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Biographical Sketch of Hon. John Nelson English

Hon. John Nelson English - was born in Henry County, Kentucky, March 31. 1810. He was the eldest son of Thomas and Alla English, who were the parents of twelve children. Their ancestors were Irish and German. Mr. English's father was a native of Maryland, his mother, of Pennsylvania. Mr. English's mother was a dauthter of Jonathon Cooper, a half sister of Capt. Jonathan English Cooper, so well favorably known in Jersey County.

For half a century, Mr. English took a prominent and leading part in the public affairs of Jersey County. He came to the present limits of Jersey County with his parents when he was 15 years old, in 1825, and remained here continuously to his death. Mr. English received his early education in the schools of Washington and Jersey Counties.

At the breaking out of the Black Hawk War of 1831, he enlisted in Capt. Carlin's company of mounted volunteers, and was mustured in at Carrollton, Ill., and immediately started on a march to Rock Island, where the treat with the Indians was soon afterwards made, when he returned home, and in 1832, enlisted in Capt. Patterson's company and participated in the battles of Wisconsin and Bad Ax. After treaty was made and peace restored, he was honorably discharged. After returning home. Mr. English spent the next summer with D. A. Spalding, government surveyor, in surverying the lands around Lake Michigan. He assisted in surveying the land, in 1833, where now stands the city of Chicago, making his headquarters in old Fort Dearborn, on Dearborn Street. He told many very interesting, amusing and thrilling stories of those early days. He once stood where now stands Will Hanley's Meat Market and killed a deer that chanced to be galloping by. He raised a large crop of corn where now stands the court house, about 15 acres, all west of the "Indian Trail" what we now call State Street.

He rode on horse-back all over what is now Jersey County with a petition for signers to set off Jersey County, which when a part of Greene County, and after he had secured sufficient petitioners, he rode on horse-back to the Capital of the State, then at Vandalia, Ill., when Jersey County was cut off from Greene County. I am not saying too much when I say, that for the first 50 years of Jersey County's existence, there was not a man in it who did so much for the county and the people in it as J. N. English. In August, 1889, the old settlers of the county met in the court house yard and celebrated the semi-centennial of Jersey County's existence. On that day a picture of 29 of the old setters was taken, but Mr. English had passed beyond before that day, thus nobody points out his face in the group. It would be but a fitting tribute, if the citizens of Jersey County now living would erect a monument to his memory just inside the court house yard.

In the summer of 1834, at the age of 24 years, he purchased a farm in Jersey County, four miles southwest of Jerseyville, which he began at once to improve. He was the first elected Sheriff of Jersey County.

On December, 1840, when he was at the age of 30 years, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Belt, a daughter of Horatio W. Belt, a pioneer of Jersey County. Fruits of this union were four sons - Thomas, Lloyd, John N. and R. B. English. When his term of office as Sheriff expired, he, in company with Messrs, Magee & Terry, erected a steam grist and saw mill five miles west of Jerseyville.

They carried it on about two years, when they sold it. He next went to steamboating on the river, with the rank of mate. He followed the river for two years, when he came home and bought a farm five miles west of Jerseyville, in what is now known as English Township. He settled on it in the fall of 1847, since which date most of his time was spent in agricultural pursuits, stock raising, from which he made a competency.

In the fall of 1860, Mr. English was elected to the Legislature of Illinois from Jersey and Calhoun Counties. He was re-elected after the expiration of his first term by a large majority, filling the position with honor to himself and satisfaction to his constituents.

Politically, Mr. English was a strong supporter of the Democratic party. At most Senatorial, Congressional and State Conventions, he was a delegate from Jersey County.

In november 1867, he moved to a farm one-half mile west of the court house where he spent the remainer of his days. On January 5, 1872, Mrs. English, after a long and lingering illness, died, leaving a husband and three sons to mourn their loss - Lloyd, John N., and R. B. In October, 1873, Mr. English married Catherine C. Silsby, the widow of John Silsby of Jersey County.

Mr. English died at his home near Jerseyville, Ill., surrounding by many friends and relatives, August 25, 1880, at the age of 78 years, 5 months and 15 days. Thus closed a long and useful life.

Source: [History of Jerseyville, Illinois 1822 to 1901, by Rev. Marshall M. Cooper, Jerseyville Republican Print. 1901]