HISTORY OF MACOUPIN COUNTY, ILLINOIS
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS DESCRIPTIVE OF ITS SCENERY,
AND

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.

Published by Brink, McDonough & Co., Philadelphia 1879




Page 159

RICHARD J. METCALF, one of the old settlers and leading citizens of Barr township, is a Kentuckian by birth. His great-grandfather emigrated from England to America. His grandfather, William Metcalf, was born in this country, and was living in North Carolina at the time of the revolutionary war. The home of the family in North Carolina was near Guilford Court House, and at the battle fought there during the revolution between American and British armies the noise of the cannon could be plainly heard. William Metcalf was one of the early pioneers of Kentucky, emigrating there in the time of Daniel Boone, and taking part in the romantic adventures and incidents which marked the first settlement of that state. He was accustomed to relate that he was in the town of Frankfort (now the capital of the state) when he could walk over the site of the whole town on the logs which had been recently been felled. His home at different times was in Franklin, Shelby, and Christian counties, and his death took place at the house of his son-in-law, in Hopkins county, Kentucky.

The name of Mr. Metcalf's father was also William Metcalf. He was born in North Carolina, December 24th, 1774, and was twelve years old when the family emigrated to Kentucky in 1786. He grew up to manhood among rough pioneer times, and had little chance for obtaining an education. He married Elizabeth Jones, who was born in Virginia on the 15th of January, 1780, and was a daughter of Richard Jones. The Jones family came from Virginia to Kentucky about the year 1786. Mr. Metcalf's father was a man of considerable enterprise and energy. When about twenty-one years of age, about the year 1795 or 1796, he visited Missouri, which territory then belonged to the government of Spain. His journey was made by horseback from Louisville to St. Louis by way of Vincennes, Indiana. There was no settlement between Louisville and Vincennes, nor between Vincennes and St. Louis. At Vincennes he was obliged to swim the Wabash river; his horse swan so low, and had such difficulty in crossing the stream that, although unable to swim himself, he threw himself in the water, and holding fast to the horses mane succeeded in gaining the opposite bank in safety. St. Louis was then a small village, inhabited only by a French population, who had little idea that the town would become the great metropolis to which it has since grown. He was unable to speak French; there was not at that time an American in the town; and it may be imagined that he had some difficulty in holding communication with the inhabitants. He considered that the place would become a town of some importance, and surveyed and marked out lands west of St. Louis, intending to return and make a permanent settlement. These lands are now included in the city limits. He went back to Kentucky and never carried out his intention of making Missouri his home. After his marriage he lived in Christian and Hopkins counties, Kentucky, and removed to Illinois in the spring of 1835 and settled in section thirty-one of Barr township, where he died November 28th, 1858. He had been a man of iron constitution, and was eighty-four years old at his death. He was very industrious and energetic; a good farmer, and cautious and able in his business transactions. He began life with no capital, and by industry and good management accumulated a handsome competence. The twelve hundred acres of land of which he was the owner he divided among his children previous to his death. He was a member of the Baptist church, and universally esteemed as a man of reliability and integrity, a good neighbor and a useful citizen. Mr. Metcalf's mother died January 22d, 1852.

The birthplace of Richard Jones Metcalf was in Hopkins county, Kentucky. He was born August 1st, 1817, and was the next to the youngest of a family of nine children. The school houses in which he went to school in Kentucky in his boyhood days were built of logs, a crack along the sides of the building of more than ordinary magnitude letting in sufficient light to answer for a window; the fireplace occupied an entire end of the building; the benches were made of poplar logs split open, with the flat side hewed, and the writing desk along the wall of the room was made in the same manner. After coming to this state he attended school two or three months at Fayette, in Greene county. He was between seventeen and eighteen when the family moved to Illinois. Two of his brothers-in-law had traveled over Illinois in the fall of 1834, and for advantages of location and cheapness of land determined on Macoupin county as the best place in which to settle. His father at first bought two hundred acres, and entered one hundred and sixty in section thirty-one in Barr township, and afterward bought additional land. Mr. Metcalf lived with his father till his marriage, which occurred September 6th, 1838. His wife was Miss Mary J. Buchanan, who was born within five miles of Paris, in Bourbon county, Kentucky, in 1819. Her mother was Charlotte C. Burbage, who was born within ten miles of Snow Hill, on the eastern shore of Maryland, and came to Bourbon county, Kentucky, in 1817. Her grandfather on her father's side was John Buchanan, from Lancaster county, Pennsylvania; he married a young woman belonging to a Quaker family in Pennsylvania, and moved to Virginia, and died there; his second wife was a Miss Rector.

In the spring of 1839 Mr. Metcalf began farming for himself on the place which has since been his home. At that date there were but few settlements in Barr township; his post-office address was Carrollton, and he has now lived in that other resident. The house in which he now lives was partly built in 1836, and has been the home of himself and wife from the time they were married. Some additions have since been made to the original structure. An illustration of the residence is shown on another page. He owns 460 acres of land, all of which lie in section thirty-one in Barr township, with the exception of forty acres in Greene county. Mr. and Mrs. Metcalf have had ten children: Josephine A., the eldest daughter, is the wife of L. M. Peebles, of Chesterfield; Narcissa C. married E. A. Belknap, who is the owner of a dry goods store at Greenfield; the next children, Livonia E. and James B. died when infants; George B. is now carrying on a grocery and provision store at Greenfield; John M. died in 1869 at the age of nineteen years; Eleanora married A. C. Ellis, a farmer of Greene county; Richard L. is farming in Barr township; Ebert K. is in partnership with George B. in the grocery and provision business at Greenfield; Ralph, the youngest son, still resides at home.

In his politics, like his father before him, he was a member of the old Whig party, and his first vote for President was cast for General Harrison in 1840. Although raised in a slave-holding state, he was opposed to the schemes of the Southern politicians for the extension of slavery into the territories, and when the whig party went to pieces, and the republican party was formed, he had no hesitation in joining the latter organization as the party of freedom, intelligence, and good government, and has since been one of the leading republicans of his part of the county. During his long residence in Barr township he has maintained the reputation of a liberal, enterprising and progressive citizen, and a man whose private character has been above reproach or suspicion. His life has been spent as farmer. His next older brother, John M. Metcalf, attended college at Princeton, Kentucky, and for a long number of years was a prominent physician at Waverly, in Morgan county. His father gave Mr. Metcalf an opportunity of going to college, but he preferred the pursuit of agriculture to a professional career. He has had no desire to fill public office or occupy political station, but in 1872 and again in 1874 was chosen a member of the Board of Supervisors from Barr township. From his experience during a brief visit to their hospitable home, the writer of this sketch can speak of Mrs. Metcalf as one of the model housekeepers of Macoupin county. Although burdened with as much domestic care as falls to the lot of most women, she has found time to gratify her tastes by devoting considerable attention to fancy work, in which, though self-taught, she excels; her handiwork has excited admiration at several fairs and exhibitions, where almost invariably it has been awarded a premium.


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