Biography - William J. Tackett

WILLIAM J. TACKETT. The name of Tackett has been borne by some of the most useful citizens of this county from the early days of its settlement, and as an honored representative of that family that has helped to bring this section of Illinois to its present tine condition we are pleased to place on these pages a brief life-record of William J. Tackett, a highly respected resident of Shelbyville. He is a skillful farmer, and has valuable farming interests, which are still under his management, although he has retired to the city.

But few of the present citizens of this county have lived in this part of the State as long as our subject, who has spent much of his life here as boy and man for sixty years or more. He is a son of one of the earliest pioneer families of Shelbyville, John and Enfield (Mason) Tackett, and his father for several years kept a hotel in the village in the early years of its history. For further parental history, see the sketch of John A. Tackett on another page of this volume.

William Tackett was born in Bourbon County, Ky., June 11, 1826, the second son of his parents, he was but three years old when they brought him to Illinois in 1829. Shelbyville, where the family set up their new home, was but a hamlet, with a few log habitations, and gave but little intimation that it would become the beautiful city of to-day. Our subject grew up here under pioneer influences, and watched with interest the growth of the city from day to day, and has witnessed almost the entire development of the surrounding country from a wilderness to a well settled and wealthy county, and he can take pleasure in the thought that he has had a hand in bringing about this wonderful transformation. His education was conducted in the pioneer schools of the city, which were taught in a log house, that had rude furniture of the most primitive sort, the seats being made of slabs, without backs, and with wooden pins for support. That was in the days before the introduction of the free school system, and each family had to pay for the support of the schools according to the number of scholars sent. Mr. Tackett advanced his education by attendance at Hillsboro Academy, and at the age of twenty-one he began to study medicine.

Our subject was smitten by the gold fever after the discovery of the precious metal in California, and he was one of the famous "49ers" to go to that State in search of it. He started with others in the month of March, and made the journey across the plains and mountains with mule teams. The little company of gold seekers saw no white settlers between the Missouri River and the Golden State, except the Mormons at Salt Lake. They encountered deer, antelopes, buffaloes and other wild animals in great numbers in crossing what was then known as the "Great American Desert," and Indians held undisputed sway throughout that desolate region. The train arrived at Sacramento one hundred and ten days after starting from Illinois, and our subject found that city in the pioneer stages of its existence, and among its rude habitations there were but two frame houses.

Mr. Tackett devoted himself to mining awhile, then handled stock at a large profit the remainder of his stay in California. In February, 1852, he set out on his return home, well satisfied with his experience of life on the frontier. He traveled by the way of the Isthmus to New Orleans, thence by the Mississippi to St. Louis, from there by stage through Vandalia to Shelbyville, and on the 20th of March he found himself once again among the familiar scenes of his boyhood. After his return he practiced medicine for a time, and then turned his attention to the grocery business, which he conducted a few years, but he finally took up the congenial pursuit of farming, and resided on his farm from 1859 to 1866, when he again came to the city to live, and has ever since made his home here. He continues to superintend his farm, however, and has it under a fine condition as to tillage and improvement, it being one of the best in those regards in the locality. Mr. Tackett is a man of much experience, possesses good mental endowments, is public spirited, and is in no ways backward in lending his assistance to all projects that will in any way enhance the prosperity of the city and county, with whose interests he has been identified for so many years.

The pleasant wedded life of Mr. Tackett with Miss Mary J. Durkee was entered upon in 1853. It has been blessed to them by the birth of children, of whom they have five, as follows: Edward, a general merchant at Raymond; Mattie, wife of William R. Glen, of Philadelphia; Archie J., a resident of Raymond; Fannie, the widow of Andrew Welch, of Shelbyville; and May, the wife of C. M. Aidrich, of Peoria.

Mrs. Tackett was born in Tippecanoe County, Ind., and is a daughter of David F. and Freelove (Fink) Durkee. Her father was born in Vermont, and was a son of Dr. John Durkee, who was a practicing physician and a pioneer of Tippecanoe County, settling near La Fayette, and engaging in his profession until his death. Mrs. Tackett's father was but a boy when his parents settled in Indiana, and he grew to a stalwart manhood amid its pioneer scenes, and in due time was there married. He lived in that State until 1848, when he came to this county and cast in his destiny with the pioneers who had preceded him. He bought a tract of wild land in what is now Pickaway Township, developed a good farm, and resided on it a number of years. He then came to the city to spend his remaining years. His wife died at the home of a daughter at Wilmington, Will County, Ill. They reared these six children — George, Celia, John, Edward, James and Mary J.

Extracted 13 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1891 Portrait and Biographical Record of Shelby and Moultrie Counties Illinois, pages 453-454.

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