ELMER P. HORNBACK. One of the native sons of Menard county, Elmer P. Hornback, was born May 19, 1871, on the farm where he now lives and represents a prominent family of this part of the state, whose high reputation he has fully sustained by his straightforward business career. His parents were Captain Robert and Margaret Hornback. His paternal great-grandfather, Abraham Hornback, was a native of Virginia, as was his maternal great-grandfather, Robert Bracken, and both were soldiers under General George Washington, in the Revolutionary war. John Hornback, the grandfather of Elmer P. Hornback, was born in Bourbon county, Kentucky, February 3, 1798, and in 1818, he married Abigail Bracken, a native of Bath county, Kentucky, and a daughter of Robert and Elizabeth (Mappen) Bracken. In 1825 they removed to Illinois, reaching Menard county on the 22d of October. Here Mr. Hornback purchased three hundred and twenty acres of land, at the usual government price and with characteristic energy he began transforming the raw tract into cultivable property, making substantial improvements, and through his farming interests aiding materially in the early pioneer development of this part of the state. He continued to engage in general farming here until his death, which occurred December 2, 1857. He had shared in many of the frontier experiences incident to reclaiming this district for the uses of civilization, and in 1832 he had served in the Black Hawk war, in company with Abraham Lincoln with whom he was intimately acquainted. Mr. Lincoln was the captain of this company and Mr. Hornback the lieutenant.
Robert Hornback was born in Menard county, on the old family homestead, November 14, 1828, being the eldest of a large family. He was reared amid pioneer environment and assisted in the arduous task of developing the new farm which made the life of every frontier agriculturist a strenuous one. When only five and a half years old he plowed with one of the old time plows, then in general use. Throughout his entire life he carried on the work of tilling the soil and remained upon the homestead until his death, which occurred September 6, 1899. He was married, February 29, 1850, to Miss Catherine Rogers, a daughter of Samuel and Rebecca Rogers, of Menard county. On the 10th of February, 1867, her death occurred, and November 7, 1867, Captain Hornback was married to Margaret J. McGilora, a very worthy lady, by whom he has four children. The mother died December 17, 1886.
Captain Hornback proved his loyalty to his country during the Civil war by active service on the field, enlisting on the 4th of August, 1862, as a private of Company K, One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Infantry, under Colonel Judy. The rendezvous of the company was at Camp Butler, Springfield, and the regiment soon afterward proceeded to Memphis, Tennessee, remaining in the vicinity of that city until April 1, 1863, skirmishing, guarding railroads and scouting. At the expiration of that time order was received to join the forces under General Grant at Grand Gulf, Mississippi, proceeding from that point under General Johnston. The One Hundred and Fourth with several other regiments, came upon the rebels at Raymond, on the 10th of April and in the engagement that followed the Confederates were driven from their position. The Union soldiers followed their retreat and again a conflict occurred at Jackson, Mississippi, a pitched battle resulting in the forcing of the enemy from their fortifications and the capture of the city. On the 16th the battle of Champion Hills occurred, Mr. Hornback, with his regiment, participating, and later he aided in besieging the city of Vicksburg, until its capitulation, after a defense of two months, in which the cannon were seldom silent. The next move of the One Hundred and Fourteenth was in the advance to Jackson, where the two weeks' siege was followed by the surrender of the city, Captain Hornback being among the first to enter it, on the 16th of July, 1863. It was the month of October, following, that he was promoted from orderly sergeant to captain and while in Memphis he was appointed provost marshal of the city, but not wishing to leave his regiment he remained with his command. Following various encounters with the troops under General Forrest, in the spring of 1864, the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois took part in the battle of Guntown, Mississippi, June 10, 1864, and Captain Hornback lost one half of his men and was himself wounded, but a month later, when the regiment again met the same troops, the latter were badly defeated. In August this regiment was transferred to the department of the Mississippi and pursued Price into Mississippi and Arkansas, taking part in the battle near Kansas City, in October. After Price was forced to leave Missouri Captain Hornback joined General Thompson at Nashville, and participated in the battle resulting in the defeat of Hood. With his regiment he also took part in the siege and capture of Mobile, and then gladly returned home, the war having ended, with victory perched upon the Union banners. A loyal and intrepid soldier; an honorable gentleman, reliable in business and trustworthy in all life's relations, the memory of Captain Hornback is revered and cherished by all who knew him.
In the common schools Elmer P. Hornback acquired his early education, which was supplemented by study in the high school of Greenview and a course in the Springfield Business College of Springfield, Illinois. He then returned home and at the age of seventeen years began farming on his own account, since which time he has continually carried on general agricultural pursuits and stock-raising. He now owns the home place of two hundred acres and a ten acre tract of fine timber three miles south. He is classed with the intelligent, enterprising and prosperous farmers of his native county and his business career is characterized by straightforward dealing.
On the 20th of December, 1899, Elmer P. Hornback was united in marriage to Miss Maude Helstern, a daughter of George and Clarissa Helstern, the former a native of Germany and the latter of Illinois. They became early settlers of Menard county, and the father is now living a retired life in Petersburg-one of the worthy pioneer residents of the county. His wife died March 18, 1903. Mr. and Mrs. Hornback have two children: Robert H., born November 25, 1901, and Margaret, born November 23, 1903.
The parents are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church of Greenview and Mr. Hornback holds membership relations with the Masonic lodge at Greenview and the chapter and commandery at Petersburg. He is also identified with the Modern Woodmen of America and he gives his political allegiance to the Republican party. He seems to have inherited his father's patriotic spirit, for he manifests a most commendable interest in measures for the welfare of the county, state and nation, and gives hearty co-operation to all movements instituted for the material, intellectual and moral welfare of his community.