THOMAS B. ECHOLS is a native of Pulaski county and has been a resident of Southern Illinois all his life. Since 1881 he has been a resident of New Grand Chain, where he has carried on a general real estate business with undeniable success, and where he has come to be recognized as one of the foremost citizens of the community. He has been justice of the peace since 1869 with a break of ten years and he is now serving as president of the village of Grand Chain with all satisfaction to the residents of the place. Mr. Echols was first commissioned a notary public by Governor Altgeld and he has been similarly commissioned by each succeeding governor since that time. His war record is one of which he may be justly proud. He was in the military service from the first call of the government for troops in April, 1861, until the 28th day of January, 1863, and even after discharge from the army he was in the revenue service of the government for a considerable period.
Born at Lovers Leap, in old Caledonia, on April 29, 1842, Thomas Benton Echols is the son of Benjamin F. Echols, who was born near Savannah, Georgia, October 12, 1812, who came to Illinois in 1834 in company with his father, Jesse Echols. They settled near Caledonia where the elder Echols died. The widow of Jesse Echols was Sarah Elliott, before her marriage, and they were the parents of five children, namely: Joseph W.; Benjamin F.; Betsey, who was twice married, first to a Mr. Fallette, and then to Thomas DePoyster; Nancy became the wife of James M. Timmons and Mary A. first married Gilbert Leroy and later Thomas Frazier, now deceased.
Benjamin F. Echols was a young man of twenty years when he came to Illinois with his parents. He was untutored, save for the primitive work done at intervals in the country schools of the town where he was reared, and his life thus far had been in the main given over to manual labor, rather than to educational pursuits. When the Blawk Hawk war broke out Benjamin F. Echols was among the first to respond to the call for troops and he took an active part in the work of quelling the uprising. In civil life he was known principally as a merchant in and about old Caledonia, at which business he was as successful as were the average country merchants of his day. He was a Democrat of ardent faith and enthusiasm, and early in the history of Pulaski county he was elected circuit clerk and recorder of the county, being chosen in 1846 and serving until 1849 with an efficiency and capability which won from his fellow citizens praise of a high order. Mr. Echols was a warm personal admirer of Thomas H. Benton, the great Missouri statesman, and was for many years his staunch supporter. In later years, however, he experienced some differences of opinion with the gentleman from Missouri, and so great was the feeling between them that Mr. Echols threatened to change the name of his son. Thomas Benton Echol, who had been named in honor of the friend of former days. Benjamin F. Echols married Sarah R. Arter, a daughter of Daniel Arter, M. D., who came to this section of Illinois from Gallipolis, Ohio, in 1832. Mr. Echols died in 1850 leaving a family of six children. Ann, the eldest daughter, had been twice married, first to Thomas J. Green and second to Benjamin Pearson; Victoria married Josephus Moss and is now deceased; Thomas Benton; Daniel A., who served in the Seventy-seventh Illinois Infantry and is now an inmate of the Soldiers' Home in Danville, Illinois; Sarah E. married Legrand Wood, and after his death she became the wife of H. A. Hannon and now resides at Cairo, Illinois, and Benjamin P. is a resident of DuQuoin, Illinois. Mrs. Echols contracted a second marriage in later years, her second husband being Louis Jaccard, and the children of her second marriage are Adelle J., the wife of Lewis Miller, and Louis E. Mrs. Jaccard passed away in 1885.
When Thomas B. Echols was a boy of school age, educational methods had advanced but slightly from their primitive conditions in his father's youth, but he was permitted to partake of such opportunities as the occasion afforded and he attended the proverbial cabin-school with the oftdescribed slab benches, and in common with the youth of his day and age, smarted under the rigorous discipline of the hickory rod of the pioneer school-master who concurred in the wisdom of Solomon and proceeded not to "spare the rod and spoil the child." Those years passed by all too quickly, however, and he was still but a lad when he vohmteered at the first call for troops to put down the rebellion. He enlisted from Pulaski county in April, 1861, in Company G, Eleventh Illinois Infantry, with Captain Rose and Colonel W. H. L. Wallace in command of the regiment, who later fell at Shiloh as a general in command of a division. It is not out of place to mention here that Pulaski county furnished more men for the Union army during the war period than it numbered in voters in 1860. For three months the regiment did little besides train for active service, and at the end of that time, when the time for which it had been assembled was expired, Mr. Echols reenlisted in the same command and the regiment rendezvoused at Bird's Point until ordered to Port Henry early in February, 1862. He took part in the capture of that place and then accompanied his command to Fort Donelson and saw that fort capitulate after a ten days' assault. Here he fell ill and was returned home, but upon his recovery immediately rejoined his regiment at Pittsburg Landing and was wounded in the first day of battle, when he was shot through the foot and had his belt cut asunder by a flying missile from Confederate guns at the same instant. His wound necessitated another furlough home. He rejoined his regiment at Cairo, Illinois, in July, 1862, there securing his discharge, and was discharged on July 23rd, 1862, by reason of surgeon's certificate of disability, produced by gunshot wound in right foot at Battle of Shiloh. August 15, 1862. he enlisted for the third time, joining the One Hundred and Ninth Regiment, Illinois Infantry as sergeant major of the regiment. The command advanced to the front and took part in the defense of Holly Springs; from there the regiment went back to Memphis, at which place Mr. Echols was discharged. He came back to Cairo and entered the government service as an aid in the revenue department on board river boats. His route took him up and down the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans, from Cairo to various points along that stream and from Cairo to points along the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.
After the close of the war Mr. Echols engaged in merchandise at the corner of Twenty-eighth and Commercial streets, Cairo, Illinois, but he left Cairo after a few months and located at. Caledonia where he conducted a like business for two years. He was elected constable of his precinct and was appointed postmaster of the place, but in 1867 he moved to Grand Chain, where he has since resided, and where he is conducting a healthy real estate business, and is regarded with a high degree of favoritism by all who know him. Judge Echols is a Republican and has ever supported that party principles and given his aid in every way to the cause. In earlier days he has attended numerous state conventions of the party in its interests. He is an Odd Fellow and has served the lodge as a delegate to its Grand Lodge. He has performed a like service for the Knights of Honor and is a member of the Knights and Ladies of Honor, and of the Grand Army of the Republic.
On December 1, 1863, Judge Echols married at Caledonia, Miss Amine B. Brown, a daughter of B. and Elizabeth (Cooper) Brown. The children of Judge and Mrs. Echols are: Mabel A , the wife of Samuel Price of Grand Chain; Sallie A. is Mrs. James S. Adams; Jessie A. married Andrew Moore of Grand Chain; Thomas E. was drowned in the Ohio river, November 27, 1897, and Hortense H. is the wife of Dr. J. E. Woelfle of Cairo, Illinois.
Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 3, pages 1613-1615