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Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of Mark Carley

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


MARK CARLEY. The subject of this sketch was born in the town of Hancock, Hillsboro county, New Hampshire, August 24, 1799. His grandfather, Joseph CARLEY, was born in Spencer, Mass., in 1718, died in 1810. He married Sally WASHBURNE, sister of Elijah Washburne, Sr., of Natick, Mass.; she was born Sept. 14, 1729; died Jan. 6, 1816. They had eleven children. His father, Elijah CARLEY, was the youngest child, born in Ware, Mass., May 21, 1771; died Feb. 11, 1856, at Champaign, Ill. He married Agnes GRAHAM, of Hancock, N. H., Sept. 3, 1795, who died in 1831 at Felicity, Ohio. They had ten children, two older than the subject of this sketch. Mr. Carley, on the 27th of April, 1830, was united in marriage to Miss Abigail W. STEVENS, daughter of Silsby STEVENS, of Springfield, Vermont. Mrs. Carley was born Jan. 7, 1810, at Ackworth, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire, died Nov. 12, 1871, in Champaign, Ill. Mr. Carley had a family of eleven children, but three now living, Mary A. C. (Mrs. KINCAID), Graham, and Isotta C., youngest child, (Mrs. H. W. MAHAN). Mr. Carley’s grandmother, Sally Washburne, was connected with that numerous family of Washburne’s who have since filled so large a space in State and National affairs of this country. Some of Elijah’s elder brothers—Mr. Carley’s uncles—were soldiers in the revolutionary war, and one of them, (Jonathan) has left behind him a soldiers discharge signed by the hand of Washington himself, that is now carefully preserved among the papers of the family. But although Mr. Carley’s father was too young to take a hand in the revolution, he and one of Mr. Carley’s elder brothers (Hugh) served in the war of 1812, first in the dragoons and afterwards in the heavy artillery, and the family have now in their possession one or two articles of uniform worn by the grandfather during that term of service. While yet a boy, in 1810, Elijah Carley removed from New Hampshire to Vermont, and mark, 11 years old, went with the family, remaining with it until 1816. In 1815, he commenced work as an apprentice to the millwright business. When 20 years old, the spirit of self-reliance which made life a success in after years, began to assert itself, and he resolved to see more of the world. Accordingly, in 1819, he went to New Brunswick. After remaining there several months, he concluded to go to New Orleans by sea, and about the first of January, 1820, sailed from the mouth of the Penobscot River for that destination. While off Cape Hatteras the bow-sprit of the ship sprung a leak and, after pumping twelve days and nights, he succeeded in reaching the port of Savannah, Georgia, where, after stopping for a few days, he shipped as a sailor for Havana, Cuba. After spending some time, and his money, in Havana, he shipped for New Orleans, where he arrived April 24th, 1820. On reaching the mouth of the Mississippi river, in his voyage from Cuba, he had a narrow escape from drowning. His vessel ran on a sand-bar, and the mate, himself and three sailors got into a small boat, which was capsized, and the mate drowned. Mark was only saved by clinging to the boat and getting astride its inverted bottom, on which he drifted for several miles before he was taken off. After stopping for sometime in New Orleans, he went to Lafourche, La., and commenced work at $1 per day, with board, at his trade of building mills and cotton-gins. Here he spent his summers for three seasons, spending each winter in New Orleans. In 1823, he went to the parish of Feliciana, where he remained until 1837. In Louisiana Mr. Carley found a people and climate suited to his taste, he continued to live there, with occasional visits East and North, for a period of 17 years. During one of his visits to Vermont, April 27, 1830, he was married at Springfield, Vt. Locating his wife in Clermont county, Ohio, he returned to the field of his labors in Louisiana to accumulate something for his future support and comfort. In 1837 he joined his wife in Ohio, where he purchased 500 acres of land and engaged in agricultural pursuits. He subsequently added to his possessions, engaged in farming and boating wood down the Ohio river to Cincinnati until 1850, when he was attacked by the prevailing California fever and, in the spring of that year started, by the way of the Isthmus, for the gold fields of the Pacific coast. During the passage from New Orleans to Chagres, owning to adverse winds, the vessel stopped at Grand Camar island in the Caribbean Sea, which he found inhabited by the descendants of the old buccaneers, with an English resident governor. From Panama the vessel went to Cocos island for a supply of water. While there he saw chiseled in the rock the names of the three small vessels commanded by Captain Cook in his first voyage around the world, together with the day and month of his landing. After arriving in California, Mr. Carley soon won the confidence of the miners to such an extent that he was chosen one of the three judges of the mining region, about 60 to 80 miles in extent, requiring great prudence, good judgment and discrimination, where no statute or common law was in force, and the judge held in his hands the lives and property of all concerned. He remained in California and Oregon until 1852, when he returned to Ohio. He spent the summer and fall of 1852 traveling through Illinois on horseback starting at East St. Louis and visiting nearly every county in the State, his brothers-in-law, the late B. P. PRATHER, of Somer township, and David HOWSE, of Champaign, being his traveling companions a part of the time and Edmund and William Davies, of Piatt county, a part of the time. He remained a resident of the Buckeye state until 1853, when he decided to make his home in Champaign county, being as he saw it, the "garden spot" of Illinois. In August, 1853, he removed to Urbana and in May, 1854, to what is now Champaign, but then a raw prairie, dotted with only a farm house or two. He erected and occupied with his family the first permanent dwelling house on the original town plat, on the ground where Wm. Dodson’s residence now stands, on State street, which was afterwards removed to Randolph St. He also erected the first grain warehouse in Champaign, and put in the first steam engine to operate a corn sheller and grain elevator. This elevator and cribs were burned Aug. 24, 1872. He then built the brick agricultural warehouse on Main street and brick livery stable on Market street, in 1861 brick residence on Church street. In 1857 he purchased lots in Tolono, and erected a steam grain elevator—the first one there—and graded and laid the rails to the long side-track at his own expense. He also built and owned two large residences and store building there. In his domestic relations he was affectionate and indulgent. Two of his daughters, (Mrs. Kincaid and Mrs. Mahan), and one grand-daughter, (Mrs. WESTON) made the tour of Europe at his request. In his social and business relations Mr. Carley enjoyed to an unusual degree the confidence and esteem of all with whom he was connected. When West Urbana (now Champaign) adopted township organization, he was its first supervisor, also the first justice of the peace elected in Tolono, but not wishing to be bothered with the office, never qualified. In religion he was extremely unorthodox, and did not accept any theory or system of faith that starts out with a direct assault upon reason, or was in conflict with the established truth of science. In politics he was equally pronounced, his maxim being, "The wise man changeth, the fool never." He was a Clay Whig, then voted with the republican party until 1872, when believing that the republicans were mismanaging the government, he ever after voted with the opposition. Mrs. Carley followed those who had gone before, and on November 14, 1871, her remains were laid to rest in the family vault in Mt. Hope cemetery. Mr. Carley departed this life February 3, 1888, at his home in Champaign and February 5, 1888, his remains were put in the family vault at Mt. Hope cemetery. Remarks of Rev. I. S. Mahan at funeral of Mark Carley:

"Born of good lineage, he was possessed of a native integrity and honesty of character that inspired the confidence of his neighbors, and gave him an enviable reputation as a man and a citizen. He was identified with the entire history of the city of his adoption. He erected the first permanent dwelling house in it, and watched the rising of every house, the improvement of every street, and the coming of every family; and here at his death the whole city mourns."

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