Biography - Henry Houdashelt

Henry Houdashelt, Esq., one of the early settlers of township 9, range 13, Greene county, Illinois, first saw the light of day in Simpson county, Ky., April 23, 1817. He is the fourth of a family of five children of Isaac and Nancy Houdashelt. Isaac Houdashelt was born in the "Keystone State," and was of German parentage. After he was educated and grown to manhood he removed to Kentucky, to seek his fortune in that genial and delightful climate. Soon after taking up his residence there he became acquainted with and married Miss Nancy Cummings, daughter of John Cummings, who was of English descent, and by occupation a farmer and blacksmith. Mr. Houdashelt, while stopping at Natchez, Miss., for a brief period on biusines,s died, in or about the 1819. Mrs. Houdashelt remained a widow until 1824, when she married Andrew M. Sturmon, and soon after moved with her husband and family to Harrison county, Indiana. They remained there about seven years, engaged in farming, after which they moved to Wabaswh county, Ill.; there he resumed his former business for a period of six years, and then removed to Greene county, locating in Woodville precinct; and it was there that the mother of the subject of this sketch, Mrs. Sturmon, died, in the year 1853. The latter, therefore, as will be observed by the reader, was left fatherless when about two years of age, and in his early boyhood was deprived of paternal counsel and guidance. His means of getting an education were such meagre facilities as the district schools of Indiana and Illinois at that early day afforded; yet he possessed a natural aptness and love for study, and by application and perseverance has added to his store of knowledge till we now find him with a good practical education, and well versed in the leading topics of the day. When about the age of sixteen he left home, with scarcely a dollar in his pocket, and set out in the world to win for himself an honest and manly living. He managed to secure a passage on board the steamboat Henry Clay, and went down the Mississippi to the state of Louisiana, and there sought employment, which he found in Carroll parish, his first work being to assist in building cotton-gins. He continued working at that business for about eight or nine months, and then hired as overseer of a plantation, at thirty dollars per month and board, which at that time was considered good wages. Yet the young man was a practical farmer, and turned to such profitable account the labor of the slaves under his control, that his employer was both surprised and pleased with the results so quickly brought about by his ingenious and persevering management; consequently, he increased his salary to sixty dollars per month, in gold. He continued to reside in the South about three years, and then returned to Greene county, Illinois, where he turned his attention to farming.

In October, 1837, he was married to Miss Permelia Franklin, by whom he had four children, three of whom died in infancy. After remaining a few years in Greene county he again longed to change his scene of labors, and accordingly, in 1844, removed with his family to New Madrid, Mo., continuing there his farming operations; and it was at that place, in March 1845, that his wife died. Mr. Houdashelt remained a widower until January 4, 1846, when he married Mrs. Louisa J. Montgomery (daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Strain), who was born in Princeton, Indiana, February 27, 1819. By that union they had eight children, two of whom are deceased; two daughter and four sons are yet living. Their eldest daughter, Mary J., is the wife of Dr. John Darby, and they are residing in Sedalia, Mo. Their son Henry M. is married and residing in Crawford county, Kansas. Miss Laura and her three younger brothers are single and living with their parents. Mr. H. continued to live in Missouri until 1855, when he purchased the farm where he now resides, in township 9, range 13, Greene county, Illinois. As a stock-grower and farmer, he has been successful, and is one of the leading agriculturists in the township where he resides. In politics there seemed to be a kind of natural affinity existing between him and the whig party. Even a residence in the South for a number of years, where he came in contact with the influences of slavery, which would have moulded most young minds in its favor, had not the effect of shaking his political principles. He was proof against all the influence of the slave power, and during his life, through whatever vicissitudes he has been called to pass, his principles have remained unshaken, and he has been a ready and earnest supporter of what he conceived to be right. It must be a great satisfaction for him to turn back and review his past record; he may certainly do it, not with regret, but with honest pleasure, for he believes that the republican party is the offspring of the old whig party, and that by the carrying out of its principles a living reality has been given to our immortal Declaration of Independence. His first vote for president was cast for Gen. Harrison, and he has voted at every subsequent presidential election. After the whig party was disorganized he joined the republicans. He was among those who supported Bell and Everett, in 1860; otherwise he has voted the straight republican ticket. During the late civil war, when there was great diversity of opinion as regards the right or wrong of the means employed in putting down the rebellion, there was no hesitancy in the mind of Mr. Houdashelt. Coming out with his usual firmness in favor of the Union, he remained the friend of the government throughout that long and bloody struggle. It is said that he never was afraid to speak out his sentiments with the boldness and spirit of a true Union man. His youngest son by his first wife, John T., enlisted in the fall of 1861, in the sixty-first regiment Illinois volunteers, and under the command of that noble veteran, Col. Fry, took part in the battle of Pittsburg Landing, was there captured, after which he was taken to Mobile, Alabama, and soon after fell a victim to the malarious diseases infesting that locality. Thus he gave the life of his son to preserve unsullied the old flag. The war was concluded, and when its gallant hero, U. S. Grant, was a candidate for the first office in the gift of the people, the subject of our sketch came forward promptly and voted for him. He also voted for him again in the fall of 1872, and says that in reverting to those acts he is inspired with feelings of pride.

In summing up the career of Mr. H. we find a man who, from almost his earliest recollections, had to help himself. Hence, he found it as necessary to be economical as industrious in the affairs of life. His advantages for education in early life were very limited, though he now ranks among the more intelligent class of citizens. He is accounted by his neighbors an honest man, and one who never "goes back on his word." He is one of those genial, clever gentlemen who will make every one at home who visits at his house, and his social and manly qualities make him in every way worthy of his Kentucky ancestry.

Extracted 05 Jan 2017 & 06 Jun 2018 by Norma Hass from Atlas Map of Greene County Illinois, 1873, page 39.

Templates in Time