S: Our Illinois Ancestors - The Colliers & Lefevers By Carol Collier Duncan
FC: The Colliers & Lefevers of Clark & Cumberland Counties | Our Illinois Ancestors
1: This book is dedicated to my Collier and Lefever relatives who took the time to document our family history and share their family photographs: My Mother Ethel Lefever Collier My Father George Eugene Collier My Aunts Glorene Lefever Funk Lois Collier Baker A family history is a work in progress and is by no means complete, but it is a beginning and a glimpse of the people who came before us. It is also an oral history told by grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles to their grandchildren, sons, daughters, nieces and nephews. We should be proud to come from individuals who exhibited great courage and vision in the founding of our country and family. Carol Collier Duncan December, 2013
2: Following the National Road | Your ancestors on your mother's side were farmers and early settlers of our country prior to the Revolution, Families, such as the Lefevers, received a land grant from England and settled in Pennsylvania. In search of their own land, younger generations moved west, following the National Road, which was created in 1806 as the first Federally funded highway that connected Cumberland, Maryland with Vandalia, Illinois. named because it was the road followed by the pioneers heading west. Barnett Collier settled in Clark County near Martinsville, Illinois.
3: Elias Lefever, William Gordon, and David Howe followed the National Road to Cumberland County near Casey. In 1920 the National Road encompassed Route 40, and in the late 1940’s the Lefever farmhouse was moved to make way for additional highway improvements. Today I-70 parallels I-40. Settling in Lerna, ten miles northwest from the Lefever farm, were Tom and Sarah Lincoln, father and stepmother of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln last visited Lerna in 1861, just prior to his inauguration. Left is a picture of the Lincoln cabin as it was when I was small before restoration into a National Historic Site.
4: Barnett and Mary Cook Collier | Barnett Collier was born May 30, 1838 in Ohio. His parents were William Barnett Collier and Hannah Snider. He died April 6, 1919. Barnett married Mary Elizabeth "Polly" Cook on 22 Apr 1858 in Clark County, Illinois. Polly was born in 1838 in Indiana, the child of Solomon and Elizabeth Cook, both born in 1811.
5: Barnett and Mary's Ten Children | Top —left to right: Wes and Clarence Middle: Martin, George (your great grandfather), John, Jim, Fred and Bill Front - Hannah, Barnett, Mary and Nancy
6: Family Gathering Circa 1899 at the Collier Farm | Top Row L to R: Wes, Clarence and Fred Collier; 4th Row: Martin Collier, Jasper Ulrey, John Collier, Jim Collier, Elmer Rupp, Bill Collier and my grandfather, George Collier 3rd Row: Not identified. 2nd Row: Frances Collier holding Victor, Hannah Collier Ulrey, Barnett Collier, Mary Collier, Nancy Collier Rupp holding Stella, and Melissa Collier holding Jesse. Front Row: Charles Ulrey, Bertha Ulrey, Eva White (adopted), Bessie Ulrey, Lula Rupp and Nellie Collier (my aunt).
7: George Washington Collier | George Washington Collier was born March15, 1864. He married Mary Melissa "Minnie" McCarty in Indiana on May 7, 1894. Early in their marriage, he brought his family to Martinsville. My father, George Eugene, was the 5th of their 9 children. George had little formal education was said to be brilliant, hard working, quiet, with a fiery temper - a man not suited to be the father to nine children. He died in a nursing home in Mattoon, Illinois in April 1949. | In the early 1900's Clark County was part of an oil boom and George began his career in the oil business. He made a good living as a construction foreman, but would be gone for long stretches of time. In 1919, the family moved to Glenrock, Wyoming, where Minnie gave birth at 52 to her last child, Wilma Dean. In 1924, George was sent to the Texas oil fields promising to send for his family. He returned the same year for Wilma’s funeral. It was the last time his wife would see him as he divorced her in 1925. He remarried a woman named Della, but she would die before him. My father would not see his father until 1944, when we traveled to Hondo, TX and found him living in the back of a pool hall.
8: George & Mary Melissa McCarty Collier | Minnie is the only daughter of James H. McCarty (1836-1915) and Louise Randolph. She was born in Walton Case, Indiana on July 11, 1874 and died in Martinsville, Illinois on May 2, 1932. Minnie was said to be religious, loving, a wonderful cook and mother with a great sense of humor. Perhaps, her best trait was forgiveness. It was said she never said an unkind word about her husband to her children, who forgave him as well. | Charlie, George Eugene, Jesse, Nellie and Alice in 1911. Raymond had died in 1909. Harry, Lois and Wilma would follow. There was more than 30 years between her oldest child, Nellie, and youngest child, Wilma. Minnie also helped raise Charlie's daughter, Delores, and Nellie's daughter, Eleanor.
9: "The Collier family filled my life with happiness and laughter leaving many memories to treasure today and forever after." -Ethel Lefever Collier | Less than a week after the reunion in Hondo, Grandpa Collier, came to visit in San Antonio and did so every Tuesday until we returned to Illinois in 1945. My mother and I were his favorites for the remainder of his life. I loved visiting him in his retirement home on Sunday's. His children generously paid for his care and death expenses. Minnie would have been proud! | Picture taken by Daddy in1945 after my baptism: Nancy, Eleanor Myers (Nellie's daughter), Inez, Horty, Nellie, Harry holding me, Aubert, Larry and Gary Myers.
10: Elias and Mary Jane Howe Lefever | Elias David Lefever was born April 12, 1812 in Frederick County, Maryland. He is the son of George Lefever. We have a book on the Lefever family that dates back to the 1500's in France. While living in Ohio, Elias married Rebecca Irons, Seven children came from his first marriage. His final move in 1849 brought Elias to Cumberland County, Illinois in Union Township, near the town of Casey. After the death of Rebecca, Elias married a widow, Mary Jane Howe Huntington on April 6, 1864. Mary Jane brought two children to the marriage, Elizabeth and William. William is known as "Uncle Shorty" and gave my mother the Indian blanket that he brought back from the Arizona Territory. | Mary Jane Howe was born April 13, 1831, the daughter of David and Sarah Babbs Howe. Her father served in the War of 1812 and her grandfather, James Howe, served in the American Revolution with the Pennsylvania Militia. Mary Jane’s first husband, Joseph Huntington, had died in 1859 of “mountain fever” on his way to the California gold field. My grandfather David Lefever was the first of Mary Jane and Elias' 5 children. David inherited the family farm, when his father died on May 14, 1885, Mary Jane married a Casey banker and for a time lived in town. After his death she lived with David and his family until her death on August 29, 1903. There is also a book on the Howe family.
11: This is part of the Lefever farm, as seen today. To the right of the railroad tracks is where the Lefever School once stood. Grandma Collier was both a student and a teacher at the one-room school.
12: David Elias Lefever | David Elias Lefever was born April 20, 1865 on the Lefever farm, where he lived until his death on May 2, 1946. He married Lydia Ellen Gordon on September 27, 1888. After Lydia's death on January 28, 1928, he married Rose Porter, in 1936. | David was well respected in the community. He was friendly, hard working, loyal, outgoing and an excellent public speaker. Although very naughty as a schoolboy, he became one of the region's most respected citizens. His prize-winning mules were a source of pride and income. | The above picture was taken in Hinton, Oklahoma in February 1917, at John’s home. Top Row— William “Shorty” Huntington (half-brother), David Lefever and Anna Lefever Lemons Front Row—Stella Lefever Burnett, John Lefever, Nola Lefever Miller; Elizabeth Huntington was not in the picture as she had married and moved to Missouri.
13: Lydia Ellen Gordon Lefever | Lydia Ellen Gordon was born March 15, 1868, in Ft. Scott, Kansas, the youngest of twelve children born to Malinda Miller and William Gordon of Cumberland County, Illinois. When Lydia's father died in Kansas, Malinda remarried; however, Lydia and Malinda returned to Illinois after Malinda's second husband secretly sold the farm and left town. Lydia was brilliant in math, an excellent musician, a lover of classical literature, religious and after marrying David became self-educated in modern agricultural and farming science. | David and Lydia Lefever and son Leroy in 1897. Leroy died in 1900 at age 5 of the croup. Glorene was born in 1901 and my mother Ethel Hortense on August 19, 1911. Leroy would have been 16 when Mother was born. | Picture on the Lefever farm around 1918, just before Lydia became ill with TB. David, Glorene, Hortense and Lydia.
14: Ethel Hortense Lefever Collier | Ethel Hortense Lefever was born August 19, 1911, the third of David and Lydia's children. Her sister Glorene was almost 11, and her brother's death still cast a shadow on the new, modern farmhouse. But little Hortense addressed it kindly, diplomatically, and logically. When playing with a toy wagon at age 3,Hortense was admonished to be careful with the toy because it was Leroy's. Her response was, "If Leroy was such a nice boy, I think he'd want a little girl to play with it." She was wise beyond her years and took on adult tasks when her mother became ill with TB when she was 8. That essentially ended any type of a carefree childhood. She never learned to swim, roller skate, dance or ride a bike, but she could do most any type of farm chore, drove a car and horse wagon early, delighted in the spring lambs, calves and pigs, shot a cat between its eyes that was killing chickens, and was an avid reader. | Above picture taken around 1935 She graduated at 16 from Casey High School. Her mother's death earlier in the year was devastating and left her almost immobilized by grief. However, in a dream she saw her mother with Jesus in a garden and upon awakening felt a peace that never left her. She wanted to attend college, but David assumed she would keep his house and help on the farm after graduation. He didn't envision his daughter ever leaving. And she was a Daddy's girl and probably would have stayed if not for the intervention of others outside the family.
15: George Eugene Collier | Several people as a group met with her father, including the high school principal, their minister's wife, and Dr. Johnson, the person her father most respected. In the end he agreed to one year. In the fall of 1928 she entered Eastern Illinois Teacher's College in Charleston, Although only 30 miles away, it might have been the moon. That year, she fell in love for the first time and found she could compete academically with the best. She learned to dance, wore short skirts and rolled her nylons. She kept her promise and returned to the farm to teach grades one through eight for the 1929-30 school year at the Lefever School. | She saved most of her salary for another year of college. This time she didn't seek permission. In the summer of 1930, she had the money to return to teacher's college in the fall. She had a steady boyfriend studying to be a doctor and he spoke of a future together. Love at First Sight Then, just days before her 19th birthday, she attended a band concert in Martinsville and caught the eye of a tall, handsome stranger. who stood apart from the crowd. His name was George Eugene Collier, but everyone called him Gene. From their first date, they knew their future would be together. . | Above picture, 1945 Gene was the fifth of George and Minnie Collier's nine children. Seven were still living. Born June 28, 1910, in Martinsville, he also had lived in Wyoming and Florida. He had returned to Martinsville his last year of high school with his mother and younger brother and sister. .
16: When they met, Gene's mother was ill and he was financially responsible for their household that included his brother Harry and sister Lois. He left shortly after meeting Horty (his nickname for her) to work in Florida, to send money home. They kept in touch by mail. After her second year of teacher's college, Horty was qualified to teach at the Jr. High School in Casey. Gene came back to Illinois in 1932, just before his mother died. They eloped on May 27, 1933; and Gene joined his bride on the Lefever farm, working with his father-in-law. Later, he worked at a dairy, opened a radio repair shop, and became a ham radio operator, building his own equipment. | Gene and Horty | Harry joined them on the farm and eventually married Horty's cousin, Inez Howe. Lois lived with Alice in Maryland, but came to the farm each summer. Nellie was divorced and back in Illinois, so her daughter, Eleanor, visited as well. David Lefever enjoyed having the Collier kids around. They were good help and brought life to what had been a somber house. Horty and Gene didn't want children right away. Money was tight, and for the first time in their lives, they were carefree and happy. At her aunt's urging, they left the farm for a rented house, and her father's life did not fall apart as Horty feared. He fell in love with a widow, Rose Porter, and married at 70. It had been love at first sight for him, too. In appreciation for all Horty and Gene had done for him, David gave them money to buy a house in Casey. No indoor plumbing, but it was theirs.
17: Sometime during the War, they became George and Ethel. After the War, they knew that George and Ethel could never go back to the the life of Gene and Horty in Casey. The Post War Years In 1945 they forged ahead with a new life. George would go to Bradley University in Peoria to the School of Horology. He thought he'd like to be a jeweler and watchmaker. But after a year at a jewelry store in Ishpeming, Michigan, he changed his mind. The VA gave him a battery of tests and found him to be well suited to be a technical specialist with the Army in Decatur. He had found his niche. By 1950 he was working with the first computers. Ethel was a full-time mother and volunteer. In 1959, George was transferred to the Pentagon. | World War II On December 7, 1941 everything changed. America was at War. The years of fun were over. Gene enlisted in the Army Air Corps and Horty followed her soldier to St. Louis, Atlantic City, NJ and Goldsboro, NC. And like so many others, they decided to have a child. On March 29, 1944, their daughter Carol Jean was born. | Six weeks after Carol's birth, they were in San Antonio, where they reconnected with Gene's father. Gene did not go overseas, as he became ill with a mysterious high fever, and was in the hospital for nine months.
18: Carol Jean Collier | I was born March 29, 1944 in Goldsboro, NC. The first four years of my life, we were gypsies, always on the move. Goldsboro, NC to San Antonio, TX to Casey and Peoria. My first memory is the smell of the brewery adjacent to the public housing project that was home. There, at 3, I learned to be tough and fight for myself. At four, I remember the snow of Ishpeming and the igloo that the boys next door made for me that lasted all winter. In Decatur, my father worked for the Army and we bought a house and for 11 years it was home. I was an only child in the post war baby boom and so wanted a sibling of my own, but it just didn't happen. We saw the families of my Dad's brothers and sisters constantly and it was the joy of my childhood. We'd travel to Maryland to see Aunt Lois and Aunt Alice and to Florida to see Uncle Jesse and all across Illinois. There was always love and laughter. | My mother's sister, Aunt Glorene, was like a grandmother. I would travel by bus from Decatur to Taylorsville to visit her. She would make special cookies, tell stories of the strange people she had encountered and buy Official Detective Magazines. As a child, I was a paradox of shy and not afraid to speak my mind.
19: I was a wanderer and would go off on long strolls, bringing back plants, insects, frogs and junk collected from alleyways. I was a fast runner and felt like I had springs in my legs, but there were no athletic programs for girls. I loved to roller skate, play cowboys and Indians and my biggest fear were the Chinese Communists. I longed for a Red Ryder BB gun, but was told it was not for girls. However, I did have hopes one would be under the Christmas tree. That year we were at Uncle Harry and Aunt Inez's house. My cousin Butch received one, but I got a doll. I was 10, too old for a doll. Butch had wanted a chemistry set, instead of the gun. We went off together and grumbled in his room, but didn't think anyone knew. After dinner, Daddy and Uncle Harry asked us to take a ride. Uncle Harry opened up the variety store that he managed in Casey and with great fanfare handed me my own genuine Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and Butch a chemistry set. My father was beaming. . | The doll was returned to Sears; however, I still had to pay 50 cents a week until the difference was paid off, a concession granted my mother. The gun was the beginning of a new relationship with my dad. He later installed a basketball goal on the garage, bought season tickets to Decatur's minor league baseball team., built a unique high jump stand, and embraced his tomboy daughter. My mother was my Girl Scout Leader and Sunday School Teacher and lobbied the school board when I was sent home from school for wearing jeans.
20: Carol Gets Married | In Decatur, I attended Garfield Elementary School, Roosevelt Jr. High, and a year at MacArthur High School. Around 13, I became bored with the sameness of my life. The same neighbors, friends, and flatness. And then at 15, my father was transferred to the Pentagon and I was given the world. I loved everything about Washington....the politics, the monuments, the smart kids in my class and I met my best friend for life, Margaret Gorman at George Mason High School, where I graduated in 1962. I chose Washington School for Secretaries and marriage to Margaret's cousin, Buck Gorman instead of college. Buck was 21, in the Navy and after the scare of his ship being on the front lines of the blockade of the Cuban missile crisis in the fall of 1962, we married that December. The marriage didn't last and by May of 1964, I was single again, working at the Pentagon for the Director of Construction of the Air Force and back at home in Falls Church, attending the University of Virginia at night. | It was there I met your father, Tom Willis, a computer intelligence specialist in the US Air Force, from Charlotte, NC. We married at Dulin Methodist Church in Falls Church, VA on October 2, 1965. My marriage to Tom brought me back to North Carolina in 1971 and a career in marketing with the architectural-engineering firm, Pease Associates (1971-1999) and Goodwill Industries (2000-2007). For many years we tried very hard to make our marriage work, but in 1985, we decided to separate.
21: Three wonderful children came from our marriage: Mary Melissa, 9/15/68 in Cheverly, MD Thomas Collier, 10/19/69 in Torrence, CA David Christopher, 1/1/81, Charlotte, NC Both your father and I have been happily remarried for more than 25 years. In 1986 Tom married Anna Norman and on May 30, 1987, I married John Duncan at the Methodist Home Chapel, where Grandma Collier lived. Missy was my bridesmaid, Tommy gave me away and David escorted Grandma Collier. With David on my wedding day. | At our wedding October 2, 1965: George and Ethel Collier; Carol and Tom Willis; and Virginia and Herman Willis
22: The Following Generations | Tommy, Missy and David, 1983 Missy and Greg Shah, October 8, 1995. Tommy at 21. David, Amanda and Betsy at her christening June, 2013. Rachel and Andrew Shah, 2013.
24: The Last of Our Illinois Ancestors My parents were always a part of my life, even though we did not always live near each other. And they continue to be so through memories. In 1969, after ten years at the Pentagon, they returned to Casey. Daddy had accomplished a great deal in his ten years at the Pentagon, working through national crises that included the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War. In 1968, chest pains at work were ignored until his desk was in order. Only then did he go to the Pentagon medical center. Mother also made her mark in Virginia playing a role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. In 1969, they moved back to Casey, Illinois and it was the happiest time of their lives together. They would travel often to see me and their grandchildren and in 1983 moved to be near us in NC. Five months later Daddy died, but not before he had gotten to know his third grandchild, David, very well. When Tom and I divorced mother lived with me in Charlotte for a time and we had such fun. Think the "Golden Girls." She had 22 happy years at the Methodist Home until her death at almost 97. In that time she was able to see me happily married to John Duncan. She hosted bridal showers for Missy and David's wife, Amanda, and enjoyed many visits with her great grandchildren, Rachel and Andrew. To Mother and Daddy, I say thank you and farewell to the last of our Collier and Lefever Ancestors of Illinois, even though they share a grave in the shadow of a Confederate soldier in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Cornelius, NC. Carol Collier Duncan