Location: Urbana Illinois

Biography of Judge Joseph Oscar Cunningham

Judge J. O. Cunningham. The publishers and editors of this work feel that only a meager tribute can be paid to the memory of Champaign County’s most beloved citizen in the following brief review of his life. Judge Cunningham was a great historian. He contributed liberally to historical literature, was himself the author of a History of Champaign County, and in the closing months of his life he gave generously from the riches of his great collection and from his experience and memory in an advisory capacity to the compilation of the present work. Joseph Oscar Cunningham was born at Lancaster in Erie County, New York, December 12, 1830, and died at his home, 922 West Green Street, Urbana, on April 30, 1917, when in his eighty-seventh year. He was a son of Hiram Way and Eunice (Brown) Cunningham. Some of his early life was spent in northern Ohio, where he attended Baldwin Institute at Berea and also Oberlin College. In June, 1853, at the age of twenty-two, he came to Champaign County, and from that time forward his home was at Urbana. He had previously taught in the village school at Eugene, Indiana, but a month after his arrival at Urbana became associated as one of the proprietors and editors of the Urbana Union. He was a member of this firm of Cunningham & Flynn until 1858, and...

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Biography of Louis Arthur Busch

Louis Arthur Busch. The legal profession of Champaign County and the civic government of Urbana have a worthy representative in the person of Louis Arthur Busch, state’s attorney. A native of the city of Urbana, he has passed his entire life here, and his career among its citizens is looked upon as particularly worthy, as he has trod the hard self-made road to success and has triumphed over a number of discouraging obstacles which have arisen in his path. A member of the legal brotherhood since 1908, he has made rapid advancement in his calling, and since 1912 has been the incumbent of the official position which he now occupies. Louis Arthur Busch was born June 4, 1886, at Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois, and is a son of Carl T. and Carolina S. (Hank) Busch. His father was born in Prussia, Germany, and was a child when brought to America in 1868, the family originally locating at Champaign, where he was reared and received his education in the public schools. Upon his removal to Urbana, in young manhood, he embarked in the furniture business, and continued to be identified with that enterprise during the remaining years of his life, his death occurring June 8, 1896. Mr. Busch was a Democrat in his political views, but not an active participant in politics. He religious faith was that of the Lutheran...

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Biography of A. P. Johnson

A. P. Johnson. Among the learned professions there are, probably, none that demand so much tact, judgment, patience, natural executive ability and specialized knowledge as that of the educator. The individual who enters into this field, selecting it as his chosen life work and calling, must be prepared to make many sacrifices, to endure numerous disappointments, to often spend himself for others without apparent return of gratitude, and to give the best years of his life often without the emoluments that equal efforts would in all probability bring in any other profession. It is a vocation for which there are no weights and measures. The material with which it deals is the youth of our land upon which impressions are often eternal and which affords the man who would serve the race an opportunity than which there are none greater. Of the men of Champaign County who have dedicated their lives to this work, one of the best known is A. P. Johnson, superintendent of the public schools of the city of Urbana. Born December 16, 1863, in Sussex County, Delaware, A. P. Johnson, is a son of Benjamin and Sarah (Smith) Johnson. On both sides of the family he is descended from English ancestors, and his ancestors lived for many years in Delaware, where both his parents were born. Benjamin Johnson was a fanner by vocation and in...

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Biography of Benjamin Franklin Harris

Benjamin Franklin Harris, grandson of the late B. F. Harris and son of Henry Hickman Harris, was born on the old Harris farm in Champaign County, where his father was also a native, on September 30, 1868. He had of course liberal advantages during his youth and every incentive to make the best of his personal talents. Besides the common and high schools he attended the University of Illinois 1887 to 1889, and in 1892 was graduated from the law department of Columbia University. The law was only part of his preparation for life, not a profession. He returned home to assist in the management of farm lands and business enterprises, and he has continued the work of his father and grandfather as livestock farmers and bankers. From 1892 to 1899 he owned and developed and consolidated all electric street railway, lighting, power and gas plants in the twin cities. He succeeded his father as president of the First National Bank of Champaign, and in 1911-12 he served as president of the Illinois Bankers Association and has identified himself actively with many of its most important committees. He has also served as chairman of the Agricultural Commission of the American Bankers Association, and president of the Conference Committee on agricultural development and education of all state bankers associations. It was he who inaugurated the banker-farmer movement in 1908, and...

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Biography of Ambrose W. Strong,

Ambrose W. Strong, who is spending the quiet years of his retirement in a beautiful home at 706 Main Street in Urbana, is one of the few men now living whose recollections go back in Champaign County for nearly eighty years. Though not a native of the county Mr. Strong came here in early infancy and as a boy he knew many of the first settlers and his own life has been closely identified with those changing developments which have transformed this part of the state into a garden spot of the world. Mr. Strong was born in Hancock County, Ohio, October 4, 1834, a son of John and Mary (Moore) Strong. His parents were also natives of Ohio. When Ambrose was one year old the family came to Illinois. There were six children, three sons and three daughters, Ambrose being the oldest. The family located in St. Joseph Township, where they improved a tract of raw land and where the parents spent the rest of their lives. Grandfather Cyrus Strong had preceded his son John to St. Joseph and was a prominent character among the pioneers. It was his distinction to erect the notable old tavern known as the Kelley Tavern. It was a popular and notable hostelry and a famous landmark of early days. Much of the fame that is associated with this tavern is due to...

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Biography of Elna A. Robinson

Elna A. Robinson. During a long and active career Mr. Robinson has been prominently identified with Champaign County both in a professional and in a business way. His success in business has enabled him to retire and enjoy a financial competence and he is now a resident of the city of Champaign. Mr. Robinson was born in South Reading, Vermont, December 15, 1839, a son of Ebenezer, Jr., and Adeline (Williams) Robinson. His father was born at South Reading, Vermont, September 30, 1809, and died July 5, 1849. He was married January 4, 1837, to Miss Williams, who was born December 19, 1814, and died July 18, 1894. They had three sons, Elna A., Stillman and Albert A. Stillman Robinson is well remembered at Champaign and in University circles and was one of the leading engineers of the country. He was graduated as a civil engineer from the University of Michigan and from the age of twenty-five to twenty-eight was assistant on a United States lake survey and from twenty-eight to thirty-two years of age was assistant engineer with the faculty of the University of Michigan. From the age of thirty-two to forty he was professor of mechanical engineering and physics in the University of Illinois. He then accepted the chair of mechanical engineering with the Ohio State University, where he remained until he resigned in 1895. In 1896...

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Biography of John J. Rea

John J. Rea. A member of the Champaign County bar for thirty-seven years, John J. Rea has during this period risen to be one of the most forceful attorneys of his native community, and at this time occupies a recognized position of eminence among the legists of Urbana, where his entire professional career has been passed. While his later years have been crowned with success, Mr. Rea is fully acquainted with the rough and stony paths which the young aspirant so often finds it necessary to trod, for in his own youth he found no royal road to success, but forced to carve out his own destiny and to make his own opportunities. Determination and persistency triumphed in the end, and the reward has been commensurate with the labor. John J. Rea is a product of the farming district of Mahomet Township, Champaign County, where he was born on his father’s farm October 11, 1852. His father, John J. Rea, was born in Lewis County, Kentucky, and first came to Champaign County as early as 1836, in which year he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of government land in what later became Mahomet Township. He did not remain here at that time, but returned to his Kentucky home, where he lived during the next thirteen years, and while there was united in marriage with Miss Sarah P. Henderson,...

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Biography of J. S. Mason, M. D.

J. S. Mason, M. D., who was graduated in medicine over twenty years ago, has found his time and abilities more and more taxed as a. competent physician and surgeon, and in that field he ranks among the foremost in his section of the state. Doctor Mason is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, an honor conferred only upon surgeons of distinctive rank and attainment. He was born at Newark, Ohio, May 22, 1868, a son of Jacob W. and Elizabeth (Smith) Mason, both natives of Ohio. His father came to Vermilion County, Illinois, in 1881 and followed farming his entire active career. There were six children: J. Smith, a lumber dealer and hardware merchant at Oakwood, Illinois; Frank M., a physician practicing at Rossville, Illinois; Dr. J. S. Mason; Leora, living at home and a school teacher; Archie R.; and Etta Florence, at home with her parents. Doctor Mason grew up on a farm, attended country schools, and when about eighteen years of age began teaching in the country. This vocation he followed five years and in the meantime took special courses in a Normal school and acquired a first grade teacher’s certificate. It was through his individual earnings that he paid his way until graduation from medical school. He took up the study of medicine privately, and afterwards entered the Northwestern University School of Medicine...

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Biography of George Skinner

George Skinner is one of the prosperous farm owners and well known citizens of Champaign County, now living retired at Urbana, and for his success the credit is due almost entirely to his individual efforts and his steadfast honesty and integrity. Mr. Skinner was born in Somersetshire, England, January 29, 1850, and was about four years of age when he accompanied his parents, Robert and Anna (Rich) Skinner, to America. The family first located near Elk Grove, northwest of Chicago, and in 1873 they moved to the vicinity of Homer in Champaign County, where Robert Skinner spent his last years and died in 1883. Robert Skinner and wife had four children: Amelia, who died in 1888; Rhoda, who died in 1913; George; and Henry, now a resident of Los Angeles, California. When George Skinner was fourteen years of age the family removed to Shelby County, Illinois, renting a farm there three years and after another year at Arcola they went to a rented farm south of Homer, where George Skinner remained five years. In the meantime his father had suffered a severe accident by a fall on the ice and he and his brother assumed many of the responsibilities connected with the management of the farm and the domestic upkeep. Mr. George Skinner eventually acquired land of his own and by systematic improvement and development continued his land holding...

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Biography of General Samuel T. Busey

General Samuel T. Busey. A soldier, banker, a patriot and public-spirited citizen, the late General Samuel T. Busey was without question one of the ablest factors in the history of Champaign County and was widely known and his leadership gratefully acknowledged throughout Illinois. Necessarily the name Busey is one that frequently recurs throughout the pages of Champaign County history. The family was founded here by Matthew W. Busey, father of General Busey. Matthew W. Busey was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, May 15, 1798, a son of Samuel and Catherine (Siegler) Busey. When he was a small boy they removed to Washington County, Indiana, where he learned the brick mason’s trade. From 1823 until 1847 he followed the business of contractor and builder. It was in 1832, eighty-five years ago, that Matthew W. Busey first visited the region of eastern Illinois, including Champaign County. This was then a part of Vermilion County. During this visit he entered land from the Government on the site of what is now a part of the city of Urbana. In 1836 Matthew Busey brought h s family to Champaign County and lived there from that time until his death on December 13, 1852. He married in Washington County, Indiana, Miss Elizabeth Bush, who was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, March 6, 1801, and died in Champaign County in 1880. General Samuel T. Busey,...

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Biography of Mark Carley

Mark Carley was one of the founders of the city of Champaign: His name appears again and again in connection with the early annals of that city and of Champaign County, and always he appears as a man of force, of almost unlimited enterprise and of a public spirit that was in keeping with his many successes in private life. He knew much of the world by experience and had come to Champaign County soon after returning from an excursion to California during the great gold excitement on the Pacific Coast. His own life was to a large degree the expression of those forces’ accumulated and inherited by him from a notable American ancestry. The Carleys were staunch and patriotic New Englanders. Mark Carley was born at Hancock in Hillsboro County, New Hampshire, August 24, 1799. He was a son of Elijah and Agnes (Graham) Carley and a grandson of Joseph and Sarah (Washburn) Carley. He was thus related to the Washburns whose names appear frequently in New England history, and from the same family came the Washburns who were conspicuous in the early days of Illinois. The Carleys were of Scotch-Irish ancestry. They settled in America long before the Revolution, and one of the cherished possessions of the descendants is a discharge paper signed by George Washington and granting release from the Continental Army to Jonathan Carley, an...

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Biography of Evarts Boutell Greene

Evarts Boutell Greene has been Professor of History in the University of Illinois since 1897, and from 1906 to 1913 was dean of the College of Literature and Arts. He has been connected with the State University twenty-three years, is well known as an historical author and editor, and is a member of an old American family that has furnished many useful men and women to the arts and professions. He was born in Kobe, Japan, July 8, 1870, a son of Daniel Crosby and Mary Jane (Forbes) Greene. The late Daniel Crosby Greene, who died September 15, 1913, was one of the pioneer American missionaries in Japan and was long considered an authority on Japanese life and affairs. He was born at Roxbury, Boston, February 11, 1843, and was a member of a Massachusetts Colonial family. His parents were Rev. David and Mary (Evarts) Greene. A brother of D. Crosby Greene is Roger Sherman Greene, who made a brilliant record as a soldier in the Civil War and in 1870 was appointed a justice of the Supreme Court of Washington Territory and has practiced law and taken a prominent part in public affairs in Seattle for the past forty years. D. Crosby Greene was graduated from Dartmouth College in 1864. In 1862 he served as a private in the Seventh Squadron of Rhode Island Cavalry. In 1869 he...

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Biography of Matthew Wales Busey

Matthew Wales Busey. Of the native sons of Champaign County who have been factors in the development of the county’s resources, one of the most prominently known is Matthew W T ales Busey, president of Busey’s State Bank at Urbana. As one of the leading bankers of his section he has contributed to the advancement of the agricultural interests of Champaign County, and in his capacity of private citizen has ever been found ready to lend encouragement and support to the movements which have made for progress in his fertile and enterprising part of the State. Matthew Wales Busey was born at Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois. December 7, 1854, being a son of Simeon Harrison and Artimesia (Jones) Busey. His paternal grandfather was Matthew W. Busey, who was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, May 15, 1798, a son of Samuel and Catherine (Siegler) Busey. The family removed to Washington County, Indiana, when Matthew W. Busey, the elder, was still a youth, and there he learned the trade of brick mason, later becoming a contractor and builder, a business which he followed with success from 1823 to 1847. In 1832 he visited the region of Champaign County, which was then a part of Vermilion County, and entered land from the United States Government on the site of what is now a part of the city of Urbana. In 1836 he...

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Biography of Oliver B. Dobbins

Oliver B. Dobbins. As a lawyer Oliver B. Dobbins has gained some of the better distinctions and successes of the profession. He has been in practice in the profession in Champaign County twenty-three years. His ability is sought in cases of more than ordinary importance. During his career Mr. Dobbins has appeared in more than a hundred cases in the Supreme and Appellate Courts of the state. Of such cases he has succeeded in winning at a ratio of three out of four, and at one time he secured favorable decisions in twelve successive appeals. An individual distinction of which any lawyer might be proud is that he procured the largest judgment ever rendered in Champaign County in an action for fraud sixty thousand dollars. Mr. Dobbins has made a specialty of organizing and representing drainage districts, having organized and appeared as attorney for fifty such districts. His work in that line now covers a dozen counties. As a public leader Mr. Dobbins’ name is synonymous with high ideals and the better element of local citizenship. In national politics he has always been a Democrat, and has also been closely identified with anti-saloon work. In 1896 as county chairman of the Democratic party he had th,e honor of piloting the party to its first county victory in fifty years. From 1913 to 1915 Mr. Dobbins was mayor of Champaign....

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Biography of David Bailey

David Bailey. In the latter part of 1854 or the early part of 1855 Mr. Bailey moved to Monticello, Illinois. After a short sojourn there he came to Urbana, and in March or April, 1856, moved to Champaign, where for a number of years, in connection with W. B. Bailey, he conducted a small country store in a frame building that he erected on the site now occupied by the Robeson Department Store. David Bailey was one of the thirteen men who founded the First National Bank of Champaign, in 1865. Application for organization was made to the government in January, 1865, and certificate was issued in April, 1865. The thirteen men signing up were in the following order: J. S. Wright, J. H. Thomas, W. M. Way, Hamilton J. Jefferson, B. F. Harris, J. S. Beasley, David Bailey, Daniel Gardner, W. C. Barrett, Simeon H. Busey, S. P. Percival, J. G. Clark and A. E. Harmon. Each took fifty shares, making a capital of sixty-five thousand dollars. David Bailey disposed of his interest in the bank some time in the ’70s. In 1882 he, with other men, founded the Champaign National Bank. The nine men signing the organization certificate and present at the organization were: Edward Bailey, 110 shares; Wm. S. Maxwell, 100 shares; Jas. C. Miller, 150 shares; Bernard Kelley, 40 shares; David Bailey, 60 shares; Isaac...

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