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Alley, John B., son of John and Mercy (Buffum) Alley, was born in Lynn, January 7, 1817. He belongs to one of the oldest Essex county families, and is descended from Hugh Alley, who, with his brother John, settled in Lynn in 1834.
He received his education in the public schools of his native town, and at the age of fourteen was apprenticed to a shoe manufacturer, and at nineteen received the gift of his time. Soon after the close of his apprenticeship he went to Cincinnati and there purchased a flatboat, which he loaded with merchandise and carried to New Orleans, and the success of this enterprise laid the foundation of his fortune.
At the age of twenty-one he returned to Lynn and began the manufacture of shoes. In five years, at the age of twenty-six, he was the owner of one of the largest enterprises in a city full of active, shrewd men with whom he had entered on a race for wealthy. In 1847 he established a house in Boston for the sale of hides and leather. At various times he has been the senior partner in the firm of Alley, Choate & Cummings, the firm of John B. Alley & Co., and later in the firm of Alley Brothers & Place, in which the two sons of Mr. Alley and Mr. Place were the partners. In 1886 this last firm was dissolved, and after a business career of forty-eight years Mr. Alley retired.
After his retirement, Mr. Alley went on a European tour, taking the first vacation in a life of seventy years. In his earlier years, before the birth of what was called the Free Soil party in 1848, he was attached to the Liberty party, having inherited anti-slavery sentiments from his father (a member of the Society of Friends), and this sentiment never abated until, by the proclamation of President Lincoln, the slaves were made free.
In 1857, during the administration of Governor Boutwell, he was one of the executive council. In 1852 he was in the state Senate, serving as chairman of the committee on railroads. In 1853 he was a member of the Constitutional Convention, and for several years was an active and influential member of the Republican state central committee. In 1858 he was chosen representative to Congress, serving four terms, during two of which he performed the duties of chairman of the committee on post-office and post-roads. His services in Congress covered the whole period of the war. Since his retirement he has been engaged with others in large railroad enterprises in the West and South, and is largely connected with land property in New Mexico.
He was married at Lynn, September 15, 1841, to Hannah M., daughter of William and Hannah (Breed) Rhodes. Their children are: Emma R., Mary F., John S. and William H. Alley.