(By Mrs. Anna Torrence.)
In giving the genealogy of the Bryan family, who have long been considered among the most noted and highly esteemed of Marion county, Illinois, there are some characteristics which the reader will at once note as being particularly strong and plainly marked throughout the entire lineage. First, as a family whose veracity is never questioned; second, they are noted for being strictly honest in every detail of social, political and business life; third, those who are Christians are very devoted, believing emphatically in a prayer hearing and prayer answering God, believing that He guides man in every right act of life. The publishers of this work are glad to be able to give their readers an insight into the life records of this remarkable family and can state with all authenticity that the sketches contained herein are to be relied upon.
William Bryan, the great-grandfather of Hon. William J. Bryan, was born in England and was married there, having come to America before the Revolutionary war, settling in Culpeper county, Virginia. Five children were born to them, namely: James, John, Aquilla, Francis and Elizabeth. James moved to Barren county, Kentucky. Aquilla went to Ohio. One of the girls married a man named Baldwin. Nothing further is known of these families at present.
John Bryan, the second son and grandfather of Hon. William J. Bryan, was born in 1790. In 1807 he married Nancy Lillard, a representative of one of the finest old southern families of Virginia, and she is remembered as a very refined and cultured woman, endowed with more than ordinary intelligence. In 1828 they moved to Cobal county, Virginia, and lived there two years. From there they moved to Mason county, Virginia, where they lived and passed to their rest and where they lie buried. To them ten children were born. The oldest, William W., was born in 1808. He married Emily Smith and about 1838 moved to Lincoln county, Missouri, near Troy. They were the parents of four children, namely: William Hamilton, John J., Callie and Virginia. William W. Bryan reached an old age and died a few years ago, his wife following him to the other shore only a few months later. William H. Bryan is an honored and respected citizen of Troy, Missouri, and he has a nice Christian family. Callie and Virginia are noble Christian women. John J. is deceased. John J. Bryan, Sr., died in early manhood. Howard died in infancy. Jane, the oldest daughter married Joseph Cheney, a wealthy hat manufacturer of Gallipolis, Ohio. She was left a widow with six small children whom she reared to be useful women and men. Their names were: Robert, Mary, Russell, Linna, Harriet and Emma. She spent the last few years of her life at various places, wherever she preferred to stay, spending seven years with the family of Judge Silas L. Bryan. The last three years of her life she lived with Mrs. Mollie Webster, one of her nieces, whom she comforted in her early widowhood. She was the idolized aunt around whom all the nieces and nephews clustered, who regarded her as an earthly saint. She was never heard to utter an unkind word against any of God's creations. The night she was called from earth she praised God aloud with every shortening breath.
Nancy Bryan married George Baltzell and moved to Walnut Hill, Illinois, where she died. Two sons were born to them, Silas L. and Russell B. Both are active businessmen, the former living at Hammond, Louisiana, and the latter at Centralia, Illinois. Nancy is described as a very handsome woman, refined and cultured. To her early training, motherly care and prayers, Judge Silas L. Bryan owed much of his success in life.
Martha Bryan married Homer Smith, of Gallipolis, Ohio, and moved to Illinois. She was left a widow with two small girls, Jane and Mary. She was called from earth before the girls were grown. Jane made her home with Russell Bryan and Mary with Judge Bryan's family. Jane was a successful schoolteacher for several years. The mother was a very devoted Christian and always had family prayers and is today a sainted mother. The youngest daughter, Mary, now Mrs. Mollie Webster, has been a widow several years. She manages a large farm very successfully, and she is a great temperance and church worker. She has been county president of the White Ribbon Army for a number of years and is also treasurer of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in the Twenty-first Congressional District of Illinois. It was she who taught Hon. William J. Bryan his little infant prayers. She taught and trained him in his first boyhood speeches. When he was in Salem once visiting his old home they reviewed some of the scenes and incidents of their interesting childhood days.
Dr. Robert Bryan was killed in a steamboat explosion.
Silas L. Bryan, father of Hon. William J. Bryan, was born in Culpeper Court House, Virginia, in 1822. He came to Illinois in 1842, where he lived, died and was buried. He worked on a farm at nine dollars a month, saving his money to defray his expenses at McKendree College. During the winter while at college he would chop wood on Saturdays to help pay expenses. Many of his colleagues made fun of him, but in after years many of them, came to borrow money of him and to seek his legal advice. He was a man of sterling qualities, the kind that always makes for success when rightly and persistently applied. He was a very devout Christian, always had family prayers, and he promised the Lord if He would prosper him to get through college he would pray three times a day the rest of his life. This promise he faithfully kept, praying morning and evening at his home, and at noon wherever he happened to be. He would drop on his knees and ask God's blessings. He was a member of the Marion county bar for a period of thirty years, a member of the State Senate for eight years, and for twelve years was Circuit Judge of this judicial district. He was a member of the convention that framed the present state constitution of Illinois. He was a man of unusual tact, shrewdness, soundness of judgment and force of character, and it was from him that Hon. William J. Bryan inherited his gift of oratory and his brilliant intellect. He imbued the boy with lofty ideals and taught him by example and precept how to make a grand and noble man.
Silas L. Bryan married Mariah Elizabeth Jennings, a woman of many praiseworthy traits and a devoted Christian wife and mother. She gave the best part of her life to the care of her family. She was truly "a mother in Israel." To this union were born nine children, namely: John H., Virginia, William J., Russell, Harry, Frances, Charles, Nancy and Mary. John and Virginia died within six weeks of each other when young. William J. was born March 17, 1860. He was taught at home until ten years of age, after which he attended the public schools for five years, during which time he gave evidence of being a most precocious child and one to whom the future augured great things. He afterward attended college at Jacksonville, Illinois, where he made a brilliant record for both scholarship and deportment. He then studied law in Chicago in the office of Lyman Trumbull, making rapid progress from the first. He was admitted to the bar and successfully practiced for some time, finally entering the political arena, since which time his career has been too meteoric to need reviewing here, since his record is well known to all, and is given in detail in another part of this volume. Russell Bryan died in early manhood. Frances has a nice comfortable home in Shaw, Mississippi, and is a jolly, whole souled woman, loved by everyone. Charles is a very successful businessman in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nancy is a quiet, refined and modest girl. She was at one time William J.'s private secretary. Mary, the youngest of the family, became a successful school teacher. She has winning ways and is a great favorite. Russell Bryan, the youngest brother of Judge Bryan, came to Salem in 1841. He was familiarly known to all as "Uncle Russ," being well known throughout the county. He was endowed with a wonderful memory. Often when dates or records of events seemed obscure he was referred to, and seldom failed to give the correct names, dates or places desired. He had stock scales in Salem for thirty years, or since 1878, and his weights were never questioned. He never went in debt for anything, and he never had a lawsuit, and as a result of his upright life he was honored and respected by all who knew him. He married Amanda L. Tully, who was always a very bright and active woman, a fine financier and businesswoman of unusual ability and acumen. Twelve children have been born to this union as follows: Anna E., Alice J., John E., Lewis O., Andrew R., Mark T., Silas L., Rosa A. The ninth in order of birth died in infancy. Minnie M. was next in order; then Emma A. and Adis M. Anna chose the teacher's profession when quite young. She successfully taught for twenty-four years, and after she became a widow and had reached the meridian of life attended one of the state normals and graduated there from, since which time she taught in a normal training school in Chicago and later in Salem. Alice J. is a very domestic woman, and her's is one of the coziest homes in Salem. She is a natural artist and at one time was quite a cultured singer. John E. is a prosperous lawyer in Salem. He was a school teacher for many years, and has served as Master in Chancery for eight years. He is noted for his honor and integrity. (A fuller sketch of John E. Bryan appears elsewhere in this volume.) Lewis O. is a lawyer at Van Buren, Arkansas, and is quite wealthy. He is noted for his true philanthropy and is the poor man's friend. Andrew R. lives in Salem and is highly esteemed by all who know him. Mark T. died when six years old. Silas L. died in infancy. Rosa A. lives a mile from Van Buren, Arkansas, on a fine fruit farm. She is a woman of thrift and has a bright, interesting family. Minnie M. is a resident of Indianapolis. Emma A. resides in Centralia, this county. Adis M. is in the real estate business at Van Buren, Arkansas, and has become noted as a politician.
Elizabeth Bryan, the judge's youngest sister, married George Baltzell, and they live at Deer Ridge, St. Louis county, Missouri. She is the mother of the following children, namely: Anna, Albert, Florence, and Edwin. The last named died while in college. They are influential and highly respected in their community.
Thus it is no wonder that this family should become so useful and influential and should be leaders of society in its various phases, when we consider how they have kept the even tenor of their way, how they were reared in "the fear and admonition of the Lord," and how they have kept the faith of their worthy ancestors, maintaining in all the relations of life that strict integrity and loyalty of principle to lofty ideals and honorable records in private, commercial, professional and public life. The influence for good to humanity and the amelioration of the human race of such a noble family is too far-reaching and inscrutable to be measured or contemplated with any degree of accuracy. Truly such characters are as "a shining light which grows more and more unto the perfect day," purifying, refining, strengthening and encouraging the way worn traveler on life's rugged steeps, teaching the less courageous that he who would ascend to the heights of life where the purer atmosphere that inspires the souls of men may be breathed, must be true, loyal, ambitious, energetic, honorable and of indomitable energy.
Extracted 06 Jun 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical Review of Marion, Counties, Illinois, pages 231-235.