PRESTON HARNER, who did his duty right nobly as a brave and patriotic soldier when war threatened this country with disunion and destruction, was one of the early settlers of Bloomfield Township, where he owns and occupies a fine farm, which he purchased nearly half a century ago, and has since redeemed from the wilderness.
Our subject was born in Knox County, Tenn., December 28, 1817. His father, Philip Harner, was a native of Wythe County, Va., and a son of Christopher Warner, who was born in this country, but was of German antecedents. He removed from Virginia to Knox County, Tenn., and later to Hardin County, where he died. Philip Harner was a young man when he left his early Virginian home to live in Tennessee. He was married there to Miss Katie Copras, who is thought to have been born in Virginia. She died in Knox County in 1819, and the father married a second time. After marriage Mr. Harner continued his residence in Knox County until 1819, when he removed to Roane County, and settled ten miles from Kingston. Six years later he went from there to Hardin County, bought land and improved a farm, and resided there until 1816. In that year he left Tennessee to avail himself of the advantages offered by the cheap land and rich soil of Illinois, and coming to Johnson County, he entered a tract of land from the Government in what is now Bloomfield Township. he built upon it, improved the land, and made it his home until death closed his mortal career.
The subject of this sketch lost his own mother before his remembrance, and was reared by a step-mother. He remained an inmate of the parental home until he was fourteen years old, and at that age commenced to learn the trade of saddler, at which he worked ten months. Returning home, he remained three months, and after that he worked at the trade of a shoemaker a few months. His next employment was as a farm hand, and he continued working out by the month in Hardin County for some time. He was there married, in his twenty-third year, and from that time farmed on his own account on rented land until 1844. In January of that year he came to Illinois, traveling by the way of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers on a flatboat, bringing household goods, stock and tools. After his arrival he bought a claim to a tract of Government land in what is now Bloomfield Township, on which a log cabin had been built for a dwelling for his family. The same year he exchanged that claim for the one where he now lives, and later entered it from the Government at $1.25 an acre. This purchase included eighty acres of land, and there was a log house on the place when it came into his possession. He has since bought other land, and now has a fertile and well-cultivated farm of one hundred and sixty-seven acres, which is provided with good buildings and is otherwise finely improved.
The work that he has accomplished in reclaiming this choice farm from a state of nature entitles Mr. Harner to an honorable place among the most useful pioneers of the county, to whose development he has thus materially contributed. When he came here this and adjoining counties were but sparsely settled, most of the land was owned by the Government, and there were but few improvements. There were no railways for several years, and deer and other kinds of wild game were plentiful, roaming at will over the prairies and through the forests.
Our subject is also worthy of all respect for his conduct during the war, when he threw aside his work to take his place among the defenders of our country's honor. When Ft. Sumter was fired upon, his patriotism was aroused, and believing with all his heart that the Union should be preserved, he offered his services to assist in its salvation, enlisting in Company I, One Hundred and twentieth Illinois Infantry, and during the three long and trying years that followed he had a full experience of the trials and privations of a soldier's life, and displayed good fighting qualities whenever his regiment met the enemy in battle. He was discharged after being in the army three years and twenty days, on account of the expiration of his term of enlistment. He voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1864, and is still a Republican, though he now votes with the People's party. He and his wife are members in high standing of the Baptist Church.
Mr. Harner was married in November, 1841, to Nancy, daughter of William and Margaret Shelly, and a native of Trigg County, Ky. To her and our subject have been born three children: Eliza A., wife of Jerome Watkins, and mother of six children; John C. B., who married Sarah J. Parker, and has four children; and Martha A. who married Thomas Darter, and has five living children and one deceased.
Extracted from Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, published in 1893, page 329
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