G. RILEY HUFFMAN. Although not a native of Illinois, this prominent merchant and influential and progressive citizen of Carbondale has been a resident of Jackson county ever since he reached the age of nineteen, a period of twenty-six years. He is therefore well acquainted and closely in touch with its people, and fully in sympathy with their public spirit and all their industrial, mercantile and commercial aspirations, as well as with the highest and best expression of their social life.
Mr. Huffman is a native of Virginia, having been born in Wythe county, in the Old Dominion, on July 25, 1866. He is a son of Joseph D. and Sophia (Brown) Huffman, extensive planters in that county before the Civil war, and still engaged in tilling the soil there and giving an agreeable example of the rural life of that portion of the country. They were great sufferers from the waste and prostration of all business occasioned by the war, and during the boyhood and early youth of their son Riley its wounds, material and commercial as well as in the persons of its soldiers during the conflict, were still painfully visible.
He worked with his father on the old plantation until he was nineteen years of age and in the meantime attended the public school in the neighborhood of his home when he could be spared from labor. At the age mentioned he became dissatisfied with the prospects before him in a state so cruelly desolated by sectional strife, and determined to seek more favorable conditions in one of the newer and more progressive commonwealths of the great and growing West, where the noise of enterprise was loud and every stroke of human energy brought immediate and gratifying returns.
Accordingly he bade farewell to the scenes and associations of his boyhood, and came courageously to Jackson county, Illinois, expatriating himself from home and friends to make his bed with strangers and work out his destiny among them. He hired himself to a farmer in the county, and for a year or two worked as a farm hand during the busy seasons and attended school during the winter months. His pay was meager and his progress toward independence and consequence among men, the goal of his ambition, was slow. But he was frugal and prudent, and in time accumulated enough money to pay
his way through a course at Dixon College in Dixon, Lee county, this state, which prepared him for usefulness more in accordance with his tastes and ardent aspirations.
After leaving college he taught school four years in Jackson county, then clerked in a grocery store in Murphysboro for a time. He became enamored of the business and bought the store and good will of his employer, and this he conducted successfully and profitably for twelve years. At the end of that period he came to Carbondale and bought a grocery store, having disposed of the one he had in Murphysboro. In 1904 he purchased a furniture and undertaking establishment and formed the Huffman Furniture Company, of which he is the president and general manager, and has been from the organization of the company. This company carries on an extensive and active trade in furniture and does funeral directing in the most scientific and artistic manner. It has a high reputation for the excellence of its output in the mercantile line, and is universally commended for the elevated character of its work in burying the dead. Mr. Huffman gives every detail of the business his vigilant personal supervision, and leaves nothing undone to secure the best results in every department and feature of it. He also owns farms in the county and supervises the cultivation of them.
He was married on December 26, 1895, to Miss Maggie Will, of this county, a daughter of George and Arah (Bouscher) Will, who live on and cultivate one of the county's well improved and highly developed farms, which they have made it since they became its owners and took charge of its management. Mr. and Mrs. Huffman have six children, Bernice, Nyle, Otis, Ana, and their twin son and daughter, Paul and Pauline. All of them are living and members of the parental family circle. The parents are devoted and serviceable members of the Christian church, and the father is one of the deacons of his congregation.
Mr. Huffman has taken a decided and fruitful interest in the fraternal life of his community, working zealously for the good of his several lodges, and giving them the full benefit of his intelligence and enterprise. He is a Knight of Pythias, with the rank of past chancellor; an Odd Fellow, with the rank of past grand; a trustee of the local lodge of the Order of Elks, and a Modern Woodman of America. He has served as a member of the school board eight years, and was a member of the city council when the new form of municipal government was put in operation.