JOHN GELDER. One of the most successful farmers in Macoupin County and the owner of one of the most delightful homes in Virden, is the gentleman whose name heads this sketch. He is the possessor of thirteen hundred and ninety-five acres of splendid farming lands located in the counties of Macoupin, Sangamon, Montgomery and Christian. This property is divided into nine farms which are placed in the hands of responsible and efficient tenants. He was born in Chesterfield Township, this county, August 11, 1837. His father, Thomas S. Gelder, was born on a frm near Snaith, Yorkshire, England, and was the son of John Gelder, who was engaged in farming in his native home until 1831, when accompanied by his wife and three of his five children, he emigrated to America and located in Chesterfield Township on a farm adjoining his son's, where he died at a ripe old age. His son Thomas had preceded him to this country. John Gelder, Sr., proceeded at once to build a home and his log cabin was at the time of its construction the largest log building in the county with the exception of the court house. He died, December 20, 1851, having passed his three-score years and ten. His wife, the grandmother of our subject, bore the maiden name of Elizabeth Shearburn. She was born in England, and died in Chesterfield Township March 24, 1847. Both she and her husband were members of the Church of England, and after coming to this country assisted in organizing the Episcopal church at Chesterfield, of which John Gelder was Warden from its organization to the date of his death.
The father of our subject secured his early education in his native shire in England, attending the common parish schools and also a boarding school at Whiston. He emigrated to America in 1830, landing at Baltimore July 16. He reached Greene County, Ill., in November of that year and the following summer he enlisted in the army for service in the Black Hawk War. Soon after his return, to Carrollton, Captain Gelder had the pleasure of welcoming his parents and other members of his family. He was shortly afterward naturalized and was the first person of foreign birth to make application for citizenship after the organization of Macoupin County.
The first wife of Thomas S. Gelder was Ann Quarton, a daughter of Thomas and Lydia Quarton, of Yorkshire, England. By this marriage there were nine children, five of whom are living. Our subject, Elizabeth Ann, the wife of Lewis Terrel, of Jersey County; Mary Frances, wife of Charles Lewis; Sarah Ellen, now Mrs. F. W. Shearburn, and Clara, who married Peter J. Randolph, of Morrisonville, Christian County. The mother of these children died December 12, 1855, at the age of forty years. Mr. Gelder's second marriage occurred May 14, 1857, to Ruth Louis Chapin, daughter of Daniel Chapin. She was born at Newport, N. H., and was a lady of more than ordinary culture and refinement. She was a member of the first class which graduated from Monticello Seminary, and was for seven years a teacher at that institution. Capt. Gelder had the honor of voting twice for Abraham Lincoln, with whom he was on terms of personal acquaintance, and with whom, he served in the Black Hawk War. Both Mr. and Mrs. Gelder have passed away, his death occurring November 25, 1881.
John Gelder commenced when very young to assist upon the farm but was also given the best advantages for obtaining an education. He first attended the pioneer schools which were taught in a log school house, the benches upon which he sat being slabs with pin legs. At one end a board was placed against the wall, and served as a desk for the larger scholars. He advanced his education by attendance at Chesterfield Seminary and enjoyed for two years, the privileges of Shurtleff college. After leaving college he spent fourteen months in Europe, traveling in England, Holland, Belgium and France, visiting during 1862 and 1863 all the principal places of interest in these countries. Returning home in 1863 he went to farming in Chesterfield Township.
The marriage of John Gelder and Clara Tolman, daughter of James Tolman of Macoupin County, took place September 11, 1866. The mother of Mrs. Gelder bore the maiden name of Nancy B. Lorton. After marriage the young couple moved to the farm which they now occupy, which is a fine tract of one hundred and forty acres. Five children have blessed their union, namely, Tolman T., Charles C., Stella J., Edgar E. and Edith. Tolman is a graduate of Virden High School, and further carried on his education at the Illinois State University at Champaign. After this, he entered the Law Department of the State University at Ann Arbor, and was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-one years at Lansing, Mich. He is now associated with ex-Gov. Hamilton of Chicago. Charles C. is a clerk in the wholesale house of Wilson Bros., of Chicago, in the line of gentlemen's furnishing goods. The three younger children are still carrying on their education. They, with their parents, spent several months in Europe in 1890. They visited Antwerp,, Brussels, Cologne, Weisbaden, Frankfort-on-the-Main, Heidelburg, Strausburg, Paris; and in England, Brighton, London, York, Liverpool; and crossing into Scotland, the cities of Glasgow and Edinburg. Mr. Gelder is a Republican in politics and always takes an interest in public affairs. He has served for twelve years as School Trustee, and for two terms as a member of the County Board of Supervisors. His lands in Sangamon, Montgomery and Christian Counties, he bought unimproved, and they now form fine and valuable farms. Those in Christian are situated near Harvel, on the Wabash railway. His home has recently been re-built and is now in the best modern style of architecture and adornment.