WILLTAM A. NESBITT. William A. Neshitt is one of the large merchants in the busy city of Piuckneyville, and has been active in its commercial life since his advent to that city in 1892. Starting out in a modest way, his business has increased and developed until it now embraces a small system of mercantile houses throughout the county. He was fortunate in his equipment, for he started with a fair education, and acquired the experience necessary to his career as a merchant in one of the largest retail stores in Kansas. It might be surmised that in his struggle for success Mr. Nesbitt has devoted himself solely to his business, but this would be a great mistake, for he has been very active in municipal affairs, especially along the lines of civic improvement. He served for four years on the council, and during this time a general progressive movement was inaugurated, he being one of the leaders.
William A. Nesbitt is a native son of the "Sucker State," having been born at Decatur on the 6th of March, 1860. He came of a family that had been founded by his grandfather, William Nesbitt, in this part of Illinois, and that had ever since furnished men of prominence in the affairs of the section. Uniontown, Pennsylvania, was the childhood home of William Nesbitt, the elder, and he migrated to lllinois in 1836. Here he became prominent among the pioneer agriculturists of the county, and was one of the men who did much toward the development of the young town. When his farm was repaying some of the time and labor that had been spent on it, he found it possible to enter other fields of work, and he was uniformly fortunate. Before the close of his thirty-one
years of residence, he had accumulated considerable capital and was placed in the category of the wealthy men of the city. His wife, who was Blynda Doyle died in 1844, and he survived her several years, dying in 1867. Their children were Henry; Wilse; Samuel A., who was the father of the present William Nesbitt; Helen, who became the wife of J. Mortin and died at Fort Scott, Kansas, and Sallie Nesbitt, who resides now in Decatur.
Samuel A. Nesbitt was born at Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on August 27, 1836. He grew up in his father's busy home at Decatur, and almost the first thing he learned was the lesson of industry. His education was obtained in the Springfield school and as soon as he laid aside his books he was introduced to the farming business. From that time forth farming was his chief occupation, though he had many other interests. His chief source of income was in his fine stock, his horses in particular being especially prized. There are many of his neighbors yet living who can testify to his knowledge and skill in the handling of horses, and also to the sagacity and shrewdness that were necessary qualities to the successful horse trader of his day. During the Civil war he became an agent of the Federal government in the purchase of horses for the army, and he added a considerable amount to his material wealth by this connection. In 1882 he moved with his family to Kansas, and settled there to a life of agriculture, but his heart was back in the land where he had spent so many years of his life, and in 1895 he returned to the home of his childhood, and there died on January 28, 1895.
In 1858, Samuel A. Nesbitt and Elizabeth Willey were married in Zanesville, Ohio. She was a daughter of Henry Willey, whose ancestors had come to this country in colonial times, from that odd little section of the English isle, Wales. These Welsh ancestors entered heart and soul into the cause of American independence, and the blue and buff never covered more loyal hearts. Mrs. Nesbitt died on January 28, 1905, at the age of sixty-eight. Mr. and Mrs. Nesbitt were the parents of three children, William A.; Charles C., of the Nesbitt Mercantile Company of Percy, Illinois, and Anna, who became the wife of Charles Jackson, of Emporia, Kansas.
William A. Nesbitt's school days were passed in Decatur and in the high school at Monticello, Illinois. His initial plunge into the whirlpool of the business world, was taken upon his entrance into a telegraph office with the I. B. & W. railroad. After a year or two of this service he decided that he was better fitted for some other line of work and chose merchandise for his next venture. He entered the employ of W. E. Smith, of Monticello, Illinois, and remained with this firm for several years, coming to the conclusion that this was the field of work for him. On leaving here he went to Kansas and became associated with one of the leading firms of Emporia. He became invaluable to the members of this firm, and it was with regret that they let him go at the end of eight years. This firm Tanner Brothers and Heed were the advance guard of the "cash store," and their methods of doing business were a fine schooling for any young merchant, as Mr. Nesbitt fortunately realized.
In 1890 he returned to Illinois for a short time, going from here to St. Louis where he entered the large retail house of Nugents. It was here that he made the acquaintance of E. R. Hineke, a young official in one of the banks, and this acquaintance ripened into a strong friendship. Presently the two decided to form a business partnership, and since Mr. Hineke was from Pinckneyville, Illinois, they selected this town as the site of their undertaking. They chose the spot on the east side of the square, where their present store now stands and here they put in a stock of dry goods and shoes, and sat down to wait for trade. They did not
have to wait long, however, for their stock was attractive and their prices reasonable, and they soon were conducting a flourishing business. This was in 1892 and the firm continued as Hineke and Nesbitt until 1898 when Mr. Hineke withdrew. Since then Mr. Nesbitt has carried on the business alone. In 1910 the firm of Hineke and Nesbitt again came into existence as a small department store in Pinckneyville, of which Mr. Nesbitt was the chief spirit. In 1905 the Nesbitt Mercantile Company was established, at Percy, Illinois, and he stands as the promoter of this, a still larger concern. He has been very active in the industrial development of this little mining town, and was one of the founders of its First National Bank, being at present vice-president of the same.
The close connection that Mr. Nesbitt has had with the life of Pinckneyville is evident in the public service that he has given as a member of the town council, for four years. It was during this period that the street paving was done, cement walk construction was begun in many parts of the city, and a general interest in public improvements was revived in the minds of the populace. It is of interest to note that during this era of advancement Pinckneyville was a dry town, yet the city gave ample evidence that it was never more keenly alive, to the great discomfort of those who hold that it takes whiskey to make a live town.
Mr. Nesbitt was married in Monticello, Illinois, on the 28th of January, 1885, to Miss Emma Hill, a daughter of James A. Hill, a merchant of that city. Mrs. Nesbitt was born in Monticello in April 23, 1863. Her mother was Lucia A. Pipher and she and Mr. Hill reared a family of five children. Four of Mr. and Mrs. Nesbitt's children, Gladys, Fay, Dick and Verne have completed the high school course in Pinckneyville, and have taken additional work elsewhere in special subjects. The two younger boys, Neil and Kenneth are yet in the public schools.
Mr Nesbitt believes that the Fraternal orders come very close to living up to the ideal for which they strive, that is true brotherhood, consequently he is a loyal member of the Masonic order, in which he is a master mason, and of the Modern Woodmen of America. In his political affiliations, Mr. Nesbitt is a Republican.