JOHN W. TOLER, who is engaged in merchandising in Carbondale, and who is numbered among the honored veterans of the late war, was born in Union County, Ill., November 22, 1840, and is a son of James I. and Melissa Toler, the former a native of North Carolina, and the latter of Virginia. In 1826, the grandfather emigiated from North Carolina to Union County, Ill., becoming one of its pioneers, lie served as a soldier in the War of 1812. The father was born in 1817, and is yet living. He served throughout the Mexican War, and did duty under General Taylor. He was also Commissary Sergeant in the .Sixtieth Illinois Infantry during the late war for three years and three months. He had two sons who wore the blue, William H., a Sergeant of Company A, Sixtieth Illinois Infantry; and Daniel, a non-commissioned officer of the same company. The former had two fingers shot off at Buzzards' Roost, and afterwards was wounded in the left foot. Daniel was wounded at the battle of Big Shanty. Both have died since the war.
Our subject is the eldest of a family of seven children, three of whom are now living. He was reared on the home farm, and educated at Mt. Pleasant. In 1856, he drove the stage and carried the mail from Cape Girardeau to Vienna, a distance of fifty miles. He also carried the mail from Vienna to Shawneetown, a distance of seventy-three miles, which was often made on horseback through the unbroken wilderness. Later, he engaged in clerking in the dry-goods store of Sam Brower, of Vienna, and on his return to Union County worked on a farm until his enlistment in his country's service.
In August, 1861, Mr. Toler became a member of Company D, Thirty-first Illinois Infantry, under Col. John A. Logan, and participated in the battles of Belmont, Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson, where the regiment suffered severely. He was there elected Orderly-Sergeant of Company D, and was sent to Clarksville, Tenn., to guard railroads. He then went to Corinth, and went into winter quarters at Jackson, Tenn., where he guarded the Burnt Bridge. He was then sent home on recruiting duty, and after his return to Cairo, he volunteered his services to run the blockade at Vicksburg, but the required number had already offered, and he was not accepted. He then marched with his command to Grand Gulf, participated in the battles of Thompson Hill, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hills and Black River, and charged the works at Vicksburg. He was there wounded by a gunshot in the left side of his face, which fractured his jaw bone and cut his windpipe half in two, but after sixty days spent in the hospital, he again joined his command.
Mr. Toler was then engaged as First Lieutenant, and a month later was made Captain of his company, which he commanded until the close of the war. He took part in the battles of Clinton and Meridian, and after a thirty days' furlough, took part in the engagement at Decatur, Tenn. He bore his part in the siege of Atlanta, the battle of Peach Tree Creek and the march to .Savannah. He was in the Seventeenth Army Corps, which was engaged in fighting all the time while on the march to the sea. In Jul}, 1864, he was left on the right of Atlanta to defend the works with one hundred and fifty men under him. The main army fell back. In the morning the rebel bugle sounded, and though it was one against many. Captain Toler commanded his few men to pour a volley into the enemy. This was done, and the rebels fell back. That night they left the place without the loss of a man. Our subject participated in the battles of Jonesboro and the capture of Atlanta, and continued in active service until the close of the war. He had charge of the advance on Columbia, S. C, then went with the army to Goldsboro and Raleigh, and then on to Richmond. He participated in the Grand Review in Washington, and in Louisville, Ky., was mustered out, receiving his discharge in August, 1865, after a continuous service of four years.
On his return home, Captain Toler resumed farming, which he followed two years, and then spent seven years in merchandising in Murphysboro. He came to Carbondale in 1876, and with the exception of two years has here since made his home. He was married September 25, 1863, to Harriet E. Spiller, a native of Williamson County. They became the parents of seven children, Walter E., who is now Deputy Sheriff of the county; Charles, a civil engineer of Coldsburg, Ala.; Frank, a mail agent between Chicago and Cairo, Ill.; J. B., who is engaged in the drug business with Prickett & Porter; William I., who is engaged in railroading in Cairo; and Samuel and Lillie, who attend the college in this place. The mother of this family died in 1886, and in 1887 Captain Toler married Mrs. Spiller, the widow of Thomas Spiller.
For thirty years the Captain has been a member of the Masonic fraternity. He also belongs to the Odd Fellows' society and the Grand Army of the Republic. Ho is ex-Postmaster of Carbondale, having held the office from 1886 to 1890. He holds membership with the Christian Church, and takes a very active part in .Sunday-school work. He is a valued citizen, who manifests the same loyalty to his country in her hours of peace as in the days of peril, when he faithfully followed the Old Flag that now floats triumphantly over the united nation. In politics he is a stanch Democrat.
Extracted from Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois, published in 1894, page 413.
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