Something of the Pettijohn (Pettyjohn) Family
ELIAS STEELE PETTIJOHN
THE ELDEST of the twelve children of Thomas Pettijohn (111) and Charity (Wisbey) Pettijohn was Elias Steele Pettijohn (215) , born at Huntsville, Illinois, February 1, 1848. He outlived all his brothers and sisters and died at Winterhaven, Florida, April 8, 1938, at the age of ninety years. His father, Thomas, had crossed the western plains by covered wagon in the "gold rush" of 1850, returned to Illinois in 1853 and then moved to Minnesota, where he settled near Traverse, then called "Traverse des Sioux," not far from the present site of St. Peter, ELias Steele then being five years of age. All the children who grew to adult age were born near St. Peter, where ELias Steele attended the public schools and later the Mankato Normal School.
In August, 1862, the father, Thomas, enlisted in the Ninth Regular Minnesota Volunteers and soon saw service as a guard at the hanging of 38 Indians on December 28, 1862, as the aftermath of the Sioux Indian War of that year. The Civil War was then on, and Thomas was sent south, where in battle he received injuries to his eyes which later resulted in total blindness. At the Battle of Germantown he was taken prisoner and confined in Adnersonville Prison in 1863. Throughout his life he was known as "Blind Tom" to distinguish him from other Thomas Pettijohns, "Thomas" evidently being quite a favorite family name.
As a young man, Elias Steele taught school at St. Peter for several years and on July 6, 1873, married Sarah Elizabeth Hughes, she having been one of his high school pupils. In politics he was an ardent Republican and served in numerous public offices, having been principal of schools, member of the School Board, County Auditor, and finally State Treasurer of the State of Minnesota. While living at St. Peter he owned a farm about eight miles away, which at different times was operated by his sons, Thomas J. (216) , and Fred (219) , a brother-in-law, David Utter (224) and a nephew, Fred Hughes, over a period of many years.
After his service as State Treasurer Elias Steele engaged in the insurance business, first at Minneapolis in 1911, and later at Mitchell, South Dakota. In 1915 he and his wife moved to Winterhaven, Florida, where they spent their remaining days with their youngest son, Clyde H. (222) , who joined them in 1916 after finishing his school year at Minneapolis, where he completed his education, at the present time (1947) being a successful pharmacist.
Referring to Elias Steele, Lyle Pettijohn (221) , one of his sons now practicing law at Minneapolis, says that while his father never himself actively engaged in athletics to any great extent, he was an ardent fan, especially when it came to baseball, football or horseracing. That he passed on to his children his love of sports is evidenced by the fact that his son, Thomas (216) , played professional baseball in the Texas League, his son Lyle (221) in the "Minny" and South Dakota Leagues, his daughter, Kate (218) , was an exceptional skater, while his sons, Earl (220) and Lyle starred in football, the latter as a member of the University of Minnesota team, Earl being an outstanding tennis player as well.
Elias Steele saw to it that all of his children were given the advantages of a good education. The daughter, Mary (217) , and sons Earl and Lyle graduated from the University of Minnesota, Kate finished in music, Fred (219) , took the commercial course at Gustavus Adolphus College at St. Peter, while Clyde H. (222) completed his education after going to Florida where he became a successful pharmacist. The daughters, Kate and Mary, taught in the country schools, and later Mary and Earl taught in high schools. In later years Earl was a chemistry teacher, first at the University of Minnesota and later at Oklahoma University where, in 1946, he is still engaged. The vital statistics relative to the descendants of Elias Steele Pettijohn may be found in the Genealogical Section of this work.
Familiarly known as "Dick" by a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, Elias Steele Pettijohn was a voracious reader. He collected and owned a personal library of some 4,000 volumes, comprising the classics, history, current best-sellers, encyclopedias and reference works of many sorts, standard sets of outstanding authors in both poetry and prose, and up-to-date novels, as well as children's books adaptable to the needs of his family and the varying ages of his boys and girls. From his earlier schooling and teaching he acquired a remarkable all around education and was a capable and proficient exponent of good english. He was a believer in the practical application of what he termed "horse sense" to the affairs of life. A typical illustration occurred in his geometry class while he was teaching. He recited the axiom, "A straight line is the shortest distance between two points," and followed it up by remarking, aside, "Any dog knows that; just watch him when he is in a hurry to get somewhere." He was a member of the Masonic Fraternity, served as Master of his Lodge, and was affiliated with the Order of Knights of Pythias. In politics, as has been stated, he was an active Republican and quite outspoken in support of his opinions. The Honorable John A. Johnson, both before and after he became governor of the state of Minnesota, engaged in many political arguments with "Dick," whom he credited for his, Johnson's, education, character and success in his public writings, more than any other influence during Johnson's early life. The former Attorney General of Minnesota, Henry N. Benson, credits Elias Steele Pettijohn with invaluable contributions to Minnesota's laws respecting state finances as they relate to tax and school matters.
In writing to the compilers hereof the son, Lyle, the lawyer, reminisces, from which we quote:
"Sister Kate used to umpire the farmer's baseball games when she was teaching country schools, and, outside of throwing, could give an exceptionally good account of herself in the game. When I was 17 she could out run me for 50 yards with her skirts of the then (1904) length. Her daughter shares a state record and I believe the same national one for 60 yards in high school competition."
"Our whippings - and we got them all right - were generally with a nice (?) plum tree switch, and mercy on the boy who tried to cut a poor one - we had to cut them ourselves - as he would be sent back and subjected to a brand new licking from start to finish. I really seem to recall that mother was worse with the switch than dad. He controlled his temper, while she seemed to get worse (and stronger) as the ordeal developed. It is no doubt that it is from her side of the family that we children inherited our athletics and pugnacity. Wearing dresses of the vintage of 1899, she could outrun me for 50 yards when I was 12, but after Clyde 'was on the way' she never tried it again."
"I still get out, (Lyle says), and bat flies, play catch and kick a football with our 20 year old neighbor boy and think I hold my own except for wind and stooping over."
"ELias Steele Pettijohn (Lyle continues) stated many times that if he had his own life to live over again he would be perfectly satisfied to live it the same as he had. He had always been an ardent card player and enjoyed chess and similar pastimes very much, being eager to join his children in their non-active games. His eyesight weakened and he became palsied in his later years and was unable to manipulate cards, or play the other games, but until his death he was an interested onlooker. He suffered no 'last illness' whatever, merely going to bed and failing to awaken. May God Rest His Soul!"
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