COL. WILLIAM J. WYATT, a veteran of two wars and the hero of many a thrilling event, is one of those rare characters which we meet here and there, and whose history is filled in with experiences which if collected and properly illustrated would fill a good sized volume. He is a self-made man in the strictest sense of the term, one whose early life was bare of opportunities, but who, by the very force of his will and his ambition, has made for himself a name and a position among men. After the close of the late Civil War he turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, improved a good farm in this county and accumulated a competency. This farm, 240 acres in extent, he still owns, but in 1885 rented it to other parties and wisely retired from active labor. Although his experiences have been great and many, he is not by any means aged, having been born Oct. 28, 1825. He is a native of this county, his boyhood home having been at this father's homestead in township 15, range 10.
It may be well before proceeding further to glance at the parental history of the Colonel, whose father, John Wyatt, was a native of Culpepper County, Va., and was born in 1796. He lived there until attaining his majority, then moved to Kentucky and married Miss Rebecca Wyatt, who, although bearing his own name, was no relative. They sojourned in the Blue Grass regions a few years, and until after the birth of one child, then removed to Madison County, this state. Here John Wyatt purchased a farm, and in due time became a stock-dealer of no small proportions. In 1821 he again changed his residence, this time coming to this county, and purchased a farm five miles southeast of Jacksonville. He lived there until 1839, then abandoning the active labors of life, retired to Franklin Village where he spent his last years, passing away in 1849.
The father of our subject was a man of much force of character, and made his influence sensibly felt in his community. Besides occupying other positions of trust and responsibility, he served in the Illinois Legislature two terms when the capital was at Vandalia, and was a Lieutenant in Capt. Samuel Mathews' company in the Black Hawk War. The parental household was completed by the birth of eleven children, all of whom are deceased with the exception of the youngest daughter and our subject. The first mentioned, Sarah, was first married to Shelby M. Burch who died, and by whom she became the mother of two children; she is now the wife of Francis M. Scott of Kentucky who is now a retired farmer, making his home in Franklin. Mrs. Scott is the mother of five children, namely: George, Henry, Elizabeth, Mattie and Sarah.
George Scott married Miss Mattie Easley of Sangamon County and is farming in the vicinity of Franklin, this county; Henry also married a Miss Easley; Elizabeth is the wife of William Eador; Sarah Wyatt is the wife of William Dodsworth. To Mr. and Mrs. Burch there were born two children - John B. and Mary Ann. The son married Miss Helen Rice of this county, is a farmer and has one son, Fred; Mary Ann is the wife of Harry C. Woods, a farmer of this county, and they have a son, J. W.
The subject of this sketch, while a resident of Morgan County was married, Sept, 28, 1848, to Mrs. Eliza A. (Kellar) Williams; this lady is the daughter of William Kellar of Pennsylvania, who with his wife died when Eliza was a child, and upon reaching womanhood was first married to David Williams, by whom she became the mother of two children, the eldest of whom, John C., married Miss Jennie Farrell of this county and is the present County Clerk, living in Jacksonville. The daughter, Ellen, is the wife of Samuel P. McCullough, Deputy County Clerk.
To the Colonel and his wife there have been born three children. The daughter, Mary A., is unmarried and remains at home with her parents; James W. died June 10, 1861; George H., was first married to Miss Molly Dodds, of Sangamon County, and who is now deceased. The second wife was Miss Nellie Lambert of New York State. They live on a farm near Franklin, and have two children - Mary L. and George W.
Col. Wyatt received a very good education, and this with his natural ambition and qualities of resolution and perseverance comprised the capital with which he started out in life. When about twenty years of age he was called out with others to suppress the Morons in Hancock County, this State, and spent the fall and winter there, returning home on the 14th of March. In the meantime he had been made First Lieutenant. In June, 1846, he enlisted to go to Mexico as Captain of Company G, 1st Illinois Infantry, the regiment being under the command of Col. John J. Hardin. They were out twelve months, at the expiration of which time our subject received his honorable discharge, June 17, 1847, at Camnargo, Mexico. He still has the muster-out roll of his company in his possession, and he as well as his friends occasionally derive much satisfaction in re-examining the old relic.
After his return from Mexico, Col. Wyatt engaged in farming, and as a stock-dealer in township 11, range 9, until the outbreak of the Civil War. In due time he was appointed by Gov. Yates of Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel of the 101st Illinois Infantry. The regiment was mustered into service at Jacksonville, Sept. 2, 1862, and soon thereafter reported for duty at Cairo. Thence they repaired to Davis Mills, Miss., where they joined the forces of Gen. Grant, and after passing Lumpkins Mills were sent back to Holly Springs, Miss., Dec. 1, 1862, for post duty. On the 20th of December following a part of the regiment was captured by the Rebel Gens. VanDorn and Jackson, and was sent to Benton Barracks near St. Louis, Mo., for exchange.
In the meantime Col. Wyatt, together with his soldiers had been subjected to great hardships on account of which his health was undermined, and he was obliged to accept his honorable discharge April 13, 1863, receiving from the army surgeon a certificate of physical disability. He then returned to this county and resumed the peaceful occupations of civil life, confining himself to the operations of his farm. He cast his first Presidential vote for Taylor, and since that time has been true to the Democratic principles. He has exercised no small influence among the councils of his party in this section, and indeed he is a man who, wherever he has been, has left his mark. While not particularly aggressive, he is still fearless in the defense and the expression of his principles, and is one whose opinions are involuntarily looked up to and respected. He has served on the Grand and Petit juries, and is a man generally well read and well informed, and of more than ordinary intelligence. Both he and his wife are members in good standing of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to which they contribute a liberal support. Their daughter, however, is an Episcopalian in religious belief. The family residence in franklin is a neat and comfortable structure, and within its hospitable doors are often gathered the best elements of the community representing its culture and refinement, and the Colonel and his family occupy a leading position therein.