Biography - Samuel Poor

SAMUEL D. POOR, one of the early settlers and prominent men of southern Illinois, now living at Metropolis, was born in Fentress County, Tenn., April 8, 1827. His father, Samuel Poor, was born in North Carolina and was a hard-working farmer, living for the most part on rented land. His family, after removing from North Carolina to Tennessee, lived on the bank of the Wolf River in a log house, and it was in this humble abode that Samuel D. was born.
In 1835, the father of our subject started to remove to Arkansas, his entire wealth consisting of one yoke of small steers, a blind sorrel mare and about $100 in cash, and his family consisted of himself, wife and five children. While passing through Bowling Green, Ky., he bought Samuel D. and his brother, Benjamin F., each a pair of shoes, the first pair either of them had ever had. This was in the fall of the year, and as the weather was getting cold he concluded to remain in that vicinity and go on in the spring. The family went into camp near Friendship Church, and during the winter the journey to Arkansas was abandoned. In the spring of 1836 he came to southern Illinois, settling in Johnson County at a time when there were but five dwellings between Grantsburg and Vienna. The land was nearly all owned by Government and was selling at $1.25 an acre, but as Mr. Poor had no money then with which to buy he had to earn some before he could make his first entry. He therefore took a contract to cut out a set of barn logs for Joseph McCorkle for $50, and upon the receipt of this money entered forty acres of Government land.
Mr. Poor and his family cleared up of this land about twenty acres the first year, and built a fence around it. About this time he and his daughter Nancy died, and for the succeeding two or three years his widow and the rest of the children got along as best they could with only the old blind mare, the little steers having been sold some time before in order to buy something to eat. Then Mrs. Poor married again and after a time separated from her husband and sold the property, after which the family lived for some time on rented land. She soon after secured a home for Samuel D. with Joseph McCorkle, when he was sixteen years of age, the understanding being that he should attend school a part of the time and when twenty one years of age should receive a horse, a saddle and a bridle. When he was twenty years old, however, he and Mr. McCorkle had a misunderstanding and separated, and he went out into the world for himself. His first work was to carry the mail for N. B. Jinnett, a son-in-law of Mr. Mc Corkle, for $6 per month, half in money and half in clothes. While living at Mr. Jinnett's he was attacked with a fever of some kind and was attended by Dr. Garey, of Vienna, who gave him plenty of calomel and left strict instructions that he should have no water to drink. But when Mr. and Mrs. Jinnett were asleep he got out of bed and drank all the water he wanted and immediately began to improve.
After terminating his contract with Mr. Jinnett to carry the mail, Mr. Poor hired out to a Mr. William Price to run a wool-carding machine, which Mr. Price had just set up and which was the first machine of the kind in southern Illinois. Young Poor worked at this business for about eighteen months, and afterward worked land on shares for A. D. Howell, he to have one-fourth of the crop. He was next occupied for six months in Mississippi, on Ozark Island No. 75, cutting cordwood, and had a very severe experience with the floods of the Mississippi River, and with a number of his friends had the cholera. Returning to Metropolis richer in experience but poorer in purse than when he went down the river, he again tried working land on shares for Mr. Howell. He did not meet with the most gratifying success, and refusing to become clerk for James Hammonds, of Vienna, he with some others went to Missouri and there worked for James Small at making picket fences and cutting cordwood. They then worked for a neighbor of Mr. Small, and after a time returned to Mr. Howell's in Illinois. Soon afterward Samuel bought the improvement already made by Benton Modglin, giving $100 for the improvement and taking the risk of someone "entering him out" before spring. The next year he bought a land warrant covering his entry.
When he was twenty-seven years of age our subject married Sarah Jane Mount, and soon afterward bought eighty acres of his father-in-law, going in debt for the entire amount, $300, but by the time the war came on he had two hundred acres of land all paid for. In 1863 he began the business of merchandising, buying out a lot of goods, including five barrels of whisky, and going in debt for the entire amount, $600. He almost immediately sold the whisky for $400 and reduced the indebtedness to $200. In the summer of 1863 he began the business of selling goods in earnest, but after a time sold out to J. C. Simpson and J. T. Keith and again became connected with merchandising, continuing in this line until 1882, when he retired for the purpose of settling up his debts. In 1884 he went into business again in company with L. G. Simmons and Nathan Frizzell, under the firm name of S. D. Poor & Co., which business was continued for some years.
Mr. Poor was married in May, 1854, to Sarah Jane Mount, a native of Johnson County and a daughter of William and Nancy Mount, pioneers of that county. Mr. and Mrs. Poor raised six children, namely: Jane, who married Dr. William J. Fern; Jasper Newton; Sidney, who married L. H. Frizzell, a druggist of Vienna; Mary, who married Pleasant G. Burris, a merchant of Grantsburg; Lizzie, wife of Lewis G. Simmons, a merchant at Metropolis, and Dora, unmarried and living at home.
Our subject, although practically uneducated in his youth, is possessed of considerable literary ability, and in 1885 published an autobiography. One year later he published a work entitled "A Night in Dreamland," and in 1889 a work entitled "A Practical Talk on Christianity and Politics."

Extracted 16 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 515-516.

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