JOSEPH M. SPENCER, an intelligent and progressive citizen of Ashland, Illinois, and an honored veteran of the late war, was born in Gibson county, Indiana, October 24, 1842.
His parents were Joseph and Elizabeth (Hayhurst) Spencer, both of whom were natives of Morgantown, Virginia, the father of Welsh and the mother of German ancestry. They were married in Miami county, Ohio, removing thence to Indiana, from where they came to Morgan county, Illinois, in 1849. The parents and younger children later removed to Kansas, where the father died in 1870, leaving his family and many friends to mourn his loss. He was a man of superior intelligence and generous impulses, and was very popular among his associates, who keenly felt his loss. His devoted wife, whose greatest interest was the welfare of her husband and family, returned to Illinois after her husband's death, finally expiring in Morgan county, Illinois, in 1879, deeply lamented by all who knew her and who appreciated her many excellent qualities of mind and heart.
This worthy couple were the parents of seven children, four of whom are now living: Job H., the eldest, died in Arkansas, in April, 1890, leaving two children, his wife having previously died; John D. served three years in the Forty-second Indiana Infantry, is now married and is a prosperous farmer of Gibson county, Indiana; William S., resides in Buena Vista, Colorado; he is a widower and has a family; Rebecca, wife of William A. Baldwin, lives in Loami, Sangamon county, Illinois; Amos and Simeon died in youth.
The subject of this sketch accompanied his parents to Illinois when he was seven years of age, and his boyhood and early manhood was spent in this State, in the quiet pursuits of farm and home life. These peaceful, happy days were disturbed by the Civil war, and young Joseph enlisted at Springfield, on September 15, 1861, in Company K, Thirty-third Illinois Infantry. He was in the Department of Missouri, and was taken prisoner by the notorious Jeff Thompson, at the battle of Blackwell Station, in October, 1861, and was paroled on the same day. Jeff said "they could either take the oath of allegiance, receive a parole, or be shot;" that he had "no use for prisoners." It was at this battle that Mr. Spencer saved the life of General Lippincott, a service which the General appreciated until the day of his death, and the heroic act afterward brought many courtesies to the subject of this sketch. He was offered a commission as Second Lieutenant, but declined it as a reward for doing his duty. We pause to exclaim, In what other country could such an incident have occurred? Truly, America rears kings, not ordinary men!
Mr. Spencer was seven months under parole, when he returned to the right of his command, at Village Creek, Arkansas, and took part in the fight at Cotton Plant, which occurred the following day. Here, he captured Colonel Harris' horse, sword and two revolvers. This was the Colonel who commanded the Texas Legion in that engagement. Mr. Spencer was next engaged in battle at Port Gibson, May 1, 1863; he had been in several unimportant battles during the interim, but this was the next general engagement. He was at Champion Hills and Black River Bridge; after which came the siege of Vicksburg, where he dug in the ditches and was under fire for forty-seven days. Here, he received a sunstroke, and was sent to St. Louis on a hospital boat. It was then that he realized fully the saying that misfortunes never come singly, for, while en route, he fell down a hatchway, striking on his head and causing deafness in his left ear, from which he has never recovered.
He rejoined his regiment at New Orleans, in February, 1864, they being on their way home on veteran furlough. Mr. Spencer reenlisted as a musician, and accompanied the boys home. Afterward, he returned to New Orleans, where he did garrison duty until the Mobile campaign, when the regiment was badly decimated by a railroad wreck, which killed and wounded many men. Mr. Spencer was assigned to the Sixteenth Army corps, under General A. J. Smith, and participated in the fight at Spanish Fort. He then went to Montgomery, Alabama, and thence to Selma, of the same State, whence he and the command moved forward to Meridian, Mississippi. From there they went to Vicksburg, and, later, to Yazoo, where Mr. Spencer was mustered out of service, November 24, 1865, after a continuous service of more than four years.
His duty done, his thoughts naturally turned to procuring a means of livelihood. It was then that he turned his attention to learning the business of painting and decorating, which he has followed most of the time ever since. In 1866, he went to Kansas, where he remained until 1874, at which time he removed to Iowa. While in Missouri, in the winter of 1862, he met with a very painful accident, in which he lost one finger and had another severely injured, which, although not incapacitating him from work, has, at times, seriously interfered with his dexterity. In 1880, he finally returned to Ashland, Illinois, to which place he is attached by all the associations of his childhood. Here he and his family have since resided, in a substantial and comfortable home surrounded by neat and attractive grounds, the whole place breathing the air of thrift and content. Besides this, Mr. Spencer is also the owner of other valuable property.
He was married, August 7, 1870, to Miss Mary E. Gard, an estimable lady, who is a native of Morgan county, Illinois, of which place her parents, Ephraim and Paulina Gard, were worthy pioneers. Her eldest brother, John S., died in the United States service, while waiting for his discharge, after the close of the war. Mrs. Spencer was the second of six children, only three of whom now survive: William, Mary and Lydia.
Mr. and Mrs. Spencer have three daughters, Ella, Anna and Lulu, all of whom are at home, the second being a teacher in the public schools. They are all highly intellectual and have been liberally educated. Mrs. Spencer and the two older daughters are useful members of the Christian Church.
Mr. Spencer is a straight Republican in politics, and takes an active interest in all public affairs.
He is a prominent member of John L. Douglas Post, No. 592, in which he served for two terms as Quartermaster, and one term as Officer of the Day. He is an Ancient Odd Fellow, to which order he has belonged for a number of years.
Any one who has read thus far in the life of this noble, upright man, will not be at a loss to make deductions in keeping with his exemplary character. Unaided, he has attained to prominence and acquired a comfortable income for himself and family, while his numerous generous qualities appeal successfully to the hearts of his countrymen.