MELANCTHON EASTERDAY is well known to the citizenship of Cairo as one of the early title men of Alexander county. He identified himself with this part of Illinois in 1879 and the business phase of his life here has been devoted to making abstracts and examining titles to real estate. He has not limited the outflow of his energies to business, however, for he has given much time and energy to those great moral and spiritual movements that make for the betterment of mankind. He has been prominently identified with the movements to save children, to encourage temperance, to combat the influence of the saloon and to strengthen and extend the church.
Mr. Easterday has lived in Illinois since 1853, but he was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, June 6, 1840. By ancestry he comes from one of the old German families of Frederick county, Maryland. His great-grandfather, Martin Easterday, was the German ancestor who settled upon the noted Carroll Manor, between Middletown and Frederick, Maryland. There he passed a peaceful and successful life as a farmer. He married a Miss Rheinhardt, and one of their children was Christian Easterday, the grandfather of Melancthon, the subject of this review. Away back in the time of Martin Luther and of Melancthon, the great German reformers, the first of the Easterdays was found. He was a foundling, and it was upon the doorstep of a church on an Easter morning that the babe was discovered, and when he was taken into the church to be christened it was decided to honor him with the name of the day and of the religion into which he was baptized by calling him "Christian Easterday." In each generation of this family since there has been a "Christian." There usually also, has been a Martin, and the founder of the American branch was the seventh Martin removed from the head of the Easterday house.
Melancthon Easterday's father was David Easterday, who was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, in 1815. Fifteen years before David's birth his father left the Maryland home and brought his family down the Ohio river by flatboat and made another home among the frontiersmen of that new commonwealth. He died there, and his children grew up and scattered to various parts of the land. Christian married Maria Stemple, and of this union were born Daniel, David, Martin V., Elias, Catherine (who became the wife of 0. J. Cooper and died in Carroll county, Ohio), Elizabeth (who married George Gulp and died in Nokomis, Illinois), and Charlotte (who became the wife of William Cooper and passed away in Jefferson county, Ohio).
David Easterday came to mature years with only a moderate education, but he made it serve him in the further acquirement of a fund of general information as the years went by. He was a man of studious habits, carefully followed the religious and political thought of his day, was a member of the Lutheran church and attended its synods and took a modest part in its every day life. He married Margaret Zimmerman, who died at Nokomis, Illinois, in 1904, at the age of eighty-seven, while her husband died in 1892. Their children were Melancthon, the subject of this biography; Luther, of Vandalia, Illinois; John Z., of Sidney, Nebraska; Elias, of Fredericktown, Missouri; Elizabeth A., wife of Monroe Bost, who resides in Irving, Illinois; Dr. George S., of Watsonville, California; Dr. Jacob S., of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Sidney D., of Greeley, Colorado; and the Misses Charlotte J. and Maria F., of Albuquerque, New Mexico, both ranch women of that section.
Melancthon Easterday was a lad of thirteen when his father continued the family journey, begun by his ancestor, down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to St. Louis and established the name on the soil of Illinois. He left the steamboat, the "Twin City," at St. Louis and crossed the unclaimed domain to Montgomery county and opened a farm. In such a country home his eldest son grew up and attended the district school, spending some months at the State University, then located at Springfield. He taught school for a short time before the opening of the Civil war. He enlisted in 1862, at Ramsey, Illinois, in Company D, Sixty-eighth Infantry, under Captain J. C. Hall and Colonel 'Elias Stuart. The command had its rendezvous at Springfield until it was ordered east to defend the capital. After making the trip across the Allegheny Mountains in cattle cars, exposed to the cold and rain of early spring, Mr. Easterday was ready for the hospital when the command reached Washington and he lay in a hospital for several months and was then discharged as unfit for service. He resumed teaching first in Shelby county and then at Vandalia for some time. He then left the school room to take up service with the Illinois Central Railroad Company, and on giving up this employment he engaged in merchandising with a brother at Vandalia. This he continued till 1879, when he came to Cairo and established his future home.
On taking up his labors in this city, Mr. Easterday purchased a set of abstracts, completed them and has grown into the affairs of the town, as well as having made for himself a desirable livelihood. He has remained a private citizen, save as he has aided movements in opposition to evil. He is one of the champions of Prohibition and makes his political home in that party. He has served as chairman of the Anti-Saloon League and has been for many years actively identified with the work of rescuing children and of finding homes for orphans through the Orphan Asylum of Southern Illinois, of which he is the secretary. He is a member of the Presbyterian church and is clerk of the session. He has done active Sabbath-school work both as assistant and as superintendent of the school, and has frequently represented the congregation at Presbytery. He has often attended the Synod of his church and was a delegate to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church at Buffalo in 1904.
He was married first in Montgomery county, Illinois, his wife being Miss Irene Derr. She died, leaving a son, Elmer P., circuit clerk and recorder of Pulaski county, Illinois. His second wife was Miss Ada J. Dieckman, whom he married in Vandalia, Illinois. She passed away within a year, and he married his present wife, Rosa Nagel, February 22, 1877, in Greenville, Illinois. Their only child is Ruth Olive.
Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 2, pages 612-614