KING, WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, M. D., (deceased), physician and surgeon, Jacksonville, Ill., was born in Chicago, Ill., November 6, 1842, and died in the sanitarium at Battle Creek, Mich., November 14, 1897. His parents were Willis and Abigail (Taylor) King, his father, who was born in Sheffield, Conn., in 1800, removing to Chicago in 1838, and in 1845 locating at Jacksonville, where he engaged in the lumber business. His death occurred in Chicago in 1849. His wife was a niece of Gen. Zachary Taylor, the twelfth President of the United States.
The genealogical record of the King family shows that James and William King, the founders of the family in America, were sons of William King, of Uxborough, County of Devonshire, England, who, during his last fishing voyage, was cast away and drowned on the Banks of Newfoundland. The record of the descendants of William King is not known positively. James King, the first American ancestor, married Elizabeth Emerson, a descendant of an honorable English family. He settled in Ipswich, Mass., where his eldest son, James, was born about 1692. The records of the town of Suffield, Conn., show that James King, the elder, received a grant of land in that town in October, 1678; and he may have located there some time prior to that date. On June 23, 1698, James King married Elizabeth Hurley, and one of their sons, Ebenezer, who was born December 8, 1706, married Abigail Seymour, March 30, 1727. His descendants are the most numerous of any branch of the family. Amos King, the seventh son of the second James King, was born May 6, 1715, and was educated to "the practice of physic." He died in 1745, leaving no family.
It was the hope of Dr. King's mother that he might become a minister of the Gospel, but his tastes lay in a different direction. After attending one of the public schools of Jacksonville, in 1859 he entered Illinois College, with the expectation of taking the complete course. But the study of natural history, the investigation of the structure, food and habits of animals and birds, created in him a profound interest in medicine and surgery. When the Civil War broke out, however, nothing could prevent him from leaving college at once and offering his services to the Federal Government. On January 15, 1862, at Jacksonville, he enlisted in Company E, Thirty-second Illinois Volunteer Infantry, but on account of his youth he was at once made Hospital Steward. Having secured a furlough for the purpose, he attended lectures at Rush Medical College, Chicago, during the winters of 1862 and '63; and, both during the intervals between terms and after being graduated January 24, 1865, he returned to the front. On February 3, 1865, he was promoted to the post of Assistant Surgeon; and September 2d, of that year, he received a commission as Surgeon. He accompanied General Sherman on the memorable "March to the Sea," and participated in the Grand Review at Washington. The sole casualty he suffered occurred while he was in camp at Holly Springs, Miss., where his leg was fractured by a falling tree. This injury was the cause of the limp in his walk, and gave him considerable trouble during the years immediately following the war. At its close he was detailed for service in the Wyoming Indian campaigns; but, being mustered out at the end of the year 1865, he returned to Jacksonville to begin the practice of his chosen profession.
Dr. King began his professional career badly handicapped, but undaunted. Having no means of his own, he made with his own hands, the furniture necessary for the equipment of his office on East State Street. After a short season of discouragement, during which he was an interne at the Indiana State Insane Asylum, at Indianapolis, in 1873 he became Assistant Physician in the Sanitarium of Dr. David Prince, Jacksonville, and having established a growing private practice, located on West State Street. In 1877 he opened an office in his residence on West State Street (now occupied by his son, Dr. Allen M. King), where he practiced during the remainder of his life. It was not long before his skill and kindness of heart earned him an extensive general practice and a special patronage in the department of surgery. In 1875 his public spirit as a citizen and his foresight as a surgeon led him to recognize in the humble beginning of the Jacksonville Hospital (now the Passavant Memorial Hospital), an institution of great future advantage to the town and to the medical profession. For several years from its inception he was the only physician in the city who exhibited any practical interest in its welfare, or gave any attention to the needs of its inmates, many of whom he treated without any hope or expectation of financial reward. Notwithstanding his laborious and frequently exhausting private practice, Dr. King soon found himself in a position where he was able to indulge his taste for natural science and American archaeology, and during his life he accumulated a splendid museum illustrating those branches, and representing an expenditure of fully $25,000, besides untold labor.
Dr. King's excessive labors finally resulted in a general breaking down of his health, and necessitated the abandonment of his professional duties for nine months, during which he made a tour around the world in company with two of his intimate friends. Upon his return, his desire to increase the facilities of the hospital which he had founded led him to take up the work immediately, and its successful accomplishment appeared to have become the absorbing passion of his life. He was chairman of the committee which had in charge the erection of its new building, and not only threw himself into the work with characteristic energy, but even contributed of his private means to the extent of $14,000. The commodious new building was opened to the public January 1, 1897, after which Dr. King was prevailed upon to take a Colorado trip for the benefit of his nervous troubles. Returning, somewhat benefited, he was seized with paralysis, while performing a surgical operation, and afterward removed to the Battle Creek (Mich.) Sanitarium where, as stated, he died November 14, 1897.
Dr. King was a charter member of the Morgan County Medical Society, organized in 1866, in which he served as Treasurer from 1871 to 1881, with the exception of the year 1873, when he was its President. He was also Surgeon for over twenty years of the Chicago & Alton system, acting in the same capacity, at various times, for the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis, the Jacksonville, Louisville & St. Louis and the Wabash Railroad Companies, and was Local Examiner for about twenty life insurance companies. In politics he was a stanch Republican, and especially during the years of presidential elections took an active interest in the promotion of his party's interests. He was the author of innumerable charities; but none ever knew of them from his own lips, as he despised notoriety and self-aggrandizement.
Dr. King was united in marriage May 25, 1875, with Louise Allen, daughter of John and Emily (Chandler) Allen. Her father, a graduate from the medical department of Dartmouth University, and for many years a physician and surgeon of Petersburg, Ill., was born in Chelsea, Vt., March 30, 1801; removed to Illinois in the early days, and died at Petersburg in April 1863. He was a son of Sluman Allen, who was born October 24, 1760, served in the Fourth Connecticut Regiment during the Revolutionary War and died in 1834. Isaac Allen, the father of Sluman, was also a soldier of the Patriot army.
The children of Dr. King and his wife are: Allen M. King, M. D., a practicing physician and surgeon, of Jacksonville; Abigail and Harrison-all of whom reside at home.
The most faithful labors of Dr. King's life, and those which leave behind him the fragrance of a blessed memory, were devoted to the foundation and building of an institution of the highest utility for his fellow-men. Aside from the beneficences incidental to the work he performed in connection with Passavant Memorial Hospital, his private charities were incessant and manifold. Underneath his bluff and independent exterior there reposed a heart so kind, so gracious, so thoroughly attuned to the spirit of the Golden Rule, that he could not resist the impulse to perform a kindly act for one in distress whenever the occasion arose. Few men are so absolutely free from cant, hypocrisy and selfishness. Hundreds of the poor and needy of Jacksonville will revere his memory while they live, for it was to such as they that he proved the greatest friend in need. He was the good Samaritan who poured oil upon the wounds of the stricken traveler, not pausing to criticise or to inquire through whose fault he had fallen by the wayside. He entered into the lives of those in distress with the sympathy and personal help which the claims of common humanity exact from kind and generous souls.