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Charles Chandler

CHANDLER, (Col.) Charles (deceased). Among the names of pioneers by whom citizens of a former generation were wont to conjure, and to which its citizens of the present generation look with veneration akin to that of the devotee toward his patron saint, is the one whose name stands at the head of this sketch. Charles Chandler was born in Alstead, Cheshire County, N. H., August 28, 1809. On both sides of the family, he was descended from most prominent and worthy ancestors. His father, James Chandler, a farmer by occupation, was a native of New Hampshire, where he was born in 1771, and his mother, Abigail (Vilas) Chandler, was born in Massachusetts, in 1775. The former died November 18, 1857, and the latter passed away November 29, 1854. The subject of this sketch worked for his father on the farm until he reached the age of nineteen years. At that period he obtained the parental consent to go to Boston, where he secured employment in a mercantile concern. In 1831 he came west to Cincinnati, and, in 1834, arrived in Macomb, Ill., the field of his future endeavors. Here he was employed as clerk in a store of which his brother, Thompson, who had preceded him, was part proprietor. For two years be remained with this concern, and then established himself in business on his own account, which he conducted three years. This brought him to a period when the development of farming lands and the enhancement of realty values constituted an inducement to enter the real-estate business. This he undertook and met with fair success. He then branched out into extensive land transactions, and bought and sold large tracts in various directions. In a few years he became the owner of vast acres, which the extension of different railroads lines made quite valuable.

In 1858 Mr. Chandler engaged in the banking business and continued thus until the time of his death, December 26, 1878. When he established his bank in Macomb failures of banks and business houses were of almost daily occurrence throughout the country, yet the people of McDonough County reposed in Colonel Chandler implicit confidence. The general stringency prevailed until 1861, when the money market was drained of silver and gold, and no change was available for the settlement of local business accounts. In this emergency Mr. Chandler issued scrip to the amount of several thousand dollars, in denominations of five, ten and twenty-five cents, to meet the demand for small currency. Specimens of this opportune and useful medium are doubtless scattered throughout the country, which have been carefully preserved as souvenirs of those days. Mr. Chandler conducted a private banking business until 1865, when the First National Bank of Macomb was organized, of which he became the President, establishing it on a solid foundation. He aided also, in 1865, in forming a private banking institution at Bushnell, which subsequently developed into the Farmers' National Bank. In this he was a stockholder and director until his death. Mr. Chandler took a deep and active interest in whatever pertained to the public welfare. At the time of the Civil War he was past middle age and his health which had been for years somewhat frail, prevented him from entering service in the field. He was, however, so zealous in arousing others to action that Governor Yates, the "War Governor" of Illinois, commissioned him Colonel of State Militia, with authority to recruit a regiment of home guards.

Colonel Chandler richly deserves a niche of honor among the representative men of Illinois. Although he exercised a dominating influence in the conduct of extensive financial transactions, in which he attained signal success, his kindly instincts were never smothered by the acquirement of wealth, and he remained to the last an affable and courteous gentleman, companionable with all who were worthy of his acquaintance. He listened readily and with quick response to every appeal in behalf of a deserving cause, although he avoided indiscriminate charity. His benevolent nature would not permit him to refuse succor in cases of individual distress. He made the "Golden Rule" the criterion of his course in life. His personal honor was absolutely without a blemish, and not a whisper was ever heard in question of his business integrity. In physical mold, Colonel Chandler was five feet, six inches in height, and weighed 160 pounds. He was smooth-faced, spotlessly neat in attire and alert in carriage. The impairment of his heath in later years compelled him to seek much recreation in travel. He was accustomed to spend the winter seasons in the Southern States, and in touring South America, Central America, the West Indies, California and Mexico. While going thus from place to place, he maintained a keen observance of conditions and opportunities, and made occasional business ventures which added profit to pleasure.

On December 15,1836, Colonel Chandler was united in marriage with Sarah K. Cheatham, of Macomb, who was born October 19, 1819, the daughter of Samuel G. and Martha Cheatham, natives of Kentucky. She died September 29, 1855, and her loss was keenly felt throughout a wide acquaintance, as that of a most estimable woman, a dutiful wife and fond mother. Seven children blessed the union of this worthy and honored husband and wife, four of whom passed away in infancy or childhood. Those surviving are Martha Abigail, widow of Henry C. Twyman, of Macomb; Charles Vilasco, President of the Bank of Macomb, and James Edgar, of St. Louis, Mo. After the death of his wife the heart of the father seemed to go out with still more ardent affection toward the bereaved children and their offspring, in whose companionship he found great solace and comfort, and whose idol he was to the last.

On political issues Mr. Chandler was first a Whig and afterward a Repuldican. He neither sought nor desired political preferment, however, as his mind was fully occupied with matters of weightier importance. In accepting certain local offices at various times, be simply yielded to the pressure of public opinion. He was Coroner for two years; School Commissioner, four years; Justice of the Peace, several terms; member of the City Council, and Mayor one term. In estimating the character and significance to a career like that of Colonel Chandler, words of mere encomium seem quite superfluous. His life speaks for itself. Its impulses, thoughts, and actions are indelibly impressed on the material, moral, educational and social life of the community. As, in days of antiquity is was said in relation to an eminent Roman who excelled in virtuous and beneficent deeds, so may it be said In Macomb, by way of tribute to the character of the lamented Charles Chandler: "If you seek his monument, look around you."

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907.

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