BEN C. ALLENSWORTH
By Judge A. W. Rodecker
Ben C. Allensworth, the editor of the History of Tazewell County, having, from some cause, failed to furnish his own biography to the publishers of this work, they asked me to write it. Having been closely associated with Mr. Allensworth for many years, and being as well acquainted with his worth as one man could be with that of another, and bearing him good will, I consented to do so. In writing his biography, I do not intend to flatter my friend, for, if I do, it will displease him. Yet I do not propose to pass lightly over his merits. I prefer to do him justice rather than be guided by his dislike of public commendation, even from an old and sincere friend.
Ben C. Allensworth was born in Little Mackinaw Township, one-half mile southeast of Tazewell, in Tazewell County, III., October 27, 1845. His parents were William P. and Arabel Waggener Allensworth. William P. AlIensworth was born in Muhlenberg County, Ky., September 25, 1820, and died in Minier, Ill., May 8, 1874. He was a kind hearted and courtly gentleman, and highly esteemed by all who knew him. He held the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court for four years, and was an efficient and popular officer. The mother of B. C. Allensworth was born in Christian County, Ky., July 9. 1827, and died in Galesburg. Ill., March 25, 1902. She was a woman of culture and refinement, anxious for the success of her children, and labored with her husband in his every endeavor to educate and make them good and useful citizens.
The subject of this sketch was the eldest of nine children, all of whom, with the exception of two, are living. He was reared on a farm, but, when he could be spared, attended the country schools and was a diligent pupil. It. was easy for him to master the studies taught, and he early evinced a purpose to be more than a common school scholar. At the age of twenty he entered the State University at Normal. He ranked high in his studies, and when he graduated in 1869, left a record in the school which gave him a high standing with the school men of the State. Soon after his graduation, he was appointed to the position of Superintendent of Schools in Elmwood. Peoria County, which place he held until the spring of 1872. Although only twenty-four years of age when he took charge of the Elmwood Schools, he was a very popular and successful Superintendent, and the good that he did there is acknowledged to this day. The writer of this article recently visited in Elmwood, and while conversing with a number of the old citizens, Mr. Allensworth’s name being mentioned, the writer was told of his success as a teacher and the good results of his superintendency, which were still felt and related to the youth of that little city by their parents who once had been his pupils. This is his reward of merit for honest endeavor, for good school work done in his early manhood. The knowledge of this must be to him a well-spring of pleasure, even as the shadows grow darker that betoken declining years.
In April, 1872, Mr. Allensworth bought of W. T. Meades a half-interest in “The Tazewell Register,” and connected therewith John F. Mounts, a printer and writer of some considerable reputation. In September of that year, Meades purchased Mounts’ interest in the paper. The partnership of Meades and Allensworth, in the publication of the Register, continued until January 1873, when, on account of failing health, Mr. Allensworth sold out to Meades. Then retiring from the newspaper business, he went to farming in Little Mackinaw Township. He taught school in the winter time until 1877, when he was nominated by The Democratic party for Superintendent of Tazewell County Schools, being twice elected to this position. He immediately went to work to reorganize and improve the schools of the county, which he did with such marked success that he became known as one of the most thorough and progressive Superintendents in the State. He not only told the teachers how work should be done, but took hold of the work and demonstrated it himself. He not only talked theory and practice to them but proved to the teachers that he knew the theory and could practice it. He had the confidence of the teacher, the pupil and the parents: and the impress of his ability is still stamped upon the schools of Tazewell County, and the teachers still bear testimony to his worth as a scholar, teacher and Superintendent.
For a portion of the time during which he was Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Allensworth carried on farming, and was just farmer enough to be compelled to use all the salary he made out of his office to keep up the farm— or rather make an attempt at it. The truth must be told, and that is, as a farmer. Mr. Allensworth would never carry off any premiums. It was hard for him to understand that, while he read books, weeds grew in the corn. His is a case clearly proven, that if a boy or man is out for one calling it is a piece of foolishness for him to undertake to do something for which he has no taste or fitness. He dropped his farming venture in 1884 and moved to Pekin, where he has since resided. In May, 1885. he took editorial charge of “The Pekin Times.” but owing to a disagreement with Its proprietor, J. B. Irwin, as to the policy to be pursued by the paper, he gave up this position in the following September. In 1886, Irwin having sold the paper, Mr. Aliensworth accepted the position of editor and business manager for the Times Publishing Company, which position he relinquished January 14, 1894, to take charge of the Pekin Postoffice, to which place he had been appointed December 21, 1893, by Grover Cleveland. After the expiration of the four-year term in the postoffice, he went into the insurance business, in which he is now engaged. For a number of years he has been a member of the Pekin Board of School Inspectors, and has served one term as President of the Board.
The subject of this sketch and Miss Charity A. Tanner were married October 7, 1875. Mrs. Allensworth was born in Stafford, Monroe County, Ohio, December 25, 1854. She came with her parents to Illinois in 1869, and resided near the village of McLean, McLean County, for some time, and then moved to Little Mackinaw Township. To them have been born five children: Addie A., Willian P., Nellie A., Ellis D. and Myra M. The two eldest children are deceased. Nellie A. is a teacher in the Pekin schools, Ellis D. is in the employ of Butler Brothers, wholesale department store, Chicago. and Myra is a student in the Pekin High School.
Mr. Allensworth has been a life-long Democrat. He is able at all times to give good reasons for the political faith that is in him. He is a fine writer—a master of the English language. As a speaker he is logical, forceful and eloquent. It is his own fault that he does not rank with the best in the State. It is not a lack of ability, but indifference on his part to the plaudits of the multitude. He knows that these are often given the unworthy, and too often the worthy and the unworthy are classified alike; and, therefore, honors awarded are sometimes of little or no evidence of the ability of the one to whom they are given. His friends are many. They have not been won by ostentation or self-asserted superiority, but by helpfulness and kindness to others, by quietly interceding for them and enabling them to prove their own worth. He is faithful to his friends, and an arduous laborer in their behalf. Like all men of strength of purpose, he readily forgives but is slow to trust one who has deceived him, or proven unworthy of his confidence. He is an unselfish man—probably too much so for his own good or advancement in public life. If he had been selfish and less concerned for the success of his friends, his name would have been linked with the foremost educators in the State, and with the best platform orators of the country. He has been just ambitious enough to do well whatever he has undertaken to accomplish, but not enough to trample upon others to achieve success, which seems to be the method adopted by many who become distinguished. It has never been necessary to tell him to “Fling away ambition; by that sin fell the angels.” He has pursued the even tenor of his way; and who can say that it is not the best way?—for, as; the days darken and the nights lengthen, is it not a satisfaction to know that there are those who can, and will speak well of you, and say of you that you could have achieved more for yourself if you had been more selfish and cared less for the comfort and happiness of those who grew up around and about you?
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Tazewell County - page 968