W. W. Skinner was horn November 12, 1835, in Vermillion, Indiana. In 1839, with his parents, he moved to Coles (now Douglas)County, Ills., where he has since resided. When Mr. Skinner came to Douglas County there were only seven families in what is now New-man Township, namely : Anson, Gaston, Robert Hopkins, E. J. Howell and three families by the name of Winkler.
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Joseph Skinner, father of W. W. Skinner, burned a brick kiln on the banks of the Brushy Fork creek in 1839, it being the first kiln burned in that part of the state. For years after this he followed breaking prairie land, his boys aiding him until his death, which occurred in 1857. He raised a large family of children, ten buys and three girls, W. W. Skinner being the sixth child. From this large family of thirteen children only three are now living: W. W., John and Isaac, they being the three oldest sons. In the year 1862 John, W. W. and Anson Skinner, brothers, enlisted in the Seventy-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. John and Anson were captured at the battle of Chickamauga. They were kept in prison seventeen months and nine days, and did not return to their regiment, but were mustered out at Springfield, Illinois, at the close of the war. W. W. Skinner remained with his company, was under the leadership of Sherman, and took part in eleven hard fought battles, besides skirmishing by the month. He was mustered out June 12, 1865, at Nashville, Tennessee, and discharged June 27, 1865, at Springfield, lllinois.
W. W. Skinner, being an early settler of the eastern part of Douglas County, Illinois, well remembers some of the incidents of its first settlers. Robert Matson, from Kentucky, settled here in 1839 or 1840. He first located near Coffee’s Grove, in Sargent Township, and in a few years removed one and one-half miles northeast of Newman. He was a wealthy man, owning a large plantation in Kentucky and a number of slaves. He brought nine slaves to Illinois with him. In 1847 his slaves were spirited away to Charleston, the County seat of Coles County, they claiming their freedom under the laws of a free state and being protected in their project by Rutherford and Ashmore. Mr. Matson, fearing the loss of his human property, followed them to Charleston and brought suit for the rights of property. He employed for his attorney the Honorable Abe Lincoln, who was at this time but twenty-nine, years old, while the defendants employed the honorable O. B. Ficklin. It so happened that Matson lost his slaves, while he himself re-turned to Kentucky, from which place he never returned to the free state of Illinois.