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Chapter 35 - The Town of Adair

Although this place was platted under the name of Reedyville, which has never been changed, the location is better known as Adair, which is the name given the post-office. But this can not be said to be the true name of the town.

Adair is situated on the southeast corner of the northwest quarter of section 15, New Salem township. The village was laid out in August, 1870, by John Reedy and Jacob Grim.

The Rock Island & St. Louis division of the C. B. & Q., railroad, runs through the town. That part of the plat west of the railroad track, was laid out by John Reedy, and on the east by Jacob Grim.

The first building was an old house that was moved on to the town site, in 1870. The first dwelling house erected in the place was put up by Thomas Ellwell, in 1870.

The first store was built in that year, by Strickler & Bennett. They opened out with a stock of general merchandise. Strickler sold his interest to Bennett, in 1872. The latter continued the business till 1882. He then sold to Arnold & Moran, who continued the business until the fall of 1883, when Herndon& Company purchased the business, which they still operate.

The next store building was built by J. Miner. He kept a general store up to 1883, when he sold to Arnold & Moran, who still continue the business.

There is one drug house, built in 1878, by Byron Pontious. He sold to Allison & Duncan, in 1880. Duncan sold his interest to Allison, in 1884. Mr. Allison is now running the store.

A. Hanson built a grain warehouse, in 1872. He was the sole grain buyer, till 1874. In that year, he sold to S. A. Hendee, of Bushnell, who still retains the control.

In 1874, S. West, of Bushnell, built a grain warehouse. In 1879, he sold it to Jonas D. Wissler. This gentleman is now engaged in the business of buying and shipping grain.

Jonas D. Wissler, grain merchant at Adair, is a native of Ohio, and was born in Pickaway county, May 4, 1834. He resided with his parents until he reached the age of 27, then, in october, 1851, emigrated to Fulton county, Illinois, where he followed farming until 1859. He then removed to McDonough county, still following the same occupation. On September 30, 1860, he was married to Nancy A. Mathewson, a native of Hancock county, Virginia, born June 27, 1837. Mr. Wissler enlisted, in the spring of 1862, in company L, of the 7th Illinois cavalry. On the 11th day of October, of the same year, he was captured by the rebels at Collierville, Tennessee, and sent to Belle Island, where he was a prisoner until March 20, 1863, when he was paroled and sent to join his regiment. He served until March 1, 1865, and was mustered out of the service at Eastport, Alabama, reaching home March 16. He resumed farming, which he continued until March, 1871. At that date he removed to the village of Adair, New Salem township, and engaged in his present business. In addition to his grain trade, he deals also in stock, lumber and coal. Mr. and Mrs. Wissler have two children--Luella B. and Homer K., both living with their parents. The former is a teacher, having taught 10 terms in different districts in this county. Her first school was at Pilot Grove. Mr. Wissler is, politically, a democrat, and has held the office of school director of district No. 5, New Salem township, two terms. He is an energetic business man, and has quite an extensive trade. He bought and shipped, in March, 1885, between the 23d and 28th days of that month 12,420 bushels of corn and oats, shipping at one time 21 car loads. Mr. Wissler's father, George Wissler, was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, March 21, 1796, and moved with his parents to Pickaway county, Ohio, in 1806. His early life was spent in that county, and he was there married to Sarah Throgmorton, who died in 1834, in Pickaway county. He removed to Illinois in the fall of 1851, and followed farming here until the time of his death, April 4, 1884.

There is one harness shop, built in 1875, by George Morgan. In 1876 he sold to John Armstrong, who in turn sold to J. J. Wafer, in 1877. He now carries on the shop.

Chapman, Ellwell & Co. built a wagon and blacksmith shop in 1875. They conducted the business until 1878, when Chapman sold his interest to the Sylvester Brothers, who, in 1881, sold to E. M. Lowens. He sold, in the fall of 1884, to Chapman& Leighty. The wagon and wood-working business is now carried on by them, while Mr. Ellwell conducts the blacksmith shop.

Thomas Ellwell, blacksmith in the village of Reedyville, is a native of Knox county, Ohio, born November 21, 1835. He emigrated to McDonough county, Illinois, and located, with his mother, on a farm in Eldorado township. In the spring of 1849 he went to Vermont, Fulton county, and there engaged with T. G. Wisdon to learn the blacksmith trade, and with whom he served an apprenticeship of three years. He then went to Quincy, Illinois, and worked three months as a journeyman blacksmith, for T. J. Weatherwax; remained with him three months, then returned to McDonough county, and worked two months at his trade for Andrew J. Donelson, after which he went to Browning, Schuyler county, and remained three years, still following his trade. While in that place he was married, in 1858, to Ellen E. Edwards, who was born in Pittsfield, Pike county, Illinois, August 16, 1839. They have had six children, five of whom are living--Mary E., aged 25, now married to C. M. Sylvester, of Fairfield, Clay county, Nebraska; Henry M., aged 22; Fannie M., aged 18; James H., aged 16; and Lewis G., aged 13 years. Angeline C. is deceased. Mr. Elwell built the house which he now occupies, in 1870. It cost $500, and was the first house erected in the village of Reedyville. He is a republican in politics, and an enterprising and useful citizen.


The hotel was built in 1878 by the present proprietor, R. M. Hammer. It is not a large hotel, but furnishes ample accommodations for those coming to Adair.

R. M. Hammer, the subject of this sketch, was born in McDonough county, November 4, 1834. He remained on the home farm until 1875, when he removed to Crawford county, Kansas, and farmed until 1878, when he returned to McDonough county, and took up his residence in the village of Adair, where he built the hotel property which he now occupies, a two-story frame building in good repair. Mr. Hammer owns a fine team of horses, with which he transports passengers and baggage to different parts of the country. His place is one of the neatest in the country, and is a favorite resort. Mrs. Hammer is a daughter of Nelson Bates, and was born in Kentucky January 10, 1841. They have had four children, three of whom died in infancy. Mr. Hammer is a republican in politics.

A building for a hardware store was erected in 1878 by Leroy Pontious. He continued the business until 1882, when he took his brother Lyman into partnership. The business was conducted by the firm until 1883, when Herndon & Co. purchased the stock. The Pontious Brothers then engaged in the manufacture of hedge trimmers, putting in machinery for that purpose in the building which they had occupied as a hardware store. They have made additions to that building, and now do a general machine business, repairing and manufacturing.

Samuel Leighty carries on the agricultural implement trade. The business was started in 1880, by C. R. Sylvester. He sold out to the present proprietor in 1882.

Samuel Leighty is a native of Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and was born March 12, 1851. He was brought up on a farm, and lived at home on the old place until 21 years old. He then started out for himself, working by the month on the farm. He was thus employed for four years, when he engaged in running a threshing machine, and continued that business for 10 seasons, working meanwhile on the farm for different persons. He then continued until 1875, when the important event occurred of his marriage to Eva Seaburn, daughter of George and Sarah (Kerr) Seaburn. They have had born to them four [sic] children--Fred, born November 26, 1876; Olive, born July 29, 1879; Bessie B., born November 20, 1881. Mr. Leighty followed farming until 1881, then removed to the village of Adair, and has since that time been engaged in the agricultural implement trade, selling machinery of all kinds. In 1879, he was elected township collector. Politically, he is a republican.

J. T. Griffing has a book and stationery stock in the postoffice building, which he carries on in connection with his duties as postmaster.

J. T. Griffing, the present postmaster at Adair, is a son of Thomas and Sarah (Moore) Griffing. Thomas Griffing died in 1859, in Jasper county, Illinois. His widow, Mrs. Sarah Griffing, is now living in Kendall county, Illinois. J. T. Griffing was born in Jasper county, on March 20, 1849. His early life was spent upon a farm, where he remained until 1866, then went to Fulton county and engaged in farming for two years, after which he went to Cumberland county, Illinois, and was there employed in teaching school, winters, and farming in summers, until the spring of 1877. At that date he came to McDonough county and went to work on a farm, which he continued 18 months, then again engaged in teaching school. He followed that occupation until the spring of 1884, at which time he was appointed to his present position. In addition to the postoffice, he keeps a stock of stationery, tobaccos, cigars, confectionery, etc. He is, politically, a republican.

Arnold and Moran conducted the only lumber yard in the place. They handle lumber of all kinds, shingles, lath, lime, etc.

There are two billiard halls in the place, conducted, respectively, by L. W. Lybarger, and E. Hodgson.


There has been one fire in the town, which destroyed three store houses and their contents. The parties burned out were: N. J. Miner, dry goods and groceries; William Miner, general stock, and Pontious Brothers, drugs and hardware. All were partially insured.

William G. Wilkins shipped the first car load of corn, and the first car of rye, from Reedyville, or Adair.

Source: The History of McDonough County, together with sketches of the towns, villages and townships, educational, civil, military and political history; portraits of prominent individuals, and biographies of the representative citizens, 1885, pages 926-929. Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen

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