JOSEPH W. TOWLE. Prominent among the early and honored pioneers of Harrisburg was the late Joseph W. Towle, who was an active factor in developing and advancing the material interests of this section of Saline county, having for a full quarter of a century carried on an extensive business as junior member of the firm of Mitchell & Towle, general merchants. A son of Israel D. Towle, he was born April 9, 1838, in Equality, Gallatin county, Illinois. He was a lineal descendant in the sixth generation of Philip Towle, the immigrant ancestor, who was born, it is supposed, in Ireland, the family name on the other side of the Atlantic having been O'Toole. Philip Towle was for many years a resident of what is now Hampton, New Hampshire, where he reared several sons, four of whom took part in King William's wars. The line of descent was continued through Benjamin Towle, born in 1669; Benjamin Towle, born in 1713; and Jacob Towle, born in 1744, who spent a large part of his early life in Loudon, New Hampshire, but subsequently removed to Danville, Vermont, where he spent his remaining years.
Born in Loudon, Merrimack county, New Hampshire, April 13, 1787, Israel D. Towle served as a soldier in the war of 1812. About 1831 or 1832 he migrated with his family to Gallatin county, Illinois, locating at Equality, where he became a citizen of prominence and influence, remaining there until his death, April 3, 1875, at a ripe old age. Active in religious and fraternal circles, he was one of the petitioners for the organization of the Presbyterian church of Harrisburg, and a charter member of its Masonic Lodge. He married in Greenboro, New York, in 1816, Eliza Pearce, who was born in Westminster, Massachusetts, in October, 1798, and died July 20, 1876, in Illinois.
Brought up and educated in Gallatin county, Illinois, Joseph W. Towle began life for himself as a clerk, and while yet a young man obtained a practical insight in regard to the details of the mercantile trade. Locating in Harrisburg, Saline county, he embarked in business on his own account, and for twenty-five years was in partnership with Dr. Mitchell, under the firm name of Mitchell & Towle building up a large business as a general merchant. He was also one of the pioneers in the development of the coal interests of Southern Illinois, which his keen foresight told him would become one of the leading industries of this section of the state. A cripple throughout his life, Mr. Towle was unable to serve his country during the Civil war, and was never an aspirant for political honors, his business requiring his entire time and attention.
Mr. Towle married, May 26, 1867, at McLeanshoro, Illinois, Minerva J. Rathbone, who was born in that city April 7, 1839, a daughter of Dr. Lorenzo Rathbone, and niece of Dr. Valentine Rathbone, of whom a brief sketch may be found on another page of this work. Dr. Rathbone was for many years engaged in the practice of medicine at McLeansboro, living there until his death, November 25, 1885, at the venerable age of eighty-four years and nine months. He belonged to the Rathbone family of England that was prominent in the mercantile affairs of Liverpool for upwards of two hundred years, and was also active in military affairs. Captain John Rathbone, one of his ancestors, took an active part in the Revolutionary war, having had command of the sloop "Providence," while in the war of 1812 he was a large contributor towards the general fund raised for paying expenses. About 1820 Dr.
Lorenzo Rathbone began the practice of medicine in McLeansboro, and in addition to his work as a physician and surgeon was a preacher in the Presbyterian church. He married, in 1824, Pamelia Anderson, who outlived him a few years.
Mrs. Towle is still living in Harrisburg. Of the four children born of the union of Mr. and Mrs. Towle one son and one daughter have passed to the life beyond, and two sons are living, namely: Ralph S., engaged in the real estate business at Louisville, Kentucky, and Herman T.
Herman T. Towle was for several years engaged in the mercantile business with his brother Ralph, to whom he subsequently sold his interests in the general store which they conducted in partnership. In 1904 Mr. Herman T. Towle embarked in the clothing business in Harrisburg, and has since built up a thriving trade, carrying in his well-equipped store a large and varied stock of fine goods. He married, in 1900, Loudene Karnes, of Galatia, Saline county, a daughter of J. W. Karnes, a retired agriculturist, and into their pleasant home three children have been born, Bernice, John Warren and Herman Edwin.