WILLIAM T. TYSON, a widely and favorably known citizen of Bainbridge township, Schuyler county, Illinois, an honored veteran of the late war, and one of the most prosperous farmers of the State, is a worthy representative of a prominent family of distinguished patriots, who sealed their devotion to their country long before she became a distinct nation, and who, by their united and continued efforts, have contributed in no small measure to her steady advancement to her present glorious position among the countries of the world.
Zephaniah Tyson, the distinguished grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was born in Virginia in 1771, and was thus by birth placed on the arena of the most stirring events of that age. It is not surprising, therefore, that he should have developed that surprising precocity which the time itself tended to foster. Born of patriots, breathing the air of patriotism, and drinking in those noble sentiments which have filled the hearts of heroes since the world began, he early put by the pastimes of youth, assuming with ease and pleasure the responsibilities and cares of a man and a soldier. At the age of nineteen years he enlisted in the Indian war, and served under that able and celebrated patriot, General Wayne. Again, in the war of 1812, he was still found fighting under the starry flag; and later took part in the battle of Tippecanoe, under General Harrison. Amidst all these warlike engagements, he found time to cultivate the friendship of the little god of love, who directed his shafts from behind the bright glances of Miss Margaret De Long, an amiable and intelligent Virginian, and a descendant of an old and esteemed family of that State. In 1830, he removed to Illinois, which was then a new and sparsely settled country, where he settled on a farm on the southeast quarter of section 3, township 1 north, range 1 west of the fourth principal meridian, where he continued to live until his death in 1849, at the age of seventy-eight years, universally and sincerely lamented.
George Tyson, an able son of a great father, was born in 1807, on the Muskingum river, in Ohio. In those times, the young apparently matured much earlier than in our present indolent age, for we find this youth leaving home and starting in pursuit of his fortune long before he was fully grown. He went to Cincinnati, where he found work, and where he soon afterward purchased a flat-boat, with which he commenced trading and trafficking with the natives on the Ohio river. In 1829, he married Miss Lucinda Bellamy, a native of Culpeper county, Virginia. Soon afterward he sold his flat-boat, and with the proceeds purchased a team, with which the young couple made the trip overland from a point on the Ohio river to Schuyler county, Illinois, where they settled on a farm in the southeast quarter of section 11, township 1 north, range 1 west. Fortune smiled on their industrious efforts, and in time Mr. Tyson accumulated considerable property, having 480 acres of choice agricultural land, besides owning a steam saw and grist mill. In 1866 he went West and has never been heard from since. The faithful wife and devoted mother survived her husband's probable death ten years, expiring September 10, 1876, in her sixty-seventh year, leaving a bereaved family and many friends to mourn her loss.
William T. Tyson, the subject of this notice, was born April 2, 1841, in a log house, situated forty rods from his present large and comfortable residence. His early life was spent on the home farm, and he attended the country schools of his vicinity, where he received a good common-school education, sufficient to enable him to teach several schools in his township. At the age of sixteen, he accompanied his parents to Moniteau county, Missouri, where his father bought a farm of 160 acres on the Pacific railroad, and ran a woodyard in connection with his farm, there being an abundance of excellent timber on the land. In the fall of 1858, young William accompanied his parents to Henry county, Missouri, where his father bought 300 acres of excellent prairie land, on the west half of the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 21, in township 43, of range 28. Here the family continued to reside until the breaking out of the Civil war, when the mother and younger children returned to the old homestead in Illinois. It was then that young William displayed that patriotism for which his family was famous, by raising the first flag ever hoisted in the county after the nomination of Abraham Lincoln. He raised a pole fifty feet high, to which was attached a flag fourteen by twenty-one feet, with a rail resting on the top of the pole. He was several times ordered to take it down, but as often refused to do so.
This sentiment of love for his country culminated in his enlistment in the United States service as a private in Company D, Cass County Regiment of Cavalry, Missouri Home Guards, on June 27, 1861, to serve three years, or during the war; and was discharged at Harrisonville, Missouri, February 28, 1862, by reason of General Order No. 25, paragraph three, Headquarters Department of Missouri, December 14, 1861. He participated in several engagements, the most important of which were Parkersville and Harrisonville, Missouri, July 18 and 19, 1861. He was selected for Second Lieutenant of the company, and lacked but a few votes of being elected. He was one of the soldiers who helped to guard the first wagon train of provisions to Lyon's army, after the battle of Wilson's creek, Missouri. Soon after his discharge, he started for Illinois, and was obliged to cross the entire State of Missouri from west to east at a very dangerous time of the war.
On August 12, 1862, Mr. Tyson re-enlisted in the army as a private in Company D, 115th Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, for three years or during the war. During his service he did his full share of marching, fighting, scouting, picketing, digging and suffering, as well as participating in the foraging and picnicking, of which Uncle Sam's boys are generally believed to have had a large amount. During this term of service he took part in a number of prominent engagements. He was in the battle of Franklin and Harpeth river, April 10, 1863. He was in Rosecrans' campaign from Murfreesboro to Tullahoma, Tennessee, from June 23 to 30, 1863. He participated in the battle of Chickamauga, September 18, 19 and 20, 1863; and was in the Dalton raid, under General Palmer, from February 21 to 27, 1864. He was also in the charge on Tunnel Hill, Georgia, May 7, 1864, and took part in the battle of Resaca, May 15 and 16, 1864.
He was one of that brave little band of forty-two men who formed Company D, under Captain Hymer's command, who held their own against such fearful odds at Buzzard's Roost gap, Georgia. They were stationed at the block house at that point, in July, 1864, where on August 15, they were attacked by Wheeler's cavalry; but Company D opened such a fire of shot on the attacking party that the cavalry were obliged to retire. Again, on October 13, Hood's army of 40,000 came to the block house and opened fire on the inmates with musketry and artillery, 133 cannon balls being fired at the fort. This little band of Spartans, however, held the attacking party in check for ten hours, when they were finally forced to surrender. In this engagement, five were killed, six wounded and thirty-seven taken prisoners. The prisoners, among whom was the subject of this sketch, were marched to Cahaba, Alabama, where they were confined for ten days in Castle Morgan, which was named in honor of the daring Confederate raider, John Morgan. Owing to the crowded condition of the prison, they were sent to Millen, Georgia, where they were when General Sherman sent General Kilpatrick's Cavalry, on November 22, to rescue them if possible. The preceding evening, however, they were loaded on the cars and sent to Savannah, and thence on down the coast to Thomasville, Georgia, and from there across the country to Andersonville. In this famous, or rather infamous, prison, Mr. Tyson was confined for three months; at the end of that time he was sent to Vicksburg, where he was paroled, exchanged, and loaded on the Henry Ames, one of those magnificent floating palaces for which the lower Mississippi was famous in ante-bellum days. He was in this way transferred to St. Louis, and there paid off, and given a thirty days' furlough to go home. At the expiration of this time he returned to Springfield, Illinois, where he received his final pay and discharge, on June 14, 1865. As typical of the appreciation in which Mr. Tyson was held by his commanders, may be mentioned the remark of Captain Hymer, who said to him: "I know you were one of my best soldiers, and were always in the line of duty." Mr. Tyson was on detached service in the Signal Corps, at Wartrace, Tennessee; and while stationed at Tullahoma, that State, was headquarter clerk for General Jesse H. Moore. While in Kentucky, Mr. Tyson was a guest of the great Kentucky statesman, Cassius M. Clay, at that time absent in Russia, but whose absence was amply compensated for by the cordiality and hospitality of Mrs. Clay, her daughter and daughter-in-law, with whom he had the pleasure of dining.
By the spring of 1867, Mr. Tyson had saved up $500, with which he purchased 160 acres of land in section 11, township 1 north range 1 west. This event foreshadowed another, which transpired in the fall of the same year, and which was but the fulfilling of the saw, to provide a cage before getting the bird. He was married November 10, 1867, to Miss Sarah J. Scott, an estimable lady, and a resident of Schuyler county, Illinois. Their happy married life, however, was destined to be of short duration, for on February 22, 1878, the faithful wife and mother expired at home, in the midst of her family and friends. She was widely known and greatly beloved on account of her practical Christian virtues and kind heart. They had four children: Jesse C., Laura, Leora and Stella, the latter of whom died in infancy; there are now two grandchildren.
In 1880, Mr. Tyson was appointed Census Enumerator for Bainbridge township, to which position he was reappointed on May 20, 1890. He is in very comfortable circumstances, and owns as fine a farm as there is in the country, which is provided with good improvements and is moderately and well stocked.
In politics he has always been a Republican, and is opposed to oppression in any form.
A duty done is always a source of pleasure and pride to the one performing it. This is essentially true at all times and at all places, but how much more so must it be when the performance involves danger and perhaps death; when, as in the late war, the champions of justice and freedom were baptized with fire and with blood. It is then that duty assumes her heaven-born spirit, and pours into the heart the balm of unspeakable joy and that peace which passeth understanding.