For many years the merchant prince not only of Edwards, but of adjoining counties - Joel Churchill - is worthy of mention. He was born in Exeter, England, December 16, 1792. His father, Samuel Churchill, was a manufacturer of cloth, and a ship owner. A brother was at one time the largest ship-owner in Great Britain. Joel was ever active in reaching out for trade. He visited Asia, the British possessions in Southern Africa, and traveled through Continental Europe. In 1820 he came to Edwards county, where he determined on farming, but it proved too inactive for him, or, rather, was so different to the life he had always lived, that he soon forsook it, in 1823, to enter upon that career of merchandising that made him well known throughout Southern Illinois. It is said that for years he was the only merchant who paid cash for articles of home production brought to his establishment, the plan being that of exchange, made so largely through the scarcity of money. He married Eliza Simpkins, daughter of William Simpkins, a miller by trade, in December, 1825. By her he had eleven children, nine of whom are living. He had been raised a Quaker, although he never embraced the faith. It is related that whenever he visited Philadelphia, he adopted the speech peculiar to those people, and for several days subsequent to his return it was "thee" and "thou" to everyone - so much so, that a citizen meeting him and hearing him in conversation would say, Churchill has just returned from Philadelphia. For many years he was post-master. He transacted much business for others - his remittances by draft and otherwise reaching as high as sixty or seventy thousand dollars per annum, a large sum for the early days. One method of sending money is worthy of remark. He would take a bank note, cut it in halves, and send the parts separately, oftentimes by different mails, to insure their safe transit. He was an Old Line Whig of the most emphatic class, and right royally did he stand up for the party's principles. Just before the war, he went to Washington and Philadelphia to protect his interests, owning as he did Georgia bonds, and then was a most prominent Union man. A son, Charles, who together with another, James, succeed him in business, went out as a Captain. He died March 16th, 1872. His benefactions to young men struggling for a start in life are treasured in the memory of many who are now among the wealthiest citizens of Edwards county.

Extracted 12 Aug 2017 by Norma Hass from 1883 A Combined History of Edwards, Lawrence, and Wabash Counties, Illinois, page 215.

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