Biography of Marion E. Leigh

Marion E. Leigh, whose home is in the village of St. Joseph, has spent a very active career in the agricultural pursuits of Champaign County and is a member of one of the old families of this section.

Mr. Leigh married Clara B. Leas. She was born in Stanton Township, Champaign County, a daughter of William C. and Margaret (Argo) Leas. Her father was a native of Indiana and her mother of Ohio, and the family was early settlers in Champaign County.

William C. Leas served three years in the Union Army in Company H of the Seventy-second Indiana Volunteer Infantry. This regiment was part of the famous brigade of General Wilder, commonly known as Wilder’s Lightning Brigade, and saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war, including Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and the Atlantic campaign. William C. Leas was mustered out at the close of the war and on receiving his honorable discharge returned home to Indiana. He married in Illinois and reared a family noted for integrity of character and loyal citizenship. He was one of the charter members of Prairie Hope Christian Church and he and his wife were long identified with that congregation.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Marion E. Leigh remained on her father’s farm until the death of her parents, and tenderly cared for them during the setting sun of life and handed them down to their graves in peace.

Two children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Leigh, Cora and Etta. They were given the best advantages of school and home. Cora completed her education in the Urbana High School and then married Vernon E. Varner, a farmer in Stanton Township, living on her father’s place. The daughter Etta carried on her studies in the high school at St. Joseph. Mr. and Mrs. Leigh removed to the village of St. Joseph, procuring a residence on Third Street. Mr. Leigh while living somewhat retired finds plenty to do and goes to his farm every day, traveling in his automobile. Mr. and Mrs. Leigh are active members of the Prairie Hope Christian Church in Stanton Township and he is one of the deacons and trustees.

In politics he is a Democrat and a man of broad views, upholding the principles of his party and working steadily for good government both in county and nation.

Mr. Leigh has become more than locally known as an extensive breeder and raiser of Shorthorn cattle and Percheron horses. He keeps fine registered stock and his herd of fifty Shorthorns is regarded as one of the best in the entire state. Mr. Leigh has served as road commissioner, as school trustee and township supervisor, and in every office and public responsibility has justified the confidence of his fellow citizens.

William C. Leas had an interesting part in connection with the building as well as the maintenance of the Prairie Hope Christian Church in Stanton Township. Much of the timber entering into the construction grew on trees on his father’s farm, and it was milled and hauled from Fountain County, Indiana. William C. Leas assisted in hauling the lumber and also in the work of constructing what was the first country church erected in that part of Champaign County. The old building still remains in a good state of preservation, and its seats are of fine walnut timber, almost priceless at the present time. It has been a center of religious worship and social commingling for two generations of people, and both Sunday school and preaching services have been held there more or less regularly for many years. In the early times on account of the rough and muddy roads church services were difficult to maintain with any degree of regularity, but with the era of good roads the church has been open almost every Lord’s day.

At the death of William C. Leas he left a farm to each of his three children. These three children are George N. Leas, Mrs. Delia Christie of Urbana, and Mrs. Marion E. Leigh. Mrs. Leigh inherited the old homestead, which she still possesses and cherishes as the home of her birth and girlhood, with a host of pleasing associations and memories. George N. Leas has in his possession a small Testament which his father carried throughout the three years of his army service. During that time the cover was worn off the little book twice and he rebound it each time himself. The last time he put on a binding made from a piece of fine leather cut from the tops of his army boots. The Testament was given into his hands by his Christian mother whose prayers followed her boy throughout the many weary campaigns he experienced.

Mrs. Leigh has a greatly prized heirloom of her father, in the form of a diary which he kept throughout the war. Perhaps the most interesting feature of this is a poem which he wrote when a boy in the army and while he was on guard duty at Chattanooga, Tennessee. This poem reads as follows:

“My father is a farmer,
My brothers are the same, But I for love of country
Have to the army came.
“And by the prayers of Christians
My life is spared thus far, To them I am indebted
For God’s protecting care.
“I know that mother often
In Fountain County there, Pours out her soul devoutly
In humble, heartfelt prayer.
“And father, too, in secret
Is offering up his prayer ‘ For his absent son who long since
Enlisted in the war.
“And there is sister Lizzie,
And Arthur and the rest, Who often say to Jesus,
‘My absent brother bless.’ “



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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