GEN. RICHARD ROWETT. At no time in the history of our nation were the grandest qualities of heroism so brilliantly displayed as during the Civil War, and high on the roll of honor we place the name of those who maintained unsullied the glory of this mighty nation. When gloomy war with all its horrors rent in twin at once united people, there were not wanting brave men to offer their lives in defense of liberty, to dare, and do and die before the altar of patriotism. In hours of peril no one faltered, but all, generals and privates, military and civilians, fought with an intrepidity which never failed them. In dire disaster they became individually heroic, and fought for that prosperity which in civic life they had achieved.
The residents of Macoupin County and of the State of Illinois, point with pride to the record made in the Civil War by the late Gen. Rowett, whose portrait accompanies this sketch. Imbued with an intense love for the land of his adoption, and fired with a determination to uphold her institutions, he enlisted at the breaking out of the war, and served valiantly on many a hard-fought battlefield. As a private citizen and as a public official his career was alike stainless and honorable; in his home, surrounded by a devoted wife and loving children, he enjoyed a needed relaxation from the duties of public life and there found his greatest pleasures. Although removed from the scenes of earth ere yet old age had come to him, he had won a reputation which was not bounded by any arbitrary divisions of county or State. A grateful country honors his memory, and generations yet to come will revere his name.
Although not a native of the United States, in his beliefs, ideas and principles he was intensely American. The place of his nativity was England, and he was born in East Looe, Cornwall, in 1830. In far-famed Britain he grew to manhood, and having early laid the foundation of an upright character and possessing an intellect of a very high order, there was everything in his personal qualities to indicate a career of usefulness. The knowledge which he gained from the best literature of the day was of inestimable value to him. History, biography and oratory gradually enkindled in his heart a desire to be something more than a mere worker with his hands, and he became, almost unknown to himself, a well-informed, educated man.
When twenty-one years of age he left his home and crossed the broad Atlantic and sought in America, what the future might hold in keeping for him. In the State of Indiana he passed three years in a buggy, harness and trimming establishment. In 1854 he removed to this county where he remained until called hence. The first years of his residence here were times to try the souls of men; war was threatening and danger lurked on every hand. Finally affairs reached a crisis, and the gun fired at Ft. Sumter echoed round the world. When the war broke out in 1861 he was commissioned Captain of Company K, Seventh Illinois Infantry. His skill as commander soon attracted attention, and he was promoted to Major, Lieutenant colonel, Colonel and was breveted Brigadier-General for special acts of gallantry at Allatoona. In three different engagements he received as many severe wounds, at Shiloh, Corinth and Allatoona.
Impressed with the ability and attainments of Gen. Rowett, Gov. Palmer appointed him Canal commissioner, and in 1871 he accepted the appointment of Penitentiary Commissioner. In 1876 he took his seat in the Thirtieth General Assembly as a representative from Macoupin County. Though never radical in politics, his vote and sympathies were with the Republican party, and the testimony comes from all his acquaintances that his ability and integrity won, to a very unusual degree, the respect of his associates. His popularity obtained for him the office of Internal Revenue Commissioner for the Fourth District the appointment being made by President Garfield. Here as elsewhere, he nobly discharged the duties incumbent upon him, and the efficiency which characterized his every effort was noticeable in this important position.
Notwithstanding the many official duties which devolved upon him, he pursued the interests of his farm, which consisted of two hundred acres on section 17, and gave especial attention to the breeding of thoroughbred horses. His death was very sudden and occurred in Chicago, this State, at Washington Park, July 13, 1887. Since his demise his widow has superintended the affairs of the farm beside guarding the interests of her three children - Mary, Edith K. and Richard. Archibel died when three years old. Gen. Rowett was twice married, and by his first wife had one son, Charles. His widow bore the maiden name of Ella Braley, and grew to womanhood among the people of Macoupin County, of which she is still an honored resident. Her father, Ellison Braley, is spoken of at length elsewhere in this volume; her mother Catherine (Coon) Braley, was a native of new York. The parents were married in New York City, and emigrated to Illinois in 1840, settled in Collinsville, Madison County, where Mrs. Rowett was born February 22, 1848. Some years afterward they removed to Macoupin County, and are now residents of Carlinville. Of the six children born to them, Mrs. Rowett was the third. The uneventful years of her maidenhood were passed in her father's home where she enjoyed the educational advantages of a common school. On February 12, 1874, she was united in marriage with Gen. Richard Rowett, in Carlinville, and their happy wedded life was terminated by the death of the General in 1887.