Hon. William E. NELSON

Hon. William E. Nelson, County Judge of Macon County, and who for many years has been a prominent member of the Decatur Bar, claims Tennessee as the State of his nativity, his birth having occurred in White County June 4, 1824. His parents, Richard and Eliza (McCampbell) Nelson, were both natives of Tennessee, and were of Irish and Scoth-Irish descent respectively. The paternal grandfather, John Nelson, was a native of Virginia, and was a millwright and millowner. He was a Revolutionary soldier and served throughout the struggle. His death occurred at the advanced age of eighty-five years, at his home in Overton County, Tenn. The maternal grandfather ouf our subject, Andrew McCampbell, was born in Scotland, and after his marriage to a lady of that country removed to Ireland, whence they emigrated to America, locating in Virginia. Later they became residents of Tennessee, where Mr. McCampbell followed farming in Knox County. He too aided the colonies in their struggle for independence, and died at the age of seventy-five years.

Richard Nelson was an attorney-at-law, and resided in Sparta from the time of his marriage until 1846, when he removed to Carrollton, Miss., where he spent the remainder of his life, dying in 1865, in his sixty-fifth year. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church, as is his wife, who is still living in Carrollton, at the age of ninety years. Mr. Nelson served as a member of the Constitutional Convention in Tennessee, and was Judge of the Probate Court for many years in Mississippi. The familiy numbered five sons and three daughters, but only three are now living; William, of this sketch; Mary F., wife of Charles N. Scott, of Carrollton, Miss.; and Emily, wife of James M. Moore, of College City, Cal.

In the county of his birth our subject was reared to manhood and remained until his removal to Decatur, in June, 1857. His education was acquired in the subscription schools, and at the age of sixteen he began the study of law with his father. In August, 1844, he was admitted to the Bar and engaged in legal practice in White County and the adjoining circuit. As a companion and helpmate on life's journey he chose Miss Mary A. Snodgrass, daughter of Col. James and Margaret (McKinney) Snodgrass, of White County. Their union was celebrated February 26, 1846, and unto them were born five children, three sons and two daughters; Margaret Eliza, James Ridley, Theodore, Flora and Richard. All died in infancy, with the exception of Theodore, a resident of Chicago, who is at present Deputy Recorder of Deeds, and a prominent politician. He married Augusta A., daughter of John R. Blaine, of Decatur, and they have one child, Mary Lena. In November, 1876, the mother of this family, who had been a member of the Church of Christ, died at the age of forty-seven years.

As before stated, Mr. Nelson cast in his lot with the early settlers of Decatur in 1857, and, opening a law office, has since engaged in legal practice. He was appointed by the Governor as one of the committee for the revisal of the statutes, and was elected a member of the Twenty-seventh General Assembly of Illinois, which convened immediately after the adoption of the constitution in 1870, and he served throughout all the repeated sessions of that long assembly. He was subsequently elected Circuit Judge of the Fourteenth Circuit, filling the office one term, and has since been elected County Judge of Macon County, being the present incumbent.

In June, 1889, the Judge was again married, his second union being with Mrs. Lucy H. Montgomery, widow of John T. Montomgery, and daughter of Judge Jeptha G. Hollingsworth, of Elkton, Todd County, Ky. Our subject and his wife are among the most prominent and highly esteemed citizens of Decatur, having a large circle of friends and acquaintances. Judge Nelson is a member of the Christian Church, and belongs to Ionic Lodge No. 312, A.F. & A.M.; Macon Chapter No. 21, R.A.M.; and Beaumanoir Commandery No. 9, K.T. In politics he is a stanch Democrat, and the principles of Democracy find in him a very warm advocate. Judge Nelson has been frequently honored with many of the leading positions within the gift of his fellow-townsmen, and in the various offices he has filled he has acceptably and faithfully served, doing all in his power to promote the best interests of the people at large. He is a broad and liberal-minded man, and in the court room presides with a dignity and ability that have won him the commendation and respect of all with whom he had been brought in contact.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Macon Co., IL, 1893, p. 232-233

Judge William E. NELSON

Judge William E. Nelson has been one of the most conspicuous figures in the history of jurisprudence in the fourteenth circuit of Illinois. In the long line of the illustrious men of whom the state is justly proud the public life of few others has extended over as long a period as his and certainly the life of none has been more varied in service, more constant in honor, more fearless in conduct and more stainless in reputation, lie is the Nestor of the Decatur bar, having engaged in practice since August, 1844, while since June, 1857, he has been a representative of the legal fraternity of this city. Upon the bench, too, he has won high honors and no resident of Decatur is more worthy of mention in this volume than Judge William E. Nelson.

The Judge is a native of Tennessee, born in White county on the 4th of June, 1824. In the paternal line he comes of Irish lineage, but the family was established in Virginia at an early day in the history of this country. John Nelson, the grandfather of the Judge, was born in the Old Dominion and at the time of the Revolutionary war joined the colonists and aided in the struggle for independence, serving until victory crowned the American army and the Republic was established. He was a millwright and also the owner of a mill, and throughout his business career followed these pursuits. Removing to Tennessee, he spent his last days in Overton county, where he passed away at the advanced age of eighty-five years. His son, Richard Nelson, was born in Tennessee and after arriving at years of maturity wedded Eliza McCampbell, who was of Scotch-Irish descent, and a daughter of Andrew McCampbell. Her father was born in the land of hills and heather and after his marriage in that country he removed to Ireland, where he made his home until he sailed for the new world. Taking up his residence in Virginia he remained there until his removal to Tennessee and he, too, was one of the heroes of the Revolutionary war, valiantly aiding the colonists in their attempt to win freedom from British oppression. Becoming a resident of Tennessee he carried on farming in Knox county and there died at the age of seventy-five years. Richard Nelson, the father of the Judge, was an attorney and engaged in practice in Sparta, Tennessee, from the time of his marriage until 1846, when he removed to Carrollton, Mississippi, where he spent his remaining days. Prominent in public affairs he left the impress of his individuality upon public thought and action and aided in large measure in shaping the policy of the states, in which he made his home. He was a member of the constitutional convention which formed the organic law of Tennessee and for many years he filled the position of judge of the probate court in Mississippi, and his knowledge of the law was broad and comprehensive and his clientage was ever of an important and distinctively representative character. His death occurred in 1865 when he was in his sixty-fifth year, and his wife passed away in Carrollton, Mississippi, when more than ninety years of age. They were both members of the Presbyterian church and to them were born five sons and three daughters, the surviving members of the family being William E.; Mary F., who is the wife of Charles N. Scott, of Carrollton, Mississippi; and Emily, the wife of James M. Moore, of College City, California.

Reared to manhood in the comity of his nativity, William E. Nelson pursued his literary education there, being a student in the subscription schools, for at that time the public school system had not been established. When sixteen years of age he took up the study of law with his father as his preceptor and in August, 1844, when twenty years of age he was admitted to the bar. Joining his father in practice he was for some years connected with the legal interests of White county and the adjoining circuit and his prowess as a lawyer was tested in the conduct of trials where he was opposed to many older and more experienced lawyers. However, he proved his skill and capability and successfully handled many intricate problems of jurisprudence. Continuing in practice in White county, Tennessee, until June, 1857, he then removed to Decatur, which was a small town but seemed to have a good future before it. Here Judge Nelson opened his law office and has since been a representative of the bar, covering a period of forty-six years. In the preparation of his cases he was always thorough and exhaustive. He seemed almost to intuitively grasp the strong points of law and fact and his reasoning thereon was presented so cogently and unanswerably as to leave no doubt as to the correctness of his views or of his conclusions. No detail seemed to escape him and every point was given its due prominence while the case was argued with such skill, ability and power that he seldom failed to gain the verdict desired.

It is a noticeable fact that the lawyer figures more prominently in public affairs than does the representative of any other class of business activity. The reason for this is evident and needs no explanation. The ability and training which qualify one to practice law also qualify him in many respects for duties which lie outside the sphere of his profession and which touch the general interests of state. Judge Nelson is a man who has brought keen discernment and thorough wisdom to bear not alone in professional paths, but also for the benefit of the city and state which have so long been his home and with whose interests he has been so thoroughly identified. He was appointed by the governor as one of a committee for the revisal of the statutes and in 1870 he was elected a member of the twenty-seventh general assembly of Illinois, which convened immediately after the adoption of the constitution. He served throughout all the repeated sessions of that long assembly and left the impress of his individuality upon the measures adopted by that body. To each question which came up for settlement he gave earnest and careful consideration and never failed in his allegiance to a course which he believed would contribute to the welfare of the entire state. After his retirement from that office he was chosen by popular suffrage to the position of circuit judge of the fourteenth circuit of Illinois and was upon that bench for one term. Later he was elected county judge of Macon county and by re-election was continued in the office for four years. On the bench he was the very embodiment of judicial dignity. He was ever courteous and considerate and never tried to win cheap applause at the expense of an inexperienced attorney or overwrought witness. A man of unimpeachable character, of unusual intellectual endowments, with a thorough understanding of the law, patience, urbanity and industry. Judge Nelson took to the bench the very highest qualifications for this most responsible office in the system of the state government; and his record as a judge has been in harmony with his record as a man and lawyer, distinguished by unswerving integrity and a masterful grasp of every problcm that has presented itself for solution.

Ere leaving his native state Judge Nelson was united in marriage to Miss Mary A. Snodgrass, a daughter of Colonel James and Margaret (McKinney) Snodgrass, who were residents of White county, Tennessee. This wedding was solemnized on the 26th of February, 1846, and the Judge and his wife became parents of five children, namely: Margaret Eliza, James Ridley, Theodore, Flora and Richard, but with the exception of Theodore, all died in infancy. Theodore Nelson has become a prominent figure in political circles in Chicago, Illinois, and has been honored with political preferment there. He married Augusta A. Blaine, a daughter of John R. Blaine, of Decatur, and they have one child, Mary Lena. Mrs. Nelson was a most estimable lady whose life was in consistent harmony with her membership in the church of Christ. She died in November, 1876, at the age of forty-seven years, respected by all who knew her. In June, 1889, the Judge was again married, at which date Mrs. Lucy H. Montgomery became his wife. She was the widow of John T. Montgomery and a daughter of Judge Jeptha G. Hollingsworth, of Elkton, Todd county, Kentucky. The Judge is quite prominent in Masonic circles, holding membership with Macon Lodge No. A.F. & A.M.; Macon Chapter, No. 21, R.A.M.; and Beaumanoir Commandery, No. 9, K.T. He also belongs to the Christian church and has been deeply interested in the moral advancement of the community. His political support has ever been given to the Democratic party and it has been upon this ticket that he has been elected to public office. In local positions, political and otherwise, he has served his fellow townsmen most capably and acceptably and Decatur owes much to his cooperation in its behalf. In his private life he is distinguished by all that marks the true gentleman. His is a noble character, one that subordinates personal ambition to public good and seeks rather the benefit of others than the aggrandizement of self. Endowed by nature with high intellectual qualities, to which we add the discipline and embellishments of culture, his is a most attractive personality and in Decatur, where he has so long made his home, he is numbered among the most honored citizens, receiving the respect and regard of people of all classes.

Past and Present of Decatur and Macon County, (1903) pg. 195-197

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Jeremiah P. Nicholson, dealer in agricultural implements, buggies and carriages of Decatur, is numbered among the early settlers of this county. He was born in Garrard County, KY, March 10, 1840, and is descended from one of the Revolutionary heroes, his grandfather, James Nicholson, who aided the Colonies in their struggle for independence.

Jeremiah spent his early years in a log cabin home and attended the subscription schools, his father being the teacher part of the time. In 1851, at the age of eleven, he accompanied his parents and their family of nine children to Macon County, the journey being made in wagons, drawn by two teams. After the first winter, which was spent in a log cabin, they removed to South Wheatland Township, and ten years later went to Moultrie County. In 1861 Mr. Nicholson began working as a farm hand, and in August of that year he enlisted in Company A, eighth Ill. Inf., under Col. Oglesby and Capt. Bruce, the latter being succeeded by Capt. Leeper, who was killed at Raymond, when G.F. Durfee, of Decatur, was placed in command. The first important battle in which our subject took part was that of Shiloh. After his year's term of service had expired, he was mustered out and returned home.

Mr. Nicholson was married Jan 26, 1865, to Catherine A., daughter of Robert Wallace, of Long Creek Township, where the lady was born. They began their domestic life upon a farm in Moultrie County, but after two years removed to Long Creek Township, where they lived until 1887. Mr. Nicholson devoted his energies to agricultural pursuits, and was quite successful. On coming to Decatur, he carried on a feed store for a year, and then began working for the firm of E.G. Allen & Bros., dealers in agricultural implements, buggies and carriages. In their employ he remained until 1892, when he bought out the business, which he has since conducted successfully. He carries a full line of everything found in a first-class establishment of the kind, and has a fine trade, which is constantly increasing.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson have been born the following children: Mina, William H., who married Miss Lottie Cressy, and is now bookkeeper in Milliken's Bank; Julia Ann; Cass, who aids his father in the store; Robert B.; Carrie; and Lester. The parents are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and highly respected citizens. Mr. Nicholson is a Knight-Templar Mason, and is a member of Dunham Post, G.A.R. He is now serving on the Board of Supervisors of his township. Whatever our subject undertakes he carries forward to successful completion. He is a man of good business ability, perservering and industrious, and by his own efforts he had gained prosperity, which is well deserved.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Macon Co., IL, 1893, p. 489-490

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The Nickey family are of German ancestry. The paternal grandfather was a native of Germany. He came to America and settled in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. He afterward removed to Cumberland county, in the same state, where he remained until his death. David Nickey, his son, was born in Cumberland county; he was a shoemaker by trade, but subsequently engaged in farming. He married Mary Ann Max. She was born in Perry county, Pa. She died in 1830. By this marriage there were fourteen children--eight boys and six girls--eight of whom are still living. The subject of this sketch is the youngest in the family. He was born in Cumberland county, Pa., November 16th, 1832. He received the rudiments of a common-school education in the private schools of his native county. Feeling the necessity and importance of a more thorough education than the common schools afforded, he went to work at four dollars per month, and earned money; and with the money thus earned he paid his tuition and supported himself for three years in the Plainfield Academy in Cumberland county. A portion of the time he taught school in the winter season and attended the academy during the summer months. In this way he prepared himself to enter Dickinson College, at Carlisle, Pa. He entered that institution in 1853, with the intention of taking a full course and graduating and preparing himself for the ministry; but he remained there but two years, when he came west on a visit, and has remained here to the present.

He taught school in the winter of 1855 in Sangamon, and in Newburg in 1857 and 1858. In the spring of 1858 he embarked in mercantile business in the village of Oakley, and at about the same time was appointed station agent for the Great Western Railroad Company of 1859. He continued in their employ until 1864. He was also appointed post-master in 1859, and held the office until 1862.

In the fall of 1864 he rented land in sec. 5, T. 16, R. 4 E, and in 1870 purchased the farm upon which he at present resides. Mr. Nickey taught school eleven winters altogether in Macon county. On the 9th of October, 1860, he was united in marriage to Miss Mary K. McCoy. She was born in Greenbrier county, Virginia, March 31st, 1825. Her parents, John and Sarah McCoy, moved to Urbana, Ohio, in 1832. Mrs. McCoy was a resident of that state at the time of her marriage. By this union there has been one son, named John McCoy Nickey. Mr. Nickey's occupation, since his residence in Illinois, has been for the greater part of the time that of a farmer and school-teacher. In 1873 his interest and zeal in educational matters received suitable recognition. He was elected county superintendent of schools; he occupied the office from 1873 to 1877. His term was characterized throughout by efficiency and zeal that aided very much in bringing up the common schools of Macon county to their present high standard of excellence. Politically, he is a member of the democratic party. He cast his first prsidential vote in 1856 for James Buchanan, and from that time to the present, in all national and state elections, has uniformly voted the ticket of his first choice. He has held various offices in his township, such as assessor, collector and school director, and in all has discharged the duties imposed upon him in a faithful and conscientious manner. In the summer of 1880 he received the nomination from the democratic party in convention assembled for the office of circuit clerk, and if elected will make an efficient and competent officer. He is a respected member of the ancient and honorable Order of Freemasonry, and is a member of Cerro-Gordo Lodge No. 600, Piatt county, Illinois.

This, in short, is a brief biographical sketch of one of Macon county's most worthy citizens. In his home he is a kind, hospitable gentleman, and, among his neighbors and friends who know him best, is regarded as an upright, honorable and honest man.

History of Macon Co, Illinois, 1880 - p. 221

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