REV. MARTIN V. KITZMILLER, Postmaster at Girard, residing in a beautiful rural home in the western suburb of the city, is known far and wide as a former prominent minister of the Baptist Church. For many years he was very active in promoting the growth of the denomination, being instrumental in establishing churches in various places, and though ill-health obliged him to abandon his beloved calling he is still a power in religious circles. He was born in Washington County, Tenn., January 20, 1826. His father, Henry Kitzmiller, was a native of the same county, and was a son of one of its early pioneers, Martin Kitzmiller, who was born in Pennsylvania, and was a descendant of early Germany settlers of that State.
The grandfather of our subject was a farmer and also a blacksmith and wagon-maker. He removed from his native State to Tennessee, and was one of the first to settle in Washington County, where he bought a large tract of land, and in connection with farming carried on blacksmithing and wagon manufacturing, many of the wagons that he made finding a market in Kentucky. With the proceeds of the sale of some of them he bought a farm in the locality then known as Ohio Falls, and now included in the city of Louisville, Ky. Though he owned that farm for several years he never lived upon it. He died when eighty-six years old at his home in Washington County. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Mary Devault, was a native of Maryland, and died at the age of eighty-four. Those worthy people reared a family of six sons and two daughters, named David, John, Henry, Martin, Jacob, Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth.
Henry Kitzmiller learned the trades of a blacksmith and wagon-maker from his father, but did not follow them. About two years after his marriage he located on a farm which his father gave him, situated across the line in Sullivan County, and actively engaged in agriculture until his death in 1843. In early manhood he married Elizabeth Carr, a native of Washington County, Tenn., and a daughter of Richard and Martha Carr, natives respectively of Virginia and North Carolina, and the latter of English and Scottish ancestry. The mother of our subject died on the home farm in Sullivan County, January 2, 1891, aged ninety-five years. She has reared nine children, namely: Martin V., Martha, Richard C., Mary, Henry, Elizabeth, David, Lovisa and Joseph. David and Joseph are deceased.
Our subject passed his early life in his native State, gaining his education in the local schools. At the age of fifteen he was converted and joined the Baptist Church, with which he has ever since been closely identified. He was licensed to preach in 1844, and continued in the ministry in Tennessee until 1856, when, for the sake of rearing his children in a free State where "honest labor was not degrading," he came to Illinois, having accepted a call to the Baptist Church in Girard. He was the first pastor of the congregation which numbered seven ladies and four gentlemen, who owned a one-fourth interest in what was known as Union Church. During the interval of his pastorate here a neat and comfortable edifice has been erected as a house of worship, and at the time of his resignation the congregation numbered one hundred and eighty-eight members, this being the largest number at any one time from its organization up to that date. He continued to ably discharge the duties of his holy office until 1888, a period of thirty-two years, when he resigned his charge on account of losing his voice.
Those years of active labor in the cause of religion were fraught with great good, and bore much fruit in the increased growth of the church not only here but elsewhere. The following concerning his work was written for this publication:
"About the year 1863 or 1864 the Rev. Mr. Kitzmiller immersed the first person ever immersed at Chatham, Sangamon County, Ill., and as the result of his labors there, a Baptist Church was organized and a house of worship built.
"The house of worship belonging to the Baptist Church at Hickory Point, Macoupin County, was begun and mainly built by him, and when it was completed he preached the sermon of dedication. During his ministry at Girard he gave one half of his time to various other churches, which like that at Girard were just starting and needing the fostering care of a shepherd and leader. The Baptist Church at Auburn, Sangamon County, was one which in that way had his services for a period of from twelve to eighteen years until it became strong. For four years our subject worked in the same way at Carlinville, at Greenfield for two or three years, and at Waverly for six years."
During his ministry Mr. Kitzmiller has baptized about a thousand people, of whom twelve or more have entered the ministry of the Baptist Church. The first person baptized by him was his wife; the second his sister, who soon after became the wife of the Rev. W. C. Newell, who lately died at Mt. Vernon; and the third was a young man, who became a Baptist minister of extensive usefulness in Virginia and Tennessee. It is generally believed that our revered subject has performed more marriage ceremonies than any other minister in the county. The first man married by him was the Rev. William A. Keane, one of the leading Baptist ministers in East Tennessee.
The Rev. Mr. Kitzmiller was united in the holy bonds of matrimony with Miss Mary Crouch April 29, 1847. Mrs. Kitzmiller is a native of Washington County, Tenn., and a daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (Keefhaver) Crouch. Mr. and Mrs. Kitzmiller have seven children living, namely: Joseph H., Martha A., James W., Charles M., David M., Laura E. and Eldredge P. Joseph H. a graduate of Hahneman Medical College, of Chicago, is a physician at Taylorville, Ill. Martha married John Lloyd, an extensive farmer and stock-raiser of Franklin County, Ky. James W. is a successful farmer and lumber merchant at Medora. David Martin is associated with his brother James in the lumber business. Charles is assistant Postmaster at Girard. Laura married G. A. Post, clerk and book keeper for the firm of Solomon & Martin, of Palmyra. Eldredge is at home with his parents. Mr. Kitzmiller and his family are very pleasantly situated in their suburban home. The grounds around his house comprise seventeen and one-half acres of land, devoted to fruit growing, gardening and pasturing, and are chiefly under the management of his youngest son, E. P. Kitzmiller.
Mr. Kitzmiller was formerly a Democrat, but of the anti-slavery type. Since the formation of the Republican party he has been a firm advocate of its principles, and his five sons and two sons-in-law follow in his footsteps as regards their political affiliations. Not only has our subject been greatly instrumental in promoting the moral and religious interests of the community, but he has aided in advancing education as a valued member of the School Board, with which he was connected nine years. He received his appointment as Postmaster at Girard from the hands of President Harrison, and entered upon the duties of his office January 20, 1890. His selection for this important position gave universal satisfaction, and he is held in great esteem, and it was believed that no more scrupulous, faithful or efficient official could have been found for the place.
A lithographic portrait of the Rev. Mr. Kitzmiller is presented in connection with this biographical notice.