Chapter 14, Page 158
a miller son of Dabney Overstreet
John R. (Rogers?) Overstreet
1819 - 1876
John R. Overstreet was born in Cabell county, Virginia (now West Virginia) a son of Dabney Overstreet and grandson of John Overstreet, Sr. He was to spend his life at Athens, Illinois and vicinity. At age twenty, in 1839, he married Rachel Cantrall, b. 1824, thus uniting the Hall - Overstreet group with another family of area pioneers. Rachel was the daughter of Levi Cantrall who came into the area in 1819. The town of Cantrall, Illinois was laid out on land he owned. The original name for the town was Antioch and it was the site of the first Christian church built in Sangamon county.
John and Rachel Overstreet had four children, Louisa J., James W., Elizabeth A., and John T. The girls married brothers; Henry F. and Sebastian Shepherd, respectively. Elizabeth's marriage to Sebastian gives the only Civil War soldier of record for the Overstreet group.
From the old Menard county newspapers we learn of John R. Overstreet's delinquency on taxes on lots owned in the city of Athens, 1855-1861. Of more interest is an item that appeared in the Menard Index on November 1, 1860. It said: 'J.R. Overstreet verified John Jordan's statement about Democrats buying votes in the presidential election.' There were election scandals even in the first Lincoln election!
In the section of The Grandfathers on the Rev. John Overstreet the established of the first mill at Athens was told at length. For the next several generations the mill passed through a number of hands, was up-dated and always an important enterprise of the community.
In the Sangamo Journal of April, 1842, Wm. Strawbridge advertised real estate for sale and that he 'would accept state bank paper in payment.' The real estate was a 'steam mill at Athens' which was available on liberal terms. +
The Athens Free Press in its issue of January 22, 1937gave this reprint of a story from its files of May 17, 1895.
'In 1856 (following the cholera epidemic) there was a revival of industry and business. In this year Alexander Hale and John Overstreet, a relative of the pioneer, and the father of James Overstreet, who now resides here, erected a large brick steam flouring mill that is now in operation yet possesses much of its original appearance and machines. It's cost was about $11,000. It had two burrs and capacity to produce 13 barrels of flour daily.'
From the Illinois State Journal (Springfield) of September 1, 1857 we get the original story of the mill. (copied almost entirely from the Menard Index published at Petersburg.)
The Union Mills
'These mills recently put up at Athens (1857), in this county, are now in fine running order and ready for custom work. Their first trial 'trip' was made on last Saturday to the satisfaction of everyone present, and full assurance was given that they can scarcely be excelled by any other mills in the mfg. of flour and meal. Though the works are entirely new, and had not previously, been put in motion, for the purpose of grinding, the dispatch manifested in their operation ease and regularity with which the grain was conducted through the various departments, and conveniences, for the reception of the flour and meal were not inconsiderable objects of admiration.'
'The millright work was executed by Benj. Smith, Esq., formerly of this place, and the carpenter work by Messrs. J.S. & K.S. Riley of Athens, and indicates these men as being first class workmen in their respective lines of business.
'The enterprising proprietors, Messrs. Hale and Overstreet, deserves great credit on their part. The amount of capital expended in the construction of the building and machinery is said to have reached beyond $8500 and the citizens of Athens and the surrounding country, should feel themselves somewhat under obligating to them, and extend a liberal patronage, at least, until they are partly renumerated for their expenditures which they have made from their individual funds for the advancement of public interest.
'The boiler & machinery for the above mills were from the Aetna Foundry and Machinery Shop of Mr. John C. Hart of this city.
There you have it! One of the biggest news stories of pre-Civil War Athens.
Incidentally, John R. Overstreet was not only of a milling family, but Levi Cantrall, his wife's father, was also one of the pioneer millers of Sangamon county.
Again in the Athens Free Press, October 18, 1935, 85 year old George W. Boyd told of the mill in his column, 'Looking a Little Farther Backward on Main Street.'
In his discussion Boyd said, 'Just west of the church (Methodist) was a two-story brick flouring mill and saw mill built in 1856 by Alex Hale and John Overstreet. Before putting in the machinery, Mr. Overstreet gave a grand ball. Mr. Hale didn't like it and said that the building was being dedicated "to the devil." Public dances were taboo they usually ended up in a rough house.'
In 1897 the Athens flour mill burned. It was never rebuilt. The property was used for other purposes. Its days were numbered.
From the Free Press of March 14, 1907Old Mill Property
'The remnants of the old mill were auctioned off by Capt. J.A. Hurt Monday after the Goodman sale by order of W. B. Ayers, +++ agent for the owner who lives out west.
The Petersburg Observer on November 1, 1876 reported, "ATHENS. Mr. John Overstreet, Sr., is lying very seriously ill at the present writing.'
On November 30, 1876, the paper said: 'ATHENS. Mr. John Overstreet, an old resident of the neighborhood, died on Tuesday night and was buried today in the Old Cantrall burying ground. He had been ill for the last year with lung disease and for the past few weeks his death was hourly expected. He was kind and generous to a fault; a warm friend and accommodating neighbor and many friends mourn his departure.'
Our account of the Overstreets in the Hall-Overstreet sage ends with this fine obituary on the life of the grandson of the family patriarch John Overstreet, the Revolutionary War veteran and of Nancy Dabney Overstreet, whose son Dabney was John R. Overstreets father.
Family of John R. and Rachel (Cantrall) Overstreet
Louisa J. (H.F. Shepherd), b. 1841 -
James W. (Dunley), b. 1844 -
Elizabeth A. (S.E. Shepherd), b. 1848 -
John T. (Brennan), b. 1851
+Strawbridge was a capitalist first operating at Athens, later in Springfield. He was associated with James Hall in property development and today there is a Hall-Strawbridge Addition to the Athens town plat. Strawbridge gave money to Springfield churches for an annual sermon in his name. They are known as the 'The Strawbridge Sermons and are confined to the texts he chose.
+++A member of the Hall-Overstreet family