orderly and law abiding in 1853 as they have been at any time since.


John R. Eden, writing in Sullivan Progress, May 25, 1905.  “Sullivan in 1853.”

               I find, upon reflection, that there were so many men here in 1853 with whom I afterwards became acquainted that I can refer to but few of them, except in a very general way.

               Lafayette Stewart was a successful merchant here for a number of years.  He was from Indiana.  In politics he was an active and influential democrat.  In religion he was a Methodist.  At one time he was in partnership with Judge Eden.  He sold out here many years ago and returned to Indiana, where he died.

               Orange C. Martin became financially embarrassed here, and emigrated to Minnesota where he became prosperous and served as a member of the legislature of that sate.  He was a democrat in politics.  In religion he was a Baptist.  He was related to a very large number of Martins, who have resided in this and adjoining counties.  He married a daughter of John Roney and thus became related to the influential families of Roneys who remain in the county.

               James Elder, in that early day, was readily the leading merchant in the county.  He served the people long and well as county judge.  He also became a banker.  He was a man of strict integrity and of large business capacity, in whom the people of the county had great confidence.  No man in Moultrie county, during his day, exercised more influence over the people of the county than James Elder.  In politics he was a whig and later a republican.  In religion he was  Methodist.  He has many relatives still residing in the county.  Whilst Judge Elder and myself differed in politics, we were warm personal friends up to the time of his death.  When the end was drawing near he sent for me and I went to his farm, where he resided, and prepared his will, by which he disposed of his large estate.  His son, William, now deceased, succeeded him in the banking business, which he continued for many years.

               Dr. William Kellar was the leading physician in the county in 1853, but he died in 1855.  He was also a leader in promoting the growth of the town and county, and in all benevolent and good works.  He was a son of Abram Kellar who came here from Kentucky, and located near Lovington.  The Kellar family was very prominent in the early [paper slightly torn.]    The Dr.’s father was a member of the first county court established in the county.  His brother, Henry Y. Kellar,  was long a leading preacher of the Christian church.  Dr. A.L. Kellar, now of California, so long and so favorably known here, is a younger brother of Dr. William Kellar.  Dr. William Kellar was a democrat in politics.  In religion he was a member of the Christian church.  My office and his was in the same room on the east side of the public square.  He was taken sick in the office and went to his home where he died the next day of cholera.

               William L. Haydon remained in Sullivan but a short time after I located here.  He and his brother, J.J. Haydon, established a store at Shelbyville and carried on a large business there until the death of his brother.  W.L. Haydon continued the business alone after the death of his brother and was very successful.  He finally sold out at Shelbyville and located at Texarkana, Ark., with his family and there carried on a very prosperous business until his death a few years later.  William L. Haydon  was a son of W.G. Haydon.  He has a brother, B.B. Haydon, living at Sullivan and a sister of Mrs. John B. Shepherd, living at Texarkana, Ark.  W.L. Haydon was a republican in politics.  In religion his preference was the Christian church.  I became intimately acquainted with William L. Haydon.  My business relations with him consisted of a settlement I made as administrator of J. Wilson Lloyd, deceased with W.L. Haydon as surviving partner of Haydon & Lloyd.  This was a very intricate settlement and I found Mr. Haydon to be a fair and just man.  The Haydons came here from Kentucky.  In one of my contests for a nomination for congress, where the nomination was equivalent to an election, though we differed in politics, Mr. Haydon rendered me very efficient support.

               Joseph Thomason served the people of Moultrie county many years as sheriff.  In politics he was a democrat.  During his active business life he was the most popular man in Moultrie county.  Joseph Thomason was a genial companion, benevolent and hospitable.  His popularity resulted from these qualities.  He was everybody’s friend.


History of Moultrie County and Sullivan Illinois  © Eden Martin