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Thomas Terrill

TERRILL, Thomas (deceased).— The energy and wealth of McDonough County have been recruited from many parts of the world, but to no country does it owe more of courage and practical achievement than to the region comprising the British Isles. In many instances men almost primitive in their educational equipment have grappled splendidly with the opportunities here presented, and upon their departure from accustomed surroundings, have left a record for integrity and general worth as encouraging as it was useful and difficult of attainment. To such a class belonged Thomas Terrill, who was born in County Cornwall, southwestern England, February 28, 1833, a son of Thomas Henry Terrill, who was identified for his entire active life, with the gloomy occupation of mining in Cornwall.

The youth of Thomas Terrill was a hard and colorless one. He knew nothing of the pleasures and diversions which so richly visit the boyhood of American boys, for at the age of seven he went to work in the mines of Pennsylvania, to which his parents had in the meantime removed, continuing thus until he came to Illinois in 1854. This being before the days of the railroad, he traveled overland and by river to his destination at Galesburg, in Knox County, bringing with him his wife and their first born son, John. The former was Jeannette Cowan, a native of Nova Scotia, who received her education at Sharon, Pa., and to whom he was married on November 2, 1853. By stage he soon after made his way to McDonough County, settling in Colchester, which at that time consisted of an aggregation of five or six houses. He engaged in mining in the coal fields near Colchester until 1868, when he was employed as mine foreman by the Quincy Coal Company, owning large coal mines near Colchester. This position he retained with credit for twenty-eight years, and in the meantime laid by considerable money and established a reputation for conscientious and honest labor. He was particularly fitted for his position as foreman, having patience, consideration and sympathy, and it was his good fortune never to have had any trouble with his men, and to retain the good will and friendship of all. It is said of him that he never made an enemy in the world. Although he might have lived in comparative comfort on what he already had made, Mr. Terrill seemed unwilling to retire from active life, and in 1887, with his three sons, established a general store in Colchester, under the firm name of Terrill & Sons. He had the qualities which contribute to successful merchandising, and lived to see his store enlarged and well patronized and a sharer in the confidence and stability of the town. Ten years after he entered into mercantile business Mr. Terrill died, on September 27, 1897, and thereafter the business was conducted by his wife and sons until May, 1904, when It passed into the possession of Henry and Edward Terrill, who since have conducted it under the firm name of Terrill Brothers.

Mr. Terrill was a Republican in politics, and in religion, a Methodist. Fraternally, he was connected with the Colchester Miners' Friendly Society. Besides John, who was born in Pennsylvania, he had nine children: William, Henry, Eliza Jane, Eliza, Robert, Mary, Edward, Samuel and Clara. Under a rough exterior Mr. Terrill carried a heart of gold and a brain which responded to every demand of business or social life. A mining foreman, and later a successful merchant, he necessarily evidenced business and general knowledge; yet he never attended school a day, nor did he know much of books or the advantages thereof. He was, nevertheless, credited with being the shrewdest mathematical calculator in the county, and no one could worst him when it came to figuring out a knotty problem. The energy that many men put into research through books he expended in practical observation, and, in consequence, he had a remarkably accurate knowledge of human nature, and a well developed trading instinct. His word was as good as his bond, and he won and held through life the confidence and respect of the entire community.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 1017-1018, extracted 07 Aug 2020 by Norma Hass.

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