It was in the midst of the second war with England - our Congress having declared war against Perfidious Albion on June 19th, 1812 - and while Commodore Stephen Decatur was blockaded in Long Island Sound by the British fleet, that Samuel Christy was born, in Greenville, Mercer county, Pennsylvania, on the 6th of May, 1813. His parents were both natives of that state, having mixed Scotch and Irish ancestry - a stock holding high reputation for intense patriotism and stubborn courage. Sam, when an infant was strong and healthy, and grew up to be a stout active boy, willing to work and anxious to learn. His father was not in very affluent circumstances, but sent him to school during the winter months, and put him to work on the rocky farm through the balance of the year. The old gentleman weighed about 300 pounds, was educated, and quite a prominent man in that community. His wife was slender, active and intelligent, having an average avoirdupois of about 100 pounds. Sam was the first born of a family of six children, and grew up a redoubtable leader of that flock. When passing through his "teens" - from thirteen to nineteen years of age - he was the main stay on the little farm, generally, at the head of his classes at school, and always ready for his part in the hunts, games, or athletic sports usual among school children.
After the toils of the day he often wrangled with his lessons, or pored by the light of a grease lamp or tallow-dip candle, long after the other members of the family were asleep, and next morning was the first one up to commence the day's work. As he approached man's estate in age and stature an inborn ambition to rise above the station of a common laborer stirred him to increased efforts for mental improvement. As usual in those days - and very much so now - school teaching was the only intellectual pursuit in reach of aspiring young men of limited means, serving as the initial step to future eminence. So, he taught country schools for several terms, boarding around among the scholars, until his earnings had accumulated sufficiently to enable him to enter college at Meadville in Montgomery county, Pennsylvania. He was a good student, but the exhaustion of his means compelled him to leave college before he had finished the prescribed course of studies for graduation. What influence it was that inclined him to get into the medical profession: where, how long, and with what Doctor, he studied medicine, now cannot be determined; but the fact is well established that he attended the regular course of medical instruction at the old Jefferson college at Philadelphia, and received a diploma from that institution in the spring of 1836.
At the same stages of human nature, human impulses and motives, are very much the same the world over. Man is but an animal with limited reasoning faculties added, and at that, much of his boasted reasoning is little more than animal instinct. Samuel Christy, M.D., was as proud of his new diploma as he had been several years before of his first pair of boots. He fancied - as all new fledged doctors do - that it possessed some sort of necromancy which, not only at once completed his education, but transformed him from the realm of youth-hood to the responsible station of citizenship. A prominent concomitant of that fancied metamorphosis is almost always the marriage impulse, which, when once developed in a young fellow, seldom let go its hold until he finds a suitable mate - or one he thinks is suitable. Returning from the medical college he located for the practice of his new profession in Sharon, a small village in Mercer, his native county, and while there met his inevitable fate in the person of Miss Nancy F. Russell, a girl of fine figure and comely features, whose home was in Erie, county seat of Erie county, the second county north of Mercer. Attracted to each other by the subtle magnetism of their mutual affinity and identity of tastes, temperament, and dispositions, after enjoyment of the usual halcyon period of courtship, they were married, at Erie, on the 13th of October, 1838.
By that time Dr. Christy had discovered that the medical profession in northwestern Pennsylvania was so congested as to seriously clog the wheels of progress to fame and wealth for beginners in the practice. He knew that in the professions everywhere there is always room upstairs, it matters not how much the basement may be crowded. But unwilling to expend the time and labor in climbing the stairs where he was, he concluded to go west where he could get all the room he wanted without the trouble of climbing or scrambling for it. Acting upon that idea he immediately bundled up his small store of personal property and, with his wife, took final leave of their native state. Transportation by railroad to the Mississippi was then little more than a dream, but they had the choice of two natural routes to the west; one by the lakes to the village of Chicago, the other by the way of the rivers to St. Louis. The doctor chose the latter. Going down to Beaver county they embarked on a steamboat going down the Allegheny river to Pittsburg. From there, on another boat, down the Ohio, and up the Mississippi, they in time arrived at St. Louis. Why it was that Dr. Christy did not follow, from that point, the usual route of travel of eastern immigrants, and go on up the Illinois river to Beardstown cannot now be explained. Instead of taking that course he went up the Missouri river to Lexington, the county seat of Lafayette county, and there hung out his professional shingle.
The Doctor and his wife were profoundly ignorant of the practical features of slavery, neither of them having ever seen a negro slave, or set foot on slave soil before landing in Missouri. Though always a democrat, Dr. Christy believed slavery to be a moral wrong that should not be extended; yet he thought expediency demanded that it should not be disturbed where it already existed. Lafayette county at that time was one of the strongholds of the slavery party, having - as did most of the counties bordering upon both sides of the Missouri river - a large contingent of slaves employed in raising tobacco and hemp. As a result there was in Lexington a slave holders aristocracy much inclined to look down with disdain, or indifference, upon the "poor white trash." In the estimation of that exclusive circle a professional man not able to own his necessary house servants was not qualified to compete with those who were, and consequently was ignored. Dr. Christy and wife were not long in discovering the wide contrast in social conditions of their native state and the one they had migrated to, and concluded they had better move into a free state rather than waste their lives in trying to overcome the prejudices of caste among slave holders. An attempt to do business in Lexington, for a few months, satisfied the Doctor that he had made a mistake in locating there, whereupon he took final leave of the place and made his way over to Ellisville, a hamlet of about a dozen houses in Fulton county, Illinois. That he and his wife preferred to live in the open country rather than in a large town is the only reason that can be assigned for their stopping in such a place as Ellisville, which sixty-two years later, in 1900, could muster only 219 inhabitants.
Their first child was born in 1839; and it probably was to await that event that they became citizens of Ellisville. The next year, 1840, they moved again going a few miles farther east to the more promising village of Farmington in the same county. Situated twenty-four miles west of Peoria, in a rich and beautiful section of the old Military Tract, Farmington had then a population of about a hundred, and was a growing, thriving town. As the bread and meat question was the paramount issue with Dr. Christy in those days, it is not probable that the famous "coonskin and hard cider" political campaign of that year, 1840, claimed much of his time or attention. And what he saw of the wild excitement, and canoes, yawls, log cabins, hard cider barrels, and coons, both alive and skilled, in the fantastic parades of the whigs, no doubt, served only to more strongly confirm hi stubborn Van Buren democracy.
Dr. Christy remained nine years a citizen of Farmington constantly engaged in the practice of medicine over a wide range of country. He was a country Doctor from choice, for he could as well have located in Peoria or Quincy, and at once taken rank with the best physicians of those towns. But he loved the freedom of the open fields and prairies, and detested the artificial restraints of society and the extra exertion and alertness required to contend with nearby competition in business. While at Farmington he joined the Masonic Order, and his family was strengthened by the addition of several children. When he moved to Fulton county in 1838, Thomas Carlin had just been elected Governor of Illinois by a majority of only 996 over his Whig competitor, Hon. Cyrus Edwards, and the Whigs had carried both houses of the legislature. Collapse of the great Internal Improvement scheme occurred the next year, 1839; and then followed for four years, with the state $14,000,000 in debt, the worst financial depression, and hardest time, in its history. A matter of absorbing interest to the people of Fulton county - and to those of all other Illinois river counties - for many years, was progress of work on the Illinois and Michigan canal, which was commenced in 1836 and completed in 1848 at a total expense to the state of $6,557,681. However, the vast commercial benefits expected by the public from that connection of the Illinois river and Lake Michigan as a means of transportation were never realized, as it could not be made to complete successfully with the railroads then pushing forward all over the state.
As is the case sooner or later, with all country Doctors, Dr. Christy in time grew very weary of the ceaseless, cheerless, labor and hardships of his professional life, and tried to study some way to lighten its burdens. The practice of medicine for a few years totally unfits the large majority of physicians for any other occupation. Without special talents in some other direction very few Doctors succeed when they undertake any other sort of business. Then too, men constituted as was Dr. Christy, with brains, energy and industry, but entirely devoid of resourcefulness, selfishness, and grasping disposition so essential to success in money making, having increasing and expensive families, require more revenue than they can earn by manual labor, or teaching country schools. By the daily practice of medicine, and by economy, in a populous community a fair support is insured, but at the sacrifice to the Doctor of every aspiration, and the surrender of all personal freedom. To the average country Doctor when reaching the stage of weariness and disgust with his slavish toil, that all do, the retail drug store - of which he has a little theoretical knowledge - appeals to his imagination as the most available means of relief from his bondage, and affording easy, elegant, and lucrative employment. That idea struck Dr. Christy very favorably.
Anticipation of increased traffic and trade upon the completion of the canal, in 1848, had given several of the Illinois river towns a considerable uplift and renewed life. Along with the others, the prospects for Beardstown were greatly stimulated by the expected waterway connection with the northern lakes at Chicago. Five years before, in 1843, the progress of the town had received quite an impetus by securing, from Virginia, the county seat of Cass county. Having then established a large pork packing industry, and also an extensive export and import business, the place seemed to have an especially flattering future. It attracted the attention of Dr. Christy who thought if he was situated there in the drug trade, absolved from the harrowing brain work and constant physical labor and night riding and exposure to all sorts of weather, the world would wear a more smiling aspect and life be more tolerable. His children too would have better educational facilities and social advantages, and he could have the assistance of two or three boys in the drug store, in which they would readily acquire preliminary knowledge of medicine if they should choose to follow in his professional footsteps. As he saw it there was no room or reason to doubt success. Disposing of his little property in Farmington, and settling up his affairs there, he moved to Beardstown in the spring of 1849, a few months before the epidemic of Asiatic cholera reached that place from St. Louis.
When Dr. Christy and family arrived in Beardstown the Illinois river was very high, the water reaching the level of Main street and again converting the town site into an island by diverting a strong current through the old channel on its eastern side. Steam boating on the Illinois river was then at the zenith of its glory, there being yet no parallel lines of railroads to paralyze it by their completion. From one to half a dozen, or more, first class boats of that period could be seen every day plying "the great interior natural highway," crowded with passengers above, and ladened below with merchandise and country products. Beardstown, an important shipping point on the river, was thriving, growing, and alive with business energy. Multitudes of immigrants were pouring into Cass county, converting its raw prairies into the finest of farms. There were two newspapers published in the county, the Gazette, a Whig weekly, at Beardstown, and the Illinois Observer, a Democratic weekly, conducted at Virginia, by Mark W. Delahy. Richard S. Thomas, a Whig, represented the county in the legislature, and Rev. Newton Cloud, another Whig in the state senate. Henry E. Dummer was the probate judge, James Shaw the county judge with Wm. Taylor and Thomas Plaster associate justices of the county court. William A. Minshall, of Rushville, was the circuit judge, Thomas R. Sanders the circuit clerk, Lewis F. Sanders the county clerk, Jos. Milt McLean sheriff, John Shaw superintendent of public instruction, John Craig assessor and treasurer, and J. W. Sweeney county surveyor, all of whom with two or three exceptions were members of the Whig party.
When settled down in Beardstown, Dr. Christy, with a man from New York City, named Thiele, as a partner, opened out a well-assorted drug store, but he did not abandon the practice of medicine as he had thought he would. His reputation as a practitioner of ability and experience had preceded him, with the result that his newfound friends and acquaintances would not permit him to retire from active work, although the medical faculty there was full to repletion. The Doctors then in Beardstown in more or less busy practice were Theodore A. Hoffman, Charles Sprague, Virginius A. Turpin, Frederick Ehrhardt, Jeremiah R. Dowler, George VanNess and John Charles Seeger. To this list were added, in 1851, Drs. Daniel W. Shurtliff and W. W. Nelson. In changing his location, Dr. Christy sought rest and relief from incessant work, but he was too active and energetic to be content with the sedentary occupation of a retail druggist, or bear confinement for any length of time in the narrow limits of an ordinary store room. To supply his place there in the store while he was professionally absent, or circulating among the people around the town, he employed David M. Logan, a bright, intelligent young fellow who had taught school, been to college, and tired his hand as a salesman in a dry goods store. As he was inclined to study medicine and make a Doctor of himself - which he subsequently did, - Logan applied himself closely to the business giving eminent satisfaction to his employers as a dispenser of drugs, paints, oils, dyestuffs and patent medicines.
The drug store, however, did not prove to be the bonanza that Dr. Christy had pictured it in his day dreams. Thiele, who was not a druggist but a speculator with some capital and a good deal of shrewdness, saw before many moons had passed that the enterprise could not be made a financial success, sold his interest in the store to Dr. Sprague, a sharp money maker and money lender, to whom Dr. Christy was no doubt indebted for borrowed money with which he started the drug business. The title of the firm was then - in 1851 - changed to Dr. Christy and Company, but gained nothing in substantial success. Dr. Sprague gave the drug store but little, if any, of his personal attention, and Dr. Christy had not the least taste, adaptation, or financial ability for conducting that business - or indeed any other. Too liberal, generous and careless to manage small transactions, or exact what was due him, he was as much out of place as a retail druggist as he would have been officiating in a Presbyterian pulpit. He affiliated with the Beardstown lodge of Masons, and was elected its Master for one year. His children were kept at school, and at his home abided contentment, social friendship and open handed hospitality.
Living in as large a town as Beardstown became irksome to Dr. Christy, and too expensive for his moderate revenues. Convinced that the experiment he had tried was a failure he sold his interest in the drug store to his partner, Dr. Sprague, in the fall of 1851; then purchased of Thomas Lord, executor of the estate of John Dutch deceased, a farm in the prairie, on the Beardstown and Springfield road, half a mile east of the village then known as Lancaster, now called Philadelphia, nineteen miles east of Beardstown. he wisely concluded it would be more humane to train his four boys up to be honest tillers of the soil rather than consign them to the life long miseries of his own calling. The land he bought comprised a fractional tract of 33 acres in Section 15, with 36 acres in Section 16, and 160 acres in Section 22, altogether 229 acres, all in Township 17, of Range 9. The price he agreed to pay for it was about $34.25 per acre, aggregating for the whole $6,877.50. With less than half of the land in cultivation, and that very indifferently fenced, the only improvements upon it consisted of a small one-story frame house very near the north side of the road, a little rickety plank stable and a few dilapidated out houses. The records show that the Doctor received warranty deeds for the premises on Sept. 1st and Nov. 28th, 1856. Early in the spring of 1852 he left Beardstown with his family, took possession of his farm, where he once more relapsed into a county Doctor, and became a practical farmer also.
Dr. Christy was then thirty-nine years of age; in the full vigor and prime of life, with perfect health and clear, active mind. In figure and motion he had much more the appearance of a hard working farmer than of a cultured scholar. About six feet in height, heavy shouldered, strong and muscular, he was rough looking, florid faced, with coarse sandy hair - before baldness compelled him to wear a wig - and piercing hazel eyes. His prominent face denoted strength of character with no indication of vanity, duplicity or egotism. It was, in repose, a false index of his true nature, as it seemed expressive of cold calculating, selfishness. But when relaxed and lighted up in conversation every feature reflected the singular amiability of his disposition, and genial temperament. There was no assumption of polish or courtly refinement in his manners or speech, but both were characterized by an "off-handed" abruptness verging at times on rudeness. his pride of dress and demeanor was not totally wanting, but barely sufficed to meet the requirements of respectability in public. In other words, he was very careless and indifferent about his raiment and how he looked, having no desire to be classed with the dandies or dudes. His voice was not melodious, but full and distinct. Not a public speaker, he was yet a fluent talker, expressing himself, in a peculiar positive way, directly to the point, without superfluous verbiage, and with few gestures. In conversation his evident sincerity and earnestness precluded all doubt or suspicion of duplicity. In fat he was incapable of hypocracy, deceit or dishonesty - excepting perhaps in the line of his profession, as it is impossible for any Doctor to succeed without practicing more or less deception in his medical practice.
The excess of humanity in Dr. Christy's composition was fatal to habits of thrift, and accumulation of wealth. He earned money, but knew nothing of the art of saving it. His big-hearted generosity, benevolence and charity absorbed pretty much all the surplus profits of his labors in his efforts to benefit others. As a consequence his purchase of land involved him considerably in debt having only means enough at the time to make a partial payment. In that financial strait he went resolutely to work with plow and harrow, assisted by such of his boys as were big enough to help. Though reluctant to re-establish himself in the practice of medicine, his reputation as a physician of ability and experience soon became known throughout the neighborhood with the result that his agricultural pursuits were with increasing frequency interrupted by calls to attend the sick. Often when out in the field and was sent for to visit a patient, he would unhitch a horse from the plow, tie the other to the fence, and mounting without saddle, scurry off with the messenger across the open prairie. In daily expectation of such calls he learned the precaution to take his medicine case out to the field when he went to work, and have it in convenient readiness in the fence corner for any sudden emergency. Said "medicine case" in that era was the old-style pill bags carried across the saddle, as all country Doctors then traveled their rounds on horseback. In a year or two his practice had so extended that he could no longer make a hand at farm work, which he relinquished to the boys and hired help, while he once more gave to his profession almost his entire attention.
From his boyhood Dr. Christy had been a diligent reader, employing in his younger days all the time he could spare from work and school to study and reading of all books that he could buy or borrow. In middle life he was more partial to newspapers, of which he was a liberal patron, because of his increasing interest in transpiring events and current news. Until he got fairly well settled on his farm he had not taken a very active part in politics; but the political contentions and conventions of that year, 1852, in some way excited his interest in party issues, and his zeal for success fo the Democracy. So thoroughly well posted was he in all the public questions of the day, and so outspoken in advocating the principles of that party, that he soon gained recognition as a local leader, being made conspicuous as a delegate to county and state Democratic conventions. At Springfield he formed the personal acquaintance of Stephen A. Douglas, then one of the Illinois U.S. Senators, for whom he entertained thereafter unfaltering friendship and admiration. He there also met the immortal, God-like, Lincoln who - very strangely - failed to inspire him with sentiments of more than ordinary respect.
Political feeling among the people in 1852, more intense and virulent than usual, marked the beginning of that awful public turbulence which annually gained in acrimony and bitterness until it culminated in civil war nine years later. The Whigs had carried the country in 1848 by electing Genl. Zachary Taylor on the strength of his services in the Mexican War, and expected to continue in power by electing as his successor that other hero of the same war, Genl. Winfield Scott, who they nominated for President - at the last convention the party ever held - with Wm. A. Graham, of North Carolina, for Vice President. The Democrats determined to retrieve their late defeat, put in the field Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire, and Wm. R. King, of Alabama, for President and Vice President. A third national ticket was presented by the Freesoilers or Abolitionists with John P. Hale, of New Hampshire, for President and Geo. P. Julian, of Indiana, for Vice President. In Illinois the candidate for the Democrats for Governor was Joel A. Matteson, of Will county, with Gustavus Koerner, of St. Clair county, for Lieut. governor. The Whigs, in the last convention of their party in Illinois, nominated Edwin B. Webb, of White county, for Governor, J. L. D. Morrison, of St. Clair county for Lieut. Governor, and Francis Arenz, of Cass county, for Treasurer. The Freesoilers also had for their ticket Dexter A. Knowlton, of Stephenson county, and Philo Carpenter, of Cook county, for Governor and Lieut. Governor. At the November election the Democrats swept the country, electing their national and state candidates. In Cass county they elected Cyrus Wright to represent them in the legislature, and Wm. Pittner to the office of Sheriff, but could not defeat Sylvester Emmons, a Whig, for Circuit Clerk.
Illinois had by that time fully recovered from the terrible financial depression resulting from failure of the Internal Improvement folly of 1836-39, and was on the high road of progress and prosperity. Money was abundant - such as it was, mostly the fluctuating, uncertain issue of wild car state banks; - but all business enterprises were beginning to feel the stimulus of the new California gold miles. In a general way Cass county was in a flourishing condition, though it had no railroads, or remote prospects of any, and no method had yet been devised for drainage of its flat prairies. Chills and fever and other miasmatic disorders everywhere prevailed causing brisk demand for the services of physicians. Not permitted by the people to waste his talents in the corn and harvest fields, Dr. Christy was compelled by the force of circumstances to assume his place among the medical practitioners of the county. And that place was in the very front rank of the profession during the thirteen years that he resided on his farm. the practice of medicine, however, was for him no longer a labor of love. He was very tired of it, but had to continue it as a source of revenue, and to requite the confidence of his numerous friends. His popularity as a physician and a citizen was unbounded. It falls to the lot of but few country Doctors to gain and retain, not only the respect and confidence, but the close friendship and affections of the people of so large an area, and to such a degree, as that enjoyed by Dr. Christy. Many differed from him radically on some questions, and strenuously combated his views; but no one bore him ill will. All recognized and admired his rugged honesty and sincerity, and the unselfish purity of his motives.
In all essentials that constitute the real physician, Dr. Christy was far above the average of medical practitioners. The studious habits of his younger days had laid a broad and firm foundation for the professional career he chose, but over and above his book learning and vast reserve of general knowledge his real force was in the natural strength and activity of his brain. His remarkable perceptive faculties and power of discrimination - or judgment - enabled him to detect more in a patient's condition at a glance than many of our modern Doctors, with their omnipresent thermometers, stethoscopes and urine testers, can find out in a day's examination. he was almost infallible in diagnosis, and often the remedies indicated seemed to occur to him by intuition. He respected authorities, and was familiar with the most eminent of them, but relied most upon the resources of his own strong common sense and experience. In his professional work he was seldom confused or excited or at a loss in selecting the proper means or agencies to be adopted. He adhered to the Allopathic system of medicine in the main, but availed himself of all that had merit in the other systems, employing new nostrums with hesitancy, and seldom venturing upon untried experiments. He often remarked that if restricted to the use of four standard medicines, calomel, opium, ipecac and quinine, with such domestic remedies as castor oil, mustard, etc., found in all farm houses, he could conquer diseases as successfully as with any or all the other drugs in common use by the profession. When by the bedside of the sick he was always pleasant and cheerful, but not very talkative, and made no extravagant promises or predictions of speedy results. Yet, his perfect self possession, and the positive frankness of his opinions, when questioned, assured the patient and those in attendance that all would be done that professional skill and knowledge could do. Such was the faith in his ability of almost all his patrons that should he fail to relieve or cure, them they considered it useless to consult any other physicians.
Agitation of the slavery question coincident with the national legislation proposed for establishing the political and domestic status of the two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, then applying for admission as states into the Union, stirred the people of the entire country into a frenzy of excitement. The measures introduced by Senator Douglas, and adopted by Congress in 1854, repealing the Missouri Compromise, and substituting for it the new doctrine of "Squatter Sovereignty," intensified popular irritation that two years later found expression in disruption of the old Whig party, and organization of the Republican party combining all political elements opposed to the innovations of Mr. Douglass.
Dr. Christy, a close follower of Mr. Douglas, deeply interested in all public questions, became a very active Democratic partisan. The year 1856 is memorable in the political history of Illinois. the rancor and bitterness of party antagonism left no neutral position tenable. At Bloomington, Ill., representative politicians opposed to the Douglas brand of Democracy, met in convention on the 29th of May and organized the republican party of the state, at the same time nominating a state ticket with Col. Wm. H. Bissell, an anti-Douglas Democrat, at its head for Governor. That schism had spread over the state like a prairie fire, inflaming popular feeling and passions, and the new alignment of parties was at once general and complete. The Democratic convention of the 34th district, composed of Cass and Menard counties, recognizing the prominence and ability of Dr. Christy, nominated him as their candidate for representative in the lower house of the legislature. He was elected by a narrow margin, receiving in Cass 817 votes to 807 cast for John B. Gum, his republican opponent. The other county of the district increased the Doctor's majority to over a hundred. Samuel W. Fuller, of Tazewell county, was elected state senator defeating John Durham. At the same election throughout the state the Republicans elected their entire state ticket by a majority of 4,745, but the democrats carried the state for James Buchanan, their candidate for president, with a majority of 9,159.
The (20th) legislature to which Dr. Christy was elected was Democratic by a majority of only one in each house. It convened at Springfield on Jan. 5th, 1857, with Lieut. Gov. John Wood presiding over the senate, and Samuel Holmes, of Adams county, elected Speaker of the House, and adjourned on the 19th of February. Among the members with whom Dr. Christy was associated were Ebon C. Ingersol, John A. Logan, Wm. R. Morrison, Wm. A.J. Sparks, Isaac N. Arnold, Dr. Robert Boal, John Dougherty, Cyrus Epler, Shelby M. Cullum, and others who subsequently became more or less famous as actors in the civil war, on the bench, or in the nation's councils. As a legislator, though Dr. Christy was not conspicuous as a debater, he was very attentive to his duties, and acquitted himself to the entire satisfaction of his constituents. He was chairman of the standing committee on Retrenchment, and member of the committees on Finance and Claims. His first recorded vote in the session was against Denio's resolution, "That the Secretary of State be directed to furnish each member and officer one good congress knife." Lost by 29 to 42 against. He introduced bills, which were passed, "To extend the jurisdiction of justices of the peace and police magistrates in Cass county."
"To incorporate the Virginia cemetery in Cass county."
"To amend the charter of the Upper and Lower Mississippi Railroad company."
"To amend an act to construct a Railroad from Jacksonville, in Morgan county to LaSalle, in Lasalle county." "To incorporate the Virginia Female Seminary of Providence Presbyterian Church of Cass County," the incorporators named in the bill being James White, A. G. Angier, George Wilson, R. B. Conn, J. N. White, John Rodgers, H. R. Lewis, Samuel McClure, Wm. Stevenson, A. Taylor, S.W. Neely, J. VanEaton, and N.B. Beers, to be the first board of trustees."
"To incorporate the Cass County Fair Grounds Association."
"For the relocation of the county seat of Cass county."
"To incorporate the town of Virginia, in Cass county."
So strained were the relations of the people in the eastern and western ends of the county at that time on the county seat removal question, that Dr. Christy, strongly in the interest of Virginia, was not entrusted by Beardstown with any of its needed legislation, which was attended to by Hon. Cyrus Epler, member from Morgan county. To that sectional feeling in the county may be attributed Dr. Christy's slender majority over Gum at the election. No time was then idled away by legislators, as the constitution limited the sessions to forty days and imposed no restriction upon special legislation. During the forty days of that 20th general assembly over six hundred special acts and nearly as many general laws were enacted. the most important of the latter were those establishing the first Normal school, the Joliet penitentiary, and incorporating the Chicago University. The worst party squabbling of the session was over the apportionment bill framed by the Democrats. Gov. Bissell intended to veto it, but inadvertently signed it. He then recalled it and sent in a veto, which the democrats unanimously rejected. The matter was taken to the Supreme Court which sustained the Governor's action.
When the legislature adjourned Dr. Christy returned to his home more deeply absorbed in all public matters than ever before. On the third of November, of that year, 1857, a very exciting special election was held in Cass county involving three questions of importance to the people, the first of which was the proposition for the county to subscribe $50,000 to the capital stock of the Keokuk & Warsaw railroad (now the C.B. & Q.); the second was removal of the county seat from beardstown to Virginia, and the third was adoption of Township organization. All three were defeated, the railroad bonus by 636 votes for to 792 against it; 986 votes were cast for removal of the county seat and 1606 against, while Township organization was rejected by the vote of 385 in its favor and 1921 against it. Dr. Christy did earnest work for removal of the county seat and in opposition of the first and third propositions. In the spring of 1858 the Doctor was appointed postmaster of Lancaster, the little village of a dozen houses near his farm, and very foolishly accepted it, though giving the position but little if any of his personal attention, one of his sons managing it as his deputy. He retained the office until 1864 and then resigned it.
In the meantime the embers of political strife were fanned into a flame of repeal of the Missouri Compromise in 1854, and continued the strife with increasing intensity. Then came the famous Douglas and Lincoln debates in 1858, followed by the re-election of Douglas to the U.S. Senate, serving to add fuel to the fire of sectional antagonism. A little later the fury of party madness, wrought to the highest pitch by the hopeless schism of the democracy, and election of the sainted Lincoln, plunged the country in the honors of civil war. In all those turbulent times Dr. Christy's enthusiastic exertions for the supremacy of his party, as a matter of course, were detrimental to his personal interests. Naturally destitute of selfishness, financial tact, and habits of thrift and economy, his farming industry and medical practice both suffered from his neglect. Unable to meet demands due for his land he was compelled to relinquish a quarter section of it to enable him to secure what remained.
Strenuously opposed to the Lincoln administration all through the civil war, he boldly criticized the blunders and excesses committed by some of the civil and military republican leaders, and took no pains to conceal his heartfelt sympathies for the southern people, though he never uttered a word in defense of slavery. For his candid expression of sentiments adverse to the party in power, he was, unsparingly denounced by the "truly loyal" as a "copperhead", and seriously threatened with arrest for treason. On two or three occasions it was rumored that a provost marshal and file of soldiers would pounce on him at night and take him to prison at Springfield. For many nights thereafter a large number of his friends, heavily armed, secreted themselves in the barn, outhouses and fence corners on and around his premises fully determined to resist any attempt to arrest him and take him off to the military prison. Happily no such attempt was made, and the small local war cloud passed away. So acute was the tension of popular feeling at that time (1863) in Cass and some of the adjoining counties dominated by the democrats, that the military authority of any member of the party of Dr. Christy's prominence would surely have precipitated very serious trouble. In his case there was a strong personal following to be reckoned with apart from sympathies engendered by the war.
One of the most successful money makers of Cass county in years past was one of Virginia's west end merchants who often said -without blushing - that his inflexible rule in business was to deal with everyone as if dealing with a known thief; that is, reposing confidence in no one. Dr. Christy's business rule - if he had any - was exactly the reverse of that. With unquestioning faith in humanity he regarded all mankind worthy of confidence, and trusted everyone implicitly. No one applied to him for assistance in vain. His charity was spontaneous and unstinted. He made no discrimination of party, creed, or social condition where he could relieve suffering by his medical skill, or mitigate the miseries of the unfortunate with pecuniary or material aid. His rough exterior concealed the refinement of benevolence and the tenderest sympathies. He was one of those friends whom it is always a pleasure to meet, thoroughly candid and reliable in all things, and a physician who dispelled the gloom of despair with the sunlight of hope and confidence. there was no doubt of the genuineness of his welcome by those who visited his home. His prodigal hospitality afforded free entertainment for all who called on him, as long as they chose to stay. Besides his large family there were few meals served there without some - often many - guests at his table.
Dr. Christy styled himself a Universalist; but whether or not he had ever formally joined that sect is now not known. He believed in immortality of the soul, in universal salvation, that the future life would prove to all an immeasurable improvement upon present existence, with the logical corollary that the dogma of eternal future punishment was monstrous and an insult to the Almighty. He made no pretensions to piety, seldom went to church, and did not particularly select ministers of the Gospel for associates, though he treated them with respect and very rarely criticized their religious beliefs. It is accepted as true that the individual without some vices, as a rule, has but few virtues; in other words, the rigidly righteous are not exempt from faults, as no person is altogether perfect. Dr. Christy was not an exception to that rule. He took a drink of whiskey with a friend now and then, used tobacco freely, and occasionally in conversation uttered certain profane expletives and phrases not usually heard in prayer meetings. But notwithstanding those infirmities of the flesh, he was a moral, honorable, and noble man of pure character, infinitely better and more valued in a community than all its canting hypocrites or grasping Shylocks. It is not a wonder that Dr. Christy was held in the highest respect and esteem by all who knew him; nor is it strange that he failed to get rich.
Unfortunately for Dr. Christy, politics became his ruling passion for several years at the best period of his life. All through the civil war, and for several years before it the momentous political issues and events that threatened the permanency of the Union occupied his mind to the exclusion of personal matters of more immediate importance. he was not an orator and was not regarded as a pernicious or aggressive partisan; but was simply infatuated with the discussion of political principles and their results. In all that time the Chicago Times, conducted by Wilbur W. Storey, was his vade mecum and inspiration. He quoted it on all occasions, and when visiting the sick, after making his prescription, he would draw from his pocket the latest number of the Times and zealously comment upon its sensational news and inflammatory editorials. That that course continued so long in the same community without disruption of friendly relations is undoubted proof of his strong hold upon public esteem, and of his own freedom from personal malevolence.
About the time the war was drawing to its close Dr. Christy seems to have taken a calm retrospective view of his career in Cass county, and realized that it was a failure. He was no better off in finances than he was when he came into the county in 1849. his aspirations for political advancement - if he had any - were effectually dissipated. His family was large, and none of them yet self-sustaining. Verging upon 52 years of age he saw that the beginning of old age was not far distant, and it behooved him to make some substantial preparation for it. And above all other considerations was the constant soul-racking burden of his profession which he longed to lay down. For years weary of its dismal drudgery, it had become positively repugnant and intolerable. And well he knew that he could not escape it so long as he remained where he was, while to continue the practice in that frame of mind, he felt, was injustice to his patrons. Viewing his situation in all its aspects he concluded to sell his land, and move to the west where land was cheap and opportunities for his children in the battle of life were more favorable than in Central Illinois, and by that change he would be enabled to retire from the practice of medicine as a compulsory avocation.
Accordingly, he sold his farm to his stanch friend and neighbor, Wm. Mains, settled up his outstanding business, and left Cass county, with his family of wife, four sons and four daughters, in the fall of 1865 for the state of Iowa. Traveling overland with teams, they arrived in due time in Mills county near the southwest corner of that state. There the doctor purchased a tract of land near the present town Silver City, where for twenty-two years he followed the uneventful occupation of a farmer. For several years of that time he worked hard as an ordinary farm laborer; he plowed and sowed, planted corn, hoed the garden, and made a hand in the harvest field. He raised hogs and cattle, bought corn and fed cattle for others. He set out an orchard of fruit trees, made additions to his buildings, and otherwise improved his farm. That region was yet too thinly settled to induce the usual influx of physicians, the whole county having but three or four. "A bird never flies so far but that his tail follows him," is a homely old adage very applicable to Dr. Christy; for it was soon known there that he was a superior physician having many years of experience, and he was pressed into service despite his reluctance and earnest protests. For a few years he treated emergency cases, and attended some of his neighbors through attacks of fever, until gladly relieved by the location of a Doctor nearby. That ended his medical career, excepting to occasionally consult with a professional friend as an act of courtesy.
He still maintained considerable interest in politics, however, only as an observer and critic of public affairs. If yet there dwelt in his thoughts a lingering ambition for political preferment the overwhelming Republican majority in his adopted county and state - fortunately for him - summarily squelched it. In 1870, with his brother John, who still resided in Cass county, (Ill.), he visited their birth place in Mercer county, Pennsylvania, combining recreation with the object of getting their portion of the paternal estate, a modest, but very welcome sum, to both. About 1873 Mrs. Christy, who had invariably enjoyed sound health, became painfully aware of a small mammary tumor which soon proved of cancerous type. Developing rapidly and resisting all remedies applied, the Doctor took her, in 1874, to Erie, Pennsylvania, her native home, where an eminent surgeon of that city extirpated the entire malignant growth with apparent success. the wound healed, and all went well with her for a few years; but in 1878 the trouble reappeared - as is the history of all such cases. All resources of the medical art failed to subdue it, and the merciless disease slowly but steadily progressed with excruciating torture to exhaust her vitality, until death terminated her suffering on the 20th of November, 1879, at the age of 61 years. She was very intelligent, well educated, energetic, and quite domestic in tastes; the counterpart of the Doctor in amiable disposition, benevolence, charity and kindness; possessing in high degree all the admirable qualities constituting the best type of womanhood. A little later death claimed another member of the family - Mary, the eldest daughter, who had inherited all the charming and noble traits of her parents, was suddenly taken away in the morning of life and laid in the grave.
As the years passed Dr. Christy forsook manual labor, passing the long dreary winters in reading, and with his neighbors, and the summers in supervising his farm, looking after his garden and poultry, and visiting his friends in the nearby towns, in Nebraska, and once or twice in Illinois. he was considerably interested in Masonic work, and in the farmers' "Grange" movement of those days. Soon after their arrival in Iowa his children began to disperse and look out for themselves, some of the boys and girls engaging in school teaching, and others in various self-supporting pursuits, so that after Mrs. Christy's death but one girl and one or two of the boys remained to keep house for him. From the date of his settlement in Iowa he was subject to frequent attacks of rheumatism, and now and then of indigestion; but continued otherwise in robust health, with active habits, and average weight of 200 pounds. As a financier he was not more successful in Iowa than he had been in Illinois. He had as many friends there to feed, to loan money to, and to assist in many ways, as he had here; and there were as many there as here to abuse his hospitality and kind-hearted generosity. As he had done in Cass county, he sold part of his land to pay his debts and secure his eighty acre home place, but he paid every obligation in full, and discharged every duty incumbent upon him with the conscientious fidelity.
Always an early riser, he arose before the sun on the morning of his 74th birthday anniversary, May 6, 1887, apparently in the best of health and spirits. After his usual diversion of feeding the calves, pigs and chickens he sat down in his arm chair to look over the latest newspaper, received the evening before. Having one through its pages to his satisfaction he remarked, "Well I guess it is about time I was getting ready for breakfast" as he had sauntered out - as was his custom in warm weather - without vest or coat. Laying aside his newspaper he was in the act of rising up from the chair when, without a gasp or a groan, he fell to the floor, dead. He was followed to the grave by almost the entire community, to pay him their last mournful tribute of respect and affection, and was buried, with Masonic ceremonies, by the side of his wife and daughter who had preceded him.