John Warner was the founder of the Warner family in Lawrence county. He was born in Germany in 1770 and sailed for Virginia in 1785. There he married and raised a family of six children: Peter, Joel, James, John, Nancy and Polly, all but John marrying and raising families in Virginia. After the death of his first wife, Mr Warner married Malinda Duke and raised a second family of four boys: Frank, George, Jack and Tom. By 1835 he was considered well-to-do, even for Eastern Virginia, so he decided to sell out and go West, now that he was wealthy enough to start his sons properly. He accordingly sold his plantation, his distilleries, of which he owned several, most of his livestock and all of his fruit farms except one in the Blue Mountains, which was a favorite residence of his wife. He sold twenty-two young negro men and set the remainder of his slaves free.
In 1835 John Warner set out for Illinois with his family, his sons’ families and his two daughters, Nancy Swan and Polly Updike, their husbands and their families. The various families and their possessions were stowed away in prairie schooners, drawn by yokes of oxen. The old negro ‘Mammy” Aunt Letty, was taken along to care for the youngest son, Tom who was then but a few months old. The money from the sale of the estate was turned into silver dollars and half dollars, packed up in nail kegs and put away in Warner’s wagon. The patriarchial procession left Rappahannock County and crossed Virginia in to Kentucky, stopped for a short time in the latter State. Here John Warner purchased some land from his wife’s people, the Dukes, who had preceded him to the West. .... From Kentucky he passed through Indiana and entered Illinois in 1836. The fertile prairie land of Lawrence County attracted him and he went no farther. It is worthy of note that his home in Lawrence county is just eight miles farther south than was his home in Rappahannock county.
Once here he began purchasing land; at one time he may have owned as much as 3000 acres. He died in 1838 and the homestead went to his son George W. Warner. He was buried according to his wishes, on the estate. His wife married William (James) Crews and they had one son, Albert. She died in 1851 and was buried on the estate beside John Warner. The two graves covered with stone and marble slabs and surrounded by cedars are just as he expressed a wish to have them, and they will remain that way as long as any of his descendants are in possession of the estate….. (written in 1910)
And now for the rest of the story…..the land was eventually sold, and the tombstones remained hidden in a fence row for over a hundred years until they were removed at some point in time (not the graves…just the stones) and placed in the Centerville Cemetery where they remain today, John's practically illegible.
The above biography is taken from the Lawrence County History and Biography book written by John W. McCleave in 1910 and republished by Irene Black Genealogical Library in 1988. The Society has only a dozen or so of these books available for sale. They are no longer in print. They are indexed (32 pages); the book itself contains 143 pages without the index. Of those, 117 pages are autobiographies, with some photographs. It is hardcover and truly a necessity to any serious genealogist with family in Lawrence county. The book may be purchased at the Bridgeport Genealogy library, the Museum in Lawrenceville, or by mail (Lawrence County Historical Society Box 425 Lawrenceville Il 62439) for $45.00 plus $5.00 postage and handling.