WILLIAM SEWALL, one of the earliest settlers of Cass county, Illinois, was a son of Major-General Henry Sewall. He was born January 17, 1797, in Augusta, Maine; received a good business education at home, and also took a short academic course. In 1818, at the age of twenty-one, he obtained a clerkship in Washington, but on his way thither was ship wrecked, which event entirely changed his plans, for, in working the ship's pumps his hands were so badly frozen as to render it impossible for him to fill the position. He then spent a year teaching school in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, when, in addition to the common branches he taught also bookkeeping and the higher mathematics, including astronomy, navigation and surveying. To illustrate these he used the best brass mounted terrestrial and celestial globes, with maps, charts and other appliances.
He was married August 9, 1821, to Mrs. Elizabeth W. Adams, who was born in Charles county, Maryland, July 27, 1795, a daughter of Samuel W. Middleton, an extensive planter. Mr. Sewall removed with his family to Jacksonville, Illinois, in the fall of 1829, and while residing there he again taught school. He was present at the organization of the First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, and he and his wife were among its first members.
In the spring of 1833 he removed to his farm of 640 acres, entered from the Government and partially opened a short time before. It was in the Sangamon bottom, near the present site of Chandlerville. At that time it was a wilderness which the Indians had not yet wholly abandoned. Here, as was his custom, he zealously engaged in Sabbath-school and other Christian work, and exerted on the new and growing community an influence for good difficult to estimate. Within a radius of eight or ten miles he organized three or four Sunday schools, one of which was at his own house, where he conducted it for a considerable time, with only the assistance of his wife. They furnished free to each family a large cloth covered Testament for use in this work. Afterward, in the secular schools, these became the only reading books for many of the children for a number of years. By their constant zeal and Christian labor they were instrumental in preparing the way for the first church organization in the vicinity, the First Presbyterian, but afterward a Congregational Church, and located at Woodstock, now Chandlerville. Mr. Sewall was elected its first ruling Elder and Sunday school Superintendent, and these offices he continued to fill with efficiency as long as he lived. He was a man of extensive reading, and rather in advance of his time - a pioneer in material improvements as well as morals. He had the first washing machine, the first cook stove and the first threshing machine ever used in the county. He also brought the first Durham stock of cattle into his neighborhood, and made the first brick, which were of unsurpassed quality. Shortly after his death his widow brought the first harvesting machine ever used in Cass County. He also was a good singer and performed on the flute. He lived a very useful life in all respects; and although called from his labors in the prime of life, he won the confidence, respect and esteem of all who knew him, and succeeded in laying the foundation for a competency for his family.
Politically, he was a Whig, but never prominent in public affairs. He was thoroughly posted, however, on the political questions of the day, and prompt to express his opinion through the ballot box.
He died at his residence near Chandlerville, Illinois, April 7, 1846, at the age of forty-nine years. His widow survived him about forty-nine years. His widow survived him about thirty years, and to her was left the task of educating a large family of children, and of managing the many interests of an extensive farm. She was successful in settling up the estate to advantage, showing great energy and executive ability. She removed an incumbrance on the farm in a very short time, and thus succeeded in saving the place intact for the family. Two or three years after the death of her husband she removed to Jacksonville, Illinois, to educate her children, where they received a good training. A short time before her death she changed her residence to her daughter's, Mrs. J. H. Goodell, at Chanderville, where she died October 5, 1874, aged seventy-nine years.
Mr. and Mrs. Sewall had two sons and four daughters, as follows:
Henry M., born near Warrenton, Virginia, March 6, 1823, educated at Illinois College, Jacksonville, married Mrs. Ann E. Clark, formerly Miss Higgins, November 22, 1849, and settled on a part of his father's farm, where he died May 3, 1850, aged twenty-seven years. At his father's death, although a Methodist, he was chosen Superintendent of the Congregational Sunday school, at the age of twenty-three, to fill his father's place. After filling that place for a year or two he was appointed Class leader in his own church, which position he filled until his death. He had one son.
Catharine T. H., born near Warrenton, Virginia, November 6, 1825, educated at Monticello Seminary, married Robert Cole, a farmer of Cass county, and died November 5, 1854, having had three sons and two daughters.
Susan E., born in Harrison county, West Virginia, July 29, 1829, graduated at Jacksonville (Illinois) Female Academy in 1851, married in 1867 Abiel Fry, Sheriff of Muscatine county, Iowa, and after his death married, in 1878, Rev. William Barnes of Jacksonville, at one time pastor of the Congregational Church at Chandlerville; she is now a widow, residing at Jacksonville, with no children.
William W., born in Jacksonville, February 11, 1832, graduated at the Illinois College, same city, in 1856, and from that time until 1885 made his home at Virden, this State, where he married Susan E. Cox, in 1858. Enlisting in the Union army during the last war, he served three years, engaging with his regiment in a number of important battles; was severely wounded at the capture of Mobile. After the war he established the North Star Flouring mill, and was for seventeen years a joint proprietor of the same. For many years he was successively Deacon, Trustee and Ruling Elder of his church, the Presbyterian. He now resides at Carthage, Missouri, having two sons and two daughters.
Mary M., born near Chandlerville, July 15, 1834, educated at Jacksonville Female Academy and married Addison L. Cole, in 1853. She resided on a part of her father's farm, where she died April 16, 1857. She had five sons.
Harriet A., born near Chandlerville, April 4, 1838, educated at Jacksonville Female Academy, married in 1865 John H. Goodell, a lumber merchant of Chandlerville, where she still resides, having three sons and three daughters.