Clay County

Biography - J. I. McCawley

J. I. McCAWLEY, claim agent for O. & M. Railroad. The gentleman whose name heads this sketch is to-day one of the most prominent men of this part of Illinois. He is a native of this county, being born about two miles southeast of the present village of Clay City August 20, 1829. He is a son of John L. and Martha (Lacy) McCawley. The grandfather of our subject, James McCawley, was born in Scotland. When a young man, he moved to the North of Ireland, and there married Sarah Gilmore. Soon after his marriage, he emigrated to the United States with two of his brothers. William, one of the brothers, settled in Charleston, S. C., the other in Virginia. The grandfather came West and settled in Jefferson County, Ky. There the father was born December 24, 1782. He was one of seven children, all of whom are now dead. The father remained in Kentucky until 1810, and then deciding to begin life for himself, he started for St. Louis, and had made his way as far north as Clay County, when one of his horses took sick. The place where he stopped was on the Little Wabash, near the eastern edge of the county. He sent back to Kentucky for a horse, and having to wait for about ten days, he fell in love with the country. He accordingly decided to locate where he was, and built a cabin. He thus made the first settlement in this part of the State, there being no other white man within about sixty miles. Here he remained for some little time, his only companions being the wild men of the forest. In the early part of 1811, he returned again to civilization, and February 14, of that year, he was united in marriage to Miss Martha Lacy. This lady was born in Jefferson County, Ky., February 14, 1791. Her father was a native of Denmark, her mother of Pennsylvania. Not wishing as yet to bring his wife West until affairs were a little more civilized, he bade her goodbye, and again returned to his lonely cabin on the banks of the Wabash. Here he made good friends with the Indians, and their friendship for him stood him to good purpose afterward; for at the breaking out of the war of 1812, the famous War Chief Tecumseh marched down through this part of the country on his way to the campaign in Indiana; he accordingly sent forth a command that every white man this side of Vincennes should be murdered. The night before the time appointed for the massacre, the Indians came to McCawley and told him of it. They advised him to start for Vincennes, where there was a fort, and offered to follow him, to see that no other Indians bothered him. He decided to act upon their advice, and the next morning as soon as it was day he started on his homeward journey. He saw no one, neither friend nor foe, until he was just entering the fort at Vincennes, when he heard a war whoop. Turning around he saw the same Indians who had given him the warning the night before ride out from the brush, wave their hands, and then turning their horses toward the setting sun they disappeared. Having been protected thus far, he made his way as fast as possible to his home in Kentucky. In that State he remained until 1816, when, accompanied by his family, he again came to Clay County, and settled in his former cabin. He immediately pre-empted 160 acres of land, afterward paying $2.50 per acre for it. This he finally increased to about 1,500 acres. Besides farming, he carried on a little store for a number of years, and made a good deal of money trading with the Indians. In early days, he was a Henry Clay Whig, but afterward became a stanch Democrat. He was never much of a politician, and the only office he ever held was that of County Commissioner in the early days. His death occurred May 25, 1854, that of his wife October 14, 1844, and thus passed away the earliest pioneers of this county. Subject was the next to the youngest of a family of ten children, of whom but three are now living — Arthur (now in Texas), Daniel L. (in this county, and whose sketch appears elsewhere in this book) and J. I. (our subject). The latter's education was received in the subscription schools of this county. He remained at home with his father until 1853, when he came to the old town of Maysville and commenced business for himself. His first venture was that of a grocery store, which he ran until 1856. In that year the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad having been surveyed through this county, about a mile north of the old town of Maysville, he came to the new town of Clay City, which was then in its infancy, and opened a general store. He also accepted the position of the first station agent at this point, for the O. & M. Railroad, and in this connection we might say that ever since Mr. McCawley has been in the employ of the road in some capacity or another. He, however, followed merchandising in Clay City until 1876, and then accepted the position of general claim agent for the railroad; this position he has held ever since, and the administration of the office has been both acceptable to the company and to the general public. He also owns about 200 acres of land and has farming carried on quite extensively. In the old town of Maysville, May 17, 1856, Mr. McCawley was married to Miss Maria L. Moore. This lady was the daughter of Green and Sarah (Shannon) Moore; the parents were born in North Carolina, and are still living in that State. For a number of years, however, they were residents of East Tennessee, and there Mrs. McCawley was born February 9. 1840. To her have been born seven children, all of whom are now living — Arthur H., born May 19, 1857; Sarah L., born December 7, 1858, now the wife of John T. Baird, of Olney, Ill.; Martha M., born July 31, 1863, now the wife of Dr. T. J. Eads, of Washington, Ind.; Mina J., born June 25, 1865; John G., born March 15, 1871; Mary E., born September 9. 1873; Lewis W., February 24, 1876. Mr. McCawley is a strong Democrat, but owing to his official position he does not take an active part in politics. He is a member of Clay City Lodge, No. 488, A. F. & A. M. Mrs. McCawley and her three older children are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

Extracted 28 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from 1884 History of Wayne and Clay Counties, Illinois, Part IV, page 180-181.


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