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 Snyder. Please do not repost this information without the express written permission of Celia Snyder.

Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of Mark Carley

SOURCE: "History of Champaign County, Illinois," by J. O. Cunningham, 1905


MARK CARLEY (deceased), pioneer, was born August 24, 1799, in Hancock, Hillsboro County, N. H., near the birth place of the great American journalist, Horace Greeley, whom he knew in boyhood. His father was Elijah CARLEY, and his mother, who came of an old New Hampshire family, was Agnes GRAHAM before her marriage. His paternal grandparents were Joseph and Sarah (WASHBURN) CARLEY, the grandmother being a member of the noted Washburn family, one of the most distinguished in American history. These New England Carleys came of renowned Scotch-Irish ancestry, of ancient lineage, their coat of arms, shown in the accompanying illustration, having been handed down to the present generation of the family.

The earliest representatives of the family in America came here prior to the Revolution, and were participants in the War for American Independence. A cherished family paper is the discharge from the Continental army—signed by General George Washington—of Jonathan CARLEY, an uncle of Mark Carley.

Distinguished in many walks of life themselves, the Carleys have also been closely allied with leading families of New England, New York, Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. Among these noted families, besides the Washburns before mentioned, have been the Stevenses of Vermont, who were prominent in colonial and Revolutionary times; the Harrimans, Fiskes, Lawsons, and Kendalls of New York; the Carley Chess family, of Kentucky; and the Goulds and Boutons of Chicago. Louise (CARLEY) LAWSON, of Cincinnati, who acquired marked distinction as an artist a generation ago, and who was the wife of Prof. L. M. LAWSON, Dean of the Medical College of Ohio and of the Medical College at Lexington, Ky., was a sister of Mark Carley.

When Mark Carley was eleven years of age, his parents removed from New Hampshire to Vermont and he grew up in the latter State. He made the most of his early educational advantages, and his later education, which was broadly practical, was gained in a school of experience which extended over a long period and covered a wide field. As a youth he learned the trade of carpenter and millwright, and having mastered these callings, he felt himself equal to any emergency he might be called upon to face in a business career. He had a strong, self-reliant nature, and, when twenty years of age, demonstrated that he was a true son of New England by setting out to see something of the world before permanently establishing himself in business. He went first to New Brunswick, and, after remaining there a short time, sailed for New Orleans. He encountered a tempestuous voyage, was shipwrecked, and finally landed at Savannah, Ga. There he got aboard a vessel which carried him to Havana, and gave him an opportunity to see something of the southern islands, now so closely related to the United States. From Havana he proceeded to New Orleans, reaching there on the 24th of April, 1820, after having a narrow escape from drowning at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Soon afterward he engaged in building mills and cotton gins in La Fourche Parish, La., and was thus engaged for several years spending his winters in New Orleans. Later he went to Feliciana Parish, where he continued his building operations, until 1837, living much among the French Creoles and learning their language, which he spoke with ease and fluency. During the seventeen years of his residence in Louisiana he made occasional visits to the Northern and Eastern States, and while on one of these visits, in 1830, he married Miss Abigail Wetherbee STEVENS, daughter of Silsby STEVENS of Springfield, Vt. In 1837 he established his home in Clermont County, Ohio, where he was extensively engaged in farming, and in boating on the Ohio River until 1850. During the latter year he determined to visit the newly discovered gold-mining region of California, and sailed from New York for the Pacific coast. The vessel which carried him thither stopped at Grand Camar Island, in the Carribean Sea, inhabited by the descendents of the old Buccaneers, and also touched at Cocos Island, where Mr. Carley saw, chiseled in the rock, the names of the three small vessels commanded by Captain Cook in his voyage around the world, and the date of their arrival at this point. When he reached the mining region, Mr. Carley soon became a conspicuous figure among the gold hunters, was chosen a Judge of the Miners’ Court, and took a prominent part in regulating the public affairs of the district in which he operated. After spending a year in California, he returned to his home in Ohio, and remained there until 1853. That year brought him to Urbana, Ill., and the following year he became, in a sense, the father of the City of Champaign, inasmuch as he erected the first dwelling house on the site of the present city. He built also the first grain warehouse in the city, and brought in the first steam-engine to operate his elevator and corn-sheller. Other buildings which are still standing as monuments to his early enterprise in the building line, are the agriculgural warehouse located on the Illinois Central Railroad at the Main Street crossing, the brick livery stable on Market Street, and the handsome homestead of his later years, located on West Church Street. The home is now occupied by his daughter, the widow of Dr. S. W. KINCAID, and his granddaughter, Mrs. Mattie (KINCAID) WESTON. He was a moving spirit, also, in the development of the town of Tolono, Champaign County, where he built the first grain warehouse, put in railway sidetracks and made other improvements. He became a large landowner and left to his family several tracts of land, titles to which came to him direct from the United States Government. Politically, he was in early life a member of the Whig party, he was an ardent admirer of Henry Clay, and among his family treasures is a snuff-box, presented to him by the great Kentucky statesman. Later he became a Republican and he had a wide acquaintance with the founders of the party in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, and other distinguished leaders of that period being frequent visitors to his home. As was to be expected of one who had seen so much of the world, and so many varied phases of life, he was broadly liberal in his religious views, and a close student of the writings of Huxley, Tyndall, Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and Robert G. Ingersoll. The later years of his life were passed in comparative retirement and in the enjoyment of an ample fortune. He died at his home in Champaign, February 3, 1871. The surviving children of these pioneer settlers in Champaign are Mrs. Mary A. (CARLEY) KINCAID, of that city, and Mrs. Isota (CARLEY) MAHAN of Kenwood, Chicago

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