Senator Franklin Witt, 1804-1851


Franklin Witt was my fourth-great-grandfather on my maternal side. Below is a biography that was written about him. Their words can far better do him justice than mine.

Hon. Franklin Witt – The late Hon. Franklin Witt was a native of West Tennessee, and was born on the 23rd of November,1804; and it was in that delightful and genial clime that the years of his early youth were spent. His early advantages for education were very limited,as at that period there was no public school system existing in that state.Franklin was the eldest child of John and Eleanor Witt. John Witt was a native of East Tennessee; his wife was born in West Tennessee, and in was that portion of the state that they were married. His time was spent in farming. Franklin Witt came to the territory of Illinois in the year 1814, with his parents. They settled in Pope County. At the age of nineteen Mr. Franklin Witt was married to Melinda Perry. Said marriage occurred on the 15th of January, 1824.In the fall of that year he moved, with his bride, to Sangamon County, ILL, and in the spring of 1824 removed to the locality where Beards town is situated, and in January, 1826, became a permanent resident of Greene county, settling on apiece of land south of Macoupin creek, which he improved and continued to carry on until his death. Mr. Witt and wife were blessed with a family of ten children, three sons and seven daughters; there are only four now living; two sons and four daughters are deceased. The father of Franklin Witt (John Witt)came to Greene county in 1836, and move to Texas in 1843, where he spent the residue of this life. In returning to the life of Franklin Witt, we find a man who possessed, to a large degree, the elements of success. Though not a scholar, he was endowed by nature with a mind far reaching, and capable of comprehending the most minute details of business and political life. He was one of those men of large magnetic force, and many of the old settlers claim that no man in the county exercised as great an influence for the time and period that he lived as the subject of this sketch. Many say that he held the county court in the palm of his hand. The citizens honored him with many officials positions. He was representative from Greene for several terms in the lower house of the legislature, and was afterwards elected to the state senate, which positions he filled with signal ability. There was one thing rather remarkable in the character of Mr. Witt and that was, that while others would talk he would act, and it was those qualities which so fully fitted him for the legislative halls of the state, besides being a success as a politician and in public life.His private career was marked by the same energy and judgment that characterized his more public life. Very early in life he became identified with the principles of the Democratic Party, which he so ably and energetically sustained. Mr. Witt and wife, a few years after their marriage became members of the United Baptist Church. He was a ___ who was very popular with the masses, and whenever he was a candidate ran largely ahead of his ticket; and one of the best features of his character was the sterling honor and integrity which were exemplified in every act of his life. AT the time of his death he was a senator from Greene County. His death occurred on the 17th of August, 1851. His widow is yet living on the old homestead in the enjoyment of good health.

Source Citation: A Biographical Sketch from 1873 Atlas of Greene County, Illinois.

Many of the old pioneers remember with warm admiration, FRANKLIN WITT, a leader among men in earlier times, and who afterward became noted in the annals of the state and union. He was a native of Tennessee, where he was born in 1804. His parents gained a livelihood by the products of the farm, and in 1814, to better their finances, perhaps, moved westward and settled in Polk county, in the extreme southern portion of Illinois. Franklin Witt passed his boyhood among pioneer associations, and imbibed there that spirit of self reliance that led to successful results. He was married in his 19th year to Melinda Perry, a native of Indiana, and a daughter of Capt. Franklin Perry. In 1826, he sought broader fields, and packing his household goods upon the two horses he owned, after some days spent in travel, he landed in Greene county with scarcely a dollar. He now began, in an humble way to gain a footing in Illinois, at a time when horse-mills were the fashion, and rough round log cabins the only habitations in the pioneer settlements. His was an energetic nature, and he accumulated property rapidly. In subsequent years he became a justice of the peace, and about 1835 he became the regular nominee of the democratic party, and received the election of legislator, serving through this session. Probably no man in his day swayed the popular heart more than he, and on three subsequent occasions he received the election to represent this county in the legislature, and presided as a member when Springfield became the capital. As a representative he has proved so efficient that he now received the nomination for state senator. Serving through one session and receiving a re-election, he was a member of that body when he died, at his home, in Greene county, in 1851. To the care of his wife he left a family of four children. Mrs. Witt departed this life Feb. 1877, at the house of her son, Geo. W., in Kane township.

The 17th general assembly convened on the 6th of Jan., 1851, for its first session, and adjourned Feb. 17; a second session was held from June 7, 1852, to June 23, following. Hon. Franklin Witt was the senator at first, but dying during his term of office was succeeded by Hon. John M. Palmer, afterward governor of the state, at that time a resident of Macoupin county. Charles D. Hodges and J. C. Winters represented this, the 22d district, in the house.

Source Citation: Biographies: History of Greene and Jersey Counties, Illinois – 1885. Springfield, Ill.: Continental Historical Co., Page 672

History of Greene and Jersey Counties, Illinois.

Franklin Witt settled in what is now Kane township in 1826,where he made his home until his death, in 1851. He was both a representative and senator in the general assembly of the state, and is noticed at length in that connection.

Source Citation: History of Greene and Jersey Counties, Illinois, published in 1885

1830 U.S. Federal Census

1830 Census for Greene County, Illinois lists Franklin Witt enumerated as follows:

(1) White male under age 5

(1) White male ages 20 – 29

(1) White female under age 5

(1) White female ages 5 – 9

(1) White female ages 20 – 29

(3) White persons under age 20

(2) White persons ages 20 – 49

(5) Total white persons.

Source Citation: 1830 US Census; Census Place:  , Greene, Illinois; Page: 35; NARA Series: M19; Roll Number: 24; Family History Film: 0007649.

1840 U.S. Federal Census

1840 Census for Kane in Greene County, Illinois lists Franklin Witt enumerated as follows:

(2) White males ages 5 – 9

(1) White male ages 10 – 14

(2) White males ages 15 – 19

(2) White males ages 20  – 29

(2) White males ages 30 – 39

(1) White female under age 5

(1) White female ages 5 – 9

(2) White females ages 10 – 14

(1) White female ages 15 – 19

(1) White female ages 30 – 39

(6) Persons employed in agriculture

(3) Persons employed in Manufacture and Trade

(11) White persons under age 20

(5) White persons ages 20 – 49

(16) Total white persons.

Source Citation: Year: 1840; Census Place: Kane, Greene, Illinois; Roll: 60; Page: 91; Image: 771; Family History Library Film: 0007642.

1849 Schoolhouse

Schedule of a common school kept by teacher William Roberts in the white schoolhouse east of Kane Illinois, T 9 R 11 Greene County State of Illinois west of 3rd Principal Meridian included: Charles ADAMS, George Ann Adams,Hiram Adams, John Adams, Louisa Adams, Phyle Adams, Charles Brooks, James Brooks,John Brooks, William Brooks, William Brydia, Andrew W. Christy, George Christy,Harriet E. Christy, James Christy, Julia Christy, Mary Christy, Samuel Christy,Allen Cockerell, Jesse Cockerell, Charles Davis, William Davis, David Enslow,Frances E. Grandy, Hannah E. Grandy, Luther Grandy, Anderson P. Green, Elias Green,Hampton Green, John Green, Daniel Hendrex, John Jones, Harriet King, Mortimer Kirby,Elizabeth Mason, Jacob Mason, Joshua Mason, William Mason, Benjamin T. Osburn,Marquis L. Osburn, Rubin B. Osburn, Gentry Scoggins, John Scoggins, Robert Scoggins,Charles W. Sperry, Daniel Sperry, Mary Ann Sperry, Sidney Sperry, Elizabeth Stewart,John Stewart, Maria L. Stewart, Moses Stewart, Simeon R. Stewart, Irine Tompkins,Shelton T. Tompkins, George Truscott, James J. Truscott, Martha J. Truscott,Thomas Von, Eliza M. Waddle, James Waddle, Angeline Witt, Calvin Witt, George Witt,John F. Witt.

1849 School Scholars

Schedule of a common school kept by Wm Roberts in the White School House east of Kane, IL, T 9 R 11, Greene Co, IL, West of 3rd Principal Meridian.


Charles Adams

Phyle Adams

Hiram Adams

Wm Brydia

John Brooks

Julia Christy

Mary Christy

Mary Christy

Andrew W Christy

James Christy

Samuel Christy

George Chirsty

Harriet E Christy

Jesse Cockerell

Allen Cockerell

Mary Ann Sperry

Daniel Sperry

Sidney Sperry

Charles W Sperry

Moses Stewart

Maria L Stewart

Simeon R Stewart

Joshua Mason

Elizabeth Mason

Wm Mason

Jacob Mason

Daniel Hendrex

David Enslow

Mortimer Kirby

Anderson P Green

Elias Green

Johnm Green

Hannah E Grandy

Luther Grandy

Frances E Grandy

James J Truscott

Martha J Truscott

Eliza M Waddle

John F Witt

Shelton T Tompkins

Robert Scoggins

Irine Tompkins

James Waddle

John Stewart

Elizabeth Stewart

Calvin Witt

Angeline Witt

Louisa dams

George Witt

Gentry Scoggins

John Scoggins

Charles Brooks

James Brooks

Thomas Von

John Jones

Harriet King

Rubin B Osburn

Benjamin T Osburn

Marquis L Osburn

George Ann Adams

Wm Davis

Charles Davis

John Adams

Wm Brooks

Hampton Green

George Truscott

I certify that the foregoing schedule of scholars attending my school as named and residing as specified in said schedule to the best of my knowledge & belief is correct, that is, was a school for the purpose of teaching various branches of an English education and that the common communication in said school was English.

Wm Roberts, teacher

Subscribed and sworn before me, a justice of the peace, inand for the county of Greene, state of IL. This 12 day of March, A.D. 1849.

J.M. Brydia

Trustees: Franklin Witt & Enoch Irvins

1850 U.S. Federal Census

November 8th, 1850 Census for South of Macoupin Creek in Greene County, Illinois lists Franklin Witt, age 45, born in Tennessee. His real estate is valued at $18,000. He is enumerated with Malinda Witt, age 44, born in Kentucky, John F. Witt, age 20, Angeline Witt, age 16, Adeline Witt, age 11, George W. Witt, age 9, Elizabeth Witt, age 5, born in Illinois. Rebecca Perry, age 73, born in Kentucky. Also enumerated of unknown relationship William Cole, age 40, George Slate, age 25, Lankin McDaniel, age 35, Jerry Sullivan, age 35

Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: South of Macoupin Creek, Greene, Illinois; Roll: M432_108; Page: 118A; Image: 244.

Biography of Son, George Washington Witt includes Biographical Sketch on Franklin Witt as well.

George W. Wit is one of the extensive landowners of Greene County and a business man of marked energy and enterprise, successfully controlling his farming and stock-raising interests. He was born in Kane Township, this county, on the 21st of April, 1841, and is descended from one of the old families of Virginia. His great-grandfather Witt, and his grandfather, John Witt, were natives of that state and were planters there. The latter removed from the Old Dominion to Tennessee, where he remained for a number of years.From that state he came to Illinois and first located in Pope County, but in1830 came to Greene County. He lived for a time in Carrolton Township and from there removed to a farm in Rockbridge Township. In 1845 he left Illinois and went to Texas.

Franklin Witt, the father of our subject, was born in Tennessee and accompanied the family on their removal to Pope County, Illinois.In 1826 he settled near Beardstown in Cass County, and a year later became a resident of Carrollton Township, Greene County, He afterward removed to Kane Township, where he lived until his death in 1851. In his farming operations he was very successful and as his financial resources increased he added to his property until he was the owner of about one thousand acres of land at the time of his death. His business affairs were capably conducted, justice, enterprise and keen discrimination characterizing all his dealings. In matters of citizenship he was progressive and public-spirited, his influence ever being on the side of substantial improvement and advancement. His qualities well fitted him for leadership and he aided in molding public thought and action in his locality. For a number of years he served as justice of the peace and he was twice elected to the state legislature as a member of the house, while there tree times he represented his district in the state senate. He did not seek to figure as an orator of pyrotechnic brilliance, but was deeply interested in constructive legislation, and many measures which have proven of benefit in the state were largely fostered by him. He was still serving in the upper house of Illinois assembly at the time of his death. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Melinda Perry, was a native of Kentucky, and they became the parents of ten children.

George W. Witt, the ninth in order of birth began his education at the usual age in a subscription school. When his father died the mill which he had operated for a number of years, was sold in accordance with his request that they should sell that property and remove to the farm upon which our subject now resides. George W. Witt was then only ten years of age. He was reared upon the old home farm and early became familiar with the labors of the field and meadow. After attaining his majority he purchased the interested of the other heirs and continued to operate the farm, comprising one hundred and sixty acres. When he found the opportunity he also added to the place from time to time until his realty holdings became extensive, aggregating eleven hundred acres of valuable farming land situated in Kane Township. On this he has erected and elegant farm residence and other substantial buildings, so that the farm is well equipped for the care of the grain and stock raised. He is extensively engaged in raising hogs, making a specialty of the Poland-China hogs, and he also feeds large numbers of cattle, having usually from two hundred to three hundred head. He annually raises large quantities of corn, which he uses for feeding purposes, and in all of his farm work he is most progressive,so that his labors have been resultant, bringing to him richly merited success.He has labored continuously for the improved of conditions affecting the welfare of the farmer, doing effective work as a member of the county agricultural board, with which he has been connected for forty years. He has been one of its directors the greater part of the time and for three years was its president. He has also frequently been a delegate to the state board of agriculture.

In April, 1866, Mr. Witt was united in marriage to Miss Eliza Jane More, a native of Greene County, who died in 1873. Their daughter, Toinette, is now Mrs. Cory, of Kane Township. In 1874 Mr. Witt was again married,his second union being with Miss Margaret Gardiner, also born in Greene County,a daughter of C.J. Gardiner. Her death occurred in 1879. There was one son by this marriage, Fred T., who is farming about a mile and a half east of the old homestead farm. In 1880 Mr. Witt was marriage to Miss Louisa Ann Williams, of Jersey County, Illinois, a daughter of William P. Williams, of that county.  The children of the third union are: Thomas Kyle, who is living on the old homestead; Alta M.; Rachel J.; Adaline E.; William Paxton; Edna L.; and an infant, deceased. The family is one of prominence in the community, the members of the household occupying an enviable position in social circles.

Mr. Witt has long been recognized leader in public affairs,and his efforts in behalf of his county have been far-reaching and beneficial.For thirty-seven years he has served as school director; was justice of the peace for eight years; sheriff for two years; and in 1900 was elected to the state legislature. He received the endorsement of the district for a second nomination owing to the redistricting of the state his county had no show to secure the representative.For the senator from the district was a Greene county man and other counties in the district felt that the representation should be more equally distributed.Mr. Witt, however, received the endorsement of his county on three separate occasions. He takes an active interest in political matters, has ever been a stanch advocated of the principles of the Democratic Party and has been a delegate to man congressional and state conventions, his opinions carrying weight in the party councils. He belongs to the Knights of Pythias Fraternity and is a Mason, belonging to the blue lodge at Kane and the commandery at Carrolton.

Viewed from any standpoint his life may be said to be a success; and it is the success not merely of the man who prosecutes a prosperous agricultural life, intent only on winning wealth, but that of the man who advances public good in promoting individual prosperity. The study of the character of the representative American never fails to offer much of pleasing interest and valuable instruction, and the life of Mr. Witt certainly furnishes food for deep and profitable thought.

Source Citation: Pastand Present of Greene County, page 308 – 320