Cover: Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties
1891 Portrait and Biographical Record:
William Elder


WILLIAM ELDER, now a retired banker, living in Sullivan, was engaged in business here from 1870 until 1885, during which time his bank was known as the Farmer's and Merchants' Bank, but it was operated by our subject as a private bank, and is now run in the same way by Mr. William Steele. William Elder came to this county in the fall of 1834, and has since made his home in what is now Moultrie County, with the exception of four years when he resided in Dallas County, Iowa. After coming here he took an interest in agriculture and improved three or four farms, taking them as raw Government land in their prairie state and transforming them into finely cultivated estates.

Our subject came to this county from Morgan County, where he had lived with his parents for a short time only. He was born in Jefferson County, Tenn., May 17, 1824, his father being of Tennessee birth and coming of Southern stock. The Judge in his early days was a farmer, and while pursuing that calling was united in marriage with Miss Didana French, a native of North Carolina, who had her early education in Tennessee.

After marriage James Elder and his wife lived for some years in Jefferson County, Tenn., and in the spring of 1833 they set out for Illinois, coming according to the fashion of that day, with teams and wagons overland, cooking their meals by the roadside and camping out at night. They made their first settlement at what is the present site of Waverly, Morgan County, where they remained for some eighteen months, after which they journeyed on to this section, where they secured and improved a new farm in East Nelson Township, Moultrie County. After a short time James Elder established a store in that part of the county and was one of the first merchants in this county and his trade extended throughout almost every township, few of the pioneer families of the county failing to be included in his list of customers. In the fall of 1845 he sold out his store and coming to Sullivan, built an hotel on the present site of the Eden House and also put up a store on an opposite corner. His executive abilities were now severely taxed, as while carrying on the store and hotel he was also cultivating a farm. He finally closed out his business interests in the town and for a while devoted himself exclusively to agriculture.

The first bank which Sullivan ever saw was the Elder Bank which was established by Judge James Elder in 1868, and which is perpetuated in the present existing bank. He operated this until 1870 when, upon January 6, he passed away, being then well along in years, as he was born in December, 1803. He had served the county for a number of years as County Judge and has represented this district in the State Legislature for some years. He was a prominent man in the county for years, and highly respected in the Republican party, to which he attached himself after abandoning the old Whig party of his early days. His excellent wife survived him for several years, dying in 1882, having reached the limit of three-score years and ten. Throughout all her long and godly life she has been a member, and a consistent one, of the Baptist Church of which her husband had also been a member during his earlier years, although later in life he identified himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church.

He of whom we write is the eldest surviving member of the children of his parents. One sister of his, Mrs. Dr. Lewis, lives in Texas; another sister, Mary, is the wife of W.P. Corbin, a furniture dealer in Sullivan. The lady to whom Mr. Elder was united in marriage bore the name of Louisa Ewing and she was born in White County, Ill., May 11, 1828. Her father, Judge R.B. Ewing was reared in Kentucky although a Tennessean by birth, and came to White County, Ill., where early in the '20s he married Miss Elizabeth Culberson, after which he removed to Logan County and afterward to Moultrie County. He was for years Judge of both Moultrie and Logan Counties and for many years held the office of Justice of the Peace. He was a leading man in that vicinity during the early days. He had been a merchant and farmer for years and came to Sullivan in its pioneer days, in fact before the organization of the county.

Judge Ewing was a Representative in the Legislature of Illinois and served his constituents well. He was from early manhood prominent in the Republican ranks and also a leading member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, filling the office of Class-Leader for many years and preaching as a local minister on this circuit and in the county for many years. Many funerals in all parts of this county have demanded his services, and he was a leading man in every way. He was born in 1801/4, and died June 8, 1875, being full of years and honors. His widow still survives, and now in her eighty-fourth year makes her home with her daughter, Mrs. Bristow.

The wife of our subject is one of the five surviving members of her parents' family. Three of her brothers were soldiers in the War of the Rebellion and all lived to see the old flag triumphant and to return to their homes, two of them having since died. Mrs. Elder is a bright and very intelligent lady and is prominent in Sullivan church and social circles. Mr. Elder has filled most of the church offices and is now Trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He is a Republican in his political views and a stanch advocate of the principles and policy of the party which placed "Old Abe" in the Presidential chair. He has met with some financial reverses but has never allowed a misfortune to place him where he could not hold up his head as an honest business man who is determined to deal with his fellow-citizens on the basis of integrity.

The two children of our subject were Belinda Estella, a bright and beautiful daughter who died at the age of sixteen years, and James W., who is at present the Mayor of Sullivan and a stock-buyer in business. He is highly respected and prominent citizen of this city and is united in marriage with a lovely and intelligent companion who bore the maiden name of Julietta Newcome, and whose early home was in Mattoon, Ill. Nine children have been born to them, two of whom, Louisa and James, have passed on to the care of the Good Shepherd above. Those who are living are:William O., Arthur, Degratia, Belinda, Loanna, Lavina and Richard.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties, 1891 - p. 338/339

Transcription copyright 2003/2007, Moultrie County ILGenWeb/USGenWeb