genealogy trails

Christian County Illinois

Named after Christian County in Kentucky through the influence of emigrants from that county.

Established February 15, 1839 as Dane County (Laws, 1839, p. 104). Name changed to Christian County in 1840.

Portrait and biographical record of Christian County, Illinois : containing biographical sketches of prominent and   representative citizens, together with biographies of all the Governors of the state, and of the Presidents of the United States.  Chicago, Ill. : Lake City Pub. Co., 1893.  Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards, 2007.

ROBERT W. ORR, who for many years has been the efficient County Superintendent of Schools of Christian County, and who will have served in that office for seventeen years on the expiration of his present term, is a resident of Taylorville and ranks among the leading men of the county seat. As he is widely and favorably known, we feel assured that this record of his life will prove of interest to many of our readers.

Prof. Orr was born in St. Clairville, Ohio, September 30, 1833, and is the eldest child of Andrew and Ann (McNary) Orr, who were natives of eastern Ohio. In 1854 the family left the Buckeye State and became early settlers of Christian County, locating on Buckeye Prairie, in Locust Township, where the father carried on agricultural pursuits until his death, which occurred two years later, at the age of fifty-seven.

He lived a quiet, unassuming life and had the esteem of all who knew him. His wife survived for some years and passed away in 1882, at the age of seventy-four. The last ten years of her life were spent in Pana. On her husband's death she was left with a family of nine children to support, and had often a hard struggle to provide for them, but she nobly labored in their behalf.

The members of the family who still reside in this county are Robert; Margaret I., wife of Henry Kirk, of Taylorville; Mary J., of Pana, widow of G. W. Turnham; and John, who is engaged in the grocery business in Pana. Thomas A. resides in Leadville, Colo; Andrew J., in Covington, Ohio; and Kate M., in Denver, Colo. Samuel M., who followed farming near the old homestead, died at the age of fifty years; Hugh, who was a soldier of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, died at the age of twenty-six, when home on a furlough.

The Professor was a young man of twenty-one when the family came to Illinois, and he aided his father in the labors of the farm until the latter's death. He was educated in the public schools and in the seminary of Bloomingdale, Ohio, which he attended one year. He then began teaching in the Buckeye State, and after coming to this county followed the same profession until his enlistment for the late war.

On the 14th of August, 1862, he joined Company D, One Hundred and Thirtieth Illinois Infantry, and was elected Orderly-Sergeant on the organization of the company at Edinburgh. He was ordered into camp at Taylorville, then sent to Camp Butler, and in October the regiment joined the army at Memphis. Tenn., where the troops went into winter quarters. They joined Grant's army, participating in the siege of Vicksburg, and taking part in the battles of Champion Hills and Black River Bridge. They took part in the entire siege against Vicksburg, and after the surrender of that city went to Jackson, Miss., and subsequently to New Orleans.

While at New Iberia, Mr. Orr was ordered to Springfield on recruiting service, where he remained until May, 1864. On the 1st of March he was commissioned First Lieutenant and subsequently commanded his company as Captain. During his absence as recruiting officer many of his company were killed or captured at Sabine Cross Roads, Tex., and the regiment lost so heavily that it was divided into three divisions. Capt. Orr being given charge of Companies A, F and D. In February, 1865, the regiment was consolidated with the Seventy-seventh Illinois Infantry, under which consolidation he was mustered out of the service.

Mr. Orr then resumed his work in the schoolroom and was employed as a teacher in Sharpsburg,  Owaneco and Taylorville, having charge of the West Side schools of this city for three years. He then returned to his farm in Locust Township, and while there residing was elected County Superintendent of Schools, in the fall of 1872, filling the office for nine years. Then after an interval of four years spent upon the farm, he was again elected, in 1886, and re-elected in 1890, the term comprising four years, so that he will continue to fill the office through 1894.

There are two hundred and ten teachers in the county, to whom from $35 to $65 a month are paid in the country schools, and from $65 to $125 in the graded schools. There are thirteen graded schools in the county, and two township High Schools, with sixty-four teachers. For twenty years annual institutes and normal schools have been held for the benefit of the teachers, and for ten years the session has lasted from two to four weeks, with from one hundred and fifty to two hundred in attendance.

Prof. Orr was married July 12, 1870, to Mrs. Harriet E. Shumway, widow of Z. P. Shumway, of Taylorville. She was born in Connecticut and bore the maiden name of Harriet E. Pray. Her father, Rev. Paris Pray, is still living in Taylorville, in his eightieth year. He came here as a minister of the Gospel, and about 1858 organized the Taylorville Baptist Church, of which he was pastor for many years.

By her first marriage Mrs. Orr had one daughter, Lou A. Shumway, who for six years successfully engaged in teaching, but is now an invalid and lives with her mother. Unto the Professor and his wife have been born four children: Lillie, now Mrs. Zimmerman; Daisy, Frank and Charlie. Frank and Daisy are students in the High School of Taylorville, and Charlie is still in the ward school.

Prof. Orr was reared in the faith of the United Presbyterian Church, but he and his wife now belong to the Baptist Church, in which he serves as Deacon. He is a Royal Arch Mason, having been initiated into the Blue Lodge in Taylorville in 1867, and is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He votes with the Democratic party, but is not strongly partisan, and is as popular among the Republicans as among the people with whom he holds similar views. During the late war he was a faithful and valiant defender of the country, always found at his post of duty.

He is true to every public and private trust reposed in him and has led an honorable, upright life. No higher testimonial to his efficient service in the office of County Superintendent of Schools can be given than the fact that he has so long held the position. It is an office that is won by merit. Under the able management of Prof. Orr the schools of Christian County are in a flourishing condition and would be an honor to any community.



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