Jacksonville was peculiarly fortunately in the high quality of many of the earliest settlers, especially in some properly to be called founders. As William Penn founded Philadelphia and George Washington put his name upon the National capital, so Col. Wm. Ross was to Pittsfield, and Gov. John Wood was to Quincy.
Jacksonville had no distinctive founder in the same sense as the places above named, but it had several men and women who laid deep and broad foundations upon which our town was built and became a blessing to the state, to the West and to the Land.
Among the pre-eminent for honors of goodness, foresight and enterprise was Dr. Ero Chandler. The bad memories of various old residents have miscalled his first name Nero and Hero. He was certainly not a Nero - equally certain he was in fact a hero of good judgment and of public beneficence. The results of his good work remain to this day, and one has only to walk around the beautiful grounds of the Jacksonville Female Academy to see his monument, far more valuable than marble or bronze. In the early days deserving people even only had their graves designated by a wooden marker, which soon disappeared. But no citizen of Jacksonville need ever forget Ero Chandler so long as the Academy is used for public or educational purposes.
It was Dr. Ero Chandler who gave that block of ground to the school. Hundreds of women can thank the generous man for the act. Their children and husbands can thank him for the betterment he made possible to the coming wives and mothers. Why should not some one in this day, with its superior advantages, write his or her name so broadly in the coming annals of our city?
Ero Chandler was born in the state of Vermont in the year 1795, and, at the age of nine years, came to Ohio, with his father and his father's family. He had the slight education then afforded by the schools of Ohio at that day, and came to Jacksonville - or rather to what was to be Morgan county and Jacksonville - in his early manhood, being about twenty five years of age. This was before the county was organized or the town laid out.
Dr. Chandler had acquired his medical education in what were termed the quarterly schools of Ohio, and soon after the completion of this professional preparation he sallied forth, away from home and friends, to seek his fortune in the then almost uninhabited West. Illinois had a population of only about 56,000 souls in 1820.
"Upon his arrival here Dr. Chandler began the practice of his profession at once, and remained in the practice for about fifteen years. Dr. Chandler was successful in his practice, a fact which was mainly due perhaps, to the unremitting care and attention which he bestowed upon his patients from the time he was called in, until the recovery of the patient was assured."
"His life here was one of continued activity, and the result of his energy and foresight are yet to be seen in out city." He laid out a large addition to the west side of town, as Chandler's addition, extending from Church street to Diamond, east and west, and from Court street to grove street, north and south. It was out of this that he gave the Academy block, and he gave the lot at the northwest corner of State and Church street to the First Presbyterian church, as a site for its first habitation. The building, a part of which was soon erected, is till standing on the north end of the lot.Dr. Chandler was also prominent in the establishment of Illinois college, although he left about the time it was chartered. Dr. Chandler's residence was at the southwest corner of State and Fayette streets - now occupied by Dr. Bowe. It was also, for some time the residence of Dr. Wm. S. Edgar. The building was originally a story and a half and basement brick, with gables to the east and west. A good house in size and evidently well built. It is said Dr. Chandler also built the Dennis Rockwell house, afterwards the home of Mr. Charles Rockwell, and now the home of his daughter, Mrs. Lily Rockwell Frost. That was a handsome and more attractive building than the Fayette street house.
Dr. Chandler moved from here to Hancock county, this state, with his family about 1834 or 1835. He bought a farm there and made that his residence until his death, Feb. 24, 1883. "His life in his new home was but a counterpart of his life here. Earnest and devout he was ever foremost in the promotion of all designs which had the benefit of his fellow beings in view. While a resident of Hancock he did faithful work in organizing the first church in Warsaw, and of which he was a member until it was disbanded. He assisted also in organizing the Wythe Congregational church of which he remained a consistent member until his death.
Upon his death the medical profession of Warsaw held a meeting, at which appropriate resolutions of respect were adopted.
At the meeting Oct. 2, 1834, at which the organization of the Female Academy was completed, Dr. Chandler was made one of the first board of Trustees. A few years (probably) later, after giving the land for the present building to be built upon, Dr. Chandler's name headed the list of subscribers to the new edifice, with the promise of $150 which was munificent for those days, and other persons followed with pledges of lesser amounts.
Jesse Chandler, presumable a son of the Doctor, was graduated from Illinois College in the class of 1839.
This is a too brief account of one of the heroic men who helped to make the best of things for Illinois.