JOSEPH C. HOWELL, is a native of New Jersey, born in Trenton, January 15th, 1815. His father, Henry B., was also a native of the same state. The family is of English and Welsh extraction. Henry B. Howell was engaged for the greater part of his life in merchandizing, and died in his native state at the advanced age of seventy-two years. He married Hannah Corlees, who was also a native of New Jersey. The family consisted of seven children, six of whom have survived the parents. The mother died aged eighty-one years. All of the children still remain in their native state except the youngest daughter, wife of Joseph A. Sawyer, of Worcester, Mass., and the subject of our sketch. Joseph, attended the schools of his native sate and received a fair education. His time was divided between attending the school and assisting his father in the store. When he arrived at his sixteenth year, he left the parental roof and went to Philadelphia and entered a wholesale dry goods store as shipping and general clerk. He remained so engaged until the fall of 1836, when, having heard glowing accounts of the great west and the opportunities that it offered a young man to make a fortune, provided he was stout of heart and had self-reliant qualities, he concluded to follow the stream that was then setting westward. His action was somewhat hastened by a situation being offered him to take charge of a stock of goods, as soon as he would arrive at Alton, Illinois. He accepted the offer and made immediate preparation to take up his abode and cast his fortunes among and with the people of the great west. He accordingly paid his family and friends a hasty visit, informed them of his intentions, packed his clothing in a valise, and on the 6th of September, 1836, bid adieu to home and the associations of his youth and started upon what has since proven the business journey of his life. He landed in Alton on the 27th of the same month, and immediately commenced clerking for Messrs. Taylor, Davis & McAffe, with whom he remained until the following spring, when he came to Carlinville and took charge of a stock of goods for Isaac Greathouse. At the end of seven or eight months, Mr. Greathouse failed, and Howell was out of a job, with no prospects of getting one for some time in the future. This was in the panicky times of 1837, when financial distress was greater and more wide-spread than before or since. There was no money to be had, and all kinds of credit had been exhausted. The outlook was extremely dark. About this time, Mr. Howell was invited to make his home with Nicholas Boice where he could remain free of cost until such time as he (Boice) could open up a stock of goods, when he would give Howell employment. He accepted the kindly offer in the same spirit in which it was made, and remained an inmate of his house and home until 1856. The friendship thus formed lasted through the life of one, and the other still remembers with gratitude the kindly act, and disinterested, noble friendship of his first tried and true friend, Nick Boice. Mr. Howell took his place behind the counter in the employ of Mr. Boice, with whom he remained until 1856. On the 4th of June, 1841, he was appointed post-master, and held the office until October 1st, 1844. The office at that time was almost equivalent to being postmaster of the entire county. The county was sparsely settled, and the revenues arising therefrom amounted yearly to the sum of one hundred and sixty dollar. But the duties of the postmaster were nevertheless onerous and just as full of perplexities as at thepresent day. Letters would arrive for person living long distances from the office whom word would be sent, informing them of the arrival of a letter and the necessity of their calling and getting it, as there was from ten to twenty cents postage due on it. In those days the receiver of the letter usually paid the postage. Mr. Howell is kindly remembered by the old settlers for his activity and promptness in getting letters to their destination. In 1847 he was elected justice of the peace, and afterwards constable, and held both offices, at different time, up until 1865. In 1850 he was appointed assistant United States Marshall for taking the census of Macoupin county. On the 28th of June, 1852, the rail was laid to Carlinville, on the Chicago & Alton railroad, and the cars came through from Alton for the first time. The completion of the railroad gave a new impetus to business, an gave property of all kinds a fixed value. About this time, Mr. Howell added real estate to his other business. He also dealt in agricultural implements, and was the first resident agent for the sale of plows and McCormick reapers. He, about this time made some judicious and good investments in real estate for himself, and also became agent for non-residents and others who had tracts of land in the county. Since that time his principal occupation and business has been in the real estate line. At present he is closing up his business with a view of retiring from active live.
In 1867 he was honored by Governor Oglesby, who appointed him a member of the first State Board of Equalization. In 1865 he was appointed notary public, an office he has held up to the present time. In politics Mr. Howell is a sound republican, thoroughly indoctrinated in the principles of his party. He was originally an old line whig and cast his first vote for Harrison, for president, in 1840. After the abandonment of the whig organization, he became a republican, and is still an active member of the party. He is not a member of any church organization, but from early associations and teachings is inclined to the Methodist church.
This in brief is a sketch of Mr. Howell. He may be regarded as one of the early settlers of Macoupin county, and particularly of Carlinville. His handiwork can yet be seen in the county map that he made in 1851, it being the first map of the county. Few men in the county are more widely or better known than he is, and wherever known all respect him for sterling qualities of both head and heart.