ALLEN THOMAS SPIVEY,
the active and efficient postmaster of Shawneetown, Illinois, has not had an easy row to hoe in life. He, however, is endowed with that gift from Pandora's box, Hope, and with this and his indomitable courage he has been able to win success in spite of all obstacles. He occupies a position of considerable influence in this part of the state through his editorship of the Shawneetown News Gleaner, and in the columns of his paper his voice is continually heard on the side of good government and progress. Through this paper he has accomplished much for the public good, and the citizens of this section realize that if the Shawneetown News Gleaner can be persuaded to espouse a cause it is a long step towards its success. As a politician Mr. Spivey has always taken a prominent part in the work of his party, and is everywhere recognized as one of the leaders of the Republican party in Southern Illinois. As a business man he is also progressive and up-to-date, as will be seen in a further account of his career.
Allen Thomas Spivey is the son of Thomas Jefferson Spivey, who was born in Gates county, North Carolina, February 18, 1830. His father was the founder of the family in this country, having been brought to America at the age of two years. This rather young pioneer was Thomas Sawyer Spivey, and was born in England, February 25, 1799. When quite a young man he married Teresa Eason, his wife being still younger, her age being fourteen. She was of Scotch descent. He received a fairly good education for those times and came to Illinois in 1832, his profession being that of a school teacher. He settled in Shawneetown and taught school for a number of years. He was greatly respected in the community, both for his learning and for his good common sense. He was elected justice of the peace, and in 1856 was elected to the higher position of county judge. He served in this capacity for four years. In 1860 he moved out to a farm near Shawneetown. and there he died in 1862. His wife survived him for many years, and for a long time before her death was a living example to all around her of the beauty of Christian patience and fortitude, for she was blind for many years. She died in 1888, having reared the large family of ten children. Sallie, Murray, Lydia and Thomas Jefferson were all born in North Carolina. Annie, Henry, Mollie, Caroline and Louise were all born in Shawneetown. Of these many children all have passed into the Great Beyond save two. Caroline is unmarried and lives in Shawneetown and Louise is a widow and lives in New Albany, Indiana.
Thomas Jefferson Spivey came to Shawneetown with his parents in 1832. He grew up here and received his education in the public schools. When the gold fever swept over the country in 1849, he was seized with the ambition to go to the west and try his fortune at picking up the nuggets.
He went to California, but returned two years later, having suffered disappointment in his search, like so many others. On his return he bought a farm seven miles west of Shawneetown, and settled down to the quiet life of the farmer. He was married March 12, 1857, to Sallie Annie Smyth, born January 27, 1841, a daughter of Samuel Marshall Smyth, who was a native of Londonderry county, Ireland, and has settled in Gallitin county in youth. Success came to Thomas Jefferson Spivey. His farm prospered and he won many friends through his public activities. He was a Democrat, and although he never sought office, yet he served conscientiously in several minor offices of the community. He and his wife were both members of the Presbyterian church, and for twenty-five years he was an elder in the Ringgold Presbyterian church, while his wife was a leader in many of the church activities. Ten children were born to this couple: Quintin E., Minnie, Marguerite, Addie, Annie, William Walter, Samuel Simon, Gertrude, Allen Thomas and Marshall.
Allen Thomas Spivey was born on the Spivey farm, seven miles west of Shawneetown, on the 5th of April, 1875. He was educated in the country schools until he was of high school age, when he was placed in the Shawneetown high school. He attended school during the winters and during vacations he worked on the farm, so life did not have much play time for this youngster. In 1894 he finished school, but he did not feel that he was as well equipped for the world which, from his youthful experience, he knew was not one of ease, so he entered a commercial college in Evansville. He remained there during the winter of 1894-1895 and until 1896 he worked at various occupations, gathering a broad, general knowledge of different phases of business. In December of 1896 he commenced work as an apprentice in a printing office, having decided that journalism was the profession which had the strongest attraction for him. He did not believe that he could ever become a successful journalist unless he possessed some practical knowledge, and furthermore he had no powerful friends to get him a position as “cub” reporter. After his apprenticeship he followed the trade, working in various offices, but it was not long before his chance came to get into the real work of journalism. In 1897 he formed a partnership with A. C. Clippinger, and they published the Norris City, Illinois, Record. This venture not proving to be as suecessful as he had hoped, he sold out his interest and returned to Shawneetown in 1898. Here he again took up his trade, and worked at it until the winter of 1899, when he went to Henderson, Kentucky, continuing to work as a printer. No opening seemed to be in sight and, as nearly discouraged as it is possible for Mr. Spivey to become, he gave up his trade and in the spring of 1900 went to St. Louis and entered the employ of a wholesale sash and door company. The call of the printer's ink was too strong for him, however, and when a chance came to go back to his old trade he accepted it gladly. In this capacity he returned to Shawneetown in the fall of 1900. He only remained in newspaper work for a few months, however, becoming a bookkeeper in a hardware store in the spring of 1901. He also served as the assessor of the Shawnee township during the spring of 1901, and in April of that year he was elected city treasurer of Shawneetown for a term of two years.
He had always been economical, and had denied himself many comforts in the hope that some day he might be able to buy a paper of his own. Now his dream was realized, for with his small savings he invested in a Washington hand press and some type, bought a little printing office, and November 8, 1901, the first issue of the Shawneetown Gleaner was on the streets. This was the turning point of his career. He was no longer to knock about from pillar to post, for the paper was a success from the
start. So prosperous was it, in fact, that on the 2nd of March, 1902, almost exactly five months since the first issue, Mr. Spivey was able to announce his purchase of the Shawnee News, a Republican newspaper. The Gleaner had been the third newspaper in Shawneetown, and while the size of the place scarcely warranted the publication of three papers it could easily support two. Mr. Spivey, therefore, consolidated the papers of which he was the owner, under the title, The Shawneetown News-Gleaner. The paper continued to grow and prospects looked brighter every day. The debts were all about paid off on the plant when suddenly disaster came in the shape of a fire that destroyed the whole thing on the morning of the 4th of June, 1904. The insurance was small and the loss was heavy, but success had once come to Mr. Spivey and now nothing could discourage him. Taking the insurance money as a nucleus he began all over again; bought another plant and continued to publish the paper without missing an issue. His confidence was fully justified, for now the paper is one of the most influential in Southern Illinois. He is now president of The Southern Illinois Editorial Association, an organization composed of almost every editor in Southern Illinois. He has the confidence and respect of all of them, and was the only person ever elected to the office without opposition.
He was appointed postmaster of Shawneetown on the 21st of January, 1907, and is now serving his second term. Now that the Democratic party is beginning to show its strength, the Republican party should congratulate itself upon the fact that such a loyal worker as Mr. Spivey is to be found among its ranks.
Mr. and Mrs. Spivey are both members and active workers of the Presbyterian church in Shawneetown, and in the fraternal world Mr. Spivey is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, affiliating with Warren lodge, and of the Masonic order, Chapter No. 14, of Shawneetown.
Mr. Spivey was married in McLeansboro, Illinois, on the 25th of December, 1901, to Mary O 'Neal Wright, a daughter of T. B. Wright. The latter was a soldier in the Union army during the Civil war, and her mother was Mary O 'Neal, who was the daughter of John William O 'Neal. Her father was the nephew of a man who was a political leader in Democratic circles in Southern Illinois for many years. This man was Judge Samuel Marshall, who was congressman for six terms, the first time in 1855-1857, and the last time in 1873-1875.. Mrs. Spivey was educated in the common schools of McLeansboro and later attended college in Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. and Mrs. Spivey are the parents of two children: Mittase Wright Spivey was born on the 10th of September, 1902, and their son, Allen Thomas Spivey, Jr., was born on the 1st of October, 1911.
Mr. Spivey possesses those characteristics that make a man loved and honored by the community. He is straight-forward and conscientious in all of his business dealings. His prosperity has been built up not through snatching the bread from the mouths of someone else, but by his own honest, industrious efforts. He is known for his generosity and his charity to all who are in need, and he is a man to whom his family, his God and his home mean more than all of the wealth and fame in the world. He has added much to the material prosperity of the town, not only in the erection of his beautiful modern home, which is both commodious and attractive, but also in the business block occupied by the postoffice and other offices, which he owns. He is also the owner of other property throughout the town. He feels that although he has had a stiff battle with life, yet in his ambition to succeced he has not torn down the
work of others, for his philosophy is, “Work and application to this work, and you will find that the world has room for us all.”