Pulaski County

Biography - William Atherton

WILLIAM N. ATHERTON is a representative of one of the pioneer families of Pulaski county, Illinois, which was first established in Illinois about 1814, or nearly a century ago. He is the son of Charles M. Atherton and the grandson of Samuel N. Atherton, the former of whom is said to have been the first white child born in Southern Illinois, and the latter of whom was the founder of the family in this state.

Samuel N. Atherton, who came of Vermont stock, migrated to Illinois from Muhlenbergh county, Kentucky, and first located at America, but made his first permanent settlement at Jonesboro, Union county. There he took up land and engaged in farming, which was his life pursuit, but he subsequently removed to the locality three miles east of Villaridge, Pulaski county, and died there about 1839. He was buried at the old Shiloh church, while the remains of his wife, who was Mary. Biggerstaff, repose in the Redden cemetery east of Villaridge. Their children were: Rhoda, who married William Lanham and died at Centralia, Illinois; Eunice, who became the wife of John Lanham and died near Pulaski; William H., who was a farmer and was treasurer of Pulaski county at the time of his death; Charles M., the father of our subject; Rice O., who was a farmer and died east of Villaridge; Elizabeth, who married Elijah Shepherd and passed away at Poplar Bluff, Missouri; Samuel M., who died near the old Villaridge community; and Merady T., the most of whose life was passed in Pulaski county but who died at Vienna.

Charles M. Atherton, the father of our subject, received a very limited education and lived a private life. He was married in the Villaridge community to Eliza J. Rolen, an orphan girl whose father was James Rolen, a Virginian. She had a half-brother, Thomas Rolen, and a halfsister, Malinda Rolen. Charles M. and Eliza J. (Rolen) Atherton became the parents of seven children, namely: William N.; Sarah Ellen, who died young; Martha J., who married John F. Snell and died near Pulaski, Illinois; John H., a life-long resident of Pulaski county; Emmarilla, who married J. Frank Parker and resides near Villaridge; Jasper E., who died in Sewanee, Oklahoma; and Elizabeth, now Mrs. John Hurst, of Jacksonville, Illinois. The mother died in 1888 and the father's demise occurred July 21, 1910.

William N. Atherton secured such educational advantages as were offered in the public schools of his locality, and by personal experience is familiar with the old order of school facilities such as the log house, the slab benches and the glazed windows, yet many happy recollections center around those old associations and in a measure compensate for what was missed in the way of education. He took up the favorite pursuit of his forebears, that of farming, and has devoted his whole life to it in a modest way.

He was married at Villaridge on August 7. 1864, to Sarah A. Stringer, a daughter of William Stringer, who came to Illinois from Kentucky and whose wife was Mary A. Elmore, of Alabama. Mr. and Mrs. Atherton began their wedded life near Villaridge, where they resided until their removal, in 1898, to their present farm adjoining tjhe townsite of Pulaski. Their eldest child to grow to maturity was William Webster Atherton, who died in 1905, leaving a wife and child. They have one daughter, Sarah Ellen, who is now Mrs. 0. 0. Lewis and resides at Pulaski, Illinois.

Mr. Atherton comes from a family of Whigs and his father and his descendants all became Republicans. Our subject cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln for president and for Richard Yates as governor of Illinois, and has voted for every Republican candidate for president since that time. His father cast his first vote for William Henry Harrison for president. Mr. Atherton was elected mayor of Pulaski in 1906, but served a part of the term only, when he resigned. He was a stanch Union man during the Civil war and had decided to enlist in the Eightyfirst Illinois Infantry, but an attack of measles prevented his doing so. The church affiliations of Mr. Atherton are with the Baptist denomination.

Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 3, pages 1699-1700


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