Jackson County

Biography - William P. Slack

WILLIAM P. SLACK. Valiantly aiding in the defense of his country and its flag in war and contributing directly and materially, according to his opportunities and resources, to its industrial and mercantile greatness and power in peace, William P. Slack, of Carbondale, has proven himself a useful man in everything he has put his hand to, and a citizen altogether worthy of the high esteem in which he is held wherever he is known.

His life began at New Hope, Bucks county, in that great hive of industry, Pennsylvania, where almost every form of human endeavor finds fruitful expression and adds to the wealth of the country. He lived in his native county from his birth on January 12, 1844, until he reached the age of ten years, and began his scholastic education in the schools of Philadelphia, which were easily accessible from his home. In 1854 his parents, Henry and Rachel (Kitchin) Slack, decided to leave their Eastern home and establish a new one in the West, where everything was new and opportunities for advancement were eagerly bidding for takers of the right caliber.

Accordingly, in that year they moved their family to Freeport, Illinois, where for a time the father continued the mercantile enterprise he had previously conducted in Pennsylvania. From Freeport the family moved to Pana in Christian county, and afterward to Cairo. He engaged in merchandising in all these cities, and his son attended school in them in turn until the beginning of the Civil war. When that momentous conflict opened he was fired with patriotic zeal for the salvation of the Union, and determined to join the forces mustering for its defense.

On August 26, 1861, when he was but little more than seventeen and a half years of age, he and his brother Charles enlisted in Company G, Fifth Illinois Cavalry. The regiment was soon on the march for St. Louis, Missouri, and while it was in that state saw active service in a number of skirmishes. From St. Louis the command proceeded to Pilot Knob, and from there to Helena, Arkansas, making its way sometimes without opposition, and sometimes being compelled to wrest the right to advance from obstinate opponents in arms who made determined resistance.

The army division to which the Illinois troops were assigned at length reached the scene of intense hostilities and took part in the battle of Sligo in the vicinity of Vicksburg. William Slack was the bugler of his regiment, and the stirring calls he put forth from his bugle always gave the troops fervor for a fight and animated them for the charge. His term of enlistment expired in September, 1863, and on the sixteenth day of that month he was released from the service.

From the excitement of the battlefield, the ardor of the march, the ennui of the camp, and all the other exacting conditions of war, he returned to Cairo and became a clerk in a clothing store, with which he was connected in that capacity until 1869. He then opened a store of his own, which he conducted until 1882, when he sold it and moved to Carbondale. Here he again engaged in merchandising in the clothing trade, and continued his operations in that line of endeavor until June 3, 1898. On that date he was appointed postmaster, and he has filled the office ever since, having been reappointed three times.

Mr. Slack was united in marriage with Miss Orpha Crabb, a native of Indiana and a popular school teacher in Southern Illinois. They had three children, all of whom are living: Emma, who is the wife of Frank Rendleman, a wholesale fruit merchant in Chicago; Harry L.; and Mary, the wife of Lee Haldeman, a prosperous plumber in Anna, Illinois. Their mother died, and the father contracted a second marriage, uniting himself with Miss Louie Olmstead, of Anna, Union county, in this state. His political faith and allegiance are given without stint or reservation to the Republican party, and he is one of the most ardent and effective workers in the county for its success in all campaigns. Fraternally he is a Freemason of the Royal Arch degree and with the rank of past master in his lodge. He also belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic and holds his membership in John W. Lawrence Post, No. 297, at Carbondale.

Extracted 15 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 753-754.

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