Biography - Henry Best

HENRY A. BEST, one of the largest farmers in Nokomis, Montgomery County, Ill., and a leading citizen and ex-soldier of the late war, is a native of the Sucker State, having been born in Staunton, Macoupin County, December 23, 1837. He and his twin sister, Fannie, were the eldest of seven children born to Joseph and Annie (Blevins) Best, their names being as follows: Henry, Fannie, Mary, ^Harvey, Ephraim, Benjamin and Michael, only four of whom grew to maturity. The Best family dates back to the early history of the country, as we find that the grandfather of our subject, Michael, a descendant of Scotch and Irish ancestors, was born in North Carolina before the Revolutionary War, and Joseph, the father of our subject, was born in the same State in 1796. Very little information can be gained of the early history of the Blevins family, except that they had resided in the country many generations, the first trace being found of them in Georgia.
Soon after the birth of Joseph Best in 1796 the family removed to Tennessee, where Michael Best became a large planter and slave-holder, remaining there until 1818, when he and his family of ten children, namely: Joseph, Ephraim, James, William, John, Wesley, Fannie, Mary, Felney and Polly, came to the wild prairies of Illinois, locating near the present site of Staunton, which was then only uncultivated land. Only three of this pioneer family survive at this time, namely: Wesley, who resides at Abilene, Kan.; Fannie, a resident of Missouri; and Mary, who lives near the old homestead in Macoupin. Michael, the father of these children, died on the place where he settled, about 1842 or 1843. Joseph, who was the oldest child and the father of Henry A., of whom we write, died there in 1888, aged ninety-two years, the mother having died in 1851.
Henry Best, our subject, grew up as did other farmer boys in the early days of Illinois, helping to develop a prairie farm and receiving but a limited education. In 1858 he was married to Miss Margaret Powers, a daughter of Hamilton Powers, who was one of the pioneers of Macoupin County and a prominent farmer. Soon after his marriage Mr. Best located on a farm across the line in Madison County, not far from Staunton, and here is where we find him when the clouds of our great Civil War burst with all their fury upon our fair land. Promptly he tendered his services to defend his country and the Flag he loved, and August 2, 1861, his name appeared on the rolls of Company F, Third Illinois Cavalry. The regiment was organized at Camp Butler under Col. Carr, a regular army officer, and with D. R. Sparks as Captain of Company F. They soon proceeded to St. Louis, thence to Jefferson City by boat, and across the country to Springfield, by way of Bolivar, to pursue Gen. Price, who was holding that part of the state. The following winter they were encamped at Rollo, Mo., but in detachments most of the time, doing guard duty. ! The company to which our subject belonged was at Cuba for some weeks on guard duty, and in the spring they broke camp and started for Springfield again. On the long march from Rolla to Springfield our subject was taken sick with rheumatism and had to be left at Lebanon, in charge of Sergeant Higgins. Some three weeks later they started to rejoin their regiment, which they learned had driven Price into Arkansas and was now in the vicinity of Pea Ridge. The Sergeant and Mr. Best found the regiment in Cross Hollows and the following day the battle of Pea Ridge took place; and, although our subject was very weak from recent sickness and his long ride, he was in the heat of the memorable battle.
Immediately after this battle Mr. Best's regiment was ordered out with three days' rations on a scouting expedition through Arkansas and Missouri; they were gone thirteen days, having many skirmishes with stragglers from Price's army, and upon Mr. Best's return to his regiment's camp at Keithsville he was again prostrated and for some time his life hung by a slender thread, it not being thought possible for him to recover. Upon advice of his physician he was induced to accept his discharge, which was granted on the surgeon's certificate of disability, April 14, 1862, and he returned to his home near Staunton. For the following year he was a physical wreck, but finally health began to creep back, and, as he was not able to operate his farm, he engaged in the milling business with a man named Wall, under the firm name of Best & Wall. This business continued for two years, since which time he has been engaged in farming and stock-raising. Until 1876 he remained in Madison County, and then removed to Nokomis, where he had previously purchased land. At this place he now has an extensive farm of some five hundred acres, adjoining the city of Nokomis. In 1879, he, in company with D. H. Zepp and James Young, purchased the vacant lot and land in Nokomis and this brought all of them a small fortune. Mr. Best has been very successful in all of his undertakings, except, perhaps, when, in 1882, he spent a year in Dakota, opening up a large farm. This did not prove a paying investment at the time, but he still owns a large tract of land there.
He is an ardent Republican, an enthusiastic Grand Army man and is the present Commander of Cottingham Post of Nokomis. He is also a high-degree Mason, being a Knight Templar, and has filled many of the local offices. Mr. Best is a high-minded and courteous gentleman whom it is a pleasure to meet. He and his wife have been the parents of eleven children; one of these, named Essie Belle, died when a child. The living are: Otilio, the wife of G. T. Rhoads, of Pierce City, Mo.; David H., of Nokomis, married to Carrie Hallen, daughter of Jacob Hallen, the wealthy farmer and banker of Nokomis; Owen M., living at home; Annie M., the wife of a Mr. Alexander; R. N., married to Etta Stubbs and is an extensive farmer at Wington, S. D.; Dente, a resident of Ohlman, Ill.; Fay R., at Wington, S. D.; and Robert M., Meda, Bessie, Mabel and Howard are at home. Harvey Best, a brother of our subject, entered the Union army in Company L, Third Illinois Cavalry, and died in the service at the age of nineteen years.

Extracted 12 Jan 2017 by Norma Hass from 1892 Portrait and Biographical Record of Montgomery and Bond Counties, Illinois, pages 489-491.

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