Sangamon County ILGenWeb © 2000
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By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

Page 1044

WILLIAM PURSELL. - For many years this gentleman was actively identified with the agricultural and industrial interests of Sangamon county, but now in his declining years is enjoying a well-earned rest, free from the cares and responsibilities of business life. In his home place, on section 26, Cartwright township, he has one hundred and eighty acres of good land, and also owns two other tracts, one of forty and the other of thirty acres, which numbers him among the substantial citizens of his community. He dates his residence in this county from 1833 and has therefore witnessed the greater part of its growth and development, in which he has borne no unimportant part.

The childhood home of our subject was on the other side of the Atlantic, for he was born on the coast of the Irish sea, in Ireland, January 23, 1820. His father, Robert Pursell, was a native of the same county and was descended from a long line of Irish ancestry. In early manhood he married Miss Ramsey, and in 1824 brought his family to the new world, locating in Canada, where both he and his wife spent their remaining days. He reached the age of eighty-four years.

William Pursell was reared by Father Haraldus Eastabrook, and with him came to Sangamon county, Illinois, in 1833, making the journey by wagon. There were fifty-three in the party and they started on the 22d of August and were nine weeks and one day upon the road, arriving in October, 1833. Mr. Pursell grew to manhood in this county and to a limited extent attended the common schools but is almost wholly self-educated. He learned the carpenter's trade with his benefactor and later was engaged in contracting and building for five or six years. He also worked in a saw and grist mill in early life for one year. After his marriage, however, he turned his attention to farming, operating a rented farm for one year. He then bought a tract of eighty acres of raw land, where he now resides, and took up his residence thereon in March, 1847. He at once began the improvement of the place and bought more land from time to time as his financial resources increased. In early days he often sold corn for ten cents per bushel, and after hauling his wheat to Beardstown, a distance of forty-four miles, could only get thirty-seven and a half cents per bushel.

On the 1st of January, 1846, in Gardner township. Mr. Pursell married Miss Elizabeth Van Patton, who was born in New Jersey and was thirteen years of age when she came to Illinois, in 1838, with her parents, Mindert and Hannah (Cook) Van Patton. Her father was a native of Schenectady. New York, and a son of Aaron Van Patton, who came to this country from Holland at an early day. Her mother was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, of English parentage, a daughter of John and Mary Cook, who emigrated from England and first settled in Pennsylvania but afterward removed to New Jersey. From the latter state Mr. Van Patton came to Illinois in 1838, making the journey by team, and located in Gardner Township, Sangamon county, where he opened up a farm, making it his home throughout the remainder of his life. He met death by accident in August, 1861, and his wife died in March, of the same year.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Pursell were born thirteen children, eight of whom are still living: Caroline L., the widow of John Laborence, residing in Pleasant Plains; Laura, wife of Henry Irwin, of Ashland; Belle, wife of William T. Kincade, of Menard county, Illinois; Harriet, wife of J. H. Brown, of Junction, Arizona; Frances, wife of William Shaw, of Gardner Township; Jessie, at home with her parents; Charles, a farmer of Oskaloosa county, Iowa; and Robert, who is married and is now operating his father's farm. The oldest son died at the age of fourteen years.

Mr. Pursell cast his first presidential vote for the Whig candidate but supported John C. Fremont in 1856 and has since affiliated with the Republican party, never missing a presidential election. He and his wife and daughter are all members of the Presbyterian church at Farmingdale, Illinois. He joined the church in 1837 and his wife in 1840, at the age of fifteen years. For some years they held membership in the church at Pleasant Plains, of which Mr. Pursell was an elder and active worker for fifteen years, but they are now connected with the church at Farmingdale. They stand high in the community where they have so long made their home and those who know them best are numbered among their warmest friends, no citizens in Cartwright township being more honored or highly respected.

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