Rev. John Overstreet

Rev. John Overstreet (1784-1834) son of John Overstreet the Revolutionary War soldier, was born in Bedford County, Virginia. Since his birth date is listed as being before the marriage of John Overstreet and Nancy Dabney, it is possible that he was the son of Nancy's first husband, Thomas Lane. John, Jr. married Susanna Roberts on March 23, 1808. While he was a soldier in the War of 1812, he was told his wife had died, and soon after was captured by Indians. The Indians were preparing to burn him alive, but his life was saved after an act of bravery. John was sold and taken to Canada. In Canada, he was retained by white men for a few years, gained his liberty and married there about 1815. He had one child, but the wife and child died. He returned to Cabell County, Virginia, to visit the cabin where he had lived, knocked on the door, and was greeted by his first wife. After his former wife recovering from fainting, the two husbands and the wife had a council. They agreed to let her choose which husband was to stay. She chose Rev. John Overstreet, and the rejected husband (most likely Solomon Adams) left, never to be heard from again. John and Susanna apparently had moved to Lawrence County, Ohio, prior to 1818, and migrated in 1819 to Athens, which was then part of Sangamon County, Illinois. A larger group including his father and mother, brothers-in-law Abner and Elisha Hall, and the Hall's brother James along with their wives and children arrived in 1822. John's brother Dabney, Wesley Hall (a nephew of the Hall brothers), and Peter Perkins (a cousin of the Halls) arrived in Athens by 1827.

When he first arrived in Athens, Rev. Overstreet purchased the cabin built by Orimal Clark on the east side of Main Street. Overstreet purchased the merchandise from Harry Riggin's store on a farm north of town and established the first store in Athens. Overstreet joined the Salt Creek Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Illinois and was a circuit riding preacher.

In 1827 John ran a small horse-powered mill which ground corn and produced flour. The mill parts came from the Estep Mill in Petersburg, and was acquired by a stock company formed in Athens consisting of citizens who pledged financial or labor subscriptions. Reverend Overstreet was to run and repair the mill and charge a just fee with the ownership falling to him after four years. Several different locations are given for the possible site of this mill including the corner of Jackson and Main, West Washington and Main, or on the southwest corner of Jackson and Mill Streets where his nephew, John R. Overstreet, constructed a much larger mill in 1856.

Rev. John Overstreet built a flatboat near the Sangamon River, and he, along with brothers, Jesse G. and David Hurt, took a load of flour to New Orleans from Athens. It took over two months to mill the flour that they took on this journey down the Sangamon River, to the Illinois River, and on down the Mississippi. They were financially successful, but John died from yellow fever in New Orleans in 1834. The Hurt brothers started home, but David Hurt died at the mouth of the Ohio River, near Cairo. Rev. John Overstreet is assumed to be buried in the family plot in West Cemetery, although there are no records of his burial or a stone marking the grave.

Submitted by Barbara Shannon Cox

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