HON. JOHN R. EDEN, who resides in Sullivan, was born on the banks of the
Licking River, eight miles from Owingsville, Bath County, Ky., February l,
1826. His father, John Paul Eden, was born in Baltimore. Md., in 1796,
and Jeremiah Eden, the grandfather was a native of England, who
came when a young man to America and settled in Maryland. From
that State he removed to Kentucky about the year 1800, and became a
farmer in Bath County. There he bought a tract of timber land, which he cleared and
turned into a rich and productive farm, making it his home until death called him away.
The father of our subject was reared and married in Bath County, and resided there until 1831
when with his wife and four children he removed to Indiana. The removal was made with teams
and the far-famed prairie schooners, in which were all their household goods. Traveling by slow stages
and camping by the way, the family reached Indiana and settled in Rush County. Having entered
a tract of Government land, they built a cabin in the wilderness and commenced to clear a
farm. The maiden name of the mother of our subject was Catherine Can, and she was born in Kentucky
in the year 1800, being a daughter of Joseph Can. In 1835 she was left a widow with six children
to care for and she had a hard struggle to maintain them and keep them together. In 1852
she removed from Indiana to Illinois, and spent her last years here with a son Joseph, dying in
The subject of our sketch commenced when very young to assist upon the farm where his services
were much needed. In his younger days there were no railroads, and Cincinnati was the nearest
market and depot for supplies. The products of the farm formed the principal living of the family,
and the mother made all the cloth which was used in the family, carding, spinning and weaving the
raw material into the needed fabrics.
The first school which Mr. Eden attended, was in a cabin built of round logs. The chimney was
made of sticks and clay, and the fireplace occupied nearly one end of the building. The only window
was produced by a log being taken out through nearly the entire length of the building, and it had
no covering of glass, but in cold weather greased paper was used to cover the aperture to keep out
the wind. The benches were made of puncheon with wooden pins for legs. Holes were bored in
the logs under the window, and pegs supported a smooth puncheon which served as a writing desk
for the older scholars. He was very studious, making the most of the opportunities afforded him and
at the age of eighteen commenced teaching, receiving the usual salary of $20 a month and his board.
He taught during the fall and winter for seven years, occupying the remainder of the year in farming,
and using every fragment of time not otherwise absorbed, to study law.
In 1852 Mr. Eden came to Illinois, traveling by railroad to Terre Haute, Ind., and thence by stage
to Shelbyville, and a few days later was admitted to the bar and commenced practice. He practiced
there until the fall of 1853, when he came to Sullivan and since that time has made this place the
main field of his work except when absent upon official duty.
A happy and congenial matrimonial alliance was made by our subject in 1856, when he chose as his
wife Roxanna Meeker, a native of Bennington Township, Delaware (now Morrow) County, Ohio.
This lady is a daughter of Ambrose and Hannah (Hartwell) Meeker, and a sister of the Hon. Jonathan
Meeker. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Eden comprises five living children, namely: Emma,
Rose, Walter, Belle and Blanche, Rose is now Mrs. J. Martin, of whom a sketch will be found elsewhere
in this volume.
Ex-Congressman Eden has always espoused the political views which had their ablest advocate in
the author of the Declaration of Independence, and he cast his first vote for Lewis Cass. Ever
since he came here he has been a prominent man in his district, as his natural abilities and well cultured
mind have given him a commanding influence. In 1856 he was elected States Attorney
for the Seventh Judicial District, which office he filled for four years. He represented the Seventh
District in the Thirty-eighth Congress, being elected thereto in 1862. This was followed by his re-election,
and service in the Forty-third. Forty-fourth, Forty-fifth and Forty-ninth Congresses. During
this long period the boundaries, and numbers of the Congressional Districts were changed, and he
represented the following counties: Moultrie, Macon, Piatt, Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, Vermillion,
Douglas, Coles, Edgar, Clark, Cumberland, Effingham, Shelby. Jasper, Crawford, Lawrence, Fayette,
Montgomery and Macoupin.
The most important committees of which this honorable gentleman was a member during the
various sessions, were as follows: During the Thirty-eighth Congress the Committee on Accounts and
Revolutionary Pensions; in the Forty-third the Committee on Claims and the Freedmen Affairs;
in the Forty-fourth he was Chairman of the Committee on War Complaints, and a member of the
one appointed to investigate the Presidential election; during the next Congress he was again Chairman
of the same Committee, and during the Forty-ninth he belonged to the Committee on the Judiciary
and Revision of Laws. In 1868 he was a Democratic candidate for Governor of Illinois.
In every sphere of life, either professional or as a public servant, the Hon. John R. Eden has proved
himself well-equipped and able to meet the serious emergencies which come before a man of affairs.
As an attorney he has been successful in his practice, and has built up an extensive clientage, and
as a member of Congress he worked honestly and honorably for the prosperity of the entire country
and the interests of his constituents.
A portrait of the Hon. Mr. Eden accompanies this biographical notice.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, 1891 - p.191/192
Transcription copyright 2003/2007, Moultrie County ILGenWeb/USGenWeb