Biography - William C. Rich, Sr.

HON. WILLIAM C. RICH, Sr., capitalist, Cobden. Among the few who have been pre-eminently successful in this county, we find Mr. Rich. He was born on the Tennessee line in Alabama November 18, 1819, to Thomas and Catherine (Noah) Rich. The ancestors of the Rich family were Germans, but had been in America for generations. The grandfather of our subject moved from North Carolina to Tennessee, Franklin County, when his son Thomas was but a young man, and resided there until the time of his death. Thomas Rich was married in Tennessee to the mother of our subject, and lived in that State until after several children were born to them; then he moved to Alabama among the canebrakes and Indians. Here he remained till 1834, when he moved with his family to Illinois, but had started with the intention of going to Arkansas. After coming to this county, he remained for a part of a year in what is now Rich Precinct, then bought the farm now owned by John M. Rich, his youngest son. He resided then on the old homestead till his death in 1866. His wife, however, died in 1845. They were the parents of three sons and six daughters; two sons and four daughters are now living. Our subject was educated in the proverbial schools of the pioneer — round logs built up and a rude cover over it, but no floors; their seats were made by splitting logs and putting legs in the pieces; there was one door, but no window except an opening left between two logs; then the fire-place occupied one end of the building, and at noons the boys would have to cut down the trees and get in the wood which they burned. Notwithstanding such rude schoolhouses, our subject obtained sufficient schooling to engage in teaching school for some time in winters, farming in the summer. He frequently indulged in the sport of hunting. When about twenty-five years of age, he was married to Millie C. Guthrie, daughter of Ansaleu Gruthrie, who had come to this county from Kentucky about four years after our subject. Mr. and Mrs. Rich have eleven children living — Samantha (Tripp), Catherine, Matilda (Moreland), Eliza (Condon), La Fayette, Amalphus, William, Maria, Lou, Lizzie and George. Mr. Rich has never given up farming, although his other business has frequently taken nearly his whole attention. When a young man, he was elected Constable, and from that time on has been in some public office most of the time. Served as Deputy Sheriff for a number of years; afterward served % for twelve years as Justice of the Peace. In 1861 and 1862, he was School Commissioner. Then in 1863 was elected to fill out a vacancy in the Sheriff's office; when the term was up, he was elected for the ensuing two years, 1865 and 1866. He then retired for two years, but was again elected for the term of 1869 and 1870. In 1871 and 1872, he was in the State Legislature, and from 1879 to 1882 he was one of the County Commissioners. In politics, he has ever been Democratic. About 1861, he joined the Jonesboro Lodge, A., F. & A. M. Is also a member of the Royal Arch Chapter at Anna. Although Mr. Rich has spent a great deal of his time in public life, he has not neglected his own business, and has made a large property by hard work and saving. His father being a man in very moderate circumstances, could not help his children to make a start, and so he early formed the practice of relying upon himself and of taking but few risks. A short time before the panic of 1872, he had engaged in the mercantile business in Jonesboro, in partnership with Willis Willard. The panic soon following, they found that they were not making anything, so they divided the goods and boxed them up. But Mr. Rich did not like the idea of having about S6,000 worth of goods on his hands and yielding him no profit, so traded one half and got a half-interest in a saw mill in Jackson County. So they ran store and mill for two years, running the lumber down Big Muddy and up to St. Louis. They then closed out business at the end of two years.

Extracted 26 Jul 2021 by Norma Hass from 1883 History of Alexander, Union, and Pulaski Counties, Illinois, Part V, pages 142-143.

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