James M. Wiley, the subject of this sketch, one of the founders of Galva and a resident of that village, was born Jan. 23, 1816, near Saxton’s River, Vt. Having been left an orphan at the age of eight years, with little means for his support, he was compelled to earn his living by manual labor. He worked industriously upon a farm, attending school during the winter months, until he arrived at the age of 16. During these years, he developed a faculty for trading, and the pay for farm labor being small, he commenced traveling through that and adjoin States, selling various lines of goods, both at retail and at auction, and met with more than ordinary success.
   April 25, 1838, he left his native State and started for the then far West, full of high hopes and ambitions, chief of which was to assume the dignity of land-holder. He, with other young companions, crossed the Green Mountains to Schenectady, thence up the New York & Erie Canal to Buffalo, from there by lake to Cleveland, Ohio; and then, attempting to go down the Ohio Canal to Portsmouth, after 50 miles’ travel, encountered a break, and were compelled to go by wagon to Steubenville, and from there down the Ohio River, thence up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to what was then the village of Peoria, reaching that point on May 14, one month from starting. The following morning Mr. Wiley started for Brimfield by the first stage coach that had ever left Peoria for the Mississippi River, arriving at his destination, where he joined three brothers and two sisters who had preceded him one year. Brimfield at that time was a village of six log houses and one log store, where everything could be procured to satisfy the simple wants of the hardy pioneer. The town was situated in the midst of a most beautiful and fertile prairie, ready cleared by nature’s hand to receive the plow. Mr. Wiley was charmed with the location and the country surrounding and here aw a large field open for his enterprise and energy. He purchased an interest in land bought of the Government the year previous by his brother, John F. Wiley, and at once commenced to make permanent improvements upon this farm; and this first purchase of land was his home for more than 30 years, and which, on moving to Galva, he sold at $100 per acre. He not only followed the occupation of farming but was also engaged in buying and selling lands, and has at times owned thousands of acres, upon which he put improvements, and disposed of it to settler on liberal terms, thus encouraging  those looking for homes to remain. He also dealt largely in wool, which he shipped to Vermont, receiving in return woolen goods, which he disposed of to the merchants of Peoria and surrounding towns.
   When the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was projected through Henry County, a new field of enterprise opened to him, which, with his characteristic energy, he entered. He at once secured 1,500 acres of land along the line of the proposed route, subject to entry by land warrants; also, in connection with his cousin, the Hon. Wm. L. Wiley, he secured a large tract of land and projected and laid out on a liberal scale, the village of Galva, dedicating to the town two large public parks, which are today among the finest in the State. They also donated spacious grounds for churches and schools, paying liberally toward their erection and support. They built the first school-house in the village and hired and paid the first teacher. They built the first hotel, at an expense of $16,000, now known as the Baker House and are certainly entitled to be known as the originators of Galva.
   Mr. Wiley did by far the largest real-estate business in Galva and vicinity, buying and selling large tracts weekly, encouraging emigration to this point by liberal means, and today has the proud satisfaction of seeing the fruits of his labor in the beautiful farms and substantial houses of the surrounding country.
   The subject of this sketch now owns 1,000 acres of land, much of which is underlaid with a seemingly exhaustless amount of coal, which is being successfully mined. He also owns a great number of houses in the village and is considered one of the wealthiest, most influential and liberal citizens of the town, both in Church and Society. He has been a prominent member of the Congregational Church since its organization, and its great success as a society is due largely to his liberality and active labor in its behalf. In politics he is a staunch Republican, with strong prohibition tendencies.
   James M. Wiley is a son of Jonathan and Hannah (Martin) Wiley. His father was born in 1774, in Petersburg, N. H., and died in January, 1825, in Rockingham, Vt. He was a farmer by occupation and passed a quiet and peaceful life on his farm until the time of his death. His mother was born in Wilton, N. H., in 1772, and died in March, 1825, in Rockingham, Vt.
   James M. Wiley was first married to Margaret Miles, in Brimfield, Peoria Co., Ill., Aug. 19, 1843. She was born in Sharon, Conn. Aug. 10, 1825, and emigrated with her parents, Eri and Maria Miles, to Peoria County in 1841. She died at Brimfield, April 8, 1860, aged 34 years and seven months. She was highly esteemed for her devout Christian character, and the memory of her many virtues lives in the hearts of those who knew her. She bore her husband, Mr. Wiley of this sketch, five children, --Ellen A., William L., Mary C., Everett C. and Carrie I. Of these, Ellen A., became the wife of Hon. W. E. Phelps; she is at present residing in Elmwood, Peoria County, and has borne her husband four children, --William J., Margaret W., Violet and James W. William Lorenzo was formerly a lumber merchant in Galva and now has a stock farm in Monona Co., Iowa; he was united in marriage with Flora D. Wiley, daughter of D. L. Wiley, and she has borne him four children: -- Mary B., Everett D., Estella and Fred L. Mary C., Wiley C. Wiley married George W. Moubray, a resident of Galva, and two children have been born to them, --Flora L. and Margaret W. Everett C. Wiley is a resident of Kearney, Neb. ; he married Lucella Vandervort, and of their union two children have been born, -- James A. and Kathrena B. Carrie I. Wiley resides at home with her parents.
   Mr. Wiley’s second wife was Mary M. Brooks’ daughter of Cyrus and Emily Brooks, of Brimfield. She was born in Chester, Vt., April 4, 1834, and died in Brimfield, Peoria County, this State, Jan. 9, 1867. She was educated at Knox College, after which she followed teaching, and soon became known as one of the first educators of the State. When a model school was determined upon as an annex to the Normal University, she was invited through the advice of the President, Gen. Hovey, to take charge of it, and after three years of successful labor, she resigned her position to become the wife of the subject of this sketch, Mr. Wiley. Mr. and Mrs. Wiley were the parents of two children,--Kathrina M. and George P., both of whom reside at home.
   Mr. Wiley’s present wife was Miss Lizzie Yocum. She was born in Jeromeville, Ohio, in 1837, and came with her parents, Charles and Mary Yocum, to Peoria County, in 1838. She was, for a number of years before her marriage, a successful teacher in the schools of Peoria County. She was a classmate and intimate friend of Mary Brooks, mentioned above in this sketch. She is a woman of excellent qualities of head and heart, and is ever ready to work and give to all appeals of deserving charity. She is also a member of the Congregational Chucrc, and the influence of her presence and work has aided largely in making a success of the various branches of this society.

Page 715   1885 Portrait & Biographical Album of Henry Co., Illinois

Transcribed by Jan Roggy

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Illinois Ancestors