Biography - Joseph E. Eden

JOSEPH E. EDEN, proprietor of the Eden House, of Sullivan, Moultrie County, is numbered among the honored pioneers of the county. Only seven of those living in Sullivan at the time of his arrival are still residents of that place. Probably no man in the community is more widely or favorably known than our subject, who was born in Bath County, Ky., September 10, 1820. His father, John P. Eden, was born in Baltimore, Md., in 1796, and the grandfather, Jeremiah Eden, was a native of England. When a young man he crossed the Atlantic probably locating in Maryland, where he wedded a lady of German descent. After living for a time in that State, they removed to Bath County, Ky., where they spent the remainder of their lives. Both were members of the Methodist Church. The father of our subject was a young lad when his parents removed to Kentucky where he grew to manhood and married Catherine Cann, a native of Bath County, where her parents were early settlers. Their union was celebrated in 1818, and upon a farm in that locality they resided until 1831, when they removed to Rush County, Ind., locating three miles from Rushville. Mr. Eden procured land upon which he made some improvements and died at his home in Indiana in 1835. He was a sound Democrat in polities and twice voted for Andrew Jackson. His wife survived him some years and died at the home of our subject in 1870, at the age of seventy years. In religious belief she was a Presbyterian. The family numbered six children, of whom Joseph F., John, whose sketch is given elsewhere, Mrs. Moore, of Bruce, Ill., and Mrs. Sampson, of Sullivan are yet living.
Our subject was only fifteen years of age when his father died and being one of the older children of the family much care and labor devolved upon him. He proved the main support of his widowed mother and the faithfulness with which he attended to his duties merits the highest praise. His school privileges were necessarily limited but he would gather hickory bark to make a torch light and during the long winter evenings would read such books as he could get hold of until at length he had acquired a good practical knowledge. The only school which he attended was a log cabin furnished with puncheon floor and slab seats, but so well did he prepare himself that for ten years he was a successful teacher in Rush County, Ind.
During that time Mr. Eden met and married Miss Matilda M. Bussell, who was born two miles from Rushville, Ind., in 1828, and is a daughter of Col. William S. and Maria (Ward) Bussell, who were natives of Kentucky. With their respective families her parents went to Indiana during childhood. Mr. Bussell served as a Colonel in the Black Hawk War and in Indiana occupied the office of County Sheriff. His business was that of a merchant and dealer in live-stock. In 1834, he started for Georgia, with a large drove of horses and while in that State died of spasmodic colic. He was then less than forty years of age. He was a man of commanding presence, fine-looking and his appearance commanded respect. He also served as Colonel in the State Militia. His wife survived him many years and died at the advanced age of eighty-four, in Jasper County, Ind. She was a second time married, becoming the wife of Dr. Knox, who died at the home of our subject.
Mrs. Eden remained with her mother until her marriage, which was celebrated May 14, 1846. By their union have been born four children: William, who wedded Belle Alexander and resides in Fresno, Cal.; Susie, wife of Dr. O. C. Link, a successful physician of Lincoln, Neb., who was formerly Superintendent of the Insane Hospital at Yankton, S. Dak.; J. F., a leading liveryman of Sullivan, who wedded Josie Smizer; and E. B., who married Elizabeth Beverage. He resides in Sullivan and is engaged in the insurance and real-estate business.
In the line of his trade, Joseph Eden has become widely known. He began operations in the hotel business in 1864, and was very successful in his undertaking until 1880, when he suffered quite a loss by fire. However, on the site of the old hotel he erected a new one, which was completed in 1883, and on the 3d of November of that year was opened to the public. It is situated on the southwest corner of the square and is a three-story brick with basement, containing forty sleeping rooms, besides parlors, three sample rooms, commodious kitchen, dining-room, etc. The house is well arranged and is furnished with all modern conveniences for the comfort and entertainment of guests. Mr. Eden exerts himself to make his patrons feel at home and the hotel well deserves its popularity. In connection he also had a large and fine livery which was burned on the 8th of August, 1879, just one year after it was completed. We thus see that he had met with reverses but with characteristic energy he set to work to retrieve his losses. Altogether his career has been most prosperous. Previous to his embarking in the hotel business he established a general store immediately after his arrival March 7, 1853, and for twenty years engaged in merchandising. In the meantime he purchased land and followed farming and stockraising for fifteen years. His property was near the city and he still owns a portion of it.
Mr. Eden has lived to see almost the entire development of the county and has done much for its interests. At the time of his arrival there were only about four hundred voters in the county and the work of progress seemed scarcely begun, he held the office of Postmaster of Sullivan under Presidents Pierce and Buchanan, being first appointed in 1853 and was superseded when the Republican party came into power. He was also Justice of the Peace for four years and soon afterward was elected County Judge, filling the office for a similar period. During that time the old county court house was burned and the present structure erected. Judge Eden was the prime mover in securing the sale of the swamp lands, with which funds the new court house was built and sufficient left to purchase the present poor farm of two hundred acres. In this purchase he met with much opposition, as many wished to use the money for school purposes, but he persevered and the poor farm has proved a valuable acquisition, being now self-sustaining and a credit to the county. When the agricultural society of the county was organized in 1857, Mr. Eden became connected with it and for more than twenty years has been its President, holding that position at the present time. On the organization of the Building and Loan Association in 1887, he became its highest official and is yet its President. In politics he is one of the stanchest advocates of the Democracy and is a leader of his party in this portion of the State. He has been an honored delegate to the State and county conventions and for several years has been Chairman of the County Central Committee. For thirty-seven years he has been an Odd Fellow and for twenty-four years has been a member of the Grand Lodge of the State. He is one of the charter members of the third lodge of Royal Templars in the State, located at Sullivan. We thus see how prominent Judge Eden has been in public affairs. His genial, kindly manner has won him many friends who esteem him highly for his sterling worth. The active part which he has taken in the upbuilding of the county entitles him to mention among its founders and best citizens and it is with pleasure that we present this sketch to the readers of the Record.

Extracted 08 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 249-251.

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