PETEFISH, GEORGE - Clearly outlined against the shadowy past of Morgan County is the noble character and self-sacrificing life of George Petefish, a man who lent dignity and thoroughness to the time honored occupation of farming, and who walked quietly and with good intent among the changing conditions of the early days. Born in Rockingham County, Va., March 17, 1790, Mr. Petefish was the son of a Hessian soldier, who, as a servant of the king, came to America during the early part of the Revolutionary War. Prompted by a higher and nobler motive than had animated his earlier martial life, he espoused the cause of the down-trodden Colonists, and exchanged his Hessian garb for the uniform of the followers of Washington.
Severe limitations hedged in the youth of George Petefish. According to the terms of his father's will, he was to receive six months' schooling, and, as far as is known to those most interested in him, the time allotted represents the extent of his educational advantages. The monotony of farming in Virginia was broken by the demand upon his energy created by the War of 1812, in which contest he served what is known as two tours, being stationed for the greater part at Norfolk, Va. In the fall of 1814 he journeyed with team and wagons to Warren County, Ohio, where he erected a rude log cabin in a timber clearing, and proceeded to cultivate the land which was to furnish his sustenance for many years. Disposing of all property not transferable by wagon, he came to Morgan County, Ill., a year previous to the deep snow of 1830-31, and for the second time in his life assumed the arduous duties of the pioneer.
Although deeply interested in all that tended to ameliorate the condition of the pioneers, and thus project the frontier further into the West, Mr. Petefish never sought or held public office of any kind. Originally a Whig of the Henry Clay type, he was a stanch supporter of the Republican party from the time of its organization, a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and believer in the Union of the States, which great consummation he lived to witness, his life drawing to a close in the summer of 1867. He was a deeply religious and unswervingly upright man, and his influence tended to deepen respect for the simple, kindly traits of human nature. Throughout life he was recognized and revered as peacemaker, although he was always firm in his maintenance of the right as he understood it. As illustrative of this dominant trait of his character, it is not known that he was ever sued, or that he ever brought suit against anyone; therefore, as an arbitrator in the disagreements of others, whether in or out of court, his services were in great demand.