Sylvester WHITEHEAD was
born in Arkansas November 15, 1849, and was brought to Illinois by his
parents when three years of age, and in this State
he has since
resided, being located in Tunnel Hill Township, Johnson County.
His father, James Whitehead, was born in Mississippi in 1820,
and was a
son of Matthew Whitehead, a farmer, and a native of South
Carolina, who was born about 1795. The father of Matthew
Whitehead was James Whitehead,
a wealthy farmer, who operated a number
of mills on his farm, and was born in either Maryland or South
Carolina. His wife was a Miss Melton, who bore
him four children, two
sons and two daughters, Matthew being their first bom. James was a
local Methodist preacher, and both he and his wife died when
sixty years of age. Their children were Matthew, Mary, John and Sophia.
The first-named son married Anna Walker, a native of Maryland and a
daughter of Hezekiah Walker, who was a wealthy planter and slaveholder
in Mississippi. His son Hezekiah owned many slaves until they were set
the War of the Rebellion. Matthew Whitehead and his wife went
to Mississippi soon after their marriage, about 1815, and bought large
farms, and were engaged for the most part in growing corn and cotton.
They subsequently removed to the northeastern part of Arkansas, where
they resided until their death.
He died in 1860 and his widow, who was
in frail health at that time, died very soon afterward. They had a
family of six sons and five daughters, all of whom have died except
James and his brother Alfred, who is now a farmer in the same township.
The father of our
subject was reared on a farm, and when seventeen years old married
Minerva Payne, who
was born in Tennessee. They settled on a
farm of eighty acres on the
line between Mississippi and Alabama, and about seven years later
removed to Arkansas, where they bought one hundred
and sixty acres of
wild land worth then about $4 per acre. After living on this farm until
the fall of 1851, he came to southern Illinois, in company with two
other families, making the journey in a large covered wagon, drawn by
two yoke of oxen, and camping out on the way. Mr. Whitehead first
Franklin County, Ill., but the face of the country there was
too low and flat for him, as he was seeking a more healthful climate
than he had left in the South.
He therefore removed to Johnson County
and bought one hundred and twenty acres of land with a small log hut
upon it, into which he moved, and in
which he lived two years. He then
built a good hewed log one, which was one and one-half stories high.
now a part of his present abode. He has since
then owned as much as six
hundred acres of land, much of which cost him but twelve and a-half
cents per acre under the Bitt Act. He has sold off and
deeded to his
sons portions of the six hundred acres, until now he has left but two
hundred and twenty acres. His sons, however, own here in a body over
one thousand acres. His first wife died April 8, 1891, about
seventy-five years old, leaving three sons: John, a farmer on an
adjoining farm; Finus, a
retired farmer living at Creal Springs; and
Sylvester, a merchant at Tunnel Hill.
Our subject's father
was again married, August 7, 1891, this time to Mrs. William Peufield, nee
Martha Phillips, daughter of John and Mary
(Holly) Phillips, from Tennessee, where she was born in 1849. When Mrs.
Whitehead was a child her mother died in Illinois, and her father, who
resides in Kentucky, is
about sixty-seven years old. She has three
children living, viz: John Johnson, a farmer at Norris City, White
County; Theodore, aged fifteen; and Robert,
aged thirteen years, both
at home and in school. Mr. Whitehead is a Master Mason.
Sylvester Whitehead was
reared on his father's farm, and attended the district school winters
until he was twenty-one, and spent two summers in school
in Vienna. He
was married May 29, 1873, to Miss Maty E. Brooks, of Tennessee, who
came to Johnson County in 1860. Her father, Samuel Brooks,
1849, before she was born, and her mother died in 1884, at the age of
sixty-eight years, leaving her and a brother, Joseph, who is a farmer.
She has lost one brother and three sisters. Mr. Whitehead and his wife
began life in their present home, and he bought the store building of
J. F. Graham;
they were in partnership for about eighteen months, when
the firm was dissolved, Mr. Whitehead continuing the business alone. He
was burned out in
February, 1881, losing $7,000, and had no insurance.
In 1882, he built his present large two-story brick store, 65x26 feet
in dimensions, in which he
carries a large stock of general
merchandise, and is doing a business of about $12,000 per year. He has
been Notary Public twelve years, and Postmaster
nine years, since 1881, and
was again elected to the same position in 1890. He has always been a
Republican in politics, is a Royal Arch Mason, and has
been an Odd
Fellow for twenty years. He owns five hundred acres of well-improved
land. He has been the father of five children, three sons and one
daughter, infants, deceased, and one son living, Noel, born March 7,
1874, who is at college in Quincy, Ill., taking a business course. Mr.
one of the prosperous farmers and successful business men
of this section of the State.