1906 Historical Encyclopedia Of Illinois & History
of Morgan County IL
& HISTORY OF MORGAN COUNTY
Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1906.
OREAR, George, (deceased), was born in Clark County, Ky., June 4, 1804. His father Benjamin Orear, was a native of Virginia, and his grandfather of Bordeaux, France, the latter emigrating to Virginia in its early days. George Orear's mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Irwin, a daughter of William Irwin, who was a native of Pennsylvania, and of Scotch ancestry. Mr. Orear came to Morgan County, Ill., in 1831. Regarding the country in the vicinity of his late residence, eight miles east of Jacksonville, as the finest he had seen, he determined to case his lot there, which continued to be his home until his death. Two years after his arrival in Morgan County, he returned to Kentucky for his parents, whom he brought home with him and cared for with filial devotion and affection during the rest of their lives. Before leaving Kentucky he had engaged in the business of buying hogs, which he fattened on the mast and then drove them to market in North and South Carolina, returning on foot. In this way he acquired a little money, but was comparatively a poor man when he settled in Morgan County. His subsequent wealth was gained by hard work and prudent management. He had eight brothers and sisters, and was the last surviving member of the family. Five are buried in Antioch Cemetery near his late home, two in Kentucky, and one, Hon. William Orear, in Diamond Grove Cemetery, near Jacksonville.
Mr. Orear was a Quartermaster in the Black Hawk War, and served as Deputy Sheriff of Morgan County under his brother William, who was elected to the office of sheriff in 1834. Though other positions of honor and trust were within his grasp, his modesty and retiring disposition prevented their acceptance. He had one brother, Benjamin Franklin, who was an attorney in Jacksonville at an early day, but who died while quite young. The subject of this sketch was always of a quiet and retiring disposition. A man of great modesty, he seldom referred to himself in any way, and to appreciate his true worth one had to know him well. He was always kind-hearted, and many a poor, hungry person could testify to his unostentatious generosity. He was always dutiful to his aged parents, caring for them with tenderness as long as they had need of earthly things. In business he was shrewd and careful without being in any way overreaching. He was careful and industrious, and at the time of his death, was the owner of a large property. He was the proprietor of 1,300 acres of fine Morgan County land, and was a stockholder in the Jacksonville National Bank, besides owning a large amount of other property. During the Civil War, he took an active interest in the cause of the Union, giving liberally of his time and money to the Sanitary Commission, and doing all in his power to aid and cheer the veterans in the field. His wife also was President of the local society through whose efforts $5,000 was raised and sent forward to the soldiers at one time. In addition to this, local charity always found in him a true friend, and he was never known to turn a poor person unaided form his door.
Mr. Orear was married March 22, 1838, to Miss Sarah Heslep, with whom
he lived most happily up to the time of his death. The ceremony was performed
by Rev. John Bachelor, the first Episcopal minister in Morgan County. His
children are: Thomas B., Mrs. F. M. Morton, Elizabeth, who died in 1875;
Mrs. Stephen Dunlap, Frank, Mrs. J. M. Dunlap and Miss Nettie Orear. Thomas
B. and Nettie remained at home devoting themselves to the care of their
parents with affectionate tenderness to the end of their lives. All the
children, except Elizabeth, deceased, were present with their aged mother
at the time fo their father's death, February 11, 1889. Mrs. Orear departed
this life January 19, 1891, aged seventy-eight years.
OREAR, Thomas Benjamin, President of the Jacksonville National Bank, ex-County Commissioner, Jacksonville, Ill., was born on his father's farm eight miles east of Jacksonville, January 22, 1839, the son of George and Sarah (Heslep) Orear. (For ancestral history, see sketches of William Orear and George Orear in this volume.) He was reared on the farm and educated in the public schools. Early in life he engaged in the stock business, continuing to make his home with his father until the death of the latter, and occupying the paternal homestead until his removal to Jacksonville in 1903. His transactions in stock have been quite extensive at times, though confined principally to Morgan County. On September 2, 1862, Mr. Orear was mustered in as First Lieutenant of Company K, One Hundred and First Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which he helped to organize, giving his active services to the cause of the Union until compelled to retire by reason of disability. He participated with his regiment in the Siege of Vicksburg, where he was prostrated by an illness which nearly caused his death. After the fall of that Confederate stronghold he was sent home on a furlough, but rejoined his command thirty days later at Union city, Tenn. Soon afterward his regiment was assigned to the army of the Cumberland, and was sent to Chattanooga. But in April, 1864, at the beginning of the great Atlanta campaign, he was mustered out, his illness having incapacitated him from further active duty.
Judge Orear has always exhibited a lively interest in the political affairs of Morgan County, and has accomplished what he could toward the promotion of the best interests of his community. For two terms he served as County Commissioner, and for two terms of three years each also was a member of the Jacksonville School Board, serving in that capacity in 1900, when the new High School building was erected. In 1892 he became a Director in the Jacksonville National Bank, and was subsequently elected its Cashier and still later its President. In 1902 Goveror Yates appointed him a member of the Illinois-Vicksburg Commission (of which he is Treasurer). The Commission has charge of the erection, in the Vicksburg National Park, of a State monument intended to commemorate the part borne by the eighty Illinois regiments in the historic campaign against that city. The contract for the monument has been signed, and the work will be completed in 1907. The monument will be constructed of granite and bronze, and will bear the name of every Illinois soldier of the 40,000 who participated in the memorable event. When complete, the monument will be one of the greatest of its character in the world, and the most noteworthy thus far erected in America.
Judge Orear is identified with Harmony Lodge, No. 3, A.F.&A.M.,
and Hospitaler Commandery, No. 31, K.T., with the Knights of Pythias and
the Benevolent Order of Elks. He was united in marriage January 26, 1904,
with Sallie Browning, of Jacksonville, a native of Lexington, Ky., and
a daughter of Marcus and Angeline (Rees) Browning. Judge Orear is highly
esteemed by his fellow-citizens as a man of high character and generous
public spirit, and as one who is keeping alive the traditions of an old
and honored family. (For sketch of George Orear, see page 983.)
OREAR, William, Hon., (deceased), former banker and ex-Sheriff of Morgan County, Ill., was born in Frederick County, Va, December 24, 1795, a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Irwin) Orear, both of whom were also natives of the Old Dominion. His paternal grandfather, a native of Bordeaux, France, immigrated to America in colonial days, settling in Virginia. His maternal grandfather, William Irwin, was a native of Pennsylvania, and of Scotch ancestry. He also located in Virginia in young manhood. Of the family of ten children born to Benjamin and Elizabeth Orear, William was the eldest.
While the latter was still in his infancy, his parents removed from Virginia to Clark County, Ky., and soon afterward settled permanently near Boonesboro, where for a long period, Daniel Boone, the famous Kentucky pioneer, lived among the Indians. In 1834 and 1835 he continued westward, making his home in Morgan County, Ill., where his son William had located several years before. His wife died in 1836, but he survived until 1862. It is worthy of note that two of his uncles, Daniel and Enoch Orear, accompanied Col. George Rogers Clark in his western expedition against the Indians in the Territories of Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri, afterward returning to their homes in Virginia. Elizabeth (Irwin) Orear was a descendant of the Chambers family, who were pioneer inhabitants of Pennsylvania, members of which attained prominence in the early history of the Keystone State. Representatives of the family subsequently settled in Kentucky.
Though the early educational advantages of William Orear were necessarily limited on account of the crude facilities surrounding him in his youth, he succeeded in acquiring a good knowledge of mathematics and the essential English branches, so that he was able to commence life with less of a handicap than most boys of that period. His young manhood was devoted principally to teaching school in Kentucky and Missouri. On March 18, 1825, he was united in marriage with Maria T. Sawyer, daughter of Daniel Sawyer, who removed from New York, his native State, to North Carolina. In the latter State he was engaged in the lumber trade until his death, after which his family settled in Petersburg, Ind. Mrs. Orear was born in North Carolina August 16, 1805. On April 13, 1825, Mr. Orear and his bride arrived in Morgan County, having made the journey on horseback, bringing with them all their worldly possessions in saddlebags. He settled upon an unimproved tract of Government land to the improvement of which he at once devoted his energies, and when the land was placed upon the market by the Government two or three years afterward, he purchased it, with an additional tract adjoining, the whole giving him a large and exceedingly fertile body of easily cultivable soil. From time to time thereafter he purchased additional farming lands, until he became known as one of the most extensive landowners in Morgan County. He also began the raising of stock at an early day, and subsequently entered into transactions of considerable importance in this direction.
For a long period Mr. Orear was closely identified with public affairs
in the State and county. Originally a Whig, he cast his first presidential
ballot for John Quincy Adams. He was a stanch supporter of Henry Clay,
voting and working for him. Upon the organization of the Republican party
he became prominently identified with it, voting for John C. Fremont and
for each succeeding candidate of the party until his death, April 29, 1876.
On August 6, 1832, he was elected to the office of Sheriff of Morgan County,
and reelected August 4, 1834, serving four years in all. On August 1, 1836,
he was chosen to represent his district in the Illinois State Senate, serving
his constituents with honor in the Tenth and Eleventh General Assemblies,
the first two years of his term being during the time Stephen A. Douglas
represented Morgan County in the lower branch of the Legislature. Abraham
Lincoln was also a member of the House during the same term. Mr. Orear
also saw active service in the Black Hawk War.
OSBORNE, Robert Tilton, (deceased), pioneer farmer and stock-dealer of Morgan County, Ill., was born on a farm near Lexington, Ky., September 1, 1827, the son of Harrison and Eliza (Cassell) Osborne, both of whom were natives of the same state. His father, who was a minister of the Christian Church, devoted his life to the ministry and to farming. In 1829 or 1830 he disposed of his possessions in Kentucky and removed with his family to Illinois, settling in Morgan County. Soon after locating in Jacksonville he engaged in the dry-goods business with Col. George M. Chambers. He afterward purchased a farm at Antioch in the eastern part of the county, where the remainder of his active life was spent. For several years he preached in the Christian church at Antioch, and frequently filled pulpits in other sections. After rearing his family, he sold his farm and retired, spending his declining days with his children, his death occurring June 3, 1883. Though he took a deep interest in the advancement of the public welfare, he never sought political office. For many years he was a member of the Masonic fraternity. To Harrison Osborne and wife were born five children, named as follows in the order of their birth: David, Robert T. (subject of this sketch)), John T., Barton, and Ann Eliza who married Henry Babb. All are deceased. Barton, the youngest son, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and participated in several battles. Harrison Osborne became widely known personally throughout Morgan County and the contiguous territory, and during the early days of his ministry was frequently called upon to officiate at marriages and at the funerals of pioneer settlers and members of their families. He was a man who, by his fine character and generous heart, endeared himself closely to a multitude of people, and during the last years of his long and highly useful life was highly honored and venerated. He was a striking figure in the earlier days of the county's history, and his strength of character endured with the passage of years to a remarkable degree. His family maintained a high position in the confidence and esteem of the inhabitants of Morgan County, in which they were regarded as representatives of its best citizenship.
Robert T. Osborne received his education in the schools of Jacksonville. After the completion of his education he returned to his father's farm, where he assisted in its management until his marriage, October 14, 1847, to Elizabeth J. Dewees, who was born January 26, 1830, the daughter of Nimrod and Elizabeth (Murphy) Dewees, early settlers of Morgan County. (An extended sketch of the Dewees family will be found elsewhere in this volume.) About this time Rev. Harrison Osborne removed to Jacksonville, and rented his farm to his son, Robert T., who began its operation independently. In 1850 he removed to a farm located on the Springfield road, on which was a small log cabin, and there he remained about six years. This farm consisted of unbroken prairie land, to the development of which Mr. Osborne set about with vigor. After six years of hard labor on this property he sold the land and purchased his father's farm, to the cultivation of which he devoted twelve years. He then sold the latter property and removed to Jacksonville, where the balance of his life was spent. He erected the block now occupied by the firm of Phelps & Osborne, one of the finest business blocks in the city, and for about six years engaged in buying and shipping cattle. His operations in this direction were successful, and upon his retirement from active business he possessed a handsome competency. For several years prior to his death, which occurred September 10, 1887, he lived quietly, enjoying the means which he had accumulated, and assisting those near and dear to him in their efforts to win success in the world of business. Early in life he united with the Christian Church at Antioch, of which his wife was also a member, and after his permanent removal to Jacksonville transferred his membership to the local organization. In politics he was a Democrat, but was extremely liberal in his views. During the Civil War he espoused the cause of the Union, and contributed generously of his means toward the support of the Federal troops in the field. He never desired public office, preferring to devote his energies to his private affairs, though he never shirked his duties as a citizen. Fraternally, he was identified for many years with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He was a broad minded, public spirited, liberal man, a citizen whom the people of Morgan County delighted to honor and in whom all had the greatest confidence.
To Mr. and Mrs. Osborne were born nine children, two of whom died in
childhood. Those who attained maturity are still living. They are as follows:
Almira, wife of Charles C. Phelps, of Jacksonville; Samuel D., also of
Jacksonville; Georgia L., an attache of the State Historical Library at
Springfield; Jessie, wife of Jesse Metcalfe, a banker of Girard, Ill.;
Robert T.; William C.; and Elizabeth D., wife of Frank L. Best, of Jacksonville.
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