Biography - Richard O'Bannon

Richard W. O'BANNON, the first settler in the city of Litchfield, is the great-grandson of a Mr. O'BANNON who came to this country from Ireland before the Revolutionary war, and eventually settled in Virginia. The father of our subject, Isham O'Bannon, a native of Fauquier County, Va., whose wife, Mary WINN, was also a native of Virginia, and connected with the family of Stonewall JACKSON, being an aunt of that famous Confederate General. Isham O'BANNON was Captain of a company of Virginia militia, and in that capacity served his country in the war of 1812. Their youngest child but two was Richard W. O'BANNON, who was born on November 1, 1808, in Fauquier County, Va., near the town of Salem. There he passed the early years of his life, and there he lost his mother, who died when he was but four years old. In the year 1816, he removed with his father to Shelby County, Ky. Here his father became a successful farmer, working twenty-five hands and owning thirty-five servants, and here our subject grew to manhood. At the age of nineteen, he began his life-long employment of merchant, in the store of Graham & Standford, of Shelbyville, Ky., where he remained three years. July 29, 1830, he was married to Miss Matilda DORSEY, of Jefferson County, Ky. Subsequent to his marriage, he engaged in mercantile pursuits on his own account, in Oldham County, Ky. Those were the days of the stage coach, when Louisville and Cincinnati were not as great marts of trade, and when the merchants of Kentucky went to Philadelphia and cities farther east for their supplies - journeys involving more of time and money than journeys to Europe at this day. Mr. O'BANNON made many such journeys, adding to his stock of knowledge and experience in the ways of men. About the 1st of September, 1842, he came to Illinois, having left Kentucky some time previously, and living in the meantime in the State of Missouri. There fortune had not favored him, and he came to Illinois to begin anew the battle of life. Settling upon a quarter-section of uncultivated prairie, near to the present hamlet of Ridgely, in Madison County, they proceeded to transform it into the most highly cultivated farm in the all that region. Mr. O'BANNON proved himself as good a farmer as merchant, which avocation he also found time to pursue. Here he lived and prospered for twelve years, gathering about him hosts of friends, and here Mrs. O'BANNON organized a Christian Church and built for it a house of worship. In January, 1854, he came to Montgomery County on a tour of inspection. It cannot be said that he came to Litchfield, for then Litchfield was not. But he visited the site of the future town, then bristling with the remains of the last year's corn crop, and, with good judgement, selected and bought of Maj. P. C. HUGGINS, for $120, the east half of Block No. 21, which no includes the principal business houses of the city. The ground to-day, exclusive of all buildings on it, is worth $30,000. During the winter, on this purchase he built a one-story frame store, 22x36 feet, the site of which, still owned by him, is covered by the banking house of Beach, Davis & Co. This was the first house built in the place, and, at the time of its erection, the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad had not reached the site of the town, and all building material, as well as goods, had to be delivered in wagons. In March of the same year, he placed in this store $6,000 worth of a general assortment of merchandise, and commenced business, with William T. ELLIOTT as his partner. In the year 1854, the firm sold $42,000 worth of goods. During this year, the Ridgely Colony moved to Litchfield. It consisted of R. W. O'BANNON, his wife, two sons, Samuel and Joshua; Miss Sue ELSBERRY; John P. BAYLESS and wife and two daughters, Matilda and Martha; W. S. PALMER; W. T. ELLIOTT and wife and son, William, and daughter, Maria; Henry E. APPLETON and wife; James W. JEFFERIS and wife, and Charles M. DAVIS. Soon after coming to Litchfield, Mr. O'BANNON bought the property where he now lives, building the house the first summer. In the history of our country, 1854 was a fateful year - the year of the Kansas-Nebraska struggle. Mr. O'BANNON had been a Whig of the Henry Clay school, but, in the issue of 1854, he arrayed himself with the Democracy, with which party he has ever since affiliated. He was a Douglas Democrat, and, in 1861, presided over the first Union meeting held in this city after the commencement of the war. He also subscribed liberally in aid of the families of the volunteer soldiers. Mr. O'BANNON continued in active business with W. T. ELLIOTT for twelve years, doing a very large and profitable business. In 1859, they erected the store now occupied by Frank R. MILNOR, and which continues the property of Mr. O'BANNON, to which they removed their business, and where they continued until 1866, when Mr. ELLIOTT retired from the firm, the business being conducted by Mr. O'BANNON and sons till the completion of the Decatur & East St. Louis Railroad, to the construction of which Mr. O'BANNON largely contributed, when it was transferred to the new town of Raymond. This town is on the Wabash & Pacific Railroad, then known as the Decatur & East St. Louis Railroad. In Raymond Mr. O'BANNON had large interests, being one of the company by whom the town was laid out; consequently, he moved to it, and resided there one year, with his son Joshua, who carried on the business. After that, he moved to his large farm in Zanesville Township, about nine miles from this city, where he lived with his son Samuel. This was in the years 1872 and 1873. About this time, a friend for whom he was bound, failed in business, and by unanimous consent he was put forward as the assignee of the unfortunate merchant. Mr. O'BANNON was himself a large creditor, and, to recover in a measure what he had lost, he took the stock and once more engaged in business. In this he associated with himself his oldest son, and for seven years O'BANNON & Son have held a front place among the business men of Litchfield, with eminent success. The churches, the railroads, the coal mines, the car-shops and the great mill have all been helped forward by him. His familiar form is identified with every stage in the history of the town.

Extracted 19 Nov 2016 by Norma Hass from 1882 History of Bond and Montgomery Counties, Illinois, Part 2 Biographical Department, pages 161-162.

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