A CLOSE UP VIEW OF GOVERNOR EMMERSON
Article by Jean Comerford in the Welfare Magazine
Transcribed from the Egyptian Republican Newspaper
Herrin, Illinois July 1920
Submitted by @ Sharon Bradshaw-Hampton
If the great epic of America should ever be written, its theme would be rugged courage, matching the perils of untamed loneliness of unpeopled frontiers-of greatness won by trial of fortitude and struggle from lowly beginnings, says Jean Comerford in Welfare Magazine. Its Heroic figures would move, not in habiliments of rank and power but in the simple garb of the builder and pioneer.
Its cadence in tune with such an unwritten odyssey, if the story of the Emmerson Family, succeeding generations of whom figured in the pageantry of America’s progress throughout nearly three hundred years and of Louis L. Emmerson who began his career in a small town general store and is now governor of the State of Illinois.
The first Emmerson came to this country in 1683 and made his home in the colony of Massachusetts, sharing in the hardy life of that perilous era. Of his descendants, some went north, others west or south. Their names appear in the early records of many communities of pioneers.
In the latter half of the eighteenth century, there lived in Culpepper County, Virginia, Jessee Emmerson, great grandfather of the present governor. Like the father of Abraham Lincoln, he followed the mountains and streams into the wild land of Kentucky-into the cave country.
One of his sons was Alan Emmerson who, at seventeen, married Nancy Mounce, the sixteen year old daughter of another pioneer. They built a cabin for themselves and began the task of wringing a livelihood from the stony hillsides of this unproductive county. Fourteen children came into the household and all were cared for.
There was some spark in the make-up of this earlier Emmerson which set him apart from the ordinary man of the cave region. He acquired some knowledge of books-one hardly knows how and the records show him as a preacher and teacher and leader in the community.
Northward into Indiana, migrated folk from the cave country and among the first were Alan Emmerson, then twenty four years old, his wife Nancy, and their children. They settled at Princeton, near Versailles, only a few miles from the spot which later became their home and the scene of an important chapter in the Emmerson Family history. This was in 1817 when the boy, Lincoln, was but eight years old and still lived in the woods of Kentucky.
To the north and west of this settlement stretched the great, unpeopled plains. Nearer Princeton were the lovely hills and glades of southern Illinois. It was a significant chance that Alan Emmerson should select that little settlement for his home for it was there that a hard winter brought to him human contact which strongly affected the course of his life.
From England came a band of immigrants, seeking escape from the oppressive taxation which they had suffered at home and eager to make new and successful lives for themselves in this frontier country. Eighteen miles away from Princeton, they claimed land in.
These people bought with them a form of culture foreign to the rigorous life of the Middle West. Alan Emmerson met them and cast his lot with the. In the spring of 1818 when this group left Princeton to resume their taste of developing new land, the Emmerson’s moved with them to Edward’s County, built a log cabin and set about to develop the fertile acres that surrounded it.
Edwards County was, in those days, so extensive that it took in a little trading post, set down in a swamp on the lowest southwest shore of Lake Michigan, called Chicago. Love for England
Lingered in the hearts of the people who had come from across the Atlantic and they called the little settlement Albion. Some became storekeepers, others followed various trades and others farmed and raised stock.
Morris Birkbeck and George Flowers were the leaders of this group. They figured extensively in the life of the period, the Birkbeck family is extinct in Edward’s County and only one man named Flower resides there today.
But a thousand memories of the Emmerson family cling around the quaintly beautiful village of Albion. The older residents take pleasure and pride in reminiscing about the family’s part in its history. A gracious source of these old family legends is Mrs. Harry Bowers, of Albion, a cousin of the Governor.
“Grandfather Alan Emmerson was a much honored man,” she said. “He could do many things and was not afraid of work. He cobbled shoes for his family and even tanned the leather out of which they were made. He was a teacher too and on Sundays he preached to the men and women of the community.”
They were devout Christians, those early Albion citizens. No one knows just when it was that they held their first regular Sunday Services. We do know that in 1828 Grandfather gave them land from his farm and they built a church of logs with a thatched straw roof. There is a church on this spot today and last year the whole county celebrated the centennial of its building.
This Alan Emmerson was elected county judge and, in 1834, was sent to the legislature, serving two sessions with Lincoln, the last one held at Vandalia and the first at Springfield, after the seat of government was moved there.
One of his sons was named Jesse, a name that occurs frequently all through the family records. After Grandfather died, Jesse lived on the farm a while and then moved into Albion. Louis, his son was born there.
One sees the home as he enters Albion-a quaint little old fashioned building, set sidewise to the road, with a long narrow porch in front. It is an extremely modest setting for the launching of so brilliantly successful career.
It is no doubt significant, in the highest measure, that the material with which the ambitious boy, Louis, had to build, was bone and sinew of the pioneer Emmersons an aristocracy not of wealth or title but of courage, farsightedness and upright living, it is not easy today, despite the services of the historians to revision the hardships of the time of Alan Emmerson. Through personal reminiscences, however, we gather a picture of this unusual man, moving among the sturdy people of his community, at the head of his family of sixteen, serene in purpose, firm in convictions, honored by his fellows. Friend and lover of humanity he must have been for his neighbors bestowed upon him that of high office of legislator; in those days a simple expression of esteem of the voters.
Jesse Emmerson was one of the four sons-there were 10 daughters-of this man. Early in life he married Samantha Sperry and, after a brief period spent on the old Emmerson farm, went to Albion to make his home. There he accumulated some property, through qualities of diligence and thrift that were conspicuous in his nature. He was also honored with a number of public offices-those of tax collector, county tax collector and sheriff.
One son was born to this couple-Morris Emmerson, who was a newspaper man for more than forty years and who but recently resigned as Secretary of the Mt. Vernon Chamber of Commerce. Early in the fifties the death of the first Mrs. Emmerson occurred, leaving her husband alone with the responsibility of his small son.
Other people were, by this time coming from distant lands to the fertile region of Southern Illinois. Among them a young Swiss and with him came his pretty sister, a young widow named Fannie Saurdet. Jesse Emmerson met her and, in 1858 they were married. Their three children were Louis, Charles and Louise.
Jesse Emmerson died young but his wife lived to be remembered by Louis Emmerson’s daughters. Meanwhile, her daughter by a former marriage joined her in Illinois, bringing a daughter of her own, Elise, who became a second sister to the Emmerson boys. This other “daughter”, Elise, married Robert Buchanan of Indianapolis, where she still lives. Her one child Robertine, is the wife of Richard Fairbanks, son of former Vice President Fairbanks.
Of actual schooling, Louis Emmerson had little as measured by the standards of our time. All there was in the little town of his birth, he absorbed easily and eagerly. He was always a social person, entering into all the activities of his fellows as well as carrying on certain enterprises of his own, concerned with books and plans for his future. He played tenor horn in the Albion band, took an active part in baseball games, social affairs and the activities of the local church. At eighteen, he took a job in a hardware store at twelve dollars a month and managed to save money. He impressed himself on the citizens of whom he served in those days as unfailingly courteous.
When he was twenty, he married Anna Matthews, of Grayville, a little neighboring town. Young Emmerson had already accumulated enough money to go into business. His ambition reached beyond the narrow limitation of Albion’s business life, however, and he went, with his bride, to Mt. Vernon nearly fifty miles away.
Mt. Vernon, County seat of Jefferson County, has always been one of the most beautiful little towns in Illinois. It still retains the village square, with business blocks lining it on all four sides. Its business development has been phenomenal, however, and its citizens attribute a large share of that development to the efforts of Louis Emmerson. They feel that Mt. Vernon will always be his home and that, when his days of office holding over, he will return there to live.
He went first into business with James Crackel in a general store which they called “The Boston Store”. “Lou worked as a clerk in this store,” an old citizen of Mt. Vernon reminisced recently. “He sold goods over the counter and was mighty pleasant about it too. That’s the way he got on. Besides being smart, he was just naturally kind and interested in the doing the best he could for folks”.
Practically everything that Louis Emmerson touched in the way of business became a success. He sold his interest in the Boston Stores and went into the furniture business. He than became connected with a building and loan association and definitely turned his energies to the field of finance. In 1901, he was offered a position as cashier of the Third National Bank of Mt. Vernon and resigned the presidency of this institution after he was elected governor.
The life of the Emmersons during these years was outwardly that of any prosperous family in a small town. But Louis Emmerson’s never flagging ambition to improve himself, as well as advance himself, to reach out in every direction for the best things of life, lifted these years from the monotony which might have characterized them.
The official of a country bank is the recipient of many confidences from men of all types and classes. He is also a man of power, often holding the future of a man or family in his grasp. It is said at Mt. Vernon that that Emmerson wielded this power justly, wisely and with generosity. He made many staunch friends during his connection with the banks and doubtless gained a wide knowledge of men which is an asset in a business career and still more distinctly so, perhaps, in politics.
Primarily interested in his business and his home, Emmerson found time, during these busy years for many outside activities. For forty years, he has been a member of the Presbyterian Church. For many years, every Sunday found him teaching a men’s Bible class called the one Hundred class because that was the number of its members.
He was made qa Mason and rose to his present position of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge State of Illinois. He is also past Grand High Priest of Grand Royal Arch Chapter, State of Illinois, and past Grand Commander of the Grand Commandary, Knights Templar of Illinois. He has been honored with the thirty-third degree.
He belongs to the Loyal Order of Moose, the Elks and several other organizations. He maintains a keen interest in Mooseheart, a home for orphans of the members of the Loyal Order of Moose, on the Fox River.
His political activities, at the beginning, were a natural outgrowth of Emmerson’s social nature and his interest in the all the affairs of his time. His first elective office was that of precinct captain. In 1904, he became Secretary of State and held that office for twelve years-until he took the oath of office as Governor of the State of Illinois.
As Secretary of State he became well and favorable known all over the State of Illinois. He applied business principles to the operation of his office and none of the laxness about detail, which sometimes characterizes state offices, was permitted in this one.
The crowded years since Louis Emmerson went to Mt. Vernon as a partner in a general store have left little time for leisure but his chief recreation has been found in woods and mountain streams with gun and casting rod. He is particularly fond of fishing of all kinds and spent many vacations in Northern Wisconsin in pursuit of this sport. Deep sea fishing has engaged his interest at various times and in that, as all other forms of the sport he is very proficient. He is an authority on fishing and has written on this subject for magazines devoted to outdoor sports.
Louis Emmerson’s ambition though unswerving and strong has not confined his interests within a narrow grove but has spurred him to seek every avenue of self-improvement. He has not left unexplored the world of books but is a great reader, particularly of history, travel and philosophy. Although his career began and for a long time centered in a small provincialism to become a part of him and is widely traveled, having spent considerable time in South America, Canada, Europe and extensive travel in the United States.
While their closest friends doubt if Mrs. Emmerson every really cared for political preferment for her husband she has manifested the keenest and most helpful interest in this as in all other phases of his career. They have two daughters, Mrs. Henry Ben Ward, wife of a Mt. Vernon merchant, and Mrs. Harold Watson, who also lives in Mt. Vernon, at the Emmerson Hotel which is her husband’s property. Emmerson Ward, eleven, and the two young daughters of Mrs. Watson are the governor’s grandchildren and perhaps his principal “hobbies.”
The Emmerson’s are a family deeply-rooted in the traditions of Illinois and the two daughters, after their school days in other states and extensive travel in many countries, have settled definitely in the little town of their birth.
In an age when biography is a marked literary fashion and the public seeks knowledge of the most intimate and searching kind about it’s great men, the story of the Louis Emmerson family and of Louis Emmerson who is the new Governor of Illinois, is a pleasant story to tell because in it are woven the elements that have combined to build America as well as most careers of her great men. It is a story satisfying to all who believe in the aristocracy of achievement and a story particularly suited to the setting of the State of Illinois, a state built by courage, out of elements of danger and hardship, into prestige and greatness and power…
NATIVE SON OF ALBION
MILLIONAIRES OFFER EMMERSON PRESIDENCY
The Egyptian Republican
Transcribed and Submitted by@ Sharon Bradshaw-Hampton
Our governor, L.L. Emmerson, is basking in the warm sunshine on the east coast of Florida and is being dined and entertained in grand fashion by Miami’s millionaires while the cold blasts of lingering winder growl just around the corner here in Illinois. The Miami Herald of February 26th last published a three column picture, full size view, of Governor Emmerson on its first page with the commenting caption, “Friends see him as probable candidate for presidency.” There is no response as yet whether he “chose to run or not to run,” that’s the question on which he is yet silent. But he is loud in his commendation of Florida and fully apologetic for the financial condition of his metropolis, the city of Chicago.
At a dinner given in his honor a number of the nation’s millionaires were present including the great packer king, Armour, the tire magnate, the Firestone and the taxi king of Chicago, John D. Hertz.
The Miami Herald is reporting Governor Emmerson’s visit says: “All the world is watching Miami.” Gov. Louis Lincoln Emmerson of Illinois told a welcoming committee led by Mayor C.H. Reeder and George E. Hussey the city’s official greeter, upon his arrival yesterday at the F.E.C. station. “Miami is a great city because of the hospitality of its citizens. I feel privileged to get a close-up of its progress and I want to be one of you while I am here.”
Among those present to greet him were Lawrence Hayworth, Charles A. McCulloch, Warren Wright and George Thompson, president of the Illinois State society and a crown of other admirers of Governor Emmerson.
The welcoming delegation included the Kilties band, members of the Illinois State society and a crown of other admirers of Governor Emmerson.
He was escorted by a police squadron to the home of Mr. Mc Culloch, 4535 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, where is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. McCulloch.
A stag luncheon was given for him at noon at the estate of his host. Those present included Harvey S. Firestone, Warren Wright, John D. Hertz, Albert D. Lasker, John Golden, Edward C. Romth, Jess Andrews, G.C. Fowler, Lawrence Armour, John G. McKay, Charles F. Glore, Earle Reynolds, Edward N. Hurley, Joseph P. Timulty, Russell Firestone, A.R. Erskin, Fred A. Poor, Lawrence Hayworth, Fred Tod, Hentry H. Kohn, Newton Perry, Albert J. Bigler, Dr. J.S. Gillman, James M. Cox, H.T. Archibald, K.L. Ames, Jr., George Ade.. Other invited were W.M. Griffin, Frank B. Shutts, Mayor Reeder, Carl Fisher, John Oliver LaGorce, Leon M. Abbott and Roy D. Keehn.
Governor Emmerson pointed out that Chicago is slowly but surely working out its own salvation financially and will pay 100 cents on the dollar of all revenue anticipatory notes issued.
“Troubles of Chicago and Illinois are magnified. We have difficulties, it is true, but they will be worked out gradually and efficiently. The main difficulty in Chicago is the fact that a reassessment of property values was delayed.”
He explained that the crime situation in Chicago and Illinois is no worse than in any other city or state in the Union.
Governor Emmerson plans to spend his vacation in fishing golfing and swimming. He will return to Illinois about March 10, following a few days visit to Cuba.
Governor Emmerson is considered by many of his friends as a possible candidate for the presidency in 1932. He was elected governor by a plurality of 450,000 votes said to be the largest ever received by an Illinois candidate for governor.
He was secretary of state in Illinois for 12 years, being elected by a plurality of 923,000 for his third term. He is a Republican and native of Albion, Ill. His career in public life was preceded by his engaging in the mercantile business.
He was chairman of the Republican county central committee in Jefferson County, Ill., chairman of the state central committee and member of the state board of equalization.