REV. JOHN W. RICE, who is now living retired in his eighty-first year at Medora and is widely known on account of his life of unselfish devotion to the welfare of others, comes of an old Virginia family. He was born near Culpepper Courthouse in Fauquier county, Virginia, October 21, 1831, and is a son of Thomas Brown and Mahal (Farrar) Rice, the former of whom was born in Fauquier county in 1806 and the latter in the western part of Virginia in 1807. The grandfather on the paternal side was James W. Rice, also a native of Virginia. He was a Revolutionary patriot and served under General Washington. Thomas Brown Rice was reared upon his father's farm and a number of years after his marriage removed to Illinois with his wife and four children, arriving at Rhoads Point, now Medora, June 20, 1835. He entered government land which he cleared and proceeded to cultivate. He was quite successful as a farmer and at one time was the owner of about one thousand acres of good land in this county. He erected a mill at Medora which did not prove successful and was finally dismantled. He continued upon his farm until his death which occurred about 1891. Mr. Rice was a prominent man in the early days of Macoupin county and previous to the war served for eight years as associate judge. In his family were ten children: Susan, now the widow of John Cleaver, of Portland, Oregon; John W.; Elizabeth, who is the wife of Amri Vance, of Modesto, Illinois; Amanda, who married John A. Payne, of Medora; Virginia, who is the wife of Harry M. Westbrook, of New Jersey; Emma A., the widow of Van Horbeck, of Medora; Washington, who made his home at Medora and is now deceased; Thomas, who settled at Clinton, Missouri, and is also deceased; Stephen F., who is a minister of the Baptist Church and resides at Medora; and Charles A., who makes his home in Jersey county.
John W. Rice was brought to Illinois by his parents early in his childhood and has spent his entire life in this state. He received his preliminary education in the public schools and assisted upon the home farm until 1858, when he purchased a farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Honey Point township, which he industriously cultivated for seven years. In 1865 he disposed of his place and became connected with a mill which his father had built at Medora, continuing there until 1874. He then went to Lamar, Barton county, Missouri, where he operated a mill for several years. About 1880 he returned to Macoupin county and operated a sawmill and thresher at Macoupin. As early as 1866 he began ministerial work and continued actively as opportunity presented along the same line while pursuing his various business enterprises. On March 9, 1884, he was regularly ordained to the ministry at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church of Medora and from that time gave his entire attention to the duties pertaining to the ministry, showing a zeal and efficiency that produced highly gratifying results. He retired from active labors in 1908, although he has since officiated on special occasions and is one of the most respected and beloved men in public circles of Macoupin county.
In 1852 Mr. Rice was married to Elizabeth Jane Rhoads, who was born in Kentucky and came with her parents to Rhoads Point, Illinois, about 1835. To this union nine children were born, eight of whom died in infancy, the only one living being Mary V., the wife of John A. Flat, an engineer of Toluca, Illinois. They have two children: Myrtle A., who married Charles Carver, a carpenter, of Petersburg, Illinois; and Maggie Virginia, who is living at home. Mrs. Elizabeth Rice died in 1874 and in 1898 Mr. Rice was married to Margaret (Dixon) Gilworth, widow of Louis Gilworth. She died in 1901 and in the year following Mr. Rice was married to Mrs. Frances (Parker) Simpson, widow of William Simpson. Her parents were pioneers of Macoupin county, arriving from Kentucky in 1835.
Mr. Rice is the oldest living member of Fidelity Lodge, No. 152, A.F. & A.M. He was made a Mason in 1856 and has, therefore, been identified with the order for fifty-five years, a record which few have attained. He is also an Odd Fellow and is greatly revered by his brethren of both of those beneficent orders. His study of political and social problems led him years ago to regard prohibition as the great issue of the country, and he is an ardent advocate of its principles as a remedy for many of the gravest ills of humanity. A man of pleasing and straightforward address, he has been instrumental by his influence and example in leading many to lives of righteousness. He is justly regarded as one of the most interesting pioneers of Medora, the house in which he lived as a child in this place, which was built by his father in 1835, being one of the landmarks of the city. It is still occupied as a dwelling. Notwithstanding his advanced age, Mr. Rice is blessed with a good memory and an unusual degree of physical strength for one of his years, and it is the earnest wish of his friends they he may be spared for many years in the enjoyment of peace and happiness that fittingly crown a well spent life.