Published by Brink, McDonough & Co., Philadelphia
HISTORY OF MACOUPIN COUNTY, ILLINOIS
DESCRIPTIVE OF ITS SCENERY,
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.
WILLIAM O. JENCKS.
William O. Jencks, who has been a resident of Bunker Hill for the last quarter of a century, was born in Providence county, Rhode Island, September 19th, 1824. His forefathers had been living in Rhode Island from the first settling of that country. His ancestry is traced back to Joseph Jencks, who was governor of Rhode Island under the British crown. His grandfather, Samuel Jencks, and his maternal grandfather, James Tyler, were soldiers in the Revolutionary war, and served faithfully in the memorable struggle of the colonies for their independence.
His grandfather, Tyler, was one of the party who disguised themselves as Indians and threw overboard the tea in Boston harbor. His father's name was Joseph Jencks, and his mother's maiden name Esther Tyler. His father was the founder of the Smithville seminary at Scituate, Rhode Island. When he started this school it was called the Pond Factory academy, and has since grown to be a large and flourishing institution. His father was principal of it till his death on the 3d of August, 1827. William O. Jencks was the youngest of ten children. He has one brother and three sisters living, all residing within a short distance of their early home. He was nearly three years old when his father died. He obtained a good education in the common schools and at the Smithville seminary. He mastered the trade of a carriage maker in all its branches. In early life he suffered much from weakness and delicacy of constitution. He lived in Windham county, Connecticut, from 1845 to 1847. The latter year he came west. From Chicago he went to St. Louis, and there took a boat up the Mississippi to St. Paul, in Minnesota territory. All that country was then wild and unsettled. At St. Paul he put up the second store ever built in that town, and sold ready-made clothing for the Boston and Iowa Trading company, of which he was one of the members. Not finding much improvement in his health while in that business, he determined to try what life among the Indians would do for his benefit. He had learned the Indian language with the Sioux about St. Paul, and in the spring of 1849 went off with Big Six and his band to the plains, on a buffalo hunt. He was absent all summer, and returned to St. Paul to following October. The succeeding winter was also spent in hunting and camping with the Indians. He learned the Indian language completely and spoke it almost as fluently as the savages themselves. He kept on good terms with the Indians, and managed to spend a few months as pleasantly as could be expected of a civilized man. He returned to St. Louis Christmas eve, 1849. His health had become better and his constitution stronger. He found employment in a carriage shop in St. Louis, where, with the exception of a few months spent in traveling in Kansas and Texas, he worked till 1854. In October, 1854, he came to Woodburn, and the following Christmas went to Bunker Hill, where he has since lived. January 8th, 1857, he was married to Martha Lewellen, daughter of Green Lewellen. She was born in Bedford county, Virginia. After he was married he erected a shop in Bunker Hill and has carried on the carriage making business ever since. In 1870 he also engaged in the livery business. He has been a man of considerable enterprise and energy, and has been successful in business. On the incorporation of Bunker Hill he was appointed the first collector and constable. For four years, from 1869 to 1873, he filled the office of justice of the peace. He was elected magistrate three times, but only qualified onc3e. He was once a democrat in politics, but became dissatisfied with the cause of the party in regard to the admission into the Union of Kansas and Nebraska. He was opposed to the extension of slavery in the territories, and became a republican, and in 1856 voted for Gen. Fremont for president. When the rebellion broke out he volunteered and enlisted in Company F seventh Illinois regiment. He was first lieutenant of his company. Since 1868 he has been a member of the Bunker Hill Methodist church, and has been one of the leading members of that denomination in Bunker Hill, serving as class leader and trustee and holding other official positions. He has four children living and four dead. He has been actively interested in the order of Odd Fellows, and for nine years has been representative in the grand lodge of Illinois.
Index to Biographies
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