OREAR, THOMAS BENJAMIN , President of the Jacksonville National Bank, ex-County Commissioner, Jacksonville, Ill., was born on his father's farm eight miles east of Jacksonville, January 22, 1839, the son of George and Sarah (Heslep) Orear. (For ancestral history, see sketches of William Orear and George Orear in this volume.) He was reared on the farm and educated in the public schools. Early in life he engaged in the stock business, continuing to make his home with his father until the death of the latter, and occupying the paternal homestead until his removal to Jacksonville in 1903. His transactions in stock have been quite extensive at times, though confined principally to Morgan County. On September 2, 1862, Mr. Orear was mustered in as First Lieutenant of Company K, One Hundred and First Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which he helped to organize, giving his active services to the cause of the Union until compelled to retire by reason of disability. He participated with his regiment in the Siege of Vicksburg, where he was prostrated by an illness which nearly caused his death. After the fall of that Confederate stronghold he was sent home on a furlough, but rejoined his command thirty days later at Union city, Tenn. Soon afterward his regiment was assigned to the army of the Cumberland, and was sent to Chattanooga. But in April, 1864, at the beginning of the great Atlanta campaign, he was mustered out, his illness having incapacitated him from further active duty.
Judge Orear has always exhibited a lively interest in the political affairs of Morgan County, and has accomplished what he could toward the promotion of the best interests of his community. For two terms he served as County Commissioner, and for two terms of three years each also was a member of the Jacksonville School Board, serving in that capacity in 1900, when the new High School building was erected. In 1892 he became a Director in the Jacksonville National Bank, and was subsequently elected its Cashier and still later its President. In 1902 Goveror Yates appointed him a member of the Illinois-Vicksburg Commission (of which he is Treasurer). The Commission has charge of the erection, in the Vicksburg National Park, of a State monument intended to commemorate the part borne by the eighty Illinois regiments in the historic campaign against that city. The contract for the monument has been signed, and the work will be completed in 1907. The monument will be constructed of granite and bronze, and will bear the name of every Illinois soldier of the 40,000 who participated in the memorable event. When complete, the monument will be one of the greatest of its character in the world, and the most noteworthy thus far erected in America.
Judge Orear is identified with Harmony Lodge, No. 3, A.F.&A.M., and Hospitaler Commandery, No. 31, K.T., with the Knights of Pythias and the Benevolent Order of Elks. He was united in marriage January 26, 1904, with Sallie Browning, of Jacksonville, a native of Lexington, Ky., and a daughter of Marcus and Angeline (Rees) Browning. Judge Orear is highly esteemed by his fellow-citizens as a man of high character and generous public spirit, and as one who is keeping alive the traditions of an old and honored family. (For sketch of George Orear, see page 983.)