Illustrated Atlas Map of Menard County, Illinois 1874|
Published by W.R. Brink & Co., of Illinois
The ancestors of Mr. Godbey were early settlers of Virginia, emigrating there from England at a period many years antecedent to the Revolutionary war. Here his grandfather, William Godbey, was born, in Halifax County, September 20, 1750. His father, also named William, was born in Virginia, June 6, 1775. He spent his life in the Old Dominion, and was a soldier under General Harrison in the war of 1812. He married Nancy, daughter of Obed Dickerson, by whom he had eight children, four boys and four girls. Russell was the second.
Russell Godbey came from Virginia to Illinois in 1830, and located in Township 19, Range 6, Menard County, taking up some unimproved land of which he still holds the government titles. Three or four years after, he had the tract re-surveyed by Abraham Lincoln, and the certificate of survey, signed by him, is still in Mr. Godbey's possession. As a remuneration Mr. Lincoln received two small dressed deer-skins, which he used for facing the front of his pantaloons. He was glad to pay the debt in this way. Money was a scarce commodity. Indeed, during the first years of his settlement in Illinois, his unerring skill with the rifle won a considerable part of his livelihood.
Mr. Godbey married in Virginia, December 10, 1822, Elizabeth Brown, by whom he had eight children, four sons and four daughters, five of whom are still living. She died February 19, 1834, and he subsequently married, January 24, 1856, Mrs. Eleanor Carpenter, whose husband, Milton Carpenter, was State Treasurer at the time of his decease. She was the daughter of John and Elizabeth Lanterman. Two children, one son and one daughter, are the fruits of this marriage.
Mr. Godbey has steadily devoted himself to agriculture, and his record is that of a successful farmer. The beginning of his career was not marked by any great prosperity. Money was hard to obtain. A couple of years after his arrival in the State, he walked to Galena, and worked two months at sixteen dollars a month, in order to obtain money to discharge a debt of fifteen dollars. During his absence he remembers to have voted for Jackson for President. In 1836, four years after, he again visited that part of the State, taking with him four head of horses, which he sold, and after working there for two months, returned with enough money to set himself right with the world, with a small surplus remaining, which he invested in young stock. This was the turning point in his affairs. Ever since prosperity has attended his undertakings. A considerable part of his wealth has been derived from investments in real estate. He at one time owned about 900 acres of land.
His private character will bear the closest scrutiny. His decided political convictions placed him among the most strenuous supporters of the Democratic party, but during the war he took a decided stand for the maintenance of the Union, and formed a conspicuous example of liberality to the soldiers and those who were made widows and orphans by the struggle. Since 1841 he has been a conscientious member and deacon in the Baptist Church, and at the same time has been a liberal supporter of the enterprises of other denominations. In 1831 he was elected a captain of militia. He is now President of the Old Settlers' Society, having presided over it since its organization in 1868. His life has been spent in peace with his neighbors, and Menard County boasts of fewer citizens more useful and honored.