From left to center:
Mary Francis Jeter (Tharp) 1847-1923
Margaret Adeline Jeter (Tracy) 1844-1880
William T. Jeter 1850-1930
Mayo E. Jeter 1853-1932
Elizabeth Berry Jeter 1812-1875
William Griffin Jeter
Amanda Jane Jeter (Lilly) 1841-1914
Anderson B. Jeter 1832-1854
Sarah A. Jeter 1834-1835
John P. Jeter 1836-1913
Harriet E. Jeter (Goldsby) 1838-1897
WILLIAM GRIFFIN JETER
William Griffin Jeter was born 9/20/1807 to Thomas Jeter and Sarah Benfield and most likely on the farm of Zachary Taylor near Louisville in Jefferson County, Kentucky where his parents resided in the early 1800s. He came to Illinois shortly after his mother’s death and became aquainted with his future wife when he united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of John McCutchen Berry in Sangamon County. She was Elizabeth McCutchen Berry, the Reverend’s niece and daughter of James Samuel Berry and Anny Weir.
A license was issued by Sangamon County on 3/9/1832 and William and Elizabeth were married 3/13/1832 in Bernadotte, Fulton County, Illinois, as noted by son Will in a letter on family history written in 1921 to a Berry cousin. The date is recorded in the family bible. It is likely that the Rev. J. M. Berry officiated but there was no return of the marriage details back to the county seat. In August of the same year William aquired from his brother-in-law James Berry, 55 acres along a branch of Concord Creek and about a mile north of the “old” Concord or Goodpasture cemetery, and this was still the location of the family farm when the Jeters left for Missouri in 1857. In that same month of August, 1832, Abraham Lincoln entered his position as a storekeeper with William F. Berry, son of the preacher and first cousin of Elizabeth, in a small cabin in New Salem along the Sangamon River and a few miles south of the Jeter farm. (The store would not prove profitable even after a move to a larger building, the only one with “planed” lumber in New Salem, and was sold in 1834.)
William and Elizabeth’s first child, Anderson Bell, was born on 12/16/1832 and their second, Sarah Ann, 10/11/1834. Gov. Will Jeter, in a letter to a Berry cousin, notes that both were born in Fulton County. Sarah Ann died from whooping cough one day shy of her first birthday and was buried in the “old” Concord or Goodpasture cemetery in Menard (then Sangamon) county. Her tombstone is still there and is the only Jeter grave. Anderson Bell died of typhoid fever on 12/7/1854; his burial place is likely in the “new” Concord cemetery but there is no marker. He had not married. The rest of their children were all born on the family farm noted above which was located between Petersburg and Atterbury in Menard County.
A. Lincoln and W. G. Jeter were well aquainted. It is said, by family tradition, that there was a romantic interest between Abe and Elizabeth, but she thought him unattractive and turned her attention elsewhere. As did Abe with the legendary young Ann Rutledge who died of the fever on 8/25/1835. (Ann’s sister, Jane O. Rutledge, had married one of Elizabeth’s brothers, James Berry, on 2/28/1828 in Sangamon County.) We do find some connections on record however: There was a petition on 12/27/1834 by the citizens of Morgan and Sangamon counties in Illinois to the U.S. Congress to establish a mail route between New Salem and Beardstown, about 30 miles west. Among the signers: A. Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, Wm. G. Jeter. And on 3/8/1836. Sangamon County Commissioners, which included William’s father-in-law Samuel Berry, appointed Robert Conover, William G. Geter(sic) and Abraham Lincoln to locate a new road from Watkins Mill on the Morgan County line to Miller’s Ferry. On 6/2/1836, Robert Conover, William G. Geter and A. Lincoln reported to the Sangamon County Commissioners that they made the location and recommended the opening of the new road.
In 1835 and in anticipation of the coming of a railroad, a new town called Fulton was laid out on the Spoon River in Fulton County, Illinois. William G. Jeter and brother-in-law Baxter Bell Berry bought land in 1838 and moved there. The Jeter family was listed on the 1840 census for Bernadotte (to which the town name had been changed) but were soon back in Menard County as the railroad chose another route and the town died. (This move to Bernadotte may have caused some confusion later on in the recounting family history, and it may be that the marriage and birth of the first two children, all before 1838, really occured in Menard County instead.)
About a mile north of the old Concord cemetery and across Lincoln Trail Road from the old Wm. G. Jeter farm was the location of the Concord Church, erected in 1840 by the Cumberland Presbyterians. It was built on an elevation above Concord Creek and to its rear was the church cemetery now known as the “new” Concord. In 1838 William G. Jeter had been elected ruling elder of the Concord Congregation and served in that capacity until his departure for Missouri in 1857.
William’s brother, Thomas Horatio, had left Illinois for California just before the Civil War and William entertained ideas of doing just the same. And he started out to do exactly that in the spring of 1857, selling the farm, loading family and possessions into wagons and began the first leg, a 200-mile journey to northern Missouri. They planned to winter over in Missouri near the trailhead west and get an early start across the plains in the spring, but William liked the area around Chillicothe in Livingston County, Missouri so well he changed his mind, bought a farm and spent the rest of his life there. Two decades later his son Will and sister Harriet (with husband Zack Goldsby) would complete the trek west.
William Griffin Jeter died at his residence in Livingston County, Missouri on the 31st of August, 1867. The cause of death was “cholera morbus.” He was in his 60th year. His son-in-law, the Rev. J. H. Tharp, wrote his obituary and noted, “He remarked to the writer a few moments before his spirit took flight, that his trust was in Jesus and that Jesus had promised dying grace.”
William’s dearly beloved companion of some 35 years, Elizabeth, survived another seven and a half years, passing away on March 31, 1875 of pneumonia at home in Livingston County. The Rev. Tharp wrote, “She was sorely tried by afflictions for many years, but in great patience was developed of her Christian heart, especially in her last sickness. She said she was going home, and told friends and children not to weep.”
Submitted by C. Victor Jeter
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