MATTHEW R. HOLCOMB.
One of the best examples of self-made men to be found in Franklin county is Matthew R. Holcomb, who, starting life as a poor boy with no advantages of any kind, has not only accumulated an excellent farm of two hundred acres, but is also proprietor of the leading store at Hanaford. Not satisfied with having made a success of his agricultural operations, he branched out into the mercantile line, and the success which attended his efforts in the new field proved that he was possessed of the rare ability to follow more than one line of endeavor and to be able to place himself in the front rank of each. He is a product of St. Clair county, Illinois, and was born August 16, 1852, a son of John T. and Lovina (Potter) Holcomb.
William Holcomb, the grandfather of Matthew R., was a native of North Carolina, who served as a soldier from that state during the war of 1812, and came to Illinois among the pioneers, settling in St. Clair county, where the remaining years of his life were spent in agricultural pursuits, his death occuring at the advanced age of ninety-eight years. His son, John T. Holcomb, was born in St. Clair county, as was his wife, and both spent their lives within its confines, Mr. Holcomb passing away in 1857 and his wife in 1891, both in the faith of the Missionary Baptist church. On the maternal side Mr. Holcomb's grandfather was Matthew Potter, an old sea captain of Maine, who came to Illinois at an early day and built the mill at Freeburg, the first mill in St. Clair county.
Matthew R. Holcomb received bis education in the schools of Freeurg, but the greater part of his education was secured in the school of hard work, as his father died when he was only five years of age and he was compelled to early start to work to help support the family. Until 1872 he was engaged in farming in St. Clair county, but in that year moved to Franklin county, where he was soon able to purchase a farm, due to his industry and hard and faithful labor. He has added to his original purchase from time to time, and now has a tract of two hundred
acres of some of the best farming land in the county. As his finances have permitted, he has erected new and modern buildings, and he is now the owner of a beautiful country home. In 1891, recognizing the need for and realizing the opportunities of a modern business establishment at Hanaford, Mr. Holcomb erected a large, two-story brick structure here and stocked it with a full and up-to-date line of goods of every kind to be found in a general store, and his business has rapidly increased, until he now has by far the largest trade in Hanaford. The same characteristic traits of industry, fidelity to duty and honorable methods that made him a successful agriculturist have been displayed in his operations as a merchant, and his reputation is that of a man of the highest integrity. In political matters he is a Democrat, although he has not been an office seeker. He has served, however, for eighteen years as a member of the school board and has acted as justice of the peace for three terms.
Mr. Holcomb was married to Miss Mary Chesney, who died without issue. His second marriage was to Miss Margaret Sweet, the daughter of T. W. Sweet, who was a native of Tennessee, came to Franklin county, Illinois, in 1850, and was a successful farmer for many years, serving also as county treasurer. One child was born to this union: Timothy O., who now lives at Colorado Springs, for his health. Mrs. Holcomb died, and Mr. Holcomb was married a third time to Charlotte Thompson, by whom he had four children: Clara, Bertha, James and Matthew A. The latter, a very bright young man, lost his life in the mine disaster at Harrisburg, Illinois, February 13, 1911. Mrs. Holcomb passed away in 1899.