Biography - Andrew Tunnell

Andrew Jackson Tunnell was born in Greene county, Illinois, June 28, 1837. He is the thirteenth child of Hon. Calvin and Jane Tunnell, who had a family of fourteen children, nine of whom are yet living. Mr. Tunnell was born in North Carolina October 4, 17791, and was one of a large family of William Tunnell and Mary Massey, who were married in 1771, in Fairfax county, Virginia; their ancestors being formerly from England. When their son Calvin was only four years old, Mr. Tunnell and wife moved to Anderson county, Tennessee, locating on a wild tract of land there, where he made a farm; and it was in that county and state that Calvin was educated, his learning being such as the schools of that day afforded. Quite early in life he became inured to the toils and hardships of frontier life. On the 25th of August, 1811, he was married to Miss Jane Addair, a native of Western Virginia, born July 28, 1795. After his marriage, Mr. Tunnell started out in life on his own account, continuing to reside there til 1817. He then removed, with his wife and two children, to Madison county, Ill., where they stayed until late in the fall of 1818, and early in the spring of 1819 came up to Greene county, Ill. Here he located on a piece of land and made an improvement, and was one among the early settlers of the township where he resided. A portion of that farm constitutes a part of that comprised in the farm now owned by his son, A. J. Like the majority of the pioneers of this county, he came here very poor. He had hardly any money, and but three head of horses, and they died before he was able to make any improvement; and in order to break up his first piece of ground, he found it necessary to work for a neighbor by the day to get his first team of oxen to plow with. A few months previous to making a settlement here, he came and selected his piece of land, and by some it has been said that he split the first rails north of the Macoupin creek. Though the fact of his coming here poor was not enough to dishearten him at the early period when he became a settler in this state, even with considerable capital, it was found a not very enviable life; yet these hardy pioneers seemed to enjoy it. Mr. Tunnell, in his business enterprises, was successful, and in mentioning his starting-point in life, our object was to draw a contrast between his humble beginning and the subsequent success which he achieved. Mr. Tunnell and wife had fourteen children, nine of whom are yet living, and are married and comfortable settled in life. Not many years after they came to Greene county, Mr. Tunnell and wife joined the Baptist Church. He also preached a few sermons in the earlier part of his pioneer life. Soon after coming to the county, he, with a neighbor – Mr. Colwell – found it necessary to drive their cattle down to the Illinois river bottom to graze them, as the vegetation around the locality where he lived had been burned by the autumnal fires started by the Indians, thus depriving their cattle of the necessary means of subsistence. After picketing their cattle, Messrs. Colwell and Tunnell would start out in the adjoining grove to hunt bee trees, the grove being in close proximity to where Mr. Drayton subsequently settled. We give his version of the incident that occurred: "Mr. Colwell proposed to me to let the cattle rest an hour while we should look about the forest in search of bee trees. I had not yet learned the art of finding bees. We hitched our horses, and he went to the hills south of the branch, while I took a southeasterly course along the hillside, and over the deep hollow, while I traversed around and formed almost a circle, and was coming back toward the cattle. I was walking along slowly, as bee hunters generally do, when, on turning my gaze downward, and to the left, I for the first time discovered a panther of the largest size. He was lying ten or twelve feet from me, with his feet all under him, and seemingly feeling the ground and getting ready to make a spring upon me. Three or four feet would bring me on a direct line with him; I suppose he was waiting for me to arrive at that point before making the attack. When I first saw him he was looking me in the eyes. His vast proportions revealed to me a mass of nerve and muscle, to which I had been a stranger. He had evidently been watching me with a great deal of interest, and now that I had come within his reach, he was able, at one short leap, to pounce upon me; and his ponderous weight and impulsive muscle, together with the force of such a leap, was sufficient to crush me to the earth in a moment. His great, yellow eyes, with their horrid glare, were fastened upon me, and were scanning me through and through with piercing darts, as if he intended to look me down, and so soon as he would see me quail under the keenness of his eyes, pounce upon me, and thus make me an easy prey. I saw that the 'impending crisis' had come. With the accustomed coolness and precision of the old hunter, I raised my rifle and shot the panther dead."

The above description is mostly in the language of Mr. Tunnell himself in a letter to his granddaughters in Virginia, describing the above event, which occurred February 14, 1819. In retuning more directly to his life, we find that he had rather a filial regard for the soil, and as a stock grower and farmer he was successful. He used considerable efforts in order to give his children the benefits of a good common school education, and as they married he gave them some little start in the world. In his politics, he was identified with the democratic party, and for a man with his opportunities, was quite well versed in the principles of politics, and was considered quite a logical reasoner. For a few years he was judge of Greene county. Mr. Tunnell was elected a representative from Greene county to a seat in the legislature while the seat of government was located at Vandalia, and was a member after it was moved to Springfield. Lincoln and Douglas were both members at the same time, and with both of those men he was intimately acquainted. When he made his last visit to his friends in Virginia, in 1866, the democratic convention which convened at Carrollton presented his name for re-election, but he declined the honor. Mr. Tunnell was a gentleman who had the warm appreciation of the citizens of Greene county. He possessed many of those qualities which eminently fitted him to cope with the thrilling events of pioneer life, and had he received the benefits of a thorough education, he probably would have made one of the leading men of this portion of the state. Mrs. Tunnell died at their residence August 30, 1858; Mr. T. survived the death of his wife until April 7, 1867. Such is but a brief account of one who participated in the earlier events of this county.

Andrew Jackson Tunnell was educated in the schools of this county. His occupation has always been that of a farmer. On the 9th of September, 1861, he was married to Miss Caroline Purl, daughter of Thomas C. Purl of Greene county. After his marriage he continued to farm the old homestead, and has added considerable to it, and now he has a farm of upwards of six hundred acres, situated about two miles south of Carrollton. Mr. Tunnell has been successful in his business enterprises, and he now ranks among the opulent agriculturists of Greene county.

Extracted 05 Jan 2017 & 06 Jun 2018 by Norma Hass from Atlas Map of Greene County Illinois, 1873, pages 38 and 39.

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