CONOVER, GEORGE. - The personal history of George Conover, of Virginia, is a very interesting and instructive one for it proves that few things are impossible to the man who utilizes his natural ability and is not afraid to stand firm in his convictions. Mr. Conover comes of a very old family, one with historic records, and was born one-half mile west of old Princeton, Cass County, September 11, 1846, a son of Levi and Phoebe Ann (Rosenberger) Conover.
The first of the family to come to America was Wolfort Gerretse Van Couvenhoven, as the name was then spelled, he being a native of Holland. Arriving at New York City, or New Amsterdam as it was then called, in 1630, the pioneer ancestor lived there and managed the affairs of a fellow countryman of large means. The estate upon which he worked is now in the very heart of the metropolis of the United States, Gerrett Wolfertse Van Couvenhoven, son of Wolfort Gerretse, born in Holland in 1710, came to America with his father in 1630. He was one of the eight men representing the people who, November 3, 1643, memorialized the States General for relief in consequence of their forlorn and defenseless condition, as per page 139 of Vol. 1 of documents of Colonial History of New York. William Gerretse Van Couvenhoven, a grandson of Wolfort Gerretse, sold his property in New York in 1709 and moved to Monmouth County, New Jersey. John Williamse, a great-grandson, was born April 6, 1681, and Dominicus, a great-great-grandson, was born in New Jersey about 1724. He was killed by lightning. His five sons were with Gen. Washington in the Revolutionary war, and four of them were granted leave to attend their father's funeral, and thus missed being in the battle of Monmouth, which occurred June 28, 1778. The name of Van Couvenhoven was trimmed down to Connover previous top 1800 and to Conover by 1830.
Levi, son of Dominicus, a great-great-great-grandson of Wolfert Gerretse, being one of the five brothers mentioned above, was born October 10, 1757, in or near Monmouth, New Jersey. He moved to Kentucky about 1790, settled near Lexington, but afterward moved to Columbia, Adair County, Ky. He entered land there, 400 acres three miles east of Columbia, February 3, 18906, land entry No. 401. His near relatives entered the same day 3,200 acres more. Levi Conover, the father of George Conover, was a son of the Levi named above, and was born near Columbia, Ky., January 14, 1808. Levi Conover, father of George Conover, came to Cass County from Columbia, Adair County, Ky., and his brother Peter came prior to him, taking up government land two miles south of Princeton, Cass Co., Ill. It was through the representations of this brother, that Levi Conover left his Kentucky home for one in Illinois, the trip being made according to pioneer methods in a covered wagon.
This Levi Conover was twice married, his first wife being Elizabeth Petefish, a sister of the founder of the Petefish, Skiles & Co., bank at Virginia, Ill. When he started from Kentucky he owned a horse and colt, but these were stolen from him while on the way, so upon his arrival here he went to work splitting rails for fifty cents per hundred. By his first marriage he had one child, but both it and the mother died at its birth. He then went to Iowa and bought 500 acres of land and with a partner built a log house and there he suffered all the privations incident to pioneering at that time and in that locality. His second wife, Phoebe Ann Rosenberger, the mother of George Conover, bore him five children, namely: Mary Jane, who died at the age of eighteen years; Martha Ann, who became Mrs. Oswald Skiles and the mother of Lee Skiles; Matilda Ellen, who became Mrs. William Epler, lives at Lake Charles, La.; George and Charles Wesley. The latter owns the old home place, but lives at Ashland, Ill. Peter Conover, brother of Levi Conover, entered the land on which George Conover was born. Levi Conover bought it in 1841.
Brought up upon a farm, George Conover's first educational advantages were obtained in the district schools, later the Wesleyan University at Bloomington, Ill., and the Bryant & Stratton Business College of Chicago. On coming back to the farm he began raising stock and so continued to work until he was thirty years old. At that time, deciding upon a wider career, he moved to Virginia, Ill., and became a partner of the Petefish, Skiles & Co., private bankers, in March, 1876, and was at once installed as bookkeeper. For eight years he served the bank faithfully in that capacity, and then bought the interest of Mr. Oliver, who managed the bank. Mr. Conover then became manager and so continued until the private bank was incorporated in 1903, he being one of the incorporators, and was elected its president. After serving two years, Mr. Conover was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Mr. Skiles, who, with his associates, was owner of three banks in the county. In 1881 they started the Skiles, Rearick & Company private bank at Ashland, and in 1882 bought the Chandler bank in Chandlerville, and organized a private bank under the title of Petefish, Skiles & Mertz. Later, or in 1904, they took out a charter under the title of the State Bank of Chandlerville and Mr. Conover has been president of this bank since its organization. Mr. Conover is also interested in the State Bank at Buffalo, Ill.; the Calcasieu Trust & Savings Bank at Lake Charles, La., and the private bank of Conover & Co., at Kilbourne, Ill. Mr. Conover and family are members of the Presbyterian church.
On February 23, 1871, Mr. Conover was married to Virginia Bone, a daughter of William and Farinda P. (Osborn) Bone. Mrs. Conover was born in the Rock Creek neighborhood in Menard County, Ill. Four children have been born of this marriage, namely: William Bone, who is of New Orleans, La.; Ernest Bone, who is of Springfield; George Bone, who is cashier of the bank at Buffalo, Ill.; and Virginia Louise, who is at home.
George Conover's father gave him a half section of land two miles southeast of Virginia, that at that time was nothing more than a frog pons, but after doing a great deal of hard work, he has brought it into a fine state of cultivation, and it is now very valuable. Mr. Conover still owns this property, and is naturally proud of what he has developed from what was once considered worthless land.