ZAREL C. SPEARS, now deceased, was well known as a representative of agricultural interests in this county. His birth occurred in Green county, Kentucky, June 12, 1818, the family home being in the vicinity of Greensburg. His parents were John and Rebecca (Conover) Spears. His ancestors came from Germany to the new world. There were three orphan boys of the name who crossed the Atlantic from the fatherland to the United States, one settling in Virginia and one in South Carolina. It is from the Virginia branch of the family that Zarel C. Spears was descended. He remained a resident of his native state until about 1827 or 1828, when he came with his mother and her five children to Illinois, the father having previously died in Kentucky, June 5, 1823. The family home was established in Menard county at Clary's Grove, where Mrs. Spears purchased land and reared her family upon a farm. She was a worthy pioneer woman, devoted to the welfare of her children and her memory is yet revered by those who knew her. She died June 10, 1868, at the advanced age of seventy-nine years and her remains were interred in Greenwood cemetery. She was very positive in her convictions, a woman of strong force of character and yet one whose sterling traits endeared her to all.
Zarel C. Spears was reared to the occupation of farming and was educated in the country schools. He became the owner of a tract of land of about five hundred acres and for many years carried on general agricultural pursuits on his own account, placing his fields under a high state of cultivation, so that they returned to him good harvests and he thus annually gained a substantial income. In his later years, however, he removed to the town of Tallula and spent his last days in honorable retirement from labor. His land was divided among his children, while his widow still has two hundred and twenty-two acres.
On the 15th of January, 1837, Mr. Spears was united in marriage to Miss Mary H. Berry and they lived together happily as man and wife for fifty-seven years. Her father, Rev. John M. Berry, was one of the early Cumberland Presbyterian ministers of central Illinois and organized nearly all of the churches of that denomination in his part of the state. He arrived in Illinois in 1822 from Indiana and previous to his residence in the Hoosier state he had lived in Kentucky. He continued in the active work of the ministry up to the time of his demise, which occurred when he was sixty-nine years of age. His wife reached the advanced age of seventy-nine years. Their influence was ever a power for good in the community and they left the impress of their individuality upon the moral upbuilding of the state. Mr. and Mrs. Spears became the parents of eight children; Theodore died at the age of thirteen years. Amanda married Christopher Smedley and lives in Pittsburg, Kansas. William Ewing married Susan Hostetter and resides in Franklin county, Kansas, with their family of five children. He was a soldier of the One Hundred and Fourteenth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers and for a time was incarcerated in Andersonville prison. George H. became a member of Company F, Twenty-eighth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers and was never heard of after the battle of Jackson, so it is supposed that he was killed in the engagement. Henry Clay died in infancy. Anna E. died in her fourteenth year. Henry H. married Kitty Harry and they became residents of California, where his death occurred in April, 1903, leaving his widow and one child. Charles T. married Cordelia Sharon and died in April 1899. His widow resides in Lincoln, Illinois, and has three children.
The death of Mr. Spears occurred January 17, 1894, when he had reached the age of seventy-five years and seven months. His remains were interred in Greenwood cemetery and his death was deeply deplored by many friends. In his political views he was a Whig until the dissolution of the party, when he joined the ranks of the new Republican party. Throughout almost his entire life he had followed farming in Menard county and was a respected man, loyal in citizenship and true to all the relations and duties of life. His widow is a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, to which she has belonged for sixty-seven years. For twenty-nine years she resided upon the farm and she now has a good income from the rental of the land, while she lives in a large commodious residence in Tallula. She, too, has long been a resident of Menard county, esteemed by those with whom she has been associated, and her example of Christian fidelity is well worthy of emulation.