Among the old residents and worthy citizens of Honey Point township is Peter Keplinger, whose portrait with that of his wife appear on another page. He was born in Washington county, Tennessee, August 7th, 1815. His ancestors were of German descent, and were early settlers of Pennsylvania. His grandfather was Jacob Keplinger. His father's name was John Keplinger, who was born in Pennsylvania, and when he was about grown the family removed to East Tennessee, and settled in Washington county. John Keplinger was married in East Tennessee to Elizabeth Rubel. This marriage took place December 18, 1806. The Rubel family came from Germany about the year 1760. There were two brothers, Mathias and Peter; Mathias settled on a farm near Lewistown, Mifflin county, Pennsylvania. Peter Rubel settled near Hagerstown, Frederick county, Maryland, and was married March 19, 1770, to Catherine Wirt. His daughter Elizabeth, the mother of the subject of our sketch, was born December 22, 1787. In 1798 the family moved to East Tennessee, locating in Washington county. The Rubel family became a very large one in Tennessee, and several branches moved to Illinois at an early date and settled in Morgan and Cass counties. Among the descendants several became physicians, and also engaged in the work of the ministry. Mrs. Keplinger's uncle, Jacob Rubel, was in the war of 1812, and was killed in an engagement on Lake Erie.
John and Elizabeth Keplinger were the parents of ten children, of whom Peter Keplinger was the fifth in the order of his birth. He lived in East Tennessee until he was fifteen years of age. His father owned a farm there in a rough and mountainous district. The schools of that section afforded poor advantages for getting an education. They were subscription schools held in log school-houses, and the nearest was three miles from his father's residence. After coming to Illinois he settled in a thinly populated district of country, where the school advantages were poorer still. In 1830 his father moved with his family to Morgan county, Illinois, and lived for a few months on Indian Creek, and in the summer of 1831 removed to and settled six miles east of Jacksonville. The country immediately around Jacksonville contained quite a number of settlers, but the prairies still existed in their native wildness. Wolves and deer could be found in great numbers. The settlements were in the edge of the timber. At that time no one thought of settling out on the open prairie, which was considered good for grazing cattle but not for farming. A few later however demonstrated the fact that it is the prairie and not the timber that contributes to the wealth of this state. There was no market for any produce, and the little money in the country was brought in by emigrants from the older states. But the people were sociable and neighborly, and when they met in Jacksonville were accustomed to enjoy themselves in an old-fashioned and hearty manner.
Mr. Keplinger remained at home and worked for his father until he was twenty-one, and then began life on his own account. He received of his father one hundred dollars in money, a horse, saddle, and bridle. He rented land during his stay in Morgan county. He was married February 28, 1839, to Miss Sarah E. Harris. She was also a native of east Tennessee, and was born in Elizabethtown, Carter county, May 10, 1820. Her father, Benjamin Harris, was a hatter by trade; he was born in Maryland, but moved to Tennessee, at an early date. He was a soldier in the war of 1812, and married Mary Ragan, whose father, Jeremiah Ragan, was a native of Virginia, and had been a soldier in the revolutionary war. Benjamin Harris moved to Morgan county, Illinois, in the fall of 1831. Mrs. Keplinger's brother, Thomas Jefferson Harris, served in the Black Hawk war. Mr. Keplinger had a brother, Isaac, in the same war.
Mr. and Mrs. Keplinger commenced housekeeping after their marriage in a primitive style. They had no money with which to buy furniture, and were obliged to get along with household articles, mostly of their own manufacture. He was industrious and economical, and finally earned money enough to purchase, in 1842, eighty acres of land in section 29, town 9, range 6, but was obliged to go partly in debt for it. This land has remained in his possession since, and is the eighty acres on which stands his present residence. He moved on this tract in the fall of 1843, and put up a little log house, and began improving the land. Mr. Keplinger has been living here since, and has been engaged wholly in farming. He naturally is the possessor of strong traits of character and practical common sense, and has attended to business in such a way as would reflect credit on any man. The disadvantages were great under which he labored.
There was no market nearer than Alton for farm products. To this place Mr. Keplinger hauled his wheat, selling it for forty cents, and oats for ten cents a bushel. Flour mills were scarce, the nearest being at Edwardsville, in Madison County. There were horse mills much nearer, but they turned out a black-looking substance which no housewife now-a-days would think of making into bread. He has lived and braved the hardships of a pioneer life until he has seen the country dotted over with farm-houses of modern style, which would be creditable to the richest of the older states. First class flour mills exist in every town in the county, and a good home market is found for every kind of farm produce. As Mr. Keplinger prospered and made money he invested it in lands from time to time, until he was the owner of altogether seven hundred and twenty acres, all of which lay in Honey Point township. He has given to his children three hundred and twenty acres; the balance he still owns, and it is under a state of superior cultivation. He also owns three hundred and twenty acres in the state of Minnesota.
His oldest son, James T. Keplinger, is farming on land adjoining the homestead. James T. took an active part as a soldier in the great rebellion. He enlisted in the 30th Illinois regiment. He served about one year, and was with Sherman on his celebrated march "from Atlanta to the sea", and was discharged in Kansas at the close of the war. Mr. Keplinger's oldest daughter, Ann M., was married to Thomas Wilhite, and settled on a farm adjoining her father. She died September 17, 1869. John B. Keplinger, the next child, served in the first marine brigade of Illinois volunteers. He left the farm in full health, with all the prospects of a bright manhood before him, to engage in the service with his regiment on the Mississippi river. He served about one year, when he was taken down with the consumption. His father brought him home from the hospital at Vicksburg, and by the advice of physicians, sent him to Minnesota, hoping that the uniform, dry cold atmosphere of that northern region would accomplish his restoration to health. His hope, however, was not realized. His health continued to decline in spite of the efforts of friends and physicians, and he died at Northfield, Minnesota, August 10, 1866. Lucien C., another child, died when an infant. Sarah Ellen, the youngest daughter, married Luther J. Wylder, a farmer of Honey Point township.
Mr. Keplinger's father was an old Jackson democrat, and he himself was raised to a great respect for that party, but when he became old enough to act and participate in politics he became a Whig, and voted for Harrison in 1840; he afterward became a republican. He has not been a strong party man or a politician, but has preferred to quietly attend to his farm. Through the war he warmly supported the administration in its efforts to conquer the rebellion, and cheerfully permitted two sons to go into the army, one of whom did so, as it afterward proved, at the sacrifice of his life.
While Mr. and Mrs. Keplinger were yet living in Morgan county, they became connected with the Methodist church, of which they have since been members; they now belong to the Mount Pleasant church, on Spanish Needle Prairie.
Mr. Keplinger is a man who began life with nothing on which to rely except his own energy and perseverance, and he has fought his way up in the world by his own efforts. He had neither family influence nor money to help him in carving out his fortune. The main element that has entered into his success has been his untiring energy and industry. The prosperity which Mr. and Mrs. Keplinger now enjoy has been well earned by a life of labor, and now that they have reached a hale and hearty old age they have the satisfaction of being surrounded with plenty on every side, with a competence at their command, and of seeing their children well and comfortably situated in life. While too much credit cannot be given to Mr. Keplinger's energy and business sagacity, equal praise should b bestowed on the good qualities of his amiable wife, who has assisted him with her hearty sympathy and cooperation, and to whose strong common sense and intelligence much of their prosperity is owing. Over forty years of married life have been spent in peace and harmony, and their history appropriately appears together in these pages. Mr. Keplinger's character has never been tarnished by any acts of dishonesty, and he bears the reputation of a man of strict integrity. Among the illustrations published in this work is a view of his farm and residence. He belongs to that class of men who contribute to the development and growth of this country and the building up of its material resources, and as such we give a place to a sketch of his life.