COMPTON, William Alexander.--Among the younger representative men of McDonough County, none stand higher in the estimation of the people, or those who are intimately acquainted with him, than does he of whom we now write. William Alexander Compton was born in Scotland Township, McDonough County, Ill., on the 5th day of March, 1864, and is the second son of Henry and Sarah J. (Smith) Compton, the former a native of Ohio, the latter of Illinois. They were the parents of nine children, seven of whom are yet living, two sons and five daughters. Edward and Arabel died in infancy. The paternal great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch was born in Ireland about the year 1750, and his wife, whose family name was Hill, was born in Germany about 1757. About 1790 they emigrated to this country and settled in Hagerstown, Md., where their son, Henry Compton, was born soon afterward. The latter was a shoemaker and worked at his trade for a number of years. He emigrated from Maryland about the year 1820 and settled on a farm near Royalton, Fairfield County, Ohio, where his son Henry, the father of William A. Compton, was born November 10, 1828. Mr. Compton’s maternal great-grandfather, Thomas DeLappe, was the son of a Frenchman. He was born in Kentucky in 1771, lived to a great age, and died in 1873 at his home near Burlington, Iowa. The maternal grandfather, David Smith, was born in Kentucky, February 11, 1807. He settled in Scotland Township, McDonough County, in 1838, where he resided until his death, which occurred April 2, 1869. He followed broom manufacturing for a short time, but the latter part of his life was devoted exclusively to farming. The maternal grandmother, Henrietta (DeLappe) Smith, was born in North Carolina, February 19, 1816. When she was six months of age her parents moved to the State of Tennessee, residing there until 1832, when they moved to Schuyler County, Ill., where she was married to David Smith, on September 1st of that year. She was the mother of eighteen children, had twenty-three grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. She moved to Newton, Iowa, in the spring of 1875, where she died July 21, 1897. Both she and her husband are buried in Camp Creek Cemetery, in Scotland Township. Sarah J. (Smith) Compton, mother of William A. Compton, was born February 25, 1836, near Littleton, Schuyler County, Ill., and was the daughter of David and Henrietta Smith. She died in Macomb, Ill., October 5, 1898. In 1846 Henry Compton and his wife, grandparents of the subject of this sketch, moved from Ohio to Illinois, and settled on a farm in Madison County, where they resided until death. In 1852 their son Henry moved to Burlington. Iowa, where he was married to Sarah J. Smith, on the 25th day of September of that year. They went to housekeeping in Burlington, remaining there until the spring of 1856, when they removed to McDonough County, Ill., settling on a farm near Industry, where they resided for two years, when they removed to Muscatine, Iowa, where he purchased a farm and resided until the spring of 1861. At that time he sold his property, returned to McDonough County, and settled on a farm which he purchased in Scotland Township and where he resided until the spring of 1893, when he retired from agricultural pursuits and moved to Macomb, where he now resides.
William A. Compton, whose name heads this record, is a fair illustration of that type of men, more common in this country than elsewhere, who have come from the ranks of common life, and who, by their own exertions and high character, have risen to positions of honor and financial prosperity that command the respect and esteem of the people. Reared to manhood upon his father's farm in Scotland Township, he acquired his education in the district schools and at the Macomb Normal College, from which institution he graduated June 5, 1885. He worked on the farm one year after graduating, then taught school for five terms, at the same time reading law, and was admitted to the bar November 21, 1888, at Springfield, Ill. He was at the same time fIlling the position of Principal of the public schools of Bentley, Hancock County. With what means he had saved from teaching, he returned to Macomb at the close of the school year and, on the 20th day of March, 1889, opened up an office to engage in the practice of his chosen profession. He was ambitious, and, while he had no wealthy or influential friends to back him, he had the two more important elements so essential in the make-up of every young man who succeeds, namely a strong will and an invincible determination to do things. He did not wait for opportunities, but created them; and, while he encountered many obstacles, each one only spurred him on to greater effort and renewed determination to conquer. With a keen foresight rarely possessed by a young man of that age, he was not long in deciding that he could make more money in other lines than in the practice of law alone, so he turned his attention more directly to real estate, and that his judgment was right is attested by the fact that he at once acquired a large and lucrative business and is now one of the most successful business men in the county.
On the 5th day of March, 1890, the twenty-sixth anniversary of his birth, Mr. Compton was united in marriage to Mary Pearl Shriner, the second daughter of Levi H. and Harriet (Collings) Shriner, then of Macomb Township, now of the city of Macomb. He has one son, William Alexander Compton, Jr., who was born November 2, 1894. Mr. Compton is a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Red Men.
Mr. Compton is a thorough and consistent Democrat. Having been imbued with the principles of that party from early childhood, his faith in its teachings and his zeal in its service increased yearly. At home he is one of the foremost leaders in its councils and an aggressive champion in defense of its traditions. He was First Assistant Clerk of the House of Representatives in 1891, being nominated in the Democratic caucus by acclamatlon. He served as Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of McDonough County for a number of years, and his ability as an organizer is recognized by men of all political parties. He is a politician, but a politician in the best sense of that much abused word. In the fall of 1896 he was elected to the Legislature for the Twenty-eighth District, then composed of the counties of Hancock, McDonough and Schuyler, and was one of the most active and influential members of his party in the House. He spent the winter of 1900 In the city of New York, and while there became a member of Tammany Hall, the famous Democratic organization of that city. He has an extensive acquaintance throughout the State, and is a recognized leader in Western Illinois. On the 26th of October, 1901, Mr. Compton, with others, organized the Macomb and Western Illinois Railway Company, for the purpose of building a line from Macomb to Industry and Littleton, and was one of the moving spirits in its construction. He was elected President and Director of the company, which position he still holds. After encountering great difficulties the road was finally completed and the first regular train was run over it December 23, 1903. Of great force of character, of strong likes and dislikes, he stands high in the community in which he lives, and is ever ready to contribute of his time and means toward the promotion of every enterprise that will add to the growth and prosperity of his town.
Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907.