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Elnathan Kemper Westfall, M.D.

WESTFALL, Elnathan Kemper, M. D. — Among the veteran physicians of Western Illinois, whose careers have redounded to the credit of the medical profession in that section of the State, Bushnell, McDonough County, may well lay claim to one of the oldest, as to length of residence, in the person of Dr. Westfall, his life there having spanned a period of more than half a century, and his administration of the benefits of the healing art having extended through two generations of patients. His name is familiar as a household word to the people of Bushnell and the surrounding country, and his timely presence has been welcomed as an assurance of relief from the pangs of sickness in many homes. Dr. Westfall was born in Thorntown, Boone County, Ind., on January 8, 1839, the second son of Cornelius and Sarah (Davis) Westfall. His father was born March 7, 1778, in a stockade fort where the town of Beverley, W. Va., now stands. The mother, Sarah (Davis) Westfall, was born in the vicinity of Trenton, N. J., February 16, 1787.

The ancestors of the Westfall family were natives of Westphalia, Germany. During the Revolutionary War, Jacob Westfall, father of Cornelius, was an officer in the Virginia contingent of the Continental Army, and was in command of the stockade above mentioned at the time of the birth of Cornelius. The latter was variously occupied during his career, being successively a teacher, merchant, surveyor and farmer. He served with the troops of General George Rogers Clark during the raids on the Indian towns in 1781, holding the position of First Lieutenant in Capt. George Jackson's company of Virginia State Regiment (Col. Zachariah Morgan). For disability incurred in this service he drew a pension during the last few years of his life, it being continued to his wife, Mary (King) Westfall, from 1838 (when she was eighty years of age) until her death in 1845. Jacob Westfall was also County Lieutenant of Randolph County, Va., in 1792, as such officer organizing and controlling the militia of the county. One of his verbatim reports appears in Volume 5, pp. 575-576 "Calendar of Virginia State Papers," on file in the State Library at Indianapolis, Ind. The paternal grandfather of Dr. Westfall was also a member of the colony which located the present city of Dayton, Ohio, and taught the first school opened there. Under the official authority of Miami County, he platted the town of Troy, Ohio, and as the county's agent, sold the lots thus platted. At one time he attended to nearly all the official business of Miami County, and for twenty-four years served in the capacity of Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of that county. At a later period, he founded the village of Thorntown, Ind., on ground which was his property, the place being laid out in 1830. During the War of 1812, Cornelius Westfall was connected with the commissary department of the army which had its headquarters near Fort Wayne, and purchased cattle in the Ohio settlements, driving them through a wilderness beset by hostile Indians, in order to provide the troops with beef. Other supplies he transported on pack-horses. In 1854 he settled in Macomb, Ill., where he died September 8, 1856.

The childhood and early youth of Dr. Westfall were passed under the parental roof, and by the home fireside he received from a dutiful mother the rudiments of his mental education. He went to school in the old, red schoolhouse at Thorntown, Ind., and was afterwards a pupil in the Mount Pleasant country school, near Bardolph, McDonough County, all his elementary education being obtained in buildings containing but a single room. When about seventeen years old the death of his father devolved upon him the care of his mother and sisters, and he was compelled to relinquish the leisurely life he had previously led, and confront the necessity of hard work. The next ten years he devoted to farming and school teaching, and these pursuits occupied his time until the outbreak of the Civil War. In May, 1861, he enlisted in Company B, Sixteenth Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, under the command of the lamented Capt. D. P. Wells, of which he was elected Orderly Sergeant on its organization. He was afterward promoted to be Second Lieutenant, then First Lieutenant, and served in the latter capacity until January 20, 1862, when he resigned on account of ill health. After some time spent in study of medicine with his brother, Dr. B. R. Westfall, of Macomb, in the winter of 1866-67, he took a course of lectures in the Hahnemann Medical College, in Chicago, and in May following, commenced the practice of his profession in Bushnell, Ill. In the nearly two-score years that have elapsed since that event, he has become an object of respect and confidence to hosts of people as a skillful and faithful physician, and, despite all the wear and strain of a long and arduous career, is still ready to make prompt and efficient response to the summons of duty.

Dr. Westfall has been twice married. His first wife was Emma Curl, to whom he was wedded in 1873, and who died the same year. On October 16, 1879, he was united in marriage, at Bushnell, Ill., with Irene Wann, who was born in Butler County, Pa., July 19, 1855. Mrs. Westfall is a daughter of Curtis Wann, who removed from Pennsylvania to Vermont, Fulton County, Ill., when she was but a child. Her father located in Bushnell, where he conducted a machine shop and foundry. He died at Salina, Kans., in 1900. Four children were the result of this union, namely: Mary Harriet, born February 28, 1881; Clara Ella, who was born July 4, 1883, and died December 15, 1886; Curtis Cornelius, born July 14, 1886; and Beverly Kemper, born November 1, 1893.

In politics. Dr. Westfall is a Republican. His first vote for a presidential candidate was cast for Abraham Lincoln, and he has ever since maintained an unswerving allegiance to the Republican party. For a considerable period he was an influential factor in its local councils, and took an active part in its campaigns. He held the office of Alderman in Bushnell for two terms, and was a member of the County Board of Supervisors. He served as Representative in the Twenty-eighth and Thirtieth General Assemblies of Illinois, and acted in the capacity of Postmaster of Bushnell three terms. In fraternal circles, he is affiliated with the A. F. & A. M., K. of P. and M. W. A. He is also actively identified with the Grand Army of the Republic, and a regular attendant of the State Encampment.

Dr. Westfall has made his home in McDonough County for more than fifty-two years, during which period he has not been absent from its borders for any considerable length of time, except on three occasions, viz.: In 1858, when he spent a summer in Kansas; in 1861-62, while serving in the Civil War, and in 1864, when he made a trip to Montana with oxen, in order to regain the health which his experience in the army had impaired. He is hale and hearty at the age of sixty-eight years, and continues in the active practice of his profession. Genial in temperament, with spirits as elastic and buoyant as in life's meridian, he is still a vivacious and cordially welcome figure in the social life of the community with which he has been so long and conspicuously identified.

Source: The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of McDonough County, compiled by Dr. Newton Bateman, and Paul Shelby, 1907, volume 2, pages 1040-1041, extracted 26 Oct 2020 by Norma Hass.

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