REV. STEPHEN FRENCH RICE, a minister of the Gospel who is well known throughout Macoupin County as the organizer of a number of flourishing young churches and who resides in Medora, was born in Shipman Township, this county, January 10, 1842. His father, Judge Thomas Brown Rice, was one of the pioneers of the county who did grand yoeman service in the early days. He was born in Frederick County, Va., August 17, 1806, and was of English descent. His father came from England to America and died in Frederick County, Va.
Thomas Rice was reared in his native county and learned the trade of a saddler which he followed there until 1855 when his establishment was burned out and he came with his family consisting of his wife and four children to Illinois. They made the entire journey overland with two teams, and brought with them in their prairie schooners most of their household goods. They rested as was necessary on the way, camping out and taking their time so that they made a very comfortable journey. At first they rented a vacant log cabin in Medora Township, but soon located themselves permanently.
Thomas Rice entered a tract of Government land upon section 6, of what is now Shipman Township, and at once erected a log house which is still standing and occupied. The family celebrated Christmas Day by moving into this new domicile, and as soon as winter broke up the father began work on the farm, which he continued to make his home until claimed by death. He had in the meantime been very successful and accumulated a handsome property.
The mother of our subject whose maiden name was Mahala Farrow, was united in marriage with Thomas Rice, April 17, 1828. She was a native of Culpepper county, Va., her natal day being December 22, 1807, and she was of German ancestry. Through all the poverty of her early married life and the struggles of pioneer existence she was a faithful and devoted wife and mother, and reared carefully and to an honorable manhood and womanhood ten children, who are named as follows: Susan Catherine, Elizabeth Strather, James Washington, John Williams, Thomas Brown, Mary Virginia, Stephen French, Amanda Mahala, Emma Ann and Charles Arthur.
While she was bringing up these children her cares were great and her conveniences limited. She cooked, washed and ironed by the open fireplace and clad her children in homespun, which was made by her own hands as she carded, spun and wove the cloth which she cut into garments and made with the needle for sewing machines were not then introduced. There were then no railroads within many miles of them, and Alton and St. Louis were their nearest market towns. Hundreds of deer, wolves and other kinds of wild game roamed at will through the region and were often to be seen from the cabin door. Both she and her worthy husband were faithful and conscientious members of the Baptist church, as they united with the Mt. Pleasant Baptist church, August 6, 1826, and he was elected Deacon the following year. In his political views he was a Democrat and a leading man in that party and indeed among all thoughtful citizens. He served as Postmaster at Rhodes Point (as Medora was formerly called). He was collector for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad for two years and served two terms as Associate Judge of Macoupin County.
The subject of this sketch was reared upon the home farm, a part of which is now included in the village of Medora, so that we may say that he has been a life-long resident of that place. In his early years he attended school and resided upon the farm, assisting his parents, until he reached the age of twenty-two years. He became a decided Christian in 1864 and during the same year joined the Mt. Pleasant Baptist church and in 1869 was ordained a preacher and joined the Apple Creek Association in which connection he has been ever since administering the rites of religion. He organized the church which is known as Little Flock and assisted in organizing others.
The marriage of our subject August 8, 1863, was an event of great importance in his life, as he was then untied with Luetta Keele who has proved to him a noble and self-sacrificing helpmate. She was born in Shipman Township and was also of pioneer parentage, her father being Enoch and her mother, Margaret Taper Keele. Three children only have crowned this union, Alonzo, Maggie and Charlie. The Rev. Mr. Rice was in his early years an adherent to the doctrines of the Democratic party, but of late years he has become a Prohibitionist in his convictions and vote.