Jackson County


To say that he has been tried by both extremes of fortune and never seriously disturbed by either will tersely tell the life-story of Samuel Tasker Brush of Carbondale and forcibly suggest the salient traits of his character. The warp and woof, of the story - his orphanage in childhood and consequent dependence on a generous uncle for sustenance and schooling; his early work at making a livelihood for himself; his honorable record in the Civil war; his youthful appointment to positions of great responsibility in the service; his subsequent business successes and reverses; the broken thread of his domestic life; his bounty to his church these and other details of his career will be briefly shown in the following paragraphs. But the full measure of his usefulness could not be given here, even if space were available for the purpose.

Mr. Brush was born in Jackson county, Illinois, on February 10, 1842. He is a son of James and Jane (Etherton) Brush, and of New England ancestry on his father's side. His paternal grandfather, Elkomo Brush, was among the early pioneers of Illinois, having moved to this state from Vermont in 1820, and located in Morgan county, whence his father, James Brush, came to Jackson county in 1830. He was a manufacturer of lumber all his life from the dawn of his manhood to his early death in 1849, when Samuel was but seven years of age. The mother was not spared long to care for her offspring, as she died in 1852.

Thus doubly bereft while he was yet of tender years, the helpless orphan found a comfortable home and considerable attention under the roof of his uncle, General Daniel H. Brush, a gallant soldier in the Union army during the Civil war, and the founder of Carbondale. He sent his nephew to subscription schools, in which the latter obtained the foundation of his education. He was ambitious, however, to be doing something for himself, and when the Illinois Central Railroad ran its first train, in October, 1854, he was on it as a newsboy.

After remaining on the road two years in this service his uncle took him into a store he owned, and sometime afterward into the old Jackson County Bank, in which he held a controlling interest. In 1858 he learned telegraphy and then worked in the office of the Illinois Central two years as an operator, being also under the direct supervision of his uncle in this work. He had been a diligent student while in the store and bank, and so pleased his uncle with his progress and his skill as a telegrapher that the next thing for the aspiring youth was a course of instruction at Jackson College at his uncle's expense.

When the first call came in 1861 for volunteers to defend the Union from dismemberment, both he and his uncle were fired with patriotic zeal and offered their services to their country. The uncle raised a company of which he was made captain, and the nephew enlisted first at Jacksonville, Morgan county, in a company raised by Captain King. Captain King's company could not be accepted at the time because the number of volunteers asked for by the call of President Lincoln had already been supplied. What then? The boy in years but man in spirit and development of faculties promptly entered his uncle's company, and was soon afterward detailed military telegraph operator, serving first at Mound City and later at Cairo until July, 1862. While at Cairo, on account of his capacity in the work and unwearying attention to it, he received an appointment as general manager of all the telegraph operations there and on the lines running south from the city, although he was but little over twenty years old at the time, and not only the youngest manager but one of the youngest operators in the service. But the manner in which he performed the duties of the position fully justified the confidence expressed in his appointment. This also led to still higher promotion. Because of the executive ability he displayed he was made wire adjutant of the regiment before the end of the year, on September 5, in fact. He served as adjutant until February, 1863, and was then detailed aid-de-camp at the headquarters of General Nathan Kimball. This detail was unsought by him and undesired, and he protested against it. But, good soldier that he was, he yielded to superior authority, and accepted the position.

When General Kimball was relieved of the command he recommended that Mr. Brush be made acting assistant adjutant general of the Second Division of the Seventeenth Army Corps, under command of General Joseph R. West, and he received the appointment. He continued to fill the position to the end of his term of service and one month longer in order to get as creditable a discharge as possible when he was mustered out of the service, as he was on July 1, 1864, being then only twenty-two years and five months old, lacking nine days, and with a military record of which many a veteran would be proud. Before his discharge General West offered him the position of acting assistant adjutant general with the rank of captain, and pending the appointment he was induced to accept the post of superintendent of telegraph lines in Arkansas, in which he served two months. He finally declined to accept the offer made by General West because of the refusal of the authorities to assign him to the army commanded by General Sherman, of which he ardently longed to become a part.

When he returned to Carbondale after his discharge from the army Mr. Brush engaged in farming, mining coal and manufacturing lumber in Jackson, Williamson and other counties. He organized the St. Louis & Big Muddy Coal Company in 1889, of which he was made general manager. In this enterprise he had as his associates Major E. C. Daws, of Cincinnati, S. M. Dodd, of St. Louis, and former Vice President Charles E. Fairbanks, of Indiana. The company encountered many difficulties from the start, and in 1900 was put in the hands of a receiver. Mr. Brush bought the property from the receiver the same year and owned it until 1905, when he sold it. During his ownership of the mine and other assets of the defunct company he also had many difficulties from labor strikes and other causes.

Mr. Brush is now living retired from active pursuits in business and occupies his time in looking after the properties he has acquired. From 1889 to 1905 he was actively engaged in business as a coal operator, and for a much longer period as a manufacturer of lumber, and in the year last mentioned felt that he had earned the right to a more quiet life and total, release from the worry and vexation of managing any business enterprise, however profitable. To some extent, too, he began to feel the weight of years, and the inevitable longing for leisure and rest that follows long continuance in the galling harness of toil.

Mr. Brush is a member of the Illinois Commandery of the Loyal Legion. Army of the Tennessee. He also belongs to John W. Lawrence Post, Grand Army of the Republic. For many years he has been an earnest, active and devoted member of the Presbyterian church, and this is an organization in which all the members of his family of the present and past generations have taken a great and serviceable interest. His uncle, Daniel H. Brush, built the first Presbyterian house of worship in Carbondale, in 1858, and in 1906, when the congregation needed a new one to accommodate its increased and still increasing numbers, he was himself chairman of the building committee. The old structure cost $3,500, and the new one $35.000.

Mr. Brush loaned the congregation half of the money required to build the new church, and the sum did not long remain unpaid, the church having been dedicated in 1907 free from debt. He has shown his deep interest in the moral well being of the city in many other ways, one conspicuous evidence being his ceaseless war on the saloon. He served seven years as president of the anti-Saloon League, and in every case he has furnished the money required to carry the saloon question up to the supreme court of the state when litigation over it has arisen. In fact, it is due largely to him that there are no saloons in Carbondale. This is not to be wondered at. Two circumstances give him a peculiarly warm interest in the city: After it had been founded and laid out by his uncle Daniel, his mother's family was the third to settle in it; and he is himself the only person who has lived in it continuously since 1852.

On October 3, 1864, just after his return from the war with all "his blushing honors thick upon him," Mr. Brush was married to Miss Sophia L. Freeman, of Anna, Illinois. Two of the children born to them are living. One is James C., of Carbondale, a farmer and coal operator, who was long associated with his father in that business. He was born on February 2, 1868, and completed his education at the Southern Illinois Normal University. He married with Miss Blanche Brown, of Hillsboro, this state, and has six children: Clara B., Francis B., James Curtis, Jr., Sophia Louise, Samuel Tasker and Edgar John. The other living child is George M., a resident of Boulder, Colorado, and unmarried. He is a musician, writer and critic of considerable reputation all over the country.

The mother of these children died on September 5, 1874, and in 1882 the father contracted a second marriage, uniting himself in this with Miss Jennie Candee, of Galesburg, Illinois. They have had two daughters, one of whom, Alice, died at Carbondale in 1906, at the age of twenty-one. The other, Elizabeth P., is a graduate of Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, and is now a teacher in the State University in Champaign, following the example of her distinguished father in rendering exalted service to her day and generation, although in a very different field of action from any that ever engaged his powers.

Extracted 11 Nov 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, volume 3, pages 1395-1398.

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