Alexander County
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Biography - William S. Dewey

WILLIAM S. DEWEY. To Hon. William S. Dewey belongs the happy distinction of holding the office of county judge of Alexander county for a longer period of time than any other encumbent. His entire life has been passed in Cairo, Illinois, with the exception of a few brief years in early life, and his record for uprightness and fair-dealing throughout his entire career accords him an enviable place among the flower of Cairo's citizenship.

William S. Dewey is the son of Edmund S. Dewey, who in the year 1872 brought his family from Irvington, Washington county, Illinois, (where William was born August 25, 1869) to Cairo, Illinois, where Edmund S. Dewey passed his remaining years.

Edmund S. Dewey was a native of the Old Bay state, having been born at Lenox, Massachusetts, November 10, 1836, and in Lenox his boyhood days were quietly and industriously spent in attendance at the public schools of that town. He was a son of Oliver Dewey, who established the Dewey family in Illinois, coming thence in 1853 from Lenox, Massachusetts, where he was born in 1805 and where he had passed his days up to the time of his departure with his family for the state of Illinois. He was the husband of Eliza Sabin, and they were the parents of six children: Robert K., who served in the Illinois troops during the war of the rebellion, and who is now a resident of Greenville, Illinois; Edmund S.. the father of our subject, and who also served in the Federal army, as before mentioned; Mrs. H. Josephine Sabin, now residing in Lee, Massachusetts; Oliver B., who did duty in the Illinois Cavalry during the Civil war and died later at St. Lawrence, South Dakota; Charles A. of De Kalb, Illinois; and Mrs. Mira E. Beveridge, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In 1901 Oliver Dewey died in Greenville, Illinois, at the venerable age of ninety-six years.

It was in the year 1860 that Edmund S. Dewey came to Greenville, and he taught school in the village until the time of his enlistment in the Federal army as a volunteer in 1862. He was commissioned adjutant of the One Hundred and Thirtieth Illinois Infantry and served in General Grant's army in the Vicksburg campaign. Later he was in the Red River expedition under General Banks and participated in the operations of the army along the Mississippi river, taking an active part in the capture of Mobile and generally acquitting himself with credit to himself and his country. He was twice wounded while in the service, but each time resumed his duties as soon as his condition would warrant it, and was finally mustered out at the close of the war. after having served over three years in the Federal army.

Following the close of the war Edmund S. Dewey resumed once more his former occupation, that of teaching, becoming a member of the faculty of the Southern Illinois College at Irvington, but abandoning his career as a teacher with his removal to Cairo. He was there engaged in the commission business for several years, and it was in the year 1886 that he was appointed circuit clerk of Alexander county by Hon. O. A. Harker, then circuit judge. Mr. Dewey succeeded Alexander H. Irwin in the office, and at the close of three years' service he was elected to the office, and was twice re-elected, holding that official position for fifteen years. When he retired he was appointed city comptroller by Mayor George Parsons, which office he held until the time of his death, November 28, 1906.

Mr. Dewey was in life a Mason of the Knights Templar degree, a staunch Republican always, an active and honored member of the G. A. R., and a devout member of the Presbyterian church. A man of fine inherent traits, cultured and educated, Mr. Dewey chose his wife from a family of similar qualities. He was married at Irvington, Illinois, in June, 1868, to Miss M. Jennie French, a daughter of Rev. D. P. French, principal of the Southern Illinois Agricultural College at Irvington, and a native of New Hampshire. Mrs. Dewey departed this life in 1889, and they left a family of six children, named as follows: William S., who is the subject of this review; George F., city engineer of Cairo, Illinois; Charles B., a traveling salesman with headquarters in Cairo; Jennie E., a teacher in the Cairo public schools; John M., who is deputy circuit clerk of Alexander county, and who is engaged with his brother William S. in the abstract business in Cairo; and Josephine, the wife of T. J. Flack, of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

William S. Dewey passed through the schools of Cairo, and afterwards entered the Sioux Falls College at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and was graduated therefrom in 1889. He then began a course of law reading in the office and under the supervision of Hon. Walter Warder, of Cairo, Illinois, and in the year 1892 at Ottawa, Illinois, he was successful in passing those examinations which admitted him to the bar of the state of Illinois, and he began the practice of his profession in Cairo, Illinois, the same year. Especially fitted by nature for the duties of public life, Mr. Dewey soon found himself absorbed in active politics. In less than two years after he began the practice of law in Cairo, he was made the Republican candidate for county judge of Alexander county and was elected to succeed Hon. John H. Robinson. He has been four times re-elected to that office, and with the expiration of his present term will have completed twenty years' continuous service in one official position, a distinction which rarely falls to the lot of any man, however qualified he may be, and which fact speaks volumes for the tact, talent and general fitness of Mr. Dewey for the place he holds in the civic life of Cairo.

On June 14, 1904, Judge Dewey was wedded to Miss Katherine Kleir, a daughter of Francis Kleir, who was wharfmaster for the Mobile and Ohio Railway for many years. Mr. Kleir was a native of Hamburg, Germany, and was married in Cairo to Miss Phoebe Justice, their daughter, Mrs. Dewey, being one of their six children.

Judge Dewey, while absorbed in the cares and duties of his office, has found time to become affiliated with a number of secret and fraternal societies, as well as being interested in various business enterprises in Cairo. He is a member and past chancellor of Ascalon Lodge, No. 51, Knights of Pythias, a member of the Blue Lodge, Chapter and Commandery of Masonry in Cairo, and of the Commercial and Alexander Clubs, besides which he is the secretary and general attorney for the Cairo and Thebes Railway Company, as well as being one of its original promoters and is a member of the firm of E. S. Dewey & Company, abstractors of title and president of The Citizens Company, publishers of The Cairo Evening Citizen, daily and The Citizen, weekly. Judge Dewey, while a busy man, has found time to fulfill the duties of an elder and trustee of the First Presbyterian church, of which he is a member, and is a member of the Illinois State Board of Directors of the Y. M. C. A., giving generously of his time and substance to that cause, in which he is deeply interested.

Extracted 15 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 History of Southern Illinois, Volume 2, pages 859-861.


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