Jackson County

Biography - Ezekiel J. Ingersoll

CAPTAIN EZEKIEL J. INGERSOLL. The fabric of human life woven by the Fates for the children of men is far too often, nay, almost always, of rough and gloomy texture, and presents to the casual observation only its darker tints, its rasping and resisting qualities for service, and the shadows which inevitably belong to it. There are, there must be, bright patches in every expression of it, but for the greater part the sombre hues predominate, or seem to, and give class and character to the whole web.

It is a genuine pleasure to chronicle a striking exception to the rule. This is to be found in the lives of Ezekiel J. and Harriet Helen (Lawrence) Ingersoll, esteemed residents of Carbondale for over fifty-three years. Their earthly career, from the time of their union in marriage on September 21, 1858, to the present time (1911) has seemed to flow steadily on in one calm, full current of active goodness, and to be altogether bright with the light shining from their benignant spirits and reflected from the happiness they have bestowed on others.

Mr. Ingersoll was born at Greensburg, Indiana, on November 18, 1836, and when he was but two years old was taken by his parents to Lebanon, Ohio. There he grew to manhood and obtained his education. In 1853 he moved to Paris, Illinois, and on June 6, 1859, became a resident of Carbondale, which has ever since been his home. Soon after his arrival in the city he began business here as a jeweler, in a room of the building now occupied by the First National Bank. But this he was not destined to continue long without a serious interruption involving continued danger to him and apprehension among the numerous friends he had in the city even then, after living only a short time among its people.

The Civil war came on and put the patriotism of men all over the country to the severest test it had ever known. Early in the contest Mr. Ingersoll responded to the call for volunteers to defend the Union against forced dismemberment, enlisting on July 20, 1862, in Company H, Seventy-third Illinois Infantry, in which he served to the close of the conflict. He had received a fair military education by a three years' service in a well drilled militia company, and in the Federal army, where trained officers were badly needed, his promotion was rapid. He passed all the ranks from sergeant-major to captain, reaching the last in February, 1863, after the battle of Stone River. In the battle of Chickamauga he received a wound, and in that of Franklin another. His wounds did not disable him, however, and he was with his regiment in other hard fought battles and a great many skirmishes. Near the end of the war he acted as major, and at times was in command of the regiment, which he handled with intrepid courage and highly commendable skill and sagacity.

Mr. Ingersoll's interest in the welfare of Carbondale and Jackson counties, and his services in promoting the progress and improvement of both, won for him the regard of the whole people long ago. The residents of the city showed their appreciation of his merit and their faith in his ability and integrity by electing him mayor four times; and. the people of the legislative district theirs by making him their representative in the Thirty-eighth General Assembly. In this body he was assigned to several important committees and rendered his district and the whole state signal and appreciated service. He assisted in drafting the law which transferred the Lincoln monument to the state of Illinois. This law provides that the custodian of the monument shall be an Illinois soldier as long as one remains in the state. And when the last veteran shall have been laid to rest the position must be given to the son of a soldier of Illinois, and so on down the line in perpetual succession. During the session Mr. Ingersoll also secured an appropriation of forty thousand dollars for the erection of the building, on the campus of the University, devoted to science, and in many other ways made his presence in the General Assembly felt greatly to the advantage of the people.

In fact, during his service in that body he attracted the attention of all portions of the state and won the approval of its leading men on all sides. Governor Oglesby appointed him a trustee of the Southern Illinois Normal School, and he was continued in this position by Governors Fifer, Tanner and Yates, serving in it sixteen years in all. The present condition of this great institution shows that it has been well managed, and its history during the period of his trusteeship reflects great credit on everybody connected with the control and government of it.

In political relations Mr. Ingersoll is an uncompromising Republican, and has been from the organization of the party. He called the first Republican meeting ever held in Jackson county. He assisted in organizing the Lincoln and Hamlin Club of Carbondale in 1860, and served as its president. He has supported the candidates of the party at every election since then, and expects to stand by the convictions that have guided him thus far to the end of his life with unswerving loyalty.

In fraternal life he has been an active and enthusiastic member of the Masonic order and the Grand Army of the Republic. In the former he belongs to Shekinah Lodge, No. 241, and was its worshipful master four years. In the latter he holds membership in John W. Lawrence Post, No. 297, of which he has been post commander five years and still holds the position (1912). He has also been Adjutant of the Southern Illinois Soldiers and Sailors' Association.

As noted above, Mr. Ingersoll was married on September 21, 1858, in Paris, Illinois, to Miss Harriet Helen Lawrence, a native and at the time of her marriage a resident of that city. On September 21, 1908, they celebrated their golden wedding, without pomp or splendor of display, but modestly and quietly, in an atmosphere redolent with the fragrance of a half century of true domestic happiness and fidelity, and on that occasion received the voluntary and cordial testimony of the whole city that they were held in the highest esteem by its people of all classes and conditions.

There was abundant reason for this outpouring of popular approval. During the whole time of their previous residence in Carbondale Mr. and Mrs. Ingersoll had been potential aids in every good work done in the community. In the church, in the Sunday-school, in all organizations for the amelioration of human sorrow and the uplifting of mankind laboring in the city they had been untiring toilers, and hundreds of unfortunates had been recipients of their bounty. They had reared five orphans of other parents from childhood to manhood and womanhood, and bestowed on them a full measure of parental care and affection, and they had done all their good deeds without ostentation, and from a genuine love of their fellow creatures. The people of Carbondale revere them for the uprightness of their lives, the usefulness of their citizenship, the sincerity and largeness of their charity toward all mankind, and their intrinsic worth in every way, and were glad of an opportunity to manifest their feelings on the subject.

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 650-652.

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