This information is part of the Champaign County ILGenWeb Project. If you have reached this site by means other than The USGenWeb Project, The ILGenWeb Project, or directly, please visit the main Champaign Co, ILGenWeb site for more information regarding Champaign County, IL ancestors. Information contained here was transcribed by Celia G. Snyder. Please do not repost this information without the express written permission of Celia Snyder.

Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of John George Ely

SOURCE: "Early History and Pioneers of Champaign County, Illinois," by Milton W. Mathews and Lewis A. McLean, editors of the Champaign County Herald, published by the Champaign County Herald, 1886


JOHN GEORGE ELY. Among our respected German American citizens is Mr. Ely, the well-known carriage maker, of Champaign. He was born in Kempton, Bavaria, June 13th, 1825. He is the son of Ernst and Magdalena (PFIFER) ELY. Young Ely received a good education then excellent schools of his native country. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to the trade of carriage making and served his time, after which he worked as a "jour." He came to America while yet a young man. He stopped some time in New York City, and while there married Miss Eliza REHNER. The date of the marriage was October 1st, 1854. She died November 9th, 1863. In the spring of 1857 Mr. Ely concluded to try his fortune in the west. He came to Urbana, landing here April 10th, of the year above named. He found work in the shop of Boyden & Ostfield, which some of the older citizens will recollect. It stood on the ground now owned by J. L. Charni, West Main Street. He remained with the above named firm for three years. He then started a shop of his own, doing all kinds of general blacksmithing work, wagon making, etc. He continued in Urbana until 1863, when he moved to Champaign and opened a shop and continued with varying success, up to 1880, when he built the large three story brick building to accommodate his extensive and growing business. His business has grown from a small beginning until it is now one of the most extensive establishments of its kind in Central Illinois. He manufactures carriages of all kinds, buggies and spring wagons, and does a general repair business.

When Mr. Ely first began work for himself, he had to make everything. Mat E. Busey came into his shop one day and wanted him to make a buggy body for a pair of running gears. Mr. Ely drew the outline with chalk on the floor. Mr. Busey expressed himself as satisfied if the body would look that way when made. Mr. Ely finished it from the plan on the floor. That buggy body was the first one ever made in the county of Champaign. When Mr. E. first went to Champaign it was then called West Urbana. There were but sixty houses in the town. The Illinois Central company were then erecting their round house. The outlook for the struggling village was not very bright, but Mr. E. had unbounded confidence in its future. Time has demonstrated that his judgement was not at fault. The city in a great measure owes its growth and prosperity to that class of enterprising and energetic men to which Mr. E. belongs. They are the men who give life and vitality to a town.

Mr. Ely's present wife was Dora DEMLO. Their marriage took place April 16, 1864. He is the father of twelve children. The eldest is twenty eight and the youngest five years of age. George, Samuel, John and Louis are working in the carriage shop. Both Mr. and Mrs. Ely are members of the Reformed Lutheran church. Politically, Mr. Ely -+is a pronounced democrat. Thus in short is a brief outline of the life of Mr. Ely. He came here poor in purse, but rich in the possession of youth, health and industrious habits. Through these he has built up a large business, and made himself an honorable name among men.

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