John Robert Challacombe, well known in Montgomery County, is one whose extensive and varied business interests have resulted in the acquirement of a comfortable competence. Today he is engaged in contracting for the construction of steel bridges and water towers at Hillsboro, is also a director and stockholder in the Decatur Bridge Company of Decatur, Illinois, and a partner in the firm of Challacombe Brothers, dealers in farm implements at Nokomis. A native son of Illinois, he was born in Macoupin County in 1845. His father, John Challacombe, was born in Devonshire, England, near Ifracombe. The grandfather, John Challacombe, Sr., was likewise a native of the county of Devonshire, born in 1785. He married Elizabeth Parminter in 1814. Her father, James Parminter, was appointed superintendent to oversee the removal of the sick and infirm women and children at the time of the threatened invasion of England by Napoleon. John Challacombe, Sr., died at the age of sixty years and was buried at Carlinville, Illinois. His wife had departed this life three years before. In their family were eight children, of whom John Challacombe, Jr., was the third in order of birth. He came to the United States in 1833, the voyage being successfully accomplished, although while in mid sea a severe storm was encountered. It was the intention of the family to locate in Illinois, but they stopped first at Brockport, in western New York, on the Erie Canal. Not long afterward Mr. Challacombe purchased a farm in Genesee County, New York, forty miles east of Buffalo. In 1840 he sold that property and removed to Macoupin County, Illinois, settling on the farm now known as the John M. Palmer place, three miles southwest of Carlinville. On the removal westward the trip was made from Buffalo to Cleveland by water, thence by way of the Ohio canal to Portsmouth, thence down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers to Columbiana, Illinois, and on to Carrollton.
John Challacombe, father of our subject, spent the early part of his life as a farmer and was engaged in the raising of stock for a number of years at Alton. Finally he turned his attention to the grain trade and to contracting, doing paving and building. Through his well directed efforts he won prosperity and at one time had a large property in Alton. He died in Litchfield, May 29, 1904, at the age of eighty-six years. His political allegiance was given to the Republican Party and his religious belief was indicated by his membership in the Presbyterian Church. He married Rachel Padgett, who was born in Virginia, March 22, 1822, and died February 18, 1850, at the age of twenty-eight years. Her father was Robert Padgett, a native of England, who, on crossing the Atlantic to America, settled in Virginia, whence he afterward removed to Palmyra, Macoupin County, Illinois, where he carried on agricultural pursuits. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Challacombe were born three children. William Brotherton is now living in Sedalia, Missouri. He was a member of the Twelfth Illinois Cavalry and served throughout the war. He was detailed at headquarters most of the time, at Sheridan's headquarters, and was engaged in writing the history, of the engagements and movements of the army. John Robert is the next of the family. James Parminter is engaged in the implement business at Nokomis. After the death of his first wife the father of our subject married Elizabeth Boulter, whose parents settled near Brighton, Illinois, at a very early day. The children of this marriage were Anna, George and Lizzie. The last named died in 1884.
In the public schools at Alton. Illinois. John Robert Challacombe acquired his early education, which was supplemented by study in McKendree College at Lebanon, Illinois, and in Bacon's Commercial College at Cincinnati, Ohio. After leaving school he engaged in bookkeeping in a wholesale grocery house at Alton, Illinois, and was afterward employed in the Alton post office. Subsequently he became cashier and bookkeeper for L. H. Church & Company, wholesale dealers in dry-goods at Leavenworth, Kansas, being located there during the last years of the war. In 1864 he went to Irving, Illinois, where he conducted a grain elevator that had been built by his father, this being the first one constructed along the line of the Big Four Railroad to handle grain in bulk. Mr. Challacombe continued in the business there for twelve years, on the expiration of which period he removed to Hillsboro and the firm of Challacombe & Ramsey was formed. This relation was maintained for eighteen years and in 1892 Mr. Challacombe purchased the interest of his partner. Not long afterward he sold the hardware department to the Hillsboro Hardware Company, but continued in the implement business until 1900, when He sold out to George W. Brown. Jr. Since then he has been contracting for steel bridges and water towers, with offices in connection with A. A. Cress & Son, in the News building.
In 1872 Mr. Challacombe was united in marriage to Miss Marcella E. Walter, who was born in Hillsboro in 1854. To this union one child was born Esther Challacombe. Mrs. Challacombe's parents were Colonel Paul and Nancy E. Walter. Her father, a farmer by occupation, is now deceased, and her mother is still living in Hillsboro. Mr. Challacombe belongs to the United Commercial Travelers' Association of America and to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, in his political views he is a Republican, a recognized leader in the local ranks of his party. He has been supervisor of Irving township, has served as councilman of Hillsboro and was the representative from the thirty-eighth senatorial district of Illinois to the thirty-ninth genera[ assembly. Few men are more prominent or more widely known in the enterprising city of Hillsboro than John Robert Challacombe. He has been an important factor in business circles and his popularity is well deserved, as in him are embraced the characteristics of an unbending integrity, unabating energy and industry that never flags. He is public-spirited and thoroughly interested in whatever tends to promote the moral, intellectual and material welfare of Hillsboro and Montgomery County.
Taken From: Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois Vol II - Montgomery County (1918)