JOSEPH FRANKLIN BLACK was born in Murray county, Tennessee, February 23, 1828. His father, William Black, was born near Milledgeville, Georgia, January 3, 1796, son of Thomas Gillespie Black, who was born in Markingham County, North Carolina, in January, 1772, whose father, William Black, a native of Maryland, removed to North Carolina. William Black was captain of a company of militia at the time the Revolutionary war broke out, and was one of the first who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the British government. He died soon after the war began. The maiden name of his wife was Beard. They were members of the Presbyterian Church.
Thomas G. Black was reared and educated in his native State. He taught school several years, removing from North Carolina to Georgia, he settled near Milledgeville, where he bought a tract of land and on it passed the residue of his life, dying in 1823. He was married February 26, 1795, to Polly Callahan, who was born April 7, 1773, daughter of William and Elizabeth (Shepard) Callahan, her father being of Irish and her mother of German descent. Mrs. Black went to Tennessee after the death of her husband, and from there to Illinois in 1825. Her death occurred in Morgan County, this State, in 1853. Grandfather and grandmother Black were members of the Presbyterian Church. They reared ten of their eleven children, viz.: William, Susanna, John, Cynthia, James, Thomas, Polly, Jefferson, Eleanor and Elizabeth. Rebecca died in infancy.
William Black, father of the subject of our sketch, grew up and received his education in his native State, and went with the family to Tennessee directly after the death of his father. He was a natural mechanic and with his brother John established a furniture factory in Maury County, remaining in business there till 1834. That year, with his wife and six children, he came to Illinois, their removal being made via the Cumberland, Ohio, Mississippi and Illinois rivers. He located four miles north of Winchester, in Scott County, where he bought eighty acres of prairie arid eighty acres of timber land, paying $2.50 per acre for a part of it. He at once built a small frame house, containing two rooms, and commenced improving his land. In 1846 he sold this farm for $8 per acre.
He then came to Cass County and bought 200 acres of land, located six miles southeast of Virginia, for which he paid $6 an acre. There was a double log house on this place, which the family occupied one year, at the end of which time they moved into the substantial brick house which Mr. Black erected, and which still stands. He also built a work shop. He, however, gave the most of his attention to farming. He lived there till after the death of his wife, when he went to Virginia and spent his last days at the home of his son, John, where he died October 3, 1884. December 4, 1823, he married Miss Mary S. Vaughn, who was born in Tennessee, November 1, 1803, daughter of Dixon and Susan Vaughn. She died on the home farm, January 29, 1881. Of the ten children born to them they reared eight, namely: Thomas G., Joseph F., William L., Richmond V., Green V., James B., Mary J. and John. Both he and his wife were reared in the Presbyterian Church, and after coming to Illinois they united with the Christian Church, of which they remained consistent members till the time of their death.
Joseph Franklin Black, the subject of our sketch, was six years old when he moved to Illinois with his parents, and remembers distinctly many of the incidents connected with their removal and frontier life. At that time Central Illinois was sparsely settled and it was long before the advent of railroads here. Naples was the principal market for the surrounding country. Mr. Black relates that at one time his father went to St. Louis to mill. Instead of being gone one week, as he had expected, he was gone three weeks, and in the mean time the supply of meal gave out at home. By pounding corn in a mortar, the children made meal enough to last till their father's return. In 1836 three cooking stoves were brought to Jacksonville, one of which Mr. Black's father bought, paying $75 for it. Such a curiosity was this stove that the neighbors for miles around came to see it.
Joseph F. received his education in the primitive schools of Illinois. He inherited from his father a talent for mechanical work and early began to assist him in the shop. At the age of twenty he began life on his own responsibility, commencing at once as a contractor and builder, and before he was twenty-one he bought 102 acres of land near the village of Philadelphia, for which he paid $3.50 an acre, He continued contracting and building for a time. Then for three years he was engaged in farming. After that he moved to Philadelphia and devoted his time to the invention of farm machinery. To, him belongs the distinction of having invented and patented the first self-binder ever made. He took three different patents on it, and in partnership with his brother William got two patents on a gang plow. The value of such a man to a community cannot be estimated. Indeed, the worth of his inventive genius extend a beyond his own community and State, being felt all over the world.
In 1867 he resumed farming and continued that occupation till 1876. That year he moved to Virginia and established himself as a contractor and builder. Many of the best store buildings and residences in this city are monuments to his skill. Nor have his labors been confined to Virginia. He has done work in Springfield, Jacksonville, Beardstown, and various other places. For some years past Mr. Black has devoted his time to architecture, which he studied in his younger days, preparing plans and specifications and superintending the construction of buildings. He made the plans for the county jail and superintended its construction; also the two additions to the courthouse.
Mr. Black was married May 17, 1849 to Mary F. Wilmott, a native of Illinois and a daughter of Charles R. Wilmott. They had five children, as follows: Charles, W., born September 23, 1850, was married November 24, 1870, to Elsie Buckley, and has five children--Mabel, Roy, Mary, Stella and Clyde; Mary, born May 28, 1855, married Armstead Mains, and has seven children: Maude, Elma, William, Reatta, Toura, Louese and Leslie; Eva, born August 29, 1860, was married January 26, 1882, to William G. Payne; Robert, born September 22, 1864, was married October 18, 1889, to Maggie Gray and has two children, Edna and an infant; and Frank born March 23, 1868, married a Miss Elliott, and has one child, Edward. Mrs. Black died January 26, 1879, and in May, 1883, Mr. Black wedded Mary (Thompson) Skiles.
Mr. Black is a member of the Christian Church, as also was his first wife. His present companion has her membership with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Politically, he was formerly a Whig, but since the organization of the Republican party be has affiliated with it.
Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, Biographical Review Publishing Co., Chicago, 1892, page 128-130.
Copyright 1999-2006 Judi Gilker; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with the information.
Return to Biographical Review Index