Biography - George W. English

HON. GEORGE W. ENGLISH. It would be hard to find a better illustration of the facility with which, under the liberal institutions of this great country, a man of ability and integrity may rise to any station, perhaps, among the most exalted, than is afforded in the history of the Hon. George W. English, now serving his third term as representative in the State Legislature, and who is fast ascending the ladder of public fame. Mr. English was born May 9, 1866, on a farm in Johnson county, Illinois, six miles east of Vienna, a son of Manuel C. and Rebecca (Smith) English, who both now reside on the old homestead.

Mr. English's great-grandfather, Abraham English, came from county Kerry, Ireland, with his brother, James English, and settled at Roanoke, North Carolina, during Colonial days. Abraham later removed to the Pedee River, in South Carolina, while James went North to Vermont, and was with Ethan Allen at the battle of Ticonderoga. Abraham English furnished the horse that carried the messenger bearing the news to the band of patriots that a company of Royalists were camped on the Pedee River, which culminated in the dispersing of that company. His son, Jonathan English, grandfather of George W., was born on the Pedee River in 1812, and became a large land owner in the South, but gave up a part of his land and came North at the time of the Seminole war, and settled in Illinois in 1846, spending the remainder of his life in Massac county, where his death occurred in 1891.

Manuel C. English was born in Marshall county, Kentucky, April 17, 1842, and when the Civil war broke out became a member of Company B, One Hundred and Twentieth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, with which he served three years, participating in numerous engagements and establishing an excellent war record. He was married to Rebecca Smith, who was born in the northern part of Massac county, Illinois, September 5, 1843. She was of Swedish-Scotch descent, her grandfather being an Emerson of Scotland, whose ancestors had originally come from Sweden, and he married Elizabeth McDonald. Mrs. English's father, Americus Smith, a native of North Carolina, was a Baptist minister, who commenced preaching when he was twenty years of age, and continued to preach the Gospel until he reached the age of seventy-five years. He came to Illinois in 1814, and at the battle of the Regulators against the Flatheads, at Fort Massac in 1846, he laid down the Bible to take up arms in behalf of law and order. It is believed that Sergeant McDonald, of Revolutionary fame, is also a member of this family 011 the maternal side. Manuel C. and Rebecca (Smith) English had the following children: Caddie Elizabeth Barham, who died in 1884, the mother of two children; George W.; Julia Victoria, who died January 20, 1912, the wife of H. A. Roundtree, has two sons and five daughters; and Charles Americus, of Mayfield, Kentucky, has a family of four sons and four daughters.

George W. English remained on the home farm until he was twenty-four years of age, and his primary education was secured in the public schools. In 1883-4-5 he attended Ewing College, and he subsequently entered Illinois Wesleyan University, at Bloomington, from which he was graduated in law in 1891. In 1893 he entered into practice at Vienna, in partnership with H. M. Ridenhouse, of this city, and when that gentleman died in 1896 Mr. English took over the practice of the firm and has since followed it alone. He was elected to the office of city attorney of Vienna, and during his incumbency of that office he displayed vigorous action and strict enforcement of law and order in the community. In 1888 he held a commission as aide-de-camp on the staff of Colonel Frank McCrillis, and in May, 1907, he was appointed to the staff as counselor of the state commander of the Sons of Veterans, of which he is a member. In 1906 his long and faithful labor in the ranks of the Democratic party in this section was rewarded by his election to the office of member of the Illinois State Legislature, and he is serving his third term in that high position, representing the Fifty-first district. Fraternally he is connected with the A. F. & A. M. and the R. A. M., the I. O. O. F., the K. of P., the Order of the Eastern Star, the Modern Woodmen and the Royal Neighbors. His wife is an active member of the Methodist Episcopal church, in which he is the teacher of the Bible class.

On September 23, 1894, Mr. English was married to Miss Lillie M. Farris, of Johnson county, Illinois, daughter of Thomas G. and Mary A. (Gillespie) Farris, natives of North Carolina. Mr. Farris was of French descent and was reared near Salisbury, North Carolina. He and his wife removed to Tennessee, from whence they came to Illinois, where they first met and were married, and here Mr. Farris was engaged in agricultural pursuits until his death, in 1894. His widow, who survives him, resides on the Johnson county homestead. Mr. and Mrs. English have four sons: Thomas Farris; George W., Jr., Virgil Carroll and William Jefferson.

Mr. English has invariably commanded the respect of his co-workers in the Legislature, creating the impression that he is a man of judgment and convictions, one who could voice his sentiments before a body politic when there was occasion. He has administered the affairs of his office with marked ability and success and no districts have possessed a more creditable representative either in appearance or capability. His popularity is evidenced by the fact that he has been victoriously returned to his high office although the opposition parties have made the most strenuous efforts to defeat him, thus proving that the people have faith in him and have long since become convinced that his policies are as safe and sure as they are broad, generous and progressive.

Extracted 14 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 745-747.

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