BENJAMIN RALLS FELTS
vas born in Robinson county, Tennessee, July 28, 1842. His paternal grandfather, James Felts, was born in Virginia, about 1783, moved to Robinson county, Tennessee, when a young man and about 1812 married Margaret Dowling, of Robinson county. His paternal ancestors had immigrated to Virginia from Germany in the early part of the eighteenth century. In 1816 he moved to the territory of Illinois and settled in Franklin (now Williamson) county, near the present site of Herrin, where he died about 1820.
William Hargis Felts, the eldest son of James and Margaret (Dowling) Felts, was born in Robinson county, Tennessee, in 1814. He was a cooper by trade. In early life he became identified with. the Cumberland Presbyterian church, which at that time was very strong in middle and eastern Tennessee, where it had but recently been founded. In 1850 he moved to Williamson county, Illinois, and soon became identified with the Missionary Baptist church, there being no church of his own faith in the community. He was soon made a deacon in the Baptist church, which office he held till his death, in 1875. He was of a deeply religious disposition, and often occupied the pulpit of the local church in the absence of the regular minister. His reputation for fair dealing and his keen sense of justice made him a common arbiter in the disputes of his neighbors, who preferred to leave the matter for “Uncle Buck Felts” to decide rather than go to law. While yet a citizen of Tennessee, he was an ardent Whig and follower of Parson Brownlow. Although a citizen of a slave state, he bitterly opposed slavery as being morally wrong. When the Seminole Indians rebelled against the government, he joined a Tennessee regiment and went to Florida to help quell the disturbances. After the formation of the Republican party he deserted the Whigs in favor of Republicanism. About 1840 he married Martha MeLary, who was born in Scotland, in 1813, immigrated to North Carolina in 1815 and came to Robinson county in 1815. She died in Williamson county, Illinois, on March 7, 1855.
Benjamin Ralls Felts moved with his father to Williamson county,
Illinois, in 1850, where he attended such county schools as were available at the time, with what regularity as was permitted by the arduous farm life. Here he received the rudiments of an education. When the war of the rebellion broke out he volunteered, and on August 15, 1862, was assigned to Company H, Ninth Illinois Mounted Infantry, Colonel Jesse J. Phillips commanding. In April, 1863, he was engaged in the battle of Jackson (Tenn.) and on October 8, the same' year in a skirmish at Salem, Mississippi, he was severely wounded in the right arm and taken prisoner. He was confined in the rebel prison at Cahaba, Alabama, until April, 1864, when he was moved to Andersonyule, Georgia, there remaining until September, when he was taken to Florence, Alabama. On December 10, 1864, he was paroled, after an imprisonment of more than a year and two months. After remaining a while in a military hospital at Annapolis, Maryland, and spending a thirty day furlough at his home, he was appointed hospital steward at the military hospital at Camp Chase, Ohio. There be met a Dr. Drury, an army surgeon, who took a kindly interest in him and advised him to study medicine. During his spare hours he read medical books in Dr. Drury's office and attended night school at the Rose Polytechnic Institute at Columbus, Ohio. After his discharge, on June 16, 1864, he returned to Williamson county, where he taught school for three years, reading medicine the while, and in 1872 he attended a term at the Southern Illinois College at Carbondale, under the instruction of Professor Clark Brayden. In 1873 he entered the office of Dr. Ed Dennison at Marion, Illinois, whei~e for two years he continued to study medicine. In 1876-77 he attended the Mission Medical College at St. Louis, Missouri, since which time he has been engaged in the practice of his chosen profession in Williamson county, in Johnson City and vicinity, being at present (1912) the oldest practitioner in the county.
In politics Dr. Felts has always been a Republican, casting his first vote for Grant in 1868. From 1875 to 1878 he served as justice of the Lake Creek circuit, and from 1886 to 1889 he filled the office of county commissioner of Williamson county. In his religious belief he is a Missionary Baptist, being a deacon in the church of that faith at Johnston City, Illinois. He is a member of the A. F. & A. M., the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Grand Army of the Republic.
On September 6, 1866, he married Nancy Everett, daughter of Hilhard and Barbary Everett. Her maternal great-grandfather, Jacob Moake, was a soldier from North Carolina in Marion's army in the Revolutionary war. She was born in Robinson county, Tennessee, in 1846 and with her parents removed to Williamson county, Illinois, in 1852. Nine children were born of their union: Martha Melissa, born June 22, 1867, who died of accidental poisoning on April 24, 1885; Rosa Ameryllis, April 2, 1869, the wife of T. E. Benton, Johnston City, Illinois; William Troy, September 5, 1871, a teacher in the department of mathematics in the Southern Illinois State Normal at Carbondale; Cora May, January 29, 1876, still living with her parents; Benjamin Loren, September 8, 1878, assistant cashier First National Bank of Harrisburg, Illinois; Grace Alice, October 16, 1880, died November 2, 1881; George W., October 26, 1882, a lumber dealer in Johnston City, Illinois; Harvey Austin, April 21, 1885, a senior in the medical department of the Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois; Bessie Dell, February 12, 1887, the wife of William Spires, Johnston City, Illinois.
Dr. Felts has lived a vigorous and useful life in his community, being recoguized by all his acquaintances as a positive force for clean and
upright conditions. He is a physician of the “old school,” whose guiding principle is service, not bank accounts. And now, at the allotted time of three score years and ten, surrounded by a large family of children and grandchildren, and still encouraged and assisted by his faithful wife, he is rounding out an active and useful life.