To present the leading facts in the life of one of Clay county's busy men
of affairs and throw light upon some of his more pronounced characteristics
is the task in hand in placing before the reader the following biographical
review of Judge John R. Bonney, who has, while yet in the prime of vigorous
manhood, won a conspicuous place in the legal world of this locality, who,
for many years has stood in the front rank in his profession in a county
well known for its splendid array of legal talent. He long ago succeeded in
impressing his strong personality upon the community in which he now lives,
and where for a quarter of a century he has been a forceful factor in
directing and controlling important movements looking to the development of
Clay county, whose interests he has ever had at heart, and where he has
labored for the general good while advancing his own interests, which he has
done in such a manner as to win the hearty commendation of all who know him.
John R. Bonney was born on a farm in Monroe county, Illinois, April 27, 1848, the son of Philip C. Bonney, a native of Cumberland county, Maine, who came West in 1840, settling at Waterloo, Monroe county, Illinois. The subject's father was a member of Company A, Thirty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which was commanded by Gen. John A. Logan. He was through all the Vicksburg campaign and participated in many battles. He died in Jackson county, Illinois, in 1863, from the effects of exposure while in the service, having lived only three days after he returned home from the army.
Thomas Bonney, the subject's grandfather, was born in England. The mother of the judge was Mary Fisher in her maidenhood, whose people were from Tennessee. She lived to the advanced age of eighty-seven years, having died in Louisville, Illinois, May 12, 1908. The judge's parents were people of much sterling worth and reared their children in a wholesome home atmosphere which has had a marked effect upon their subsequent lives. The names of their eight children follow: Marshall and DeGrass both died in infancy; Lyman died in 1887; John R. was the fourth child in order of birth; Rowland died in 1875; William died in 1905; Samuel died when three years old; Olive is the wife of A. L. Barnett, Sheriff of Searcy county, Arkansas.
Judge Bonney received a good common school education, despite the fact that opportunities for being educated in the early days were limited, yet he was an ambitious youth and applied himself as best he could to whatever books that fell into his hands. His business and professional career briefly stated, is as follows:
He was one of the men of Illinois to offer his services in behalf of the Union during the Rebellion, having enlisted in 1865, and served until the close of the war. Returning home he began blacksmithing, at which he worked with success from 1866 to 1873. Being still desirous of gaining a higher education, he then entered Shurtliff College, Upper Alton, Illinois, in 1873, in which he remained for two years, making rapid progress, after which he began teaching in Clay county, having taught during 1876 and 1877, in a manner that won much favorable comment from all sources. He was Justice of the Peace and Township Treasurer of Hoosier township from 1881 until 1898. Having made rapid strides in the study of law, he was admitted to the bar in 1896, and in a short time had a good legal business. He was elected County Judge on November 8, 1898, and served with much credit and entire satisfaction to his constituents until his term expired December 1, 1902. Having given such splendid service in this office, he was re-elected in 1902 and served four more years, retiring in December, 1906. During these eight years many cases of great importance were handled by him with the usual dispatch and clearness in analysis, also fairness to all concerned. He will, no doubt, be remembered as one of the ablest jurists the county has ever had.
Judge Bonney was married November 7, 1869, to Samantha Erwin, the representative of a well-known family. She was called to her rest November 26, 1888. Six children were born to this union, namely: Laura, the wife of J. H. Chandler, of Clay county; Etta is the wife of George W. McGlashon, of Louisville, Illinois; Lillian is the wife of E. G. Johnson, of Mill Shoals, Illinois, where he is agent for the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad Company; Roscoe lives at Monta Vista, Colorado, in the government service; Maude is employed by the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company in St. Louis; Jessie is living at home.
The Judge again married, on November 7, 1890, his second wife being Jennie Wolfe. One child has been born to this union, Harold, who is ten years old in 1908. Mrs. Bonney is a woman of many commendable traits.
Our subject is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and is a Republican in politics, having long been active in his party's affairs. The keynote of his character are progress and patriotism, for, as already intimated throughout his career he has labored for the improvement of every line of business or public interest with which he has been associated.
Extracted 27 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay & Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 362-364.