In a family history by William's daughter, Clara, she described William from the eyes of a woman who must have been "smitten" with him: "she went to the dance and he was one of the musicians. He was playing the fiddle. He had beautiful, soft, red hair at that time and that night he wore a dark blue velvet coat. He had blue eyes. She thought he was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen."
Another relative described him: "As a man, William Purvis was peculiar in many respects, persistently abstaining from alcoholic drinks and tobacco, which habits were very common in those days."
He became a county judge and claimed Abraham Lincoln among his personal friends. He was considered quite wealthy by the standards of the day, but his brother, George, was much richer.
Between his wives, he had 18 children, the second family, which included Clara, barely knew the first and only became acquainted after reaching adulthood.
Residences & events in his life:
Hardin Co, KY, near Elizabethtown. Clara, said "he had no opportunity at all to get an education. He was nineteen years old when he married and the girl he married taught him to read and write. She must have taught him well because later in life he became rather an important man in his community. She also got him to join the church and stop an
occasional spree. I don't know that he ever went on a spree, but I do know that he said he never tased liquor after he joined the church."
1826 He arrived in IL according to the listing of "Kentuckians in IL."
1827 Sangamon Co, IL, near Springfield, where he rented some land and married. He built a large cabin, one large room on the ground with another above that. (Years later the family would return for a group photo in front of this cabin.) Clara erroneously thought the family had arrived in IL that same year, stating further that William counted Abraham Lincoln among his good friends, "both about the same age and they were men of much the same turn of mind. Both of them were intensely patriotic and sensibly religious." They called each other "Abe" and "Bill."
1831 Shelby Co, IL. One history listed him among the early settlers of the county, recording his arrival as this date. However, a descendant said they settled there in 1835 which seems to be supported by another county history.
1835 Sangamon Co, IL. William and John Ooley were named in the file of the estate of a Bartlet Haley who died intestate on 5/2/1835.
1835 E Nelson Twp, Shelby Co, IL. The county history says he settled in this township on this date, however, land records recorded his first purchase of real estate much later.
5/10/1836 He was living in Shelby Co when he purchased 2 tracts of 80 acres each for $1.25/acre from a federal land sale. The property was located in Moultrie Co at S8 13N.
8/10/1838 Shelby Co. He bought 2 pieces of property in the county of his residence, one plot by deed, another by patent. Brothers, Tom, John, and George, also bought land on the same date.
Moultrie Co, IL. Clara remembered the family home east of Sullivan:
"This home, at the time it was built, was something to be proud of. My father and his sons built it with their own hands. The bricks were made and burnt in their kiln. Much of the lumber was sawed from trees on their farm. The house was not what we would call a pleasant arrangement today but was built after a pattern much in vogue in his time. It was a large appearing house from the outside, yet in the main body of it there were only three rooms. The two rooms built parallel to the road had a wide hall, a hall eight feet wide between them. This was the fashion of most of the old houses built in an early day in Illinois, the better class of houses. These two front rooms were each eighteen feet square. One was furnished as the parlor, but it had a bed, a really very beautiful bed as I can remember--polished black wood of some kind and with what is called the spool wood forms in the head.....the best furniture at that time was horsehair. Ours was of black horsehair....and the wood of it matched the wood of the bed. The chairs were cane bottom and had bars across the back and on this roses were painted.....At the east side of the room, and, by the way, the house faced north--was the parlor fireplace and this was a very fine affair in its day. The mantel was of white marble and the pillars that went up at the side were of white marble. The hearth, as I remember, was also of marble. I won't be sure of that, but I do know that the hearth to the fireplace in the living room was made of brick and I used to think it looked so coarse compared with the hearth of the better room.
Mother always kept fine, white muslin curtains that were pleated crosswise hanging at these high windows and I remember how the breeze, the wind, used to come in and flutter those white curtains over the bright red carpet, a heavy three-ply ingrain carpet, very fine. The carpet was one mother was very proud of.....In the northwest corner of the room stood a thing that very few people have ever seen--a melodion, and really the only one that I ever saw. It was shaped like, I guess you would call it, the grand piano, table-shaped, but it resembled a toy piano, but sounded like an organ. The notes were not the ringing bell piano notes......The house was built in an L-shape with a great porch but not covered. The great porch filled out the L. On this porch later on a bedroom had been built for hired hands and tramps. My father always kept everybody that came by and asked to stay overnight so it was convenient to have some place like that to store them away." Clara later said it was the second best house in the neighborhood without naming the first.
The grounds were sprinkled with all kinds of flowers and shrubs, many of which William transplanted from his excursions. William learned the art of grafting fruit trees and had one tree which bore 5 different kinds of apples, producing various varieties from early
spring until fall.
1849 Moultrie Co, near Lovingington. He was a member of the first board of trustess for the Methodist Church built there.
1850 Moultrie Co, IL. William had property = $960 recorded in the census but no occupation. There were 10 children at home at that time.
1856 The school district was formed and the first school built with William , Major McPheeters and William Kercheval as the first board of directors. William also directed the work on the building.
5/1858 He was appointed guardian of a Richard Purvis, who may have been a nephew.
7/30/1860 T13N R6E, PO Sullivan, Moultrie Co, IL. Wm was listed in the census as a wealthy bricklayer with property totaling $6400/1500. Wife Eliza M was 45, the children were Elizabeth, 23, asst; Wesley, 17, farm worker; twins Alvira and Charlotte, 15; as well a Benjamin F David, 10, and Martha A David, 9. Who were they? Two doors down was niece Nancy and Joseph Kercheval.
William was also county judge about this time, his name appearing on several court and county documents. Also to his credit, he was one of the founders of the Methodist Church of Sullivan.
10/26/1861 William bought 2 pieces of railroad land located at S20 T14N, each containing 80 acres, for $8.00/acre.
His last meeting with Abe Lincoln before he went to Washington, according to family tradition, occurred by chance as both were riding on a trail through the woods one day. William later took his sons there and said, "Boys, now always remember that you have seen the log where Abraham Lincoln sat and visited with your father."
Being a musician, he taught his children to play and sing, two of the sons choosing the violin along with him. Eventually William and his children performed for special occasions in addition to touring the area to raise money for the North during the Civil War. The group was performing the night they received the news of Lincoln's death and wore crepe bows on their arms while on stage. A granddaughter said William was "terribly stricken with grief.....saying, 'The country will go to the dogs now. Nothing can save the country now.'"
From the McPheeters' family letters:
9/6/1863 "Squire Purvis & John Hamson had a big jaw lately. John knows more precisely what the Squire thinks of his loyalty, for he told him in full. The old man and Mrs. Kerchevill have quit quarelling. The old Hamson lady gave him such a dose lately that he
will not trouble her again. Henry Purvis was riding by Travilion's a few days since. The old man was on the side of the road. Henry shouted for Vollandingham. The old man replied that Vollandingham was a tory ans so were all his friends. Very well done."
7/23/1865 "I must tell you how I spent the 4th....Mrs. Lousten performed on the melodian and of course Purvis choir sung."
Clara described William's violin:
"my father picked (it) up somewhere at an auction in Illinois in the early days. It was a Stradivarius made at Cemona, Italy and I think must have been on record because in later years the authorities sent for it asking to display it at one of the World Fairs. My brother
(Wesley), who had it at that time, however, would not let it go. He was afraid he would not get the same violin back." "Its history was on a parchment in the case." Unfortunately the violin was neglected and has long since disappeared.
7/11/1870 Town of E Nelson, Moultrie Co, IL. For reasons unknown, William's family was listed in the census under son James W, 26, (actually John W as William had no son named James. John was still single at that time). William, 62, had amassed more property amounting to $8000/1500 and was still farming, as was John. William had lost his first wife and remarried by that time to Ellen J, 30. Still at home were Charlotte, 24, and Mary C, 19, and new son Jasper, 1. Also in that family were 2 adopted children George Reams, 14, and Amanda Webb, 14.
1875 E Nelson Twp. He was listed in the atlas among the 1021 township residents as a land owner along with brother, George, and sons, Ephraim and Enoch. Son, John, had moved west and so was not listed.
6/2/1880 Same place. At age 71 William was still farming when the census taker came around. Wife Ellen was 41 and William had a whole second family: Jasper, 11, William 9, Lucy, 7, Clara Bell, 6, and twins Franklin and Florence, 11 months. Oliver Perry, 19, farm laborer was counted there as well. Next door was son Enoch while brother George was 3 doors in the opposite direction.
It was said by his children that William was rather strict with his first family but extremely fond of the children of his old age, was very indulgent and kind to them, boasting that he never whipped any of his children. However, all the children loved and respected him greatly.
1881 The history of the county said he was still living at the same place where he had settled 50 years prior. It stated further that "he has raised a large family of children, and has held many offices of trust, and was always an active and enterprising citizen of the
8/1900 His descendants had a reunion with the following report in the newspaper:
"At an early hour last Saturday August 1900, carriages laden with people and provisions were driving toward the old Purvis homestead and cemetery for a day together (a family reunion). Dr. Kellar called the meeting to order and proceeded to organize by electing Hudson Martin of Bement chairman and Mrs. Maggie Goodrich of Goodlyn, Kans.
secretary. Miss Mary Powell was selected organist, after which songs and short speeches by old friends were rendered. Dr. Kellar read a brief history of the family of William and Eliza Purvis.
The following is a brief history of the family of William and Eliza Purvis.
'About 1835 William Purvis and his wife, Eliza Purvis, settled in Moultrie county and entered a quarter section of land including this cemetery at our left. Eleven children were born to them, four are here today.
Many of the old time pioneers can remember the trial and hardships through which the first settlers passed. When they wished to purchase groceries, they went to St. Louis, that being the nearest town of any size where they could get supplies. After working in the timber all day William Purvis would sit up until ten and eleven o'clock making baskets from native timber, and his wife Eliza would be up knitting stockings and mittens from wool they sheared from sheep and carded and spun in yarn.
When a wagon load of baskets were finished they were taken to St. Louis and proceeds were used to buy sugar, coffee, and other necessaries not produced on the farm.
Mr. Purvis made sorgum molasses and sugar and all kinds of farm work.
Eliza Purvis the wife and mother died Dec. 4 1866. In 1868 William Purvis married Mrs. E.J. Tanner, six children were born to them, Jasper, William, Lucy, Clara, Frank and Florence. In Jan. 1881 William Purvis passed away and was buried by his wife in this little Purvis Cemetary by the old home place.'"
William's widow sold the property to a family named Daugherty, the name by which the cemetery on the grounds became known.
The rest of his siblings were born in Fleming Co, KY, and while his descendants recorded his birthplace as posted, it is unlikely his parents went to Hardin Co, then back to Fleming.
Daughter, Clara, said his final illness was "brought on by exposure when he went to the woods to work with the them (hired men) to cut down trees for their winter wood. He had taken his lunch--it was rather a warm day--and after working until he was perspiring and
overheated, he sat down under a tree to eat his lunch and became chilled, so that he came home not feeling very well. He was still in that state of semi-illness when he received word that (son) Wesley.....had moved several miles west of Sullivan......So he went over to see him, rode over on horseback through bad weather when he was not well anyway. He came home and went right to bed and after an illness of about a week of pneumonia he died."
He died without a will but the first family agreed that Ellen and her children could continue to live on the farm until the youngest child reached 21. Their father had already given a piece of land to each of the first family, with the exception of the youngest. He intended his last 220 acres to be split among the rest of the children.
However, it seems Wesley got greedy and sued to divide the land immediately and won. After dividing the property among 15 children and selling everything else, there was only $80 left for Ellen. The whole family felt cheated after receiving such small parcels, especially since the price of land was only about $35/acre. The dispute between the two families resulted in Ellen selling her children's land and moving to McCook, NE, in 1885.
The Daughtery Cem is located on the original farm of William Purvis near Sullivan, IL and is named for the next owners, the ones who purchased it from Ellen when she went west.
Engraved on William's side of the gravestone he shares with Eliza is engraved:
"Mark the perfect oath and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."
Some said the third wife intended to be buried with him also but then moved out of state, never to return.