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William Henry Downing Probate

William Henry Downing Probate

William Henry Downing’s probate file came from the Logan County Circuit Clerk. Parts of it could be found at IRAD and the whole probate would be in the FamilySearch files.


On December 2, 1903, in the typhoid epidemic, William Henry Downing died. He was the only child of William Nelson Downing, who died in the Civil War, ironically of “typhoid pneumonia,” and Delilah Downing Downing. He was 40 years old, not expecting to die and had no will.





His heirs were his widow Eliza Harding Downing, sons Clarence, Charles Ellis, Ennis and Floyd. Clarence was 17 and Floyd was 7. [Floyd isn’t in the picture.]


The widow was named Administrix on December 8, 1903. David Shellhammer, husband of Delilah Downing Downing, and James Shellhammer, Delilah’s first son by her second marriage, stood as sureties. Appointed as appraisers were Lewis Upp, Charles Brooker and William Beckers, all three very close neighbors. Brooker would become the father in law of the eldest son Clarence. Upp was married to a Lincoln, descendant of the same immigrant ancestor as the more famous Lincoln.


They finished up their work promptly and reported on December 28, 1903, valuing the property of the estate at $4,700.25. The list is four pages long and is quite specific at times – “6 rocking chairs, 1 bay mare named Brownie, 1 red steer, 1 gray mare, 66 hogs” – and less specific at others – “1 lot of chickens” [which I first read as “a lot of chickens”]. 


The value of the widow’s property as prescribed by law, which included school books, a sewing machine, beds, one fourth of a cow for every family member [fortunately for the cow there were four members], two sheep for every family member, one horse, etc., was $1,281.50. 


The Administrix reported on March 23, 1907. There was $4,700.25 in receipts which included $599.37 for “property not sold but kept…to make up amount shown on appraisement bill.” In the long list of bills totalling $3,704.76 we learn that funeral expense was $263.75 and the stone cost $1,140. The balance after all bills was $995.49, less than the widows’ amount.





The land apparently passed separately. It is not mentioned. Each son received 80 acres which was farmed by son Ellis until the early 1970s. Most of it is now farmed by his grandson, Roy Downing.

How Did You Meet Grandpa?

How Did You Meet Grandpa?

Sunday, April 14, 1907, was Ethel Ryan’s 15th birthday. Although not a member, she went to the dedication of the new Mt. Pulaski Christian Church building with her friend. There was a social. Also at the event was Ellis Downing whose minister ancestors and their family founded several of the Methodist Churches in Logan County and across central Illinois. Ellis enjoyed music and dancing, which the Methodist Church in 1907 did not, so he and his brother were attending the Christian Church. The couple met that day.

Ellis was the second of the four sons of William Nelson and Eliza Sciota Harding Downing, our Lida of prior posts. Ellis’ father, who farmed land his family originally settled, had died of typhoid in 1903.

Ethel was the third daughter of Edward Daniel and Lillie Margaret Wood Ryan [“A Family Affair”]. Teddie was a bricklayer whose ancestors came from Ireland in the 1830s. Both of Lillie’s parents were descendants of Abraham Lucas. To be kind, Teddie liked his drink. The families did not know each other, certainly were not in the same social or economic circles. Most would have said the couple had nothing in common.

Ellis’ older brother Clarence was dating Lena Drake. Her stepfather was Charles Brooker. The Brookers lived half a mile west of the Downing household. The families were friends and the couple seemed well suited.

Eventually the talk to turned to marriage and it seemed natural to have a double wedding. Lena could afford a wedding. Ethel could not. In order to have the double wedding Ellis paid for Ethel’s dress. The couples, joined by their mothers, went by horse and buggy to Lincoln on January 19, 1910, where they were married at the Lincoln Christian Church. Both couples settled down to farming.

Ellis and Ethel had five children. She died on January 8, 1975, 11 days short of the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary. Ellis wrote his family story to be placed in the cornerstone of the new sanctuary of the Mt Pulaski Christian Church, starting with the story of their meeting in 1907. He witnessed the dedication of that new sanctuary in 1977 and died on June 28, 1978.

Clarence and Lena had one son, Darwin. They eventually divorced. One September day in 1942 Clarence showed up at Ellis and Ethel’s’ home and said he felt ill. They put him to bed and called the doctor but Clarence died on September 28, 1942. Lena died in October of 1985.