Conover, Oscar MAGA 2000-2011
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By Joseph Wallace, M. A.
of the Springfield Bar
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, IL

Page 757

OSCAR CONOVER. - Oscar Conover is a retired farmer now residing at No. 802 West Edwards street in Springfield. He took up his abode in this city in 1901, after having resided in the county for about twenty-three years, during which time his attention was largely devoted to agricultural pursuits. He is a native of Morgan county, Illinois, born July 24, 1831, his parents being John and Ellen (Elder) Conover. The mother was a native of Kentucky and a daughter of Mathew Elder, who in 1829 removed from Kentucky to Morgan county, Illinois, casting in his lot among the early pioneer settlers of that portion of the state. There he engaged in farming until his death. The paternal grandparents of our subject were natives of Princeton, New Jersey, whence they removed to Woodford county, Kentucky, and it was there that John Conover was born in 1797. They continued to make their home upon a farm in Kentucky until 1827, when they came to this state, settling upon a tract of land ten miles northeast of the city of Jacksonville, in Morgan county. There the grandfather carried on agricultural pursuits until his death and his wife also died on the old homestead.

John Conover was reared in Kentucky and in that state learned the tailor's trade. One of his early patrons was Colonel Richard M. Johnson, a prominent Kentuckian, who served in congress and was at one time the Democratic candidate for vice-president of the United States. Needing a new pair of trousers for his appearance in congress he called on Mr. Conover, who agreed to have them ready for him as he was to start for Washington on Monday morning. Mr. Conover was equal to the occasion and had the trousers ready the following morning, having sat up all night to work on them. After coming to Illinois he assisted his father in the development and cultivation of the home farm, being thus engaged until the time of his father's death, when he took charge of the property and continued its further improvement until 1845. He then sold out and removed to Cass county, Illinois, where he purchased a tract of land and carried on general farming for twenty-eight years. On the expiration of that period he took up his abode in the town of Virginia, where he lived retired until his death in 1877. His wife also died in that place. They were recognized as prominent and influential people both in Morgan and Cass counties.

Oscar Conover began his education in the old subscription schools of Morgan county, but his privileges in that direction were very limited, owing to the pioneer condition of the state and the fact that his services were needed upon the home farm. He assisted his father in the work of tilling the fields in both Morgan and Cass counties and when he had saved a little money he and his brother purchased a trace of land in Livingston county, Illinois. He never resided on that farm, his brother attending to its operation, but the investment proved profitable and gave the brothers a start in life. Mr. Conover of this review continued to assist his father upon the farm in Cass county until the father's death, when he became the manager of the home place and also its owner, purchasing the interest of the other heirs. He continued general farming pursuits there until 1878, when he disposed of the property and came to Sangamon county, investing his money in a farm of eighty acres in Woodside township. On this he made modern and substantial improvements, continuing the work of the fields with good success until his retirement from active business life. He added to his farm all the equipments and accessories found upon a model country place and from his fields he annually garnered rich harvests as a reward for the care and cultivation which he bestowed upon his land.

While residing in Cass county Mr. Conover was married on the 4th of March, 1875, to Mrs. Minerva Mathews Mathis, the wedding being celebrated in Springfield. Mrs. Conover is a native of Pike county, Illinois, born November 1, 1842, and a daughter of John and Julia (Wright) Mathews. Her father had settled in Pike county, Illinois, at an early period in its development and entered land, becoming the owner of two farms. He there owned and operated a flour and saw mill until 1846, when he removed to Naples, Illinois, where he engaged in the grain and commission business until his death on the 29th of June, 1849. His wife afterward married Elijah Sheff and both are now deceased, her death occurring in December, 1901, when she was seventy-seven years of age. Mrs. Conover was first married to Jennings C. Mathis, o New Jersey, who followed farming in Cass county, Illinois, for many years and then removed to Junction City, Kansas, where he died in 1869. No children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Conover, but she had one son by her former marriage, John C. Mathis, who is now a prominent attorney of Chicago and is well known in Springfield and Sangamon county. He was born on the 18th of July, 1863, in Cass county and was the first student from Springfield in Princeton College, where he entered upon a course of law and was graduated with the class of 1886. He then returned to Springfield, was admitted to the bar and entered upon the practice of law in connection with Mr. Conkling. He was afterward appointed United States attorney with Major Connelly of this city, and in 1893, seeking a still broader field of labor in which to give scope to his strong energies and powers as a lawyer, he went to Chicago, where he is now a member of the well known law firm of Shope, Mathis, Zane & Weber, with offices at No. 100 Washington street. The senior member of this firm is Judge Shope. Mr. Conover has a large clientage and his legal business since his removal to the city has been of a very important character, involving large litigated interests. He is now traction attorney for Chicago and is the legal representative of many important corporations. When he came to the bar his equipment was especially good and he has continually made advance in a profession demanding strong mentality, close application and thorough understanding of the principles involved. He prepares his cases with great care and precision and presents his facts cogently and logically, so grouping the points that bear upon his case as to indicate its strength and the correctness of his position. Already he has won for himself a notable place at a bar comprising many of the best legal mines of the nation. He is also very prominent and influential in political circles in this state and was secretary of the Republican central committee of Illinois for some time. He married Miss Mary Wyatt and they have two children: Robert J. and John.

While residing in Woodside township Mrs. Conover became the owner of a large farm in Dickinson county, Kansas, and in 1887 Mr. Conover removed to the Sunflower state in order to improve his wife's land, residing there for five years, his attention being devoted to general agricultural pursuits. On the expiration of that period he returned to his farm in Sangamon county. In 1896 he accepted the agency for the Spring Steel Fence and Wire Company, manufacturers of a wife fence for farms. He has made extensive sales of these in Sangamon county and is yet acting as agent for the company. He continued to reside upon his farm in Woodside township until 1901, when he removed to Springfield to live a retired life, having now practically put aside business cares. He has never been an office seeker, although eh has held several township offices, but in matters relating to the general welfare of his country and its political integrity he holds decided opinions and gives an unfaltering support to the principles of the Republican party. He has been a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen in Springfield since 1877. Both he and his wife are members of the West Side Christian church and they have a pleasant home at No. 802 West Edwards street, while in the city and in the county their circle of friends is extensive. Mr. Conover has been very successful in his business career and still owns his farm in Woodside township, together with three hundred and twenty acres of fine farming land in Dickinson county, Kansas. His name has come to be a synonym for integrity and straightforward dealing in the locality where he is known and it has been through persistent and persevering effort that he has gained a place among the substantial and representative men of the county.

1904 Index