WILLIAM OSCAR POTTER was born in the Crab Orchard community of Williamson county, February 17, 1871. In his youth he attended the academy at Crab Orchard, which was somewhat famous as an intellectual mecca and was organized and conducted by Professor Turner, and he was a member of the first graduating class of the institution. He finished his course there in 1891 and began teaching in the district schools. He was principal of the grammar department of the Gallatm schools in 1893-4, was principal of the Harrisburg high school in 1894-5 and had charge of the schools of Johnston City in 1898-9. He concluded his school work there and took up the practice of the law, for which he had prepared himself in spare moments during his educational work. He was admitted to the bar before his career as a teacher terminated and he opened an office and made his formal entry into the practice on March 13, 1897. He resided in Johnston City until June, 1902, when he took up his residence in the county seat. He became interested and active in politics before coming to Marion, his political convictions being Republican and of the most staunch and unswerving character. He had already given ' ' a taste of his quality ' ' as city clerk, city attorney and mayor of Johnston City. In June, 1901, he was appointed master-in-chancery and served four years. In 1907 he joined Judge Neeley in a partnership, under the caption of Neeley & Potter, and in February, 1908, Robert T. Cook and J. L. Gallimore came into the firm, which is now known as Neeley, Gallimore, Cook & Potter. Mr. Cook is a resident of Herrin and Mr. Gallimore, of Carterville.
Upon the death of Senator O. H. Burnett in August, 1906, Mr. Potter was nominated to fill the vacancy thus caused in the fiftieth senatorial district. He was elected in the November following and represents the counties of Franklin, Williamson, Union, Pulaski and Alexander. In 1908 he was re-elected for a full term of four years, and has attended three sessions of the general assembly. He was named chairman of the committee on contingent expenses and was more concerned in defending that state against unwise legislation than in originating measures himself. He has devoted all his energies to the interests of his constituency and there is every promise that he will be able to accomplish much more in the future even than he has in the past. On all national questions he has been in accord with the principles of his party, and party and district have cause to be proud of him.
Senator Potter has written his autobiography, which is an intensely interesting human document and one which should be an inspiration to every youth who hopes to win success against fearful odds. The publishers of this volume are indeed happy to include within these pages so praiseworthy a record, as that which herewith follows.
"My father and mother, Jacob Scott Potter and Margaret Mahala Carr, were married at Marion, Williamson county, Illinois, on August 13, A. D. 1858. Father was born near Donovan, Ripley county, Missouri. Mother was born near Galatia, in Brushy township, Saline county, Illinois. Mother was one of a large family of children, viz: John Carr; Sarah Hawkins, wife of David Hawkins; Margaret Potter, wife of Jacob Potter; George Carr; Susan Potter, wife of Riley Potter; Wilson Carr; Mariah Reed, wife of William Reed; Mary Allen, wife of Jesse Allen; Carroll Carr; Adeline Carr; and Nancy Turner, wife of A. H. Turner. They are now. all dead, except Carroll Carr, who lives in Cleburn county, Arkansas, and Nancy Turner, who lives near Crab Orchard, Williamson county, Illinois.
"My mother's parents were William Carr and Emeline Hale. They were married about the year 1825 and settled on the old homestead near Galatia, then known as Clapboard, where the post-office of Hartford now stands. The children above named were their only offspring. My grandfather Carr was born somewhere in Virginia about the year 1797, migrated through Tennessee to Illinois in the early part of 1800 and was married to grandmother either in Tennessee or after he came to Illinois. He had a brother named Robin Carr, and one of his sisters married a man named Barlow, who lived on the Fancy Farm in Franklin county and afterwards moved to Wisconsin. Another sister married a man named Simpson in Franklin county. I have been unable to trace his ancestors any further back. He died about the year A. D. 1850 and was buried in the family burying ground on his farm, which cemetery is now under the control of the Methodist church.
"Grandmother Carr was the daughter of 'Grancer' and 'Granny' Hale, as they were commonly known, whose old homestead was near New Hope church in the northwestern part of Saline county, Illinois. She was one of a large family of brothers and sisters, among whom were the following: Marion Hale, John Hale, Emeline Carr (wife of William Carr), Kizzie Inghram (wife of Job Inghram), Susan Strickland (wife of James Strickland), Mary Mason (wife of William Mason). She died about the close of the Civil war and was buried by the side of her husband. 'Grancer' and 'Granny' Hale came to Illinois at a very early date from northern Alabama. They were descendants of the royal colonists who settled Alabama and were of the southern aristocracy. I know nothing further of 'Grancer' Hale. 'Granny' Hale's maiden name was, also, Carr, and all I know concerning her was that she had a brother named James Carr (nicknamed 'Hoss Carr'), who was one of Jackson's squirrel shooters with the Tennessee riflemen and fought with him against the Indians at Horseshoe Bend, and against the British at New Orleans. From tradition, I have it, the old pioneer was of a nomadic or roving disposition. He transported his worldly effects on these migrations on the back of an old bull, named 'Braddock.' On one of these trips the good old wife was, also, perched on the back" of 'Braddock,' and in going down a long hill 'Braddock' scented water and quickened his pace until he stampeded and ran away, throwing the old lady off and scattering the household effects all along the route to where he reached water. However, 'Granny' was not seriously hurt and uncle 'Hoss' was able to gather up his effects and proceed on his journey without serious interruption. This event was afterwards known in our family tradition as Braddock's Defeat.'
"I have now in my possession an old heir-loom consisting of a fine old polished brass candle-stick, which 'Granny' Hale brought with her from Alabama. This is as far back as 1 have been able to trace grandmother Carr's ancestors.
“My father was one of seven brothers and sisters, viz: John Potter, Isiah Potter, Sarah Grissom (wife of Bill Grissom), Ephraim Potter, Jacob S. Potter, William R. Potter and Eliza Black, (wife of William H. Black), all of whom are dead except Eliza Black. My grandparents on my father's side were Willis Potter and Eliza Ann Littleton. They were married in the early part of A. D. 1800, somewhere near Donovan, Ripley county, Missouri. I have been unable to learn anything very definite as to the ancestry any further back.
"Grandmother Potter was born in Virginia in an early day. Her father's name was Littleton and he was a native of Ireland. He called red elm 'Reed alum.' She died about A. D. 1860 and was buried near the old Spring Grove church in the east part of Williamson county, Illinois. My grandfather Potter was born in Ripley county, Missouri. He had two brothers, Jacob and Riley, who left home when they were young men, and were never heard from again. He had a brother Ephraim, who was murdered by Rebel sympathizers near Jackson, Missouri, during the Civil war. He left a son named Noah Potter. Grandfather Potter died about A. D. 1845 in Ripley county, Missouri, and was buried there. I never knew anything further back relative to grandfather Potter's people, except that his father came from Tennessee.
"There is an old tradition, so the story runs, that back in colonial times four brothers from Scotland, named Potter, immigrated to New England. One of them wandered off to the Carolinas and his descendants migrated to Tennessee and Kentucky. If this story is true, I presume that my grandfather Potter descended from this pioneer brother.
“As the result of the marriage of my father and mother, in August, 1858, there were born, November 17, 1859, Elizabeth Potter, who died November 18, 1859; Douglas D. Potter, born May 29, 1861; George Willis Potter, born April 18, 1863, and died July 5, 1864; John Leonard Potter, born October 23, 1867, and died July 20, 1898; I, William Potter, was born February 17, 1871, and is still on time's side of Eternity. My sister and two older brothers are buried in the old family burying ground on grandfather Carr's old homestead. My father, mother and brother Leonard are buried on my lot in Rose Hill cemetery, in Marion, Illinois.
“I was ushered into the world under very peculiar circumstances and such as were calculated not to inspire much enthusiasm toward attaining the top of the ladder of fame. I was born near Indian camp, in a log cabin in the southern part of Rock Creek precinct, near the village of Crab Orchard in Williamson county, Illinois. During the period of my gestation and at birth my father was developing that dread disease, insanity, and when I was only six weeks old he became a raving maniac and was sent to the Insane Asylum at Jacksonville and afterwards transferred to the hospital at Anna, where he died May 4, 1904. When I was thirteen years old he was pronounced safe and was discharged from the asylum, but never was well balanced any more and had to be returned later.
"My mother was left penniless in a very poor community with my brother and myself to raise and care for, but with the courage of a heroine and the faith of a Ruth she toiled through all those long, lonesome, dreary years of trials and hardships, and with that strong native instinct born of true motherhood she determined, early, to give us at least a moderate education and was at last rewarded by seeing us both grown to manhood and able to cope with the battles of life and make her days a little brighter by knowing that all of her efforts had not been in vain.
"She was a woman of strong will and force of character, as was demonstrated through all the battles of life which she bravely fought through all the vicissitudes of a hard experience, and bravely bore all of her burdens without murmur or complaint, always trusting in the God of Israel to guide her aright in this life and give a just reward beyond the tomb. She was a consistent member and believer in the Methodist church, of which my brother, also, was a member.
"She died strong in the faith that God would reward her for her trust in Him during all of her years of trials. She loved my brother and me with the strongest devotion that a mother can bestow on her children and died with a prayer on her lips expressed in her last words of 'God bless OscaT and his family, and passed to her reward beyond the veil through which human vision has never penetrated.
“My aunt, Susan P. Potter, who was a sister of my mother and who married my father's brother, William Riley Potter, was our best friend. We lived with her until we boys were big enough to work and then we built a log cabin of her farm. Her husband had died from diseases contracted in the army during the Civil war and she helped us in every way she could until her death, in June, 1892. She was a second mother and loved us almost as if we were her own children her children all having died in infancy. My brother never married, but lived with my mother until his death. He became one of the leading school teachers of Williamson county and was employed to teach the Johnston City schools at the time of his death."
Senator Potter was married at Spillertown, Illinois, June 30, 1897, to Miss Myrtie Spiller, a daughter of the venerable William J. and Susan Spiller, the latter a daughter of the pioneer Joab Goodall. The Spillers were among the first settlers of Williamson county, coming into Illinois about the date of its admission to the union of states and now representing one of the most numerous families in the county. Four children have been born to Senator and Mrs. Potter, namely: Lucile; Maurice R.; Everett, who lost his life by accident in 1904; and Eloise.
Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 2, page 1010-1013