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

Ancestor of Dan Dixon

MAJOR ELIJAH ILES - Elijah Iles was one of the leading pioneers of Sangamon county and one whose name has been and will continue to be closely identified with the early history of the city and county. He was born in Bath county, Kentucky, March 28, 1796, and was the oldest son of Thomas Iles, who was a native of Pennsylvania. His grandfather, William Iles, was an emigrant from England, and his grandmother was of Welsh descent. In 1818, at the age of twenty-two, Elijah Iles migrated from Kentucky to what was called the Boone's Lick country in Missouri, where be -remained three years, clerking in a store at Franklin and trading in lands.

In the spring of 1821 Mr. Iles came to Illinois to reside and located at the site of Springfield, in the newly organized county of Sangamon. Here he built a cabin eighteen feet square, with sheds on two sides, and then went to St. Louis and bought a stock of goods, with which he opened the first store in Springfield in June of that year. He had no competitor in business for two years, and his profits were large, but he often took in exchange for his goods such articles as peltry and wild honey. In the meantime he laid claim to the quar ter section on which his storehouse stood and entered it in 1823, thus becoming one of the proprietors of the town. In that year he also bought other lands and began to improve a farm. In 1826 Mr. Iles was elected state senator from Sangamon county, and again in 1830. In 1831 he sold his store to John Williams, his clerk, and then engaged in farming and dealing in stock. He was a major in the Winnebago war of 1828 and a captain in the Black Hawk war of 1832. In 1838 he erected the American house at the southeast corner of the court house square in Springfield, which at that time was one of the largest hotels in the state. Subsequently he built two fine residences on South Sixth street in this city, and he donated the block of ground for the Home of the Friendless.

Major Iles was married in 1824 to Malinda Benjamin, by whom he had two children Louisa E., who became the wife of Colonel T. J. Carter and died in 1857, and Thomas Iles, who died a bachelor in 1877. Mrs. Iles departed this life in 1866, after which the Major retired from active business and passed his winters in Florida. After a long, useful and well-rounded life he died September 4, 1883, in the eighty-eighth year of his age, and was buried in Oak Ridge from the First Presbyterian church in Springfield, the Rev.J. A. Peed preaching the funeral sermon.

Major Iles was a plain and unassuming man, rather under the middle size, gentle in his manner and deportment, and commanded the respect and esteem of the entire community. By his industry, sagacity and sound business judgment he had amassed an ample fortune, but "without wrong or suspicion of wrong to anyone." His autobiography, a valuable pioneer record, was published in the year of his death.

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