ELDER JONATHAN PARK … is a pioneer of 1853, and a resident of section 26, Dale Township. He was born in Madison
County, Ky., on the 14th of July, 1815. His father, Eli Park, was a native of North Carolina, and his grandfather,
Ebenezer Park, who was born in Virginia, was of excellent English ancestry, and removed from his native State to
North Carolina when a young man. His father had died when he was a child, and after he became of suitable years
he was apprenticed to learn the trade of a tailor. This, however, was unsuited to his taste, and he abandoned his
trade, and going to North Carolina married, and engaged in farming pursuits. During the early settlement of Kentucky
he removed his family there, it being before the day of carriage roads, and the journey was performed with packhorses.
This was about 1795. Ebenezer Park, after his arrival in Kentucky, purchased a tract of timber land in Madison
County, cleared a farm from the wilderness, and established a comfortable home, where he remained until his death,
which occurred at the advanced age of ninety-three years. The maiden of his early choice, to whom he was married
soon after his arrival in North Carolina, was Miss Tabitha Mills. She accompanied her husband to Kentucky, and
died there in Madison County.
Eli Park, the son of Ebenezer and Tabitha (Mills) Park, and the father of our subject, was a little boy seven years old when his parents removed from North Carolina to Kentucky. He grew to manhood in the latter State, and was there married to Miss Winnifred Dillingham. He then purchased a tract of land in Madison County, and entering upon agricultural pursuits made that the business of his life. He departed from the scenes of his earthly labors on the 19th of December, 1858, at the age of seventy years, four months and twenty-seven days. His wife had preceded her husband to the better land on the 19th of December, 1854, at the age of fifty-nine years, three months and nine days. They were excellent and worthy people, and of their family of twelve children they reared eleven to maturity, and instilled in them principles of virtue and honor.
Jonathan Park of our sketch was the fourth child and third son of his parents. Free schools had not been established when he was a child, and his early education was received in the subscription schools of his native county. He was reared to habits of industry, and when not in school was engaged in the lighter duties around the homestead and made his home with his parents until he had attained his majority. He then started out in business for himself and rented a tract of land about ten miles from his old home, which he cultivated for two or three years, and then purchased a few acres in Madison County. He there industriously engaged in farming pursuits, and as time passed he added by degrees to his first purchase until he was the possessor of 120 acres. This he sold in 1853, and started North with his family, including his wife and six children, for the prairies of Illinois. They made the journey overland and their outfit consisted of four horses and two wagons. They carried with them their household goods and provisions, camped and cooked by the wayside, and slept in the wagons at night. After eighteen days of continuous travel they landed in McLean County. Mr. Park had visited the State the previous fall, on horseback, but had not made any purchase of land, and after his arrival here with his family they spent the winter in a house belonging to Hiram Quinn, whose name is frequently mentioned in connection with the history of the early pioneers of this county.
During this time Mr. Park had been looking about with an eye to business and had purchased 106 acres of land in Dale Township on section 26, which constitutes his present homestead. Of this there were forty acres broken, and a portion of the land fenced, but there were no buildings upon it. Mr. Park erected a temporary shelter for his family, and during the following summer built the more substantial residence which has been his home since that time. He did all the carpenter work himself, which he feels a just pride in saying was well done. He also carried on the improvement and cultivation of his land, and subsequently added to his acreage until he is now the possessor of 226 acres, with a good set of frame buildings and a generous supply of grain and stock. He has been successful in his business transactions, and has conducted himself in that straightforward, honest and methodical manner which has secured him the esteem and confidence of his neighbors and fellow citizens.
The subject of our sketch was united in marriage with Miss Barthana Quinn on the 6th day of October, 1836, in Madison County, Ky. Mrs. Park was born in the latter named county Oct. 27, 1818, and removed with her husband and children to this State. She remained the faithful companion of her husband for a period of fifty-four years, and departed this life on the 20th of August, 1882, in Dale Township. Their family included ten children, seven of whom are now living; the record is as follows: Minerva E. became the wife of J. J. Denham, and lives in Dale Township; Sidney Q. is also a resident of that township; Alwilda is at home; Eli is in California; Rhoda married T. E. Cutting and lives in Bloomington, Ill..; Sallie, the wife of S. F. Clark, lives on the old homestead; Lucy married John C. Douglas, and they live in Madison County, Ky.; Hiram, the sixth child, was born Nov. 4, 1846, and died Sept. 1st, 1870; Mary, the youngest child, was born March 20, 1862, and died March 22, 1882; one died in infancy unnamed.
Mr. Park became a member of the Christian Church in 1843, and his wife two years later, he commenced preaching in 1852, and was ordained in Kentucky, that same year, as a minister of the Christian Church. He preached at Grassy Ridge Church, alternately with John G. Campbell, two or three years, in a school-house, and then a church building was erected, and they continued their ministerial labors together until 1858. The Christian Church of Dale Township was then organized in a school-house on section 26, and Mr. Park was the first preacher who ministered to the spiritual wants of the congregation and continued to perform this office until the church building was erected in Shirley. He is now afflicted with throat trouble, and has been able to speak but little within the past six or seven years. Mr. Park has recently bought a home in Bloomington, where he will soon move, to spend the remainder of his days.
During his residence in Kentucky Mr. Park was a member of the State militia and held commissions as Captain and Major. He is a gentleman of good abilities, and has filled many offices of trust in Dale Township. He has been Justice of the Peace, Assessor and School Director, and to whatever position in life he has been appointed has fulfilled his respective duties as became an honorable and conscientious citizen. In politics in early life he was an old Henry Clay Whig, and on the organization of the Republican party he became identified with and has since been a strong supporter of its principles. During the Rebellion he was a stanch supporter of the Union cause. One of his sons, Ely, served three years as a soldier, doing honorable service for his country in Co. H, 94th Illinois Volunteers.
Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 246-7.