Rapidly the ranks of those who took active part in the Civil war are
thinning. One after another the gray-haired veterans are going to join
their comrades in a land where bloodshed and suffering are unknown.
Comparatively few of the defenders of the flag in the 'sixties are now
left who are able to hold their own in the keen struggle of present-day
commercial life. Physical infirmities have long since compelled the
great majority of the survivors to drop out of the race. Yet here and
there are to be found exceptions. Now and then a sturdy old warrior is
found whose eye is as bright and whose step is as firm as those of the
younger generation, and who yet finds keen enjoyment in a struggle in
which he is pitted against the sons and grandsons of his comrades of
other days. Such a man is George H. Huffman, the well-known stock buyer
and dealer of Vienna, who, although more than sixty-six years of age,
has declined to fall behind in the rapid march of American progress, and
stands today a sturdy type of American enterprise. Mr. Huffman was born
December 30, 1845, on a farm in Guilford county, North Carolina, and is
a son of Hillary and Salome (Clapp) Huffman, and a grandson of Joshua
Huffman, whose father was a native of Germany.
Hillary Huffman took his family from North Carolina to western Tennessee, and from the latter locality, in 1860, to Johnson county, on account of his Union sympathies. Settling on a farm near Vienna, Mr. Huffman engaged in agricultural pursuits, and there his death occurred at about the time of the close of the Civil war. He and his wife had children as follows: John J., Catherine Elizabeth and Sarah Ellen, all of whom are deceased; George H.; Mary Ann, who died in infancy; J. C., who lives in Grand Tower, Jackson county; and Mrs. Alice Meredith, who resides in Lincoln. Nebraska.
George H. Huffman received a common school education, and when still a lad learned to operate machinery, his first employment being in his father's mill in North Carolina. In the spring of 1863 he enlisted in Company G, Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, under Captain William Prickens and Colonel Capron, in General Sherman's army. His first service was around Knoxville, Tennessee, from whence he went to Big Shanty, Kenesaw Mountain, served around Atlanta and Macon, and participated in the famous "March to the Sea." At Mulberry Creek, Georgia, he was taken prisoner by the enemy, and was confined for eight months and seven days in various Confederate prisons. He was at the terrible place of confinement at Andersonville, and when removed to Charleston he and his fellow-prisoners suffered the dangers and agony of mind of being under the bombardment of their own troops. He was then taken to Florence, South Carolina, and eventually to Goldsboro, North Carolina, and from the latter place succeeded in making a daring escape. From eight hundred to one thousand men were under the supervision of three lines of guards, the prisoners' camp being located near a pine woods. Mr. Huffman discovered that a large pine tree had fallen over the line of the wall, and during the night climbed into the branches, and under the cover of darkness worked his way out. At nine o'clock he found himself in a ravine, and during that day managed to place three miles between himself and his pursuers. He was then hidden by Lazarus Pearson, a Quaker farmer, at whose home he remained for seven days, when he was given the Friend's exception papers, for which the good man had paid the Confederacy the sum of five hundred dollars. With Henry Preston, a fellow-refugee, to whom had been given the Quaker's son-in-law's papers, and accompanied by Pearson's two daughters, Mr. Huffman then went through the Confederate cavalry lines. Later, at Wilmington, North Carolina, with William Pickens and a Mr. Cox, Mr. Huffman was again captured with a gang of recruits, but during the next day managed to get away at Newbern, which was held by the Union forces. From thence he went to Annapolis and safety, and was sent from that point to the barracks at Camp Butler, where he was mustered out of the service in the spring of 1865. At the beginning of his career Mr. Huffman served as a scout for the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, the Seventh Tennessee Cavalry, the Fifth Iowa Cavalry and the Fourth Illinois. Cavalry, and while engaged in this service in Carroll county, Tennessee, received a wound in his right thigh which many years later developed into a large tumor, which it was necessary to remove.
After his gallant and faithful service Mr. Huffman returned to the occupations of peace and developed into an excellent citizen. His first employment was at the blacksmith trade, which he followed until 1869, being engaged by contractors on the Big Four Railroad at Tunnell Hill when that railroad was under construction, and there his knowledge of machinery stood him in good stead. After this he engaged in farming and the implement and farm machinery business, subsequently opening a mine at New Burnside, which he operated for three years, but sold it on the completion of the railroad, and in 1873 moved to a farm of two hundred acres located in Simpson township. In 1879 Mr. Huffman took his family to Metropolis, in order that his children might be educated under Professor Bowlby, and continued to live there until 1884, Mr. Huffman in the meantime managing his farm as well as a sawmill in Johnson county. He returned to the farm in 1884, and for a few years conducted an implement business as well as a meat and produce enterprise in Vienna, but gradually gave up his other interests as his livestock business grew, and to this he now gives the greater part of his time and attention, the farm having been sold in 1905. His livestock business now totals sixty carloads or sixty thousand dollars annually, while he does an annual business in horses and mules that amounts to fifteen thousand dollars. He owns one of the finest residence properties in Vienna, valued at three thousand five hundred dollars. On February 7, 1894, Mr. Huffman met with a serious accident, in which he lost his left arm, but he has not allowed this handicap to interfere with his business activities. A public-spirited citizen who is always ready to do his share in looking after the interests of his community, Mr. Huffman served as treasurer of Johnson county for four years, beginning in 1899. However, he has not been a seeker after the spectacular, but has kept the even tenor of his way. He has been content with the ordinary rewards of life, and thus it is that we find him today one of the few of his generation who are still able to continue the daily routine of business. He belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic, and is very popular with the comrades of Vienna post, while his religious connection is with the Methodist Episcopal church.
In 1870 Mr. Huffman was married to Miss Marian Jones, daughter of the Hon. Thomas Jones, former representative and a leading man of his day in Johnson county. Twelve children have been born to this union, of whom nine survive, as follows: Mrs. Marion McConnell; Mrs. Gertrude Allard; Mrs. Clara Gillespie; Mrs. Dollie Palmer; Mrs. Daisy Carter; Mrs. Mamie Eagan, of Chicago; Mrs. Pearl Whielen, of Steger, Illinois; Charles G., an attorney of Vienna, Illinois; and Frances Marion.
Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, volume 2, page 734.
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