JOSEPH E. EDEN, proprietor of the Eden House, of Sullivan, Moultrie County, is numbered among the
honored pioneers of the county. Only seven of those living in Sullivan at the time of his arrival
are still residents of that place. Probably no man in the community is more widely or favorably
known than our subject, who was born in Bath County, Ky., September 10, 1820. His father, John P.
Eden, was born in Baltimore, Md., in 1796, and the grandfather, Jeremiah Eden, was a native of
England. When a young man he crossed the Atlantic probably locating in Maryland, where he wedded
a lady of German descent. After living for a time in that State, they removed to Bath County,
Ky., where they spent the remainder of their lives. Both were members of the Methodist Church.
The father of our subject was a young lad when his parents removed to Kentucky where he grew to
manhood and married Catherine Cann, a native of Bath County, where her parents were early settlers.
Their union was celebrated in 1818, and upon a farm in that locality they resided until 1831,
when they removed to Rush County, Ind., locating three miles from Rushville. Mr. Eden procured
land upon which he made some improvements and died at his home in Indiana in 1835. He was a sound
Democrat in politics and twice voted for Andrew Jackson. His wife survived him some years and died
at the home of our subject in 1876, at the age of seventy years. In religious belief she was a
Presbyterian. The family numbered six children, of whom Joseph E., John, whose sketch is given
elsewhere, Mrs. Moore, of Bruce, Ill., and Mrs. Sampson of Sullivan are yet living.
Our subject was only fifteen years of age when his father died and being one of the older children
of the family much care and labor devolved upon him. He proved the main support of his widowed
mother and the faithfulness with which he attended to his duties merits the highest praise. His
school privileges were necessarily limited but he would gather hickory bark to make a torch light
and during the long winter evenings would read such books as he could get hold of until at length
he had acquired a good practical knowledge. The only school which he attended was a log cabin
furnished with puncheon floor and slab seats, but so well did he prepare himself that for ten
years he was a successful teacher in Rush County, Ind.
During that time Mr. Eden met and married Miss Matilda M. Bussell, who was born two miles from
Rushville, Ind., in 1828, and is a daughter of Col. William S. and Maria (Ward) Bussell, who
were natives of Kentucky. With their respective families her parents went to Indiana during
childhood. Mr. Bussell served as a Colonel in the Black Hawk War and in Indiana occupied the
office of County Sheriff. His business was that of a merchant and dealer in livestock. In
1834, he started for Georgia, with a large drove of horses and while in that State died of
spasmodic colic. He was then less than forty years of age. He was a man of commanding presence,
fine-looking and his appearance commanded respect. He also served as Colonel in the State
Militia. His wife survived him many years and died at the advanced age of eighty-four, in
Jasper County, Ind. She was a second time married, becoming the wife of Dr. Knox, who died
at the home of our subject.
Mrs. Eden remained with her mother until her marriage, which was celebrated May 14, 1846. By
their union have been born four children: William, who wedded Belle Alexander and resides in
Fresno, Cal.; Susie, wife of Dr. O.C. Link, a successful physician of Lincoln, Neb., who was
formerly Superintendent of the Insane Hospital at Yankton, S. Dak.; J.F. a leading liveryman
of Sullivan, who wedded Josie Smizer; and E.B. who married Elizabeth Beverage. He resides in
Sullivan and is engaged in the insurance and real-estate business.
In the line of his trade, Joseph Eden has become widely known. He began operation in the hotel
business in 1864, and was very successful in his undertaking until 1880, when he suffered quite
a loss by fire. However, on the site of the old hotel he erected a new one, which was completed
in 1883, and on the 3d of November of that year was opened to the public. It is situated on the
southwest corner of the square and is a three-story brick with basement, containing forty
sleeping rooms, besides parlors, three sample rooms, commodious kitchen, dining-room, etc. The
house is well arranged and is furnished with all modern conveniences for the comfort and
entertainment of guests. Mr. Eden exerts himself to make his patrons feel at home and the
hotel well deserves its popularity. In connection he also had a large and fine livery which
was burned on the 8th of August, 1879, just one year after it was completed. We thus see that
he had met with reverses but with characteristic energy he set to work to retrieve his losses.
Altogether his career has been most prosperous. Previous to his embarking in the hotel business
he established a general store immediately after his arrival March 7, 1853, and for twenty years
engaged in merchandising. In the meantime he purchased land and followed farming and stock-raising
for fifteen years. His property was near the city and he still owns a portion of it.
Mr. Eden has lived to see almost the entire development of the county and has done much for its
interests. At the time of his arrival there were only about four hundred voters in the county
and the work of progress seemed scarcely begun. He held the office of Postmaster of Sullivan under
Presidents Pierce and Buchanan, being first appointed in 1853 and was superseded when the Republican
party came into power. He was also Justice of the Peace for four years and soon afterward was elected
County Judge, filling the office for a similar period. During that time the old county court house was
burned and the present structure erected. Judge Eden was the prime mover in securing the sale of the
swamp lands, with which funds the new court house was built and sufficient left to purchase the
present poor farm of two hundred acres. In this purchase he met with much opposition, as many wished
to use the money for school purposes, but he persevered and the poor farm has proved a valuable
acquisition, being now self-sustaining and a credit to the county. When the agricultural society of
the county was organized in 1857, Mr. Eden became connected with it and for more than twenty years
has been its President, holding that position at the present time. On the organization of the Building
and Loan Association in 1887, he became its highest official and is yet its President. In politics he
is one of the stanchest advocates of the Democracy and is a leader of his party in this portion of
the State. He has been an honored delegate to the State and county conventions and for several years
has been Chairman of the County Central Committee. For thirty-seven years he has been an Odd Fellow
and for twenty- four years has been a member of the Grand Lodge of the State. He is one of the charter
members of the third lodge of Royal Templars in the State, located at Sullivan. We thus see how
prominent Judge Eden has been in public affairs. His genial, kindly manner has won him many friends
who esteem him highly for his sterling worth. The active part which he has taken in the upbuilding
of the county entitles him to mention among its founders and best citizens and it is with pleasure
that we present this sketch to the readers of the Record.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, 1891 - p. 249-251
Transcription copyright 2003/2007, Moultrie County ILGenWeb/USGenWeb