Illustrated Atlas Map of Menard County, Illinois 1874|
Published by W.R. Brink & Co., of Illinois
MILEM ALIKIRE was born September 10, 1818, in Madison County, Ohio; the eldest son of Leonard and Catharine Alkire, whose histories appear elsewhere in this work. The first six years of his life, Milem lived with his parents in Ohio, during which he was taught to read. He often studied while sitting on a stump in the field, or recited to his father while riding on the beam of his plow, thus saving the time and expense of a schoolmaster.
When six years of age, his father removed to Illinois. The family arrived here in the fall of 1824, and located at Sugar Grove, now in the bounds of Menard County. Soon after their arrival, the neighbors joined together and built a school-house. The structure was of the early pioneer kind, built of round logs, shingled with clap-boards and secured with weight-poles instead of nails. Three-fourths of the room was covered with a rough puncheon floor, and the remainder, raised with earth, served for a hearth, while a hole was left in the roof directly overhead for the smoke to escape. The furniture was of the most primitive character. Hickory-trees twelve inches in diameter, split in the middle, with a few of the rough splinters shaved off, supported by four two-inch pins, eighteen inches in length, inserted on the round side, served for seats. A large slab of split timber, faced with a broad axe, kept in its place by pins driven in the wall, formed the writing-desk, just above which was a large space left between two of the logs of the wall, across which were stretched scraps of old copy-books, greased with lard to facilitate the admission of light. These were the windows. A rude clap-board door kept out the cold. The cracks between the logs were filled in with chunks of wood, and daubed with mortar made of clay.
Mr. Henry C. Rogers who now resides near Athens, Illinois, was installed as first teacher. He followed the ordinary custom of "boarding'round" with his scholars. His salary was based on the attendance, and reached, perhaps, forty or fifty cents a day. Young Alkire began his attendance in the fall of 1825 or 26, and for several years enjoyed annually three months of schooling. When the County had become older and the community in better circumstances, a more commodious structure was built of hewn logs, with three small glass windows, but the furniture was nearly as before. This served for both school building and meeting-house. Subsequently a frame structure, about twenty feet square, was erected, and in this Mr. Alkire finished his school education. But while three months were annually devoted to study in the primitive school-house, his faculties were receiving, perhaps, a development as fully important through other agencies. Amid the duties of his father's farm, he was being trained to meet the responsibilities of life. He had a great fondness for books, and his leisure time was employed in a course of reading by which his mind was enriched by a fund of invaluable knowledge, in the rude condition of society of that day not to be obtained through any other means.
At twenty-one, Mr. Alkire began life on his own account. His father gave him 240 acres of wild prairie land, fifty acres of timber, a wagon and span of horses, fifteen head of horned cattle, and a thousand dollars in money. His first care was to fence, break, and put under cultivation a portion of his land, and to plant an orchard of fruit-trees. His thousand dollars he invested in cattle, fed them one winter, and in the spring sold the choicest at three dollars per head more than he paid. Five of the herd were rejected on account of their size. The cattle were driven to New York, and sold for six dollars less a head than Mr. Alkire received. The remainder of the herd was kept two years, and then sold for six dollars less than the original cost. The effects of the financial panic of 1837 were then manifest throughout the county. The money Mr. Alkire received from the sales of his cattle depreciated to fifty cents on the dollar. The result of this speculation determined him to subsequently invest his money in permanent improvements. He accordingly built the brick house still standing, which, with additions and improvements since made, forms his present
residence. A view of the front is shown in the embellishments of this work.
The next step, after the completion of his house, was his marriage, which occurred December 23, 1843. His wife was Miss Eliza J. Barnes, the eldest child of John and Mary Barnes, who removed to Illinois from Bath County, Kentucky, and settled in Logan County when Eliza, now Mrs. Alkire, was three years of age. Nine children have been born to them, of whom six, five sons and one daughter, are still living. All are unmarried and reside at home. They have had the benefit of such educational advantages as the vicinity of their home allowed. The eldest son, Mr. Frank V. Alkire, has a farm of 212 acres near the old homestead. He is a young man highly esteemed, and at the hands of the County Council of the Patrons of Husbandry has received the appointment of Purchasing Agent for the County. He is also Secretary of the Petersburg Grange.
Very early in life Mr. Alkire became attached to the principles of the Democratic party. The views of constitutional liberty as set forth by Andrew Jackson caught the admiration of his young mind. It was under such a leader that he enlisted his sympathies under the banner which flung to the breeze the broad and catholic tenets of Democracy. His first vote was cast for Martin Van Buren. He voted at every subsequent Presidential election till 1860, when his last vote for President was cast, for Stephen A. Douglas. During the war of the Rebellion he occupied a conservative position.
He was never an aspirant for political positions, but preferred to confine himself closely to his agricultural pursuits. In the fall of 1872, however, through the solicitations of his friends, he became a candidate for Associate Judge of Menard County, to which office he was triumphantly elected. In 1873, he was chosen County Commissioner, and upon the organization of the Board was selected as Chairman. So great confidence do the people repose in the ability and integrity with which he has administered the office, that his name has again been presented as a candidate for re-election to the same office, for the term of three years at the pending election (1874).
The grant of land given him by his father has been the nucleus around which Mr. Alkire has gathered many hundreds of broad acres. He has held land to be the safest investment for surplus earnings. It has always been his policy to secure valuable pieces of land adjoining his estate. Whenever his neighbors desired to sell, they found in Mr. Alkire a ready and willing purchaser. The first lands attached to the homestead were purchased in 1845, at nine dollars an acre. Additional purchases have since been made at various times, the last of which was a farm of 214 acres which he acquired in 1869, at sixty-five dollars an acre. The tract now comprises 1075 acres, and by many is regarded as one of the finest stock-farms in Menard County, if not in central Illinois.
In taking a retrospective view of the life and character of Judge Alkire, his own exertions and energy must be pronounced the means by which he has reached success. The causes may be readily traced to the sterling principles of sobriety, honesty, and economy, the sure springs of competence and affluence. His amiable wife has ever been a cheerful and willing helpmeet, and to her generous aid and sympathetic endeavors he owes much of his good fortune.
In appearance Mr. Alkire is of medium size, and of a hardy and well-knit frame, capable of withstanding the toil and labor of many years. He is a man who deals with the practical side of life, its prose rather than its poetry. His actions are the result of well-matured and methodical plans. His opinions are not hastily formed, but, when once arrived at, nothing but the best evidence of error can swerve him from his position. He is of a nervous, sanguine temperament, uniting enough of the lymphatic to make his actions profound and careful. He is controlled more by the moral and intellectual than the animal. Combativeness is directed by firmness, and the reflective and perceptive are nearly equally balanced. Acquisitiveness and benevolence are large, thereby placing the sources of his actions among the higher elements of an enlightened and cultured manhood. His conversation shows that his mind is stored with valuable facts and thoughts. At a single glance any one may see blended in his face the insignia of an honest man. In the most emphatic sense we find him a self-made man.