Adair County Biographies

Levi Conover


Illinois:  History of Cass County, Illinois, ed. William Henry Perrin. O. L.
Baskin & Co. Historical Publishers, Chicago, 1882. Cass County.

LEVI CONOVER, deceased.  Among the sturdy pioneers who converted the wild
prairie into productive farms, and built up the little commonwealth of Cass County, was the lamented Levi Conover.

His grandfather, Dominicus Conover, emigrated from Holland about 1820, and
settled in New Jersey. He had five sons:  William, John, Garrett, Levi and Peter.  The least of the five brothers when of middle age, weighed 250 pounds, and the largest 295.  The fourth of  the sons of Dominicus (Levi) was the father of the
subject of this sketch, and was born in 1760.  He entered the Federal Cavalry services in 1776, being in his seventeenth year. He served five years, as did his brother Garrett.

In the year 1785, being twenty-five years of age, he married Catharine Dye,
and in 1790 he and his brother Garrett, with their families, removed to the
State of Kentucky, and settled near Lexington.

In 1795 both brothers removed to Adair County, Ky., and purchased farms near
Columbia.  Their brother Peter followed them from New
Jersey in 1800, and settled near Lexington, their two older brothers,
William and John, remaining in New Jersey.  In 1801,
Levi's wife died, leaving him seven children.

In 1802 he married Mrs. Jane Gelbirth Turnbow; she had by her former husband
two sons, John and Hugh, who were brought up by
their uncle, Hugh Gelbirth.  They were with General Jackson in 1812, at the
Battle of New Orleans.
Five children, two daughters and three sons, were the fruits of this second
marriage:  Peter, James, Matilda,
Levi, and Jackson.  Levi was born Jan. 14, 1808; his brother, Peter, in the
year 1825, came to Illinois, and entered the
Gilmore farm, two miles south of Princeton, then in Sangamon, now in Morgan

In 1827 he sold his first purchase, and
entered 240 acres just east of the Jeff Crum farm, in this county, where he
remained until 1860.  He then moved to Mason
County, this State, where he still lives, at the advanced age of
seventy-eight years.  In the year 1832, the subject of this
sketch, and his sister Matilda, with her husband, Asa B. Lane, came to

He was then twenty-two years of age.  His
outfit upon leaving Kentucky consisted of a good horse, a fine mare and
colt, and a small amount of money.  After having
traveled three days, he awoke one morning to find that his mare and colt had
been stolen, and a week was spent by the entire
party in a fruitless search for the missing property.  On reaching Illinois
with one horse, his money was all spent, andhe
was in debt to his brother Peter and Mr. Lane.  Thus, one of Cass County's
most successful pioneers commenced his career without
means, except that most valuable capital, health, honesty, industry and
economy.  He purchased another horse of his brother
Peter, for $35, paying for the same by splitting rails at fifty cents per
hundred.  After paying this debt he continued rail
splitting until he had accumulated $105 in silver.  This he loaned to a man
who moved to Iowa, and he never collected a cent
of the debt.  In the spring of 1834, he went to Galena and worked in the
lead mines at Mineral Point, until fall, when he returned
and emigrated to Iowa.  There he bought a claim for $75, and divided it with
a friend.  They returned to Illinois, purchased
oxen and wagons, and then returned to Iowa, and spent the next summer in
breaking and improving their farms.  During the spring
of 1835, he, Mr. Conover, built for himself a substantial hewed log house,
16x18, a smoke-house, and a stable.  Unable to obtain
plank, a quilt was hung up at the opening left for a door, to keep the
wolves out.  Finally the door and floor were made of
puncheon.  In November, 1836, he married Miss Elizabeth Petefish, of Cass
County, sister of S. H. and Jacob Petefish, and they soon
after proceeded to their Iowa home.  They returned to Illinois in August,
1837, on a visit.  Mr. Conover returned to Iowa after a
two weeks stay, leaving his wife to complete her visit.  She was soon taken
sick and died the latter part of that same month.  So
imperfect were the mail facilities at that time, that he did not learn of
her death until two weeks after her burial.  This sore
bereavement unsettled his plans, and he sold his claim of 560 acres for
$3,000 in silver, with which he returned to Cass
County, and loaned it to his friends, Jacob Epler, Capt. Charles Beggs, and
J. Bradley Thompson.

In January, 1841, he purchased
the old homestead of the family, from his cousin John, son of Peter Conover,
which was settled in 1822.  His experience on
first settling in this country was not unlike that of many of the energetic
and resolute class of men who were the pioneers of the
West, and to whom the public are indebted for the orderly and intelligent
character of the society we now enjoy.  His second
marriage was to Miss Phebe A. Rosenberger, who with three children, George,
Charles W., and Ellen, now survives him.  Mrs.
Conover's father, John Rosenberger, and her mother, were both of German
parentage, and came to Illinois and settled at Princeton,
in 1836.  They raised a large family, of which Phebe A., was the oldest;
George the oldest living son of the Conover family, was
born Sept. 11, 1846, at the Conover homestead near Princeton.  He is the
fourth of the family, two older sisters having died, and
one, Mrs. William Epler, still survives.  He received his rudimental
schooling at Zion school-house, and afterward attended
the Wesleyan University at Bloomington, Ill., and took a commercial course
at Bryant & Stratton's Business College,
Chicago.  At twenty-one years of age he commenced farming, in which business
he remained from 1870 to 1876, when he became
connected as a partner in the banking firm of Petefish, Skiles & Co., and
since that time has acted as assistant cashier and book-
keeper.  Feb. 23, 1871, he married Virginia Bone, a daughter of William
Bone, of Sangamon County, later of Lincoln, Ill.  Mr.
Conover was the fourth of a family of five children, and was born Sept. 11,
1846.  They have two children, William B. and Earnest
B.  Mr. Conover is a Secretary of and stockholder in the Importers and
Breeders' Association of Cass County, and also a
member of the Building Association of Virginia.  Charles W., is the fifth
youngest of the family, and was born April 1, 1848, on
the homestead; he was educated and brought up a farmer, and has steadily
adhered to his calling.  He owns and lives on the
Conover homestead, which he has successfully managed since it came into his
possession.  He married Miss Louise Dever, April 1,
1875; she is a daughter of John Dever (deceased), a farmer and native of
Ohio.  They have three children:  Millie, Dasie L., and
an infant not named.  Mr. Conover is a thrifty farmer, a Democrat, and much
respected in the community.