Richland County

Biography - Elbert Rowland

Prominent in the professional life of Olney, Richland county, pre-eminently distinguished for carrying to completion important public enterprises and enjoying marked prestige in many things far beyond the limits of the community honored by his citizenship, the subject of this sketch stands out a clear and conspicuous figure among the successful men of a part of the great Prairie state noted throughout the commonwealth for its high order of intelligence and business and professional talent. Characterized by breadth of wisdom and strong individuality, his achievements but represent the utilization of innate talents in directing efforts along lines in which mature judgment, rare discrimination, and a resourcefulness that hesitates at no opposing circumstances, pave the way and ultimately lead to great achievements. It is not the intention of the biographer to give in this connection a detailed history of the subject's life, but rather to note incidentally his connection with various public offices and his long and worthy practice of medicine, and to show the marked influence he has wielded in advancing the material interests of Richland county and in promoting the general welfare of its populace.

Dr. Elbert Rowland was born in New York City, April 28, 1832, the son of Townsend and Eliza (Sands) Rowland, natives of Long Island, where they were reared and married. The subject's father learned the tailor's trade and conducted a tailor shop in the city of New York for a number of years. In 1840 he came to Richland county and entered two hundred and forty acres of land in Bonpas township. It was wild and in the wilderness, there being but few settlers there at that time. He erected a log cabin and began to make a home. There was plenty of wild game of all kinds in the forests round about, and the wolves, foxes and other animals gave some trouble. The early settlers of those days had many exciting fox chases. The family lived in a log cabin for a number of years. They improved a good farm in due course of time. The father of the subject died in Olney at the advanced age of eighty-four years in 1896, his life companion having preceded him to the silent land in 1876, at the age of sixty-four years. They were the parents of ten children, all of whom grew to maturity eight of the number living at this writing (1908), the subject of this sketch being the eldest of the family. He was only seven years old when he came to what is now Richland county, where he was reared on a farm in Bonpas township. There were a few subscription schools at that time, which our subject attended during the winter months for a few terms. As usual, the oldest of the children worked hard to help support the family, such was the lot of Elbert Rowland. When sixteen years old he went to Lancaster, Wabash county, where he became clerk in a general store where he continued for three years. He then bought an interest in a traveling daguerreotype gallery and visited various sections of southern Illinois, finally selling his interest after arriving in Olney. In 1855 he went to Lawrence county and began the study of medicine under Dr. J. L. Flanders, who lived on a farm, and who was at that time one of the leading physicians and surgeons in Southern Illinois. He studied two years and in 1857 went to New York and entered the New York Medical College, from which he graduated in chemistry in 1858, and in medicine in 1859, having made a brilliant record in that institution.

After leaving school, the subject practiced in the hospitals of New York for a year. When the Civil war began, he deemed it his duty to do something for his country and he applied for an appointment and was commissioned first assistant surgeon of the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York Volunteer Infantry with the rank of captain, serving three years. He remained with this regiment, was present in all the engagement in which it participated except one, having then been absent on a ten days' leave to go home. Among the important battles in which he participated were Gettysburg, Bascom Bridge, siege of Charleston, etc. He was active in field work and escaped with one slight wound in the hand.

After the war he returned to Illinois and located at Noble, where he engaged in general practice and soon built up a lucrative business, continuing here until 1880, when he located at Olney and continued practice with his usual great success until 1905, when he retired and has since been leading a quiet life.

In politics he is a Democrat and for many years was quite active and prominent in the affairs of his party. He was elected chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of Richland county in 1865, and so well did he manage its affairs that he was annually re-elected for nineteen consecutive years and has been a member of the same for thirty-five years. During this time he served as chairman of the Executive Committee for two terms, and Literary Committee for two terms. He served as chairman of the Congressional Committee one term, and was chairman of the Senatorial and Legislative Committees for two terms. He has been delegate to the county, state, legislative, district and national conventions and chairman of various committees. He was regarded as one of the "wheel-horses" of the Democratic party in this locality for many years and he wielded a powerful influence in its councils. In 1882 he was a candidate for nomination as representative from the Forty-fourth District. There were four candidates and in the convention he received the entire vote on the first ballot. His election followed by a majority of one thousand two hundred and ninety-six in a district which at that time was about six hundred Republican. This shows his great popularity with the masses, and his splendid work in that body showed the wisdom of his constituents in their selection. He has always taken an active interest in whatever tended to promote the general interest of his community. When a resident of Noble he was a member of the school board for seventeen years, during which time the schools of that place were built up to excellent proportions, having been president of the board of trustees for two terms and one term as treasurer. He was appointed health officer of Olney in 1882 and served in a most efficient manner for seventeen years. He served as president of the Board of United States Pension Examiners for ten years, and as president of the Richland County Board of Charities for seven years. He was a member of the Board of Censors in Evansville Hospital Medical College for three years. In all these capacities he gave the greatest satisfaction and always looked after such business with the same care as if it had been his own.

The happy domestic life of the subject began January 23, 1862, when he married Kate Mallary, a native of New York City, the daughter of Sherland and Judah (Elliott) Mallary, natives of Connecticut. The father was in the real estate and rental agency business and died there of cholera. His wife survived a number of years and died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Rowland, at Noble, this state.

Five children have been born to the subject and wife, four of whom are living, as follows: Kate Elbertine, the wife of I. A. Phillips, of Waterbury, Connecticut; Theressa, the wife of E. E. Edwards, of Olney; Charles Townsend, a druggist, of Streator, Illinois; Elbert M., an attorney and Master in Chancery, owner and editor of The Olney Times. These children received good educations and are all well situated in reference to this world's affairs.

In his fraternal relations the subject is a member of the Masonic order at Olney, also the Grand Army of the Republic, having served as surgeon of the latter for many years.

It is doubtful if any citizen of this part of the state has achieved more honorable mention or occupied a more conspicuous place before the public than he whose name appears at the head of these paragraphs.

Extracted 26 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 51-53.


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