Clay County

Biography - A. W. Songer

Our subject possesses untiring energy, is quick of perception, forms his plans readily and is determined in their execution; his close application to business and his excellent management have brought to him the high degree of prosperity which is today his. Mr. Songer was one of the brave sons of the North who offered his services and his life, if need be, in the suppression of the great rebellion during the dark days of the sixties, which render it fitting that he should be given conspicuous notice in the present historical work.

A. W. Songer, the well-known and popular president of the First National Bank of Kinmundy, Illinois, was born in Clay county, this state, November 2, 1832, the son of Frederick and Jane (Helms) Songer, a sterling pioneer family of that locality. Grandfather Songer was a native of Virginia, a fine old southern gentleman. He devoted his life to agricultural pursuits, eventually moving to Indiana where he spent the balance of his days. His marriage occurred in Virginia and most of his family were born there. He was called from his earthly career when about sixty years old. He was a Lutheran in his religious affiliations. Eight children were born to this family, one of them having become a soldier in the Black Hawk war. Grandmother Songer, a woman of many strong attributes, survived her husband until she reached the advanced age of eighty years. Grandfather Helms was also a native of Virginia, who moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and from there to Tennessee, where he worked at his trade of blacksmith. Charles, one of his sons, moved to Indiana, where he spent the remainder of his life, having lived many years near Indianapolis. The balance of the family were early settlers in Illinois and from here scattered to the western states, principally to Nebraska and Texas. One of them was a soldier in the Black Hawk war and another fought in the Mexican war. The Songer family, represented by the great-grandmother of our subject, was from Germany. The great-great-grandfather of the subject died in Germany, his widow coming to America shortly after his death, one of her children dying on the ocean on the way over. She settled in Virginia.

The father of the subject remained in Virginia until he was about twenty-two years old. He received only such education as the public schools afforded at that early day. However, he became a well-informed man. He was a carpenter and builder of considerable note. He lived for some time in Indiana, where he was married, later moving to Illinois about 1821, settling in Clay county, where he remained until 1835, when he moved to Marion county, entering about two hundred acres of land from the government which he transformed into a fine farm through his habits of industry and skill as an agriculturist, living on this until 1872, in which year he moved to Kinmundy, where he died at the age of seventy-three years, owning an excellent farm which he left as an estate. He became a man of considerable influence in his community. He was an active and loyal member of the Methodist church as was also his wife. He was a Justice of the Peace for a number of years. For a time he owned and successfully operated a saw and grist mill.

There were ten children in this family, seven of whom lived to maturity. A brother of our subject, Samuel T., was a soldier in the Civil war, a member of Company G, Twenty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry, having served for three years, engaging in all the campaigns and battles of his regiment up to the date of his discharge which was at the termination of his enlistment. He is living in 1908 and is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, in which he takes a just pride. William F., brother of the subject, was also a soldier, having performed conspicuous service in the Mexican war. He was at one time State Representative in Oregon, in which state he still resides as also does Samuel T., another brother of the subject, living at Ashland.

A. W. Songer, our subject, received his early education in the common schools of Illinois. Being a diligent student and ambitious from the start he has become well educated. He remained on the home farm assisting his father with the work about the place during the months that he was not in school until he was twenty-one years old. Learning the carpenter's trade, he followed this for three years, then in 1861, when he felt his patriotic zeal inspired as the result of our national integrity being at stake when the fierce fires of rebellion were raging in the Southland, he enlisted in Company G, Twenty-first Illinois Volunteer Regiment, having been mustered in as second lieutenant and was soon promoted to first lieutenant and consequently served as an officer of that regiment for four years and five days when he was honorably discharged at the close of the war in 1865, after having taking a conspicuous part in the following engagements: Perryville, Kentucky; Stone River, Tennessee; Chickamaugua, having been captured at this battle and was taken to Libby prison, where he remained three months, when he was sent to prison at Macon, Georgia, later to Charleston, South Carolina, thence to Columbia, South Carolina, then to Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was exchanged, after having been a prisoner seventeen months and eight days, and thirty days thereafter he was mustered out of the service at St. Louis, Missouri.

After the war Mr. Songer returned to his home in Illinois and worked at his trade for a time. He then came to Kinmundy and entered into the milling business in which he continued with the most gratifying results until 1907, becoming known throughout the locality as one of the leading men in this line of business. He sold his mill and devoted his attention to the banking business in which he has been eminently successful. He had been connected with the State Bank of Kinmundy for some time, becoming president of the same. It was consolidated with the First National Bank, becoming the First National on August 26, 1906, the date of the consolidation, since which time Mr. Songer has been president. This is one of the solidest and most popular institutions of its kind in this part of the state and its prestige was greatly strengthened when Mr. Songer became its head for the public at once realized that their funds would be entirely safe in his hands owing to his conservatism, coupled with his peculiar business sagacity, and since then the business of the First National has grown steadily.

The domestic life of our subject dates from 1868, when he was united in marriage with Margaret C. Nelm, of Cairo, Illinois, the daughter of Norflett and Lydia (Dickens) Nelm. Her paternal ancestor, Dickens, was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, which rendered the wife of our subject eligible to the Order of Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. The grandfather of the subject's wife was a Baptist minister. Her father was a soldier in the Black Hawk war. One of her brothers, N. B. Nelm, was a soldier in the Civil war, having served until the close of the war. Three children have been born to the subject and wife as follows: Mary E., born December 25, 1871, is the wife of J. T. Brown, of Marion county; Frederick is married and living in Kinmundy. Neither of them have children of their own. The third child of the subject and wife died in infancy.

Mrs. Songer was called to her rest September 9, 1907, after a most happy and harmonious married life and one that was beautified by Christian character and many kind and charitable deeds which made her beloved by all who knew her. She was a loyal member of the Methodist church, and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, of which order Mary E. (Songer) Brown was also a member.

Mr. Songer, as might be expected, is a consistent member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Post 255, known as the Hix Post. He is now commander of the same. In politics he is a Republican and is well grounded in his political beliefs, his influence always being felt for the good of his party and in support of the best men possible for local offices. He has never aspired to positions of trust and emolument at the hands of his fellow voters. However, he has been Alderman of the city of Kinmundy several times. His efforts have proven of the greatest benefit to his fellow men of Marion county as well as to himself.

Extracted 27 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay & Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 105-108.

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