MATTHEW W. COCKRUM. The evolution of Franklin county from an untamed wilderness into a populous, highly improved and well ordered community has occupied but a brief span of years. There are those now living who were here in time to aid in the beginning of the struggle against the forces of nature. And yet there has been time for families to grow up and children and grandchildren to be born and to scatter west, north and south. Such has been the history of the family of Matthew W. Cockrum, an old and respected citizen of Franklin county and a man who stands high in the estimation of all who know him. Although now spending the closing years of his life in retirement, he was at one time the leading agriculturists of his county. Mr. Cockrum was born in Franklin county, January 29, 1838, a son of Matthew and Sarah (Gibson) Cockrum, and a grandson on both the maternal and paternal sides of a family of Kentucky farming people.
Matthew Cockrum was born in Kentucky, and came to Illinois at a very early day, settling as a pioneer near Ewing. In 1840 he took his family to a farm on the present site of Sesser, and started to cultivate the one hundred and eighty acre tract which he had secured from the government. He was engaged in farming during the'remainder of his life,
and his death occurred in 1895, when he was known as the wealthiest man of his locality.
Matthew W. Cockrum received his education in the subscription schools, and his boyhood was spent in hard work upon his father's farm. He experienced the usual trials and discouragements that befell the pioneers of his section, but the training gave him splendid physical strength and taught him that the true road to success lies only through hard work and persistent effort. In time he became the owner of a property of his own, on which he resided until 1908, and then retired from active pursuits and settled in Sesser. He reserved eighty acres on the edge of the town, which he platted into lots, and also owns thirty acres within the corporation limits. At one time Mr. Cockrum was the owner of over eight hundred acres of land in Franklin county, but during 1910 he divided this among his children. He is a sturdy Republican in politics, but has given his whole attention to his farming interests, and has never allowed his name to be used in connection with public office. In his long and active career Mr. Cockrum has had a reputation for the highest integrity and business ability, a man of extraordinary foresight in placing investments and a good and public-spirited citizen of Franklin county.
In 1860 Mr. Cockrum was married to Miss Ruth Greenwood, daughter of Willoughby Greenwood, an early settler of Franklin county. Of the children born to this union five are now living, namely: Martha Jane, who married William Jones; Arta M., who married Charles Jones; Laura L., who married Robert Sherriff; Francis M., who is engaged in farming in Franklin county; and Monia D., who married Alva Stephenson. Mrs. Cockrum died July 3, 1909, in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal church. On June 23, 1910, Mr. Cockrum was married to Mrs. Matilda (Isaacs) Brayfield, widow of J. M. Brayfield, who died in 1904. Mrs. Cockrum is a daughter of George Isaacs, a veteran of the Mexican war and an early settler of Franklin county.