The county of Union numbers among its citizens many skillful physicians, lawyers of state repute, well known manufacturers and business men of much more than local reputation; while proud of them the county is not lacking in others who have achieved distinction in callings requiring intellectual abilities of high order. Among the latter, Professor Elbert Waller, the popular and efficient superintendent of the Cobden schools, occupies a deservedly conspicuous place. No one is more entitled to the thoughtful consideration of a free and enlightened people than he who shapes and directs the minds of the young, adds to the value of their intellectual treasures and moulds their characters. This is pre-eminently the mission of the faithful and conscientious educator, and to such noble work is the life of the subject of the sketch devoted.
Professor Waller was born August 24, 1870, on a farm four miles south of Murphysboro, Jackson county, Illinois, the son of William and Mary (Crawshaw) Waller, natives of Union and Williams[on] counties, respectively, both counties being at the time of the birth of these worthy people parts of Jackson county. William Waller was born in 1823, the son of Joseph Waller, a native of Kentucky, and grandson of William Waller, a native of Georgia. Joseph Waller found his way to Southern Illinois about the year 1811, and settled near Bald Knob, Union county. Professor Waller is thus of the third generation in the state.
The father of William Waller, previously mentioned, founded the family on American shores, coming from England during the Revolu tion. 1228
Professor Waller's grandfather, Joseph Waller, took up government land in Union county and enlisted in the Black Hawk war under the “Old Ranger.” He passed to the great beyond shortly after returning home from his military services, his death being caused by sickness contracted during the war.
William Waller was a farmer by occupation. After his marriage he removed to Jackson county and with his brother-in-law entered forty acres of land. While a boy in Union county he attended a school near Bald Knob, the improvised school house being an old stable in which a fireplace was built. This school was taught by ex-Lieutenant Governor Dougherty. During the Civil war William Waller belonged to an organization opposed to the Knights of the Golden Circle and all they represented and several times they tried to take his life. He was a man of patriotism and tried to enlist during the war, but was rejected on account of ill health; so making the best of things he remained at home and looked after several families whose natural providers were away fighting for the Union. In later years he was very active in hunting down horse thieves, with whom the country became infested, and he successfully landed several of these undesirable members of society in the penitentiary. He was thrice married. His first wife was a Miss Ditzler, who died shortly after they were united. He then married a Miss Lipe, whose demise several years later left motherless four children, namely: John; W. J.; Sarah (Crawshaw) and Mary (Crow) deceased. His third marriage was with Mrs. Mary (Crawshaw) Hagler, whose first husband, brother and a cousin were killed in the battle of Fort Donelson. The children of this union were five in number and concerning them the ensuing data is entered. The first-born was Hannah, who married William R. Lee. Luvisa became the wife of the late Dr. Trobaugh, of Murphysboro. She, as well as her husband, is deceased. Elbert, the subject, is third. Gilbert is at Herrin, where he is engaged in the real estate business. The youngest, Alice, married A. M. Beecher. William Waller died after an active life and one full of achievement, on December 26, 1891, and his faithful and devoted wife survived him until April 14, 1900. He was an able, public-spirited citizen and his memory will long be cherished in Jackson county, in which he lived from the time he was first married. His wife was the daughter of Samuel Crawshaw, a native of Leeds, England, and a farmer by occupation, who immigrated to America in 1824 and located in Williamson county, at that time a part of Jackson county. In those days the redskins still claimed Illinois as their hunting grounds, and he was engaged in an Indian war waged against the Indians and a western tribe. He died very young and his widow lived to advanced old age. A family tradition has it that an ancestor of Professor Waller was a relative of Oliver Cromwell and served in his army.
Professor Waller received his education in the district schools and prepared for his profession in the Southern Illinois Normal school. The piquant experiences of the primitive schools were not altogether the property of his forebears, for he remembers vividly attending school in the old Sharon church, seated on long benches, seats and desks, all home-made of course. This school housed sixty pupils, these being crowded at four desks. There was a small blackboard, three feet by three feet, used by the teacher, and the pupils used homemade soapstone pencils. The cracks in the floor allowed the pencils to drop through and eager hands were frequently raised by the boys asking, (and girls too) “can I crawl under the house and git my pencil.” As boys will be boys, it is possible that the dropping of pencils was more frequent than really necessary. He attended the normal for a time
and then 'Ewing College, where he pursued his studies several terms. In 1909 he received the degree of Ph. B. from the latter place.
Professor Waller began teaching in 1890, and since then has taught continuously with the exception of three years. At first for some terms he taught rural schools in winter and attended Normal in summer. From 1893 to 1896 he was principal of the Ava (Ill.) schools and following that he spent a year in college. In 1898, when patriotism became more than a mere rhetorical expression, he voluntered for service in the Spanish-American war, but through no fault of his own saw no active service. During the winter of 1898 and 1899 he taught a rural school and following that for a short period engaged in the newspaper business and was elected city attorney of Ava, Illinois. He held this important office one year, from 1901 to 1902, and proved remarkably successful in enforcing the laws. From 1901 to 1904 he was principal of the Percy (Ill.) schools; from 1904 to 1906 acted in similar capacity in Tamaroa, Illinois; was principal of the Viola schools for the three years included between 1906 and 1909; and was principal of the Anna high school in 1909-1910. In 1910-1911 he was superintendent of the Columbia schools and at the present time he holds the office of superintendent of the Cobden schools, having been appointed in 1911. He has here, as in preceding scenes, given a favorable “taste of his quality.”
Professor Waller belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, of Percy; and to the Masons and the Modern Woodmen of Tamaroa. He is a Baptist in religious conviction. He has no small amount of literary ability and has published a brief history of Illinois, which has had a wide circulation and much praise.
In the spring of 1894 Professor Waller was united to Maggie D. Clendennon, of Jackson. She is a daughter of Dr. M. W. Clendennon, of Rockwood, who died when Mrs. Waller was only about ten years of age, and she was reared to young womanhood by her uncle, W. G. Wagner. To the subject and his wife have been born four children. The first died in infancy; Arista died at the age of seven months; Willard W. is a lad of twelve; and Max is five. Both the subject and his wife are held in highest esteem, and are active in social circles.
Professor Waller is energetic, progressive and ambitious in his chosen profession and during the brief time he has had charge of the Cobden schools marked advancement has been made. Under the guidance of his inspiration a new and modern high school has been erected and an elective course is offered that makes his school among the largest and best in Southern Illinois. In conclusion it may be said that Professor Waller is a very successful school man and a speaker of unusual ability.