Jackson County

Biography - William H. Phillips

WILLIAM HARPER PHILLIPS. During all of the last sixteen years William H. Phillips has been a resident of Carbondale, and throughout that period has been carrying on an extensive business which has been profitable to him and beneficial to the city and its people. His enterprise has given employment to a number of men, kept a considerable sum of money regularly in circulation in the community and added materially to the mercantile and industrial activity and importance of the place and a large extent of the surrounding country.

Mr. Phillips has lived in several different places, and long enough in each to make his merits known to the people and win their good opinion and esteem. He was born in Clarksville, Mecklenburg county, Virginia, in July, 1846, and is a son of Robert Allen and Caroline (Leneave) Phillips, who passed the major portion of their lives in the Old Dominion, and their forefathers for many generations had lived there. The father was a wagon maker and flourished at the trade until the Civil war came and paralyzed every industry in the South. Even during that awful conflict he was able to maintain his standing and keep his head above water, difficult as it must have been at times. He and his wife passed away in Kentucky, which state had been their home a few years prior to their death.

The son was educated at private schools, and by the time he was ready to leave them and start a business career for himself the war was in full blast, and he determined to join the Confederate army in defense of the political theories in which he had been trained. He was not yet a man in age, but was one in spirit and courage, and hesitated not a moment when he heard the voice of duty ordering him to the field. He enlisted in Company A, Fifty-sixth Virginia Infantry, and, youth as he was, was made second lieutenant of the company.

His record in the war was like that of many thousands of other brave men on both sides of the sanguinary sectional strife. "Whatever the danger before him, he faced it without flinching; whatever the toil, hardship and privation, he endured without complaining; whatever the final result, he did his whole duty without shirking; and when the flag he followed so faithfully went down in everlasting defeat at Appomattox, he accepted the disaster without repining. His regiment took part in the battle of Bull Run and shared in its triumph. It also participated in many subsequent engagements, victorious in some and defeated in others. He was with it to the end of the war, and was mustered out of the service in September, 1865, worn in body, wasted in wordly possessions, with no employment immediately available to provide for his wants, but undaunted in spirit, and still ready to encounter the worst that Fate might send him.

When the army to which he belonged was reorganized in 1863 he was made captain of his company; and in a subsequent reorganization was promoted to major, but his commission for the latter rank never reached him. At the end of his military service he returned to his Virginia home to begin again the struggle for advancement among men, but found the conditions in his native state altogether unpromising for a man without means, and likely to continue so for many years. He therefore determined to seek better opportunities in a state which had not been ground under the iron heel of war, and in 1869 left Virginia. For a number of years he worked in various places at his trade of wagon making, which he had learned under the tuition of his father. In 1875 he came to Illinois and located at Carterville in Williamson county.

There he wrought at manufacturing wagons for a time, then sold farming machinery for some years. In 1885 he moved to Marion, the county seat, where he remained ten years employed as he had been at Carterville. In 1893, beginning in September, he took charge of the Scurlock estate for the purpose of winding up its affairs. There was a business in the farm implement trade belonging to this estate, and when he had the other affairs of the estate all settled and disposed of he bought this business and its equipment and stock, and began to carry on the enterprise himself. Subsequently he added furniture, hardware and builders' supplies to his lines of commodities, and so enlarged his operations and increased his business to considerable proportions. It is now located in a two-story brick building of substantial construction, forty by one hundred and thirty-two feet in dimensions.

Wherever he has lived Mr. Phillips has taken a warm interest in public affairs and done what he could to secure for the interests of his community proper control and administration. He was for some years president of the board of aldermen in Carterville, and served one term as alderman from the ward in which he lived in Marion. In Carbondale he has performed all the duties of citizenship in a manner very creditable to him and servicable to the city and its inhabitants.

On December 31, 1872, he was married to Miss Cannie Jones, of Cerulean Springs, Trigg county, Kentucky, the daughter of a highly respected and prosperous blacksmith of that place, Jefferson Jones. They have three children, all of whom are living, but only one of them in this state. They are: Otis Blakely, a partner of his father in the implement establishment; Maud, the wife of J. F. Daniels, of Wichita, Kansas, a traveling salesman; and Grace, the wife of Rush T. Lewis, who also lives in Wichita, Kansas, and is likewise a traveling salesman. The father belongs to the Methodist Episcopal church and is a member of the official board of his congregation. His fraternal connection is with the Masonic order, of which he has long been a member.

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 619-621.

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