A man whose life's activities have demanded the possession and use of a high order of intellectual attainments as well as ability in leadership of men is Mr. William M. Grissom, Jr., who is now well known as the president of the Merchants State Bank of Centralia, Illinois. The Grissom family was one of the first to settle in Johnson county, Illinois, John Grissom having crossed the country between North Carolina and that point in 1818, traveling the whole distance in a one horse cart. This was the great-grandfather of William M. Grissom, Jr., whose life it is our purpose to sketch. Next in line came Warren Grissom, a native of North Carolina, who was brought by his father to Illinois. At the age of twenty-four years he was united in marriage to Miranda Finney, a native of Ohio, whose parents died when she was a small child, and who was brought to Golconda, Illinois, when six years old by an aunt with whom she lived. Her demise occurred several years before that of her husband, who married again later and was the father of ten children. His death occurred in 1867, and he was buried in Pope county. The oldest son of his family was William M. Grissom, Sr., the father of our subject, his birthplace being a prairie home in Grantsburg township, and the date on which he was born, December 9, 1830. In 1859 he assumed the responsibilities of a family man and was united in wedlock with Miss Eliza Farless, a native of Johnson county. To this union were born ten children, including: Sidney A., deceased; James E., Jane, Thomas S., Kittie and Ida, all of whom died in infancy; Mary Elizabeth, wife of Frank Ferris; and William M., Jr. The mother of these children died in 1886 and subsequently Mr. Grissom married again, his second wife being Eliza Spense, of Massac county, Illinois. Mr. Grissom is a prosperous farmer and now resides with his wife in Vienna.

William M. Grissom, Jr., was born October 3, 1872, on a farm in Grantsburg township, Johnson county, and until seventeen years of age he employed his time in attending school and performing such duties as are common to the son of an agriculturist. He then entered the Southern Illinois State Normal University, and for several years alternately attended college and taught school to help defray his college expenses, continuing with this method until he had acquired the equivalent of a three years' course. It was Mr. Grissom's worthy ambition to devote his life to the cause of education, and this desire he carried out with fidelity. He followed the pedagogical profession for a period of twenty years, during eight of which he filled the office of county superintendent of schools of Johnson county, discharging his duties in a manner highly satisfactory to the public and with great credit to himself. He was first elected to that office in 1902, served a term of four years and was re-elected in 1906, continuing in office until December 1, 1910.

While acting as county superintendent of schools Mr. Grissom was a strong advocate of agricultural extension work and zealously labored for the advancement of scientific agricultural methods, and the introduction into the rural schools of studies covering them. His interest in the promotion of the best interests of the rural people was further demonstrated by his activity in the Johnson County Farmers' Institute, of which organization he acted as secretary for several years and in January, 1911, was elected president. An off-shoot of this institute was the Johnson County Fair Association, Mr. Grissom becoming its first secretary and filling the same office for three successive years, 1905-06-07. While at the head of that institution's affairs the new fair grounds were platted and he, with the assistance of J. C. Blair, of the State University, laid out the plans for the location of the various buildings and supervised their erection. He is at the present time filling the office of president of the Fair Association.

For several years Mr. Grissom was connected with the Agricultural Extension Department of the State University as lecturer, and it was largely due to his influence that the agricultural department has been added to the curriculum of the Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbondale, of which institution of learning he is a trustee. Mr. Grissom's interest and activities in agricultural work are not wholly theoretical, for he is a practical farmer and is known as the premier dairyman of Johnson county, and owns a two hundred and five acre farm near Vienna that is one of the finest in this section of the country. Owing to his removal to Centralia to live and the multiplication of his commercial interests he recently disposed of a splendid herd of Holstein cattle which he had kept upon his farm.

Mr. Grissom's connection with financial institutions dates back several years, and while filling the office of county superintendent of schools he was first elected as a director of the First National Bank of Vienna, and in July 1, 1910, was made vice president of the same institution. In the summer of 1911 Mr. Grissom, in company with other substantial men, purchased a controlling interest in the stock of the Merchant's State Bank of Centralia, Illinois, which was established in 1889, and is known as one of the most stable financial institutions of that city. The bank has a capital stock of fifty thousand dollars and assets aggregating four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. On August 1, 1911, the new owners had an election of officers, which resulted as follows: William M. Grissom, Jr., president; J. Hefter, vice president; Jacob Pfeifer, second vice president; J. F. Mackay, cashier; S. Condit, assistant cashier. President Grissom removed with his family to Centralia in October, 1911. to take active charge of the operation of the bank. The foregoing recital apply illustrates the wide extent and superior character of the activities of Mr. Grissom in business and professional life, and the fact that he has achieved abundant success in whatever channel he has directed his endeavors proves his possession of unlimited energy and a high order of ability. Yet his interests are not confined to commercial and professional work, and social and religious circles also are debtor to his activity. He has from his youth been a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, worked in the Sunday-school as one of its most effective teachers and he has served also as president of the Johnson County Union Sunday-school Association. He takes an active part in the direction of the church's affairs, being a trustee of the Vienna Methodist church. His lodge affiliations are numerous and include membership in the A. F. & A. M., Knights Templars, Eastern Star and Knights of Pythias. Politically he is a believer in the principles of the Republican party.

On April 8, 1894, occurred the marriage of Mr. Grissom to Miss Nettie I. Farris, a daughter of T. J. and Amanda Farris, of Johnson county. Mr. and Mrs. Grissom are the parents of four children, three of whom are living. They are Curtis, sixteen years of age; Dorothy, twelve years old; and Mildred, three and one-half years of age. James died when a child of two and one-half years.

The accession to the citizenship in any community of a man of the stable character and high abilities possessed by Mr. Grissom is a distinct advantage, and Centralia is to be congratulated upon his becoming a resident there. Few men are accorded the unstinted admiration and respect given by all to Mr. Grissom and among his extensive acquaintance there is not one but holds him in highest esteem for his many personal attributes and his public benefactions.

Extracted 07 Nov 2018 by Norma Hass from History of Southern Illinois, by George Washington Smith, published in 1912, volume 3, pages 1207-1209.

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