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 • Madison County
 • Illinois
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Joshua Atwater
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Birth: 1776
Hampden County
Massachusetts, USA
Death: Feb. 6, 1870
Madison County
Illinois, USA

Born in Massachusetts, Joshua Atwater and his wife, Rebecca, were among the early settlers of the Edwardsville area. Teacher and later merchant, Mr. Atwater became a prosperous member of the community. After the death of his first wife, he married Mrs. Celia Jett on 30 Apr 1845.

Brink's HISTORY OF MADISON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, 1882, pp 334-335, reports:

Joshua Atwater was one of the earliest school-teachers in Edwardsville. He emigrated from Westfield, Massachusetts, to St. Clair county, in 1801, and taught school in Illinois as early as the year 1807. He became a citizen of Madison county in 1817. He was a man of New England education and habits. He was the founder of, perhaps, the first charitable institution organized in the Territory of Illinois. This society, which was formed March 1st, 1809, was called the "Charitable Society," and its members bound themselves to make quarterly contributions to a fund which was to be employed for the relief of the oppressed and afflicted of all ranks and colors, without discrimination or prejudice." The constitution is drawn up in the handwriting of Mr. Atwater, and his name, although he was then a poor man, appears at the head of the list for the highest amount subscribed. He began the mercantile business in Edwardsville in 1820, which he carried on till 1837.

An article in the "Edwardsville Intelligencer" of 27 March 1889 discussing the history of the school system, reported that Joshua Atwater opened the first school in Edwardsville, probably in 1807. Apparently he was not the only Atwater to teach in the community. Among the other teachers a bit later of Edwardsville was Thomas Atwater, a brother of Joshua. Thomas was well educated but suffered from rheumatism and his "equanimity" was often tested. In the 1830s, a sister of Josiah and Thomas arrived in Edwardsville, Mrs. Stearns, and opened a school. An industrious educator, she arranged spelling bees in which other schools might participate. Her zeal and enthusiasm were contagious and for a time her school was the only one in Edwardsville.

The obituary of Mr. Atwater appeared in the EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER, 10 February 1870:

JOSHUA ATWATER. -- The subject of this sketch died in Edwardsville on the 6 inst., in the 94 year of his age. At the time of his death, Mr. Atwater was probably the oldest citizen of Madison County, if not the oldest of the State, having emigrated from Westfield, Mass., his native town, to Illinois, in the year 1801. In 1807 he taught the first public school in St. Clair County. In 1809 he organized the first charitable institution in Illinois, to the constitution of which his name appears as the largest quarterly contributor: although at that time not worth fifty dollars. In 1824 Mr. Atwater entered actively into the effort against the establishment of slavery in this State, and with Lipincot, Churchill, and other leading men of this county, did good service in the cause of freedom. In politics he was a Whig, and since 1860 acted with the Republican party, but never was a partisan, nor entered into party strife. In the year 1809 he made a profession of religion, and united with the Methodist Church, and lived a long life of Christian conduct securing the confidence of all who knew him. A man of great kindness of heart, he dispensed an extraordinary and generous hospitality for very many years. He was a man of much more than ordinary strength of mind, and had to a remarkable degree the power of correctly understanding human character. A man of good business habits, extraordinary punctually and a truly honest man [sic].

An incident in business matters will show this trait of character. In 1810, a merchant in St. Louis, by the name of Phillipron, brought on a lot of tin-plate amounting to $500. Mr. Atwater had a desire to get the plate to manufacture into ware, but had neither money or credit to get it. He went to one Robert McMahon, and agreed with him that if he would recommend him to the merchant, so that he could get the plate on six months credit, he would give McMahon one-half the amount of profit derived from the sale of the ware. Before the six months had expired, Mr. Atwater paid for the plate and paid McMahon $496.75 as his part of the profit, having kept a strict account of every article made and sold.

In the death of this aged and venerable pioneer and Christian gentleman, Edwardsville has lost its oldest citizen, the church its most faithful and liberal member, his children a father greatly beloved, and the community an example of integrity and virtue.

According to records, Joshua Atwater was buried in Lusk Cemetery; therefore, some Atwater markers in Woodlawn must be family memorials. The following information is from Cemeteries and Tombstone Inscriptions of Madison County, Illinois Volume 10 (Madison County (ILL) Cemeteries, Madison County (ILL) Genealogy, Cemeteries Illinois Madison County, Edwardsville Township: Woodlawn Cemetery (St. Louis St., Edwardsville, IL); Creator: Madison County Genealogical Society; Compiled & Indexed by Marie Thompson Eberle (1995-1998); Publisher: Madison County Genealogical Society, 1999):

"Joshua Atwater also known to have been buried in Lusk Cem. ...
All other inscriptions on Woodlawn stones that show a death date 1873 or earlier were not buried in Woodlawn. Some were buried in small family farm cemeteries, but those who were residents of Edwardsville were buried at Lusk. However, no records have been found for Lusk Cemetery other than a List of Lot owners from the original handdrawn cemetery plat, and no records of removal from Lusk to Woodlawn were kept by the City. However, considering that caskets were made of wood, it is highly unlikely that bodies were dug up and MOVED. Time and moisture would have taken care of both box and body!"

Family links: 
  Rebecca Walker Atwater (1787 - 1844)*
  Eliza Atwater (1811 - 1874)*
  Frances M. Atwater Skidmore (1813 - 1833)*
  John Atwater (1815 - 1839)*
  Julia Ann Atwater West (1817 - 1877)*
  Emily Atwater Mabee (1822 - 1846)*
*Calculated relationship
Woodlawn Cemetery
Madison County
Illinois, USA
Created by: Jane Denny
Record added: Jan 22, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 33148480
Joshua Atwater
Added by: Jane Denny
Joshua Atwater
Added by: Jane Denny
Joshua Atwater
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Jane Denny
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- Jane Denny
 Added: Jan. 24, 2009

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