Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.
JOHN Q. SPEARS, who has prospered as an agriculturist and is now practically living at retired, was born on the 8th of November, 1828, and is today one of the revered patriarchs of his community, having passed seventy-sixth milestone on life's journey. His parents were George and Maria W. (Blankenship) Spears, honored pioneer settlers of Menard county. His paternal grandparents were George and Mary (Neely) Spears, residents of Kentucky, who were identified with the pioneer development of that state. A sketch of the grandmother will be found on another page of this volume.
George Spears, Jr., was born in Greene County, Kentucky, March 9, 1805, and was reared amid the wild scenes of frontier life upon his father's farm. He acquired a good common-school education, was early trained to habits of industry and economy, and in 1824, when nineteen years of age, he accompanied his parents on their removal to Illinois, the family home being established at Clary's Grove in Menard county. The grandfather died April 10, 1838, at the age of seventy-four years, while his wife passed away January 26, 1852, at the very advanced age of ninety years, five months and twenty -seven days. He had taken a helpful part in the early improvement and upbuilding of the county and is classed among the worthy pioneers whose efforts are still very beneficial in the present condition of progress and prosperity in this part of the state. George Spears, Jr., attained his majority in Menard county, became identified with its agricultural interests and prospered in his undertakings, making judicious investments in property until he was the owner of two thousand acres of land. He did much for the county along the lines of agricultural development and improvement. In 1829 he burned the brick and erected a residence which is still standing, it being the second brick house within the territory now embraced in the counties of Sangamon, Menard, Cass, Mason and Logan. His wife died June 23, 1878, and he passed away August 27, 1891. They were the parents of five children: Mary C., the wife of William T. Beekman; William N., deceased; John Q.; Henry C., who has also passed away; and Elizabeth F., who married George C. Spears.
John Q. Spears was born on the old family homestead in Menard county and is indebted to the common schools of that period for the early educational privileges he enjoyed. The first school building at which he attended was an old log structure with slab seats, greased paper windows and a large fireplace. He began his studies when only four years of age. The first day he received a whipping, three or four on the second day and six on the third day because he could not say his alphabet. The path of learning, therefore, was not a flowery one to him in his early day. Experience and observation have added largely to his knowledge and in this manner as well as through his training in the schoolroom he managed to acquire a good business education.
Mr. Spears has always followed farming and has kept abreast with the progress of the times, as primitive machinery has been replaced by that of modern manufacture and as the crude methods of early days have given way before the present manner of cultivating the soil and caring for the crops. At one time he was the owner of eleven hundred and seventy-six acres of land in Menard county, constituting a very valuable property, and he also owned land elsewhere until his property interests aggregated twenty-six hundred acres. He afterward gave to his sons one hundred and sixty acres of good land and he still retains possession of three hundred and twenty acres. Other business interests have likewise claimed the time and attention of Mr. Spears. For six years he was engaged in the dry-goods and lumber business in Tallula, being forced into the business on account of loaning money to a party who could not pay. He also carried on a dry-goods and grocery trade at Roodhouse for the Same length of time, and on disposing of that he was "engaged in the grocery business at Tallula for two years and a half. Thus his efforts have been directed into various fields of activity and his sound judgment and untiring industry have been resultant factors in bringing him very gratifying success.
Mr. Spears has been married twice. One the 2d of May, 1854, he wedded Susan J. Merrill, a daughter of Jacob Merrill. She died December 14, 1873, leaving three children;: William H., the eldest, born June 20, 1859, now resides in Petersburg; James J., born February 27, 1861, is living in Tallula; and Charles G., born July 6, 1869, makes his home upon the farm which was once occupied by his father. For his second wife Mr. Spears chose Martha R. Turner, a daughter of John L. and Mary (Hawkes) Turner, of Mason county. She was born October 16, 1837, and their marriage was celebrated December 2, 1875.
Mr. Spears cast his first presidential vote for Winfield Scott, giving his political allegiance to the Whig party until its dissolution, when he joined the ranks of the Republican party, with which he continues to affiliate. The election of 1904 fell upon his birthday and he has voted at fifty-six elections, having never been ill upon a single election day. His wife is a member of the Baptist church. In March, 1854, he became a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was made a Mason on the 11th of the following April at Petersburg, on the site of the new school building. He now belongs to Clinton lodge, No. 19. A.F. & A.M.: De Witt chapter. No. 119, R.A. M.: and to St. Aldemar commandery, K.T., of Petersburg.
Among other interesting relics Mr. Spears has a wooden box engraved in imitation of a German Bible, made about 1782, near Detroit, Michigan, by a man who was then a prisoner among the Indians. He also has a piece of the floor of the house at Rocky Hill, three miles north of Princeton, New Jersey, where Washington wrote his farewell address; and a piece of the root of a tree from Washington's home at Mt. Vernon. One of the oldest native sons of Menard county, his memory forms a connecting link between the primitive past and progressive present. He is familiar with the history of the county during its pioneer epoch and has watched it emerge from frontier conditions to take its place with the leading counties of this great commonwealth. He has ever manifested a pride in what has been accomplished and has borne his full share in the work of public improvement in his locality. Although seventy-six years of age he is still hale and hearty and possesses a most wonderful memory and genial nature---one whom it is a great pleasure to meet and converse with as he has a fund of most interesting stories of pioneer days when Abraham Lincoln was one of the boys in this county. His wife is also a most pleasant and estimable lady and their home is noted for its hospitality.