J. W. SOUTHWICK is well known in connection with mercantile and public affairs in Springfield. The intelligence of our American citizenship does not permit of the blind following of any leader. It is true that at times an unprincipled politician has for a brief period guided public sentiment and shaped public affairs to his own ends, but this has been the exception and not the rule. The censure of the public is too easily aroused to attempt of any great mismanagement or misrule on the part of officials and the choice is usually given to one who is regarded as worthy of the trust of his fellow townsmen and who will prove capable in the discharge of his duties. Such a spirit prompted the election of J. W. Southwick to the position of mayor of Springfield and his course has ever justified the confidence reposed in him.
A native son of Sangamon county Mr. Southwick was born April 21, 1847, his parents being William and Louisa (Proctor) Southwick. His father was born in Seneca county, New York, February 9, 1807, a son of Jesse and Nancy (Moore) Southwick. The grandfather was born in 1762 near Lebanon, Connecticut, and removed to Oneida county, New York, and afterward to Seneca county, where he resided for a number of years. He then embarked on the Allegheny river at Olean Point and thus proceeded to Shawneetown, Illinois, where he arrived in December, 1819. He afterward removed to a village called Milton near Alton, Illinois, where he remained until the 20th of March, when he removed to Sugar Creek and settled in what is now Woodside township six and a half miles southeast of Springfield, where he engaged in general farming. The grandfather died September 25, 1826, and his wife in February, 1845. William Southwick acquired his education in the common schools and was fifteen years of age when his father came to Sangamon County. He was married here in September, 1831, to Louisa Proctor, who was born November 23, 1811, at Charleston, Clark county, Indiana. They have seven children, of whom four are living: Mrs. Eunice Fox, of Chicago; J. W., of this review; John H., of Atlantic, Iowa; and Philip S., who resides in Pemberton in western Canada.
J. W. Southwick was educated in the district schools and in the Magnolia high school at Magnolia, Illinois. After putting aside his text books he entered the army at the age of nineteen years, enlisting in Springfield as a member of Company E, One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Infantry. He was elected sergeant of his company and went south to Memphis. He participated in the siege of Vicksburg, the battles of Jackson, Brandon, Guntown and Tupelo, also at Nashville and Mobile. From sergeant he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant and received an honorable discharge in August, 1865, after having rendered valuable aid to his country in the defense of the old flag and the cause it represented.
After the close of the war Mr. Southwick became a student in Bryant & Stratton's Commercial College in Springfield and was the first to graduate in that institution. He then engaged in the grocery business at Centralia, Illinois, but sold out there in the spring of 1867 and started west to Leavenworth, Kansas, and in the fall of 1867 he went to Denver, Colorado, and thence to Wyoming. He followed the construction of the Union Pacific railroad to Ogden, Utah, then to Salt Lake on to White Pine, Nevada, and from there to Virginia City, Nevada. He next went to Pioche, then to Arizona, where he remained for two years, when he returned to Pioche, after which he made an overland trip to New Mexico. He was there engaged in general merchandising for nine years and during that time also served as clerk in the United States Land Office for five years. He was likewise postmaster and contracted to carry the United States mail for four years.
In 1881 Mr. Southwick returned to Springfield and was married to Miss Maryland V. Mourer, after which he returned to New Mexico, where he remained until the spring of 1883, when he again came to Springfield and entered into the business life of this city by establishing a Springfield Carpet Company, and opening a carpet house on the north side of the square. There he continued until 1896, when he closed out the business, having in the meantime enjoyed a large and profitable trade. From May, 1896 until May, 1901, he was superintendent of the waterworks. At the latter date he was elected mayor of Springfield and is now serving in that capacity. In 1895 he was elected to the city council and served for one term. His devotion to the general good is manifested by his earnest and effective effort along lines of modern progress, reform and improvement. He has not entirely severed his connection with business interests, being now engaged in coal mining at Middleton, Illinois.
Mrs. Southwick is a daughter of William and Jane Mourer, being the fourth in order of birth in their family and her education was obtained in the district schools here. By her marriage she has become the mother of two children: Mabel V. and Beulah M. Both Mr. and Mrs. Southwick are well known in this city, enjoying the hospitality of its best homes and gaining the friendship of many with whom they have been associated. Mr. Southwick belongs to the Grand Army Post and has served as its commander. His citizenship is of a high order, being characterized by marked devotion to the general good and he always places the welfare of the municipality before self aggrandizement. He has looked at the questions concerning the city from a broad and practical standpoint and in the discharge of his official duties brings to bear the same energy and reliability which have ever characterized him in his business life.