Biography - James Slack

JAMES SLACK, who is one of the substantial farmers of Vienna Township, and is a man much respected for his sterling character by the people among whom his life has been passed, was born in one of the pioneer homes of Johnson County, in what is now Bloomfield Township, October 10, 1835. His father, William Slack, who was a native of Kentucky, came to Illinois when a young man and selected his future home in Johnson County, thus becoming one of the early settlers of this region. He bought a tract of wild land from the Government in Bloomfield Township, paying the regular price at that time of $1.25 an acre. He shared the labors of his fellow-pioneers in opening up the country, and will ever be remembered as a factor in the early growth of the township where he passed his remaining days after coming to this State. His good wife, who also died in Bloomfield Township, was Mary Finney in her maiden days, and was a native of Virginia. Her parents came from that State to this, and were pioneers of Johnson County. She was the mother of thirteen children.
The subject of this sketch was reared and educated in his native township. The schools of his day were conducted on the subscription plan, each family paying according to the number of scholars sent. The schoolhouses were built of logs and were rudely furnished with home-made furniture, manufactured by splitting logs, hewing one side smooth and inserting wooden pins for support, and the seats thus roughly made had no backs, nor were there any desks in front of them. A board laid on wooden pegs inserted in holes bored in the logs on one side of the room was used as a writing desk by the large scholars. The buildings were heated by fire-places, the chimneys being made of earth and sticks, and a section of log cut out of the wall served to admit the light in lieu of a window.
When our subject was young there were no railways here nor any convenient markets, and the people were obliged to live mostly on home products and wild game, such as venison and turkey. The mother of our subject, in common with other pioneer women, used to card, spin and weave wool and flax to make cloth for garments for her children. The father tanned all the leather that he needed for shoes for his family or for other purposes, digging out a trough from a log in which to tan it, and gathering bark to use in the process, and in addition to this he made his own shoes. He was a man of resources, who could turn his hand to almost anything, and was an excellent farmer in spite of the primitive tools with which he was often obliged to work.
Mr. Slack resided with his parents until his marriage, teaching school and also affording his father valuable assistance in farm work, at the same time gaining the practical experience necessary to make him a good farmer. After his marriage he rented land for two years, and then his father gave him fifty acres three miles north of Vienna, and he bought other land adjoining. He lived there five years, and at the expiration of that time bought the place where he now resides in Vienna Township, which comprises seventy-seven and one-half acres of choice land. He has made many improvements since the farm came into his possession, has its fields under good tillage, and has ample buildings and good machinery with which to conduct his agricultural operations.
Our subject was first married April 26, 1857, to Miss Amanda M. Jennett, a native of Johnson County, and a daughter of Nathan and Mary Jennett. After a wedded life of twelve years she was removed by the hand of death, December 21, 1869. There are five children living born of that marriage: Mrs. Florence A. Shawbridge, Mrs. Mary M. Christensen, James A., Alice E. and Amanda O. Mr. Slack was married a second time, October 26, 1873, tailing as his wife Mrs. Mary K. Haivick, a native of Marshall County, Tenn., a daughter of John T. and Elizabeth (Wolf) Hogg, and widow of Granville B. Haivick. Mrs. Slack had two children by her first marriage, both of whom are dead. Her son, John A., who was a young man of much promise, and was a graduate of a school of pharmacy, died at the age of twenty-eight. Her daughter, Cynthia, was just blossoming into womanhood when she died at the age of eighteen years. Our subject and his wife arc members in high standing of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He is a firm believer in temperance, is himself strictly temperate, and has carried his views into polities by identifying himself with the Prohibition party.

Extracted 02 May 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 245-246

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