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OBITUARY of Hiram Tremble

"A Pioneer Preacher, Sketch of the Life of One of the Early Settlers of Mattoon"

Those who for the past six months had seen "Uncle Hi" could but wonder how so frail a form could withstand so long the ruthless hand of disease, and yet the dispatch which announced his death came sudden and unexpected. As the sad intelligence passed from friend to friend, few there were who did not stop to shed a tear as a sad memorial of "Uncle Hi", but which he was familiarly called by all.

In honor of his sterling worth and integrity, a record of his eventful life is due him and worthy of preservation.

He was born in Warren county, Ohio in the year 1808. In early youth he moved from there to Wayne county, Indiana where, at the age of eighteen, he married to Miss Polly Jackson, a Methodist minister's daughter. Four children were the result of this union. Between the years 1829 and 1831 he moved with his family to Shelby county, Illinois, where his wife died in 1832. In the following year he was married to Miss Sarah Sawyer, a daughter of John Sawyer, one of the early settlers of Central Illinois. She was a faithful wife until her death, which occurred something over two years ago. From this marriage there were eleven children, making a family of fifteen children, eleven of whom survive him.

  He enlisted in the army in 1832, and served through the Black Hawk War in the same company with Abraham Lincoln. In 1862 he enlisted in the Union army for the oppression of the rebellion, and served his country three years as chaplain of 62nd Illinois Volunteers.

After his return from the army he was in Baxter Springs, Kansas, one or two years settling up an estate of a deceased son. After which he came to his home, three miles southwest of Mattoon, where he remained until a week previous to his death. He conceived the idea that the climate and water of Eureka Springs, Arkansas might possibly arrest the rapid progress of his disease. Hoping thus to benefit his health, and also to see a daughter near them, living in Missouri, he started Monday, March 7, in care of George Reynolds, upon his journey. He was unable to reach the Springs and stopped at his daughters, Mrs. Phoebe Yocum, in McDonald county, Missouri, where the following Monday at 7 a.m. March 14, 1881, he died. At his request, his remains were brought home and interred in the 'Old Camp-Ground Cemetery' Thursday, March 17.

His funeral sermon was preached, also at his request, by Rev. W. N. Poe, from Revelations III, 2, and was largely attended. Though the roads were well nigh impassable, his friends and acquaintances allowed nothing to prevent them from paying their last sad tribute to 'Uncle Hi.'

The little church where he liked so well to work and worship was filled to overflowing, and as all that was moral of 'Uncle Hi' was born up the aisle for the lst tune, the sympathizing tear flowed freely from all. The bravest and strongest heart could but weep as they would over the death of a near relative. All feel that they had lost a friend, as in truth they had, and when the casket containing his remains was placed inside the chancel in front of the pulpit, which his own hands had made, and when the minister arose to preach, he, with the entire audience, for five full minutes, could find no utterance save in tears, sighs and sobs. After the funeral services at the church, a large concourse of people followed the relic of the departed to its last resting place, where, beside his wife, they laid him and were loath to leave him.

'Uncle Hi' possessed all the attributes and elements that enter into the composition and make-up of what is known in its full and broadest sense - yea more than an ordinary man. His ambition, remarkable will-power, and endurance were equal to any emergency, and was possessed in a degree rarely found in any one man. They were sufficient for any undertaking - overcome every obstacle and knew no failure. Never idle; always engaging in some pursuit or enterprise, doing nothing by halves, pushing every undertaking, where a labor of mind or hand, with his characteristic zeal and energy; progressive - having nothing in sympathy with 'fogies and fossils' as he chose to call them.

Liberal in purse and idea, a friend of education and a most devout student of history, burning the midnight oil in his studies - even in his extreme old age; a natural mechanic, able to devise and construct almost any implement, agricultural or otherwise, that he required. He invented and patented a corn planter, an improvement which a great many of the older farmers consider the best ever used in this section of the state; a corn drill, cotton planter, fence, monkey wrench and an apple pealer and parer are among his inventions and patents. He contracted and built the I.C. railroad from his homestead to near Arcola, also the I. & St. L. from Mattoon to the Okaw river at Shelbyville; was the author of 'Forty Years Ago,' which appeared in the Commercial several years ago, also a continued article signed Ulyses, in the same paper. An untiring enemy of intemperance, and a courageous defender of the right.

He was a good citizen, a faithful friend to and an admirer of his country. None watched with more pride and enthusiasm the Nation's progress and achievements than he. Proud of His American citizenship, and often in public and private, when reviewing the Nation's grandeur, he would round off a burst of eloquence with the remark; "I am glad I am an American citizen." At the last presidential election he said to the writer, that he "voted as a religious duty." He was proud that since he was twenty-one he had never failed to vote at every presidential election, beginning with Jackson's second term. He maintained that no one could be a good citizen and not avail himself of elective franchise. Always active in the political affairs of the state and nation, yet not a politician - performing his duties for the perpetuation of the government which he admired and loved so much. In the agitation of the slavery question, he took a very prominent part and was what was then known as an abolitionist, and at a time when to be such was disparaging to ones character. Hi's public speeches were clear, logical and unanswerable. When the late war broke out he was among the first to offer his country his services, and performed valiant and valuable labor for the same, as is attested by a memorial signed by all the officers of his regiment. Five of his sons followed his example and enlisted in the army, some of whom were officers.

He was raised under Quaker parentage but was converted at a Methodist meeting and joined the Methodist church in 1831, living a faithful and consistent member of the same for fifty-two years. He was licensed to exhort the same year of his conversion and in 1837 was licensed to preach. He never, however, entered the active ministry, yet was more than usually active as a local minister. Loyal to his country, not less so to his church and its itinerancy ever ready to defend its cause, and the cause of His Master. Never seeking the smoothe waters in the Christian warefare, but where the waves were roughest and the fight the thickest he could always be found. In very truth he was a 'soldier of the cross' C ever on the alert, and a faithful sentinel on the watch tower. If he had applied his undivided attention to the ministry, he could easily have been among the foremost of his ministerial brethren, In the pulpit he was concise, pointed and comprehensive. It was a fitting end of his ministerial career that his last utterance in the pulpit should be in those word, 'Let the tears of an old man, if not his eloquence, plead with you never to lay aught in the way of these little ones.' (referring to the new converts.)

In the death of Uncle Hi, the country has lost a good citizen, the church an able defender, the Sunday school a fast friend, the ministry a loyal brother, and his children a kind and loving father.

Rational till the moment of death, his death-bed testimony was clear and positive and certainly convincing to the most skeptical, of the reality of the Christian religion which he possessed. J.W.W.

Source: Mattoon Gazette, Friday, March 25, 1881, p. 1.

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Last Updated: 17 September 2006
Linda K. Schwartz