JOHN ULLRICH, AGED 85, DIES IN CALIFORNIA
Decatur Millionaire Victim of Heart Disease - Body Will Be Brought to Decatur For Burial
John Ullrich, aged 85, died at Los Angeles, Cal., at 4 o'clock Friday morning. Heart
disease was the cause. News to this effect was received by his secretary, George A. Lytle, in a
telegram from Mr. Ullrich's son, John H. Ullrich.
Mr. and Mrs. Ullrich have been in Los Angeles since the first week in December, when
they left Decatur. Mr. Ullrich did not want to make the trip this last time but he feared the severe
winter in Decatur would be too much for him.
For some time Mr. Ullrich has been suffering from heart disease. When his last sickness
came on it was known at once that he had not much more chance for life.
WAIT FOR DAUGHTER
The body is being held in Los Angeles until the arrival of his daughter, Mrs. Spencer
Ewing, of Bloomington, who left Bloomington for the west Wednesday night. The body will then be
brought back to Decatur for burial. As Mr. Ullrich was a member of Ionic lodge No. 312, A.F. and A.M.,
it is likely that that organization will have some part in the final services.
The other two children of Mr. Ullrich are Mrs. Harry Bumstead of New Haven, Conn., and
John H. Ullrich of Decatur.
DAUGHTER IN ENGLAND
With Mr. Ullrich at the time of his death were his wife and son, John H. Ullrich. One
daughter, Mrs. Spencer Ewing, had not had time to reach his bedside. The other daughter, Mrs. Harry
Bumstead, is in London, England with her husband, Prof. Bumstead.
Mr. and Mrs. Ullrich and son had been staying at the Gates hotel in Los Angeles. When
Mr. Ullrich became sick, he was taken at once to the Glenville sanitarium in the same city, where he
died. It is understood that Mr. Ullrich's death was quiet and peaceful.
WORTH TWO MILLIONS
Decatur people who know most about Mr. Ullrich's property and affairs would say nothing
about it, but there is no secret in the fact that Mr. Ullrich's possessions are worth in the neighborhood
of $2,000,000. He has been deeding quite a bit of land to his children in the past few years and his
holdings up until that time were in the neighborhood of 7,000 acres. This consists of about 2,000 acres
in Macon county and more in Piatt, Douglas, Champaign and other counties.
CITY PROPERTY, TOO
In addition to his land, Mr. Ullrich owned considerable city property of great value.
Everything he had he made himself and by his own efforts. He was a great believer in land investments
and that laid the foundation for his fortunes.
Rev. N.S. Haynes, a friend of long standing of Mr. Ullrich's was requested by Mr. Ullrich
to officiate at his funeral and the story which Mr. Haynes wrote was written from information furnished
by Mr. Ullrich. It was later submitted to John Ullrich, Jr., and approved by him. After Mr. Haynes
had written the story his own health failed, and fearing that he might die before Mr. Ullrich, he gave
the story to E.T. Coleman to be copied and the copy filed, with this explanation.
JOHN ULLRICH BY REV. HAYNES
John Ullrich was one of the large products of this city, hence we may well now consider
briefly the forces and factors that contributed to his personality and his life. He was born in Renish,
Bavaria, Nov. 10, 1833. This section of the German empire is contiguous on its western border to
Alsace-Larraine, and much of it is very fertile and productive.
John Ullrich was the only child of Henry Ullrich and Annie Mary Bursh. His mother died
Nov. 22, 1838, four years after John's birth. His father married second time and by this union there
were two children. One of them, Peter Ullrich, who is a resident of Omaha, Neb. Upon the death of his
mother, John was committed to the care of his father's mother and for the larger part of the following
twelve years she was his daily companion and teacher. She was a woman of suprerior mind and heart and
rare and beautiful character. The moulding and controlling influences which she exerted upon this boy
were without a doubt more potent than those received from any other human being. When he had passed
his eighty-second milestone on life's highway he referred to her as the good angel who had loved and
led and kept him. His memories of her even then stirred the deepest emotions and evoked his most
passionate and pathetic utterances. With a throbbing heart he said, "Whatever of good there has been
in my life came from her."
John was sent to the common schools of his community from his fifth to his seventeenth
year. During two years of this period the pastor of the local Evangelical Protestant church came
every school day and for one hour in a private room gave religious instruction. This teaching was
summarized in 480 questions which were committed to memory by the pupils. They embraced the salient
truths of the Bible. Both questions and answers to them were written by the pupils. Thus deep and
abiding religious impressions were received. Besides such a course was a superior training that
contributed much to success throught life. At the age of thirteen he was confirmed in the Evangelical
church. In that faith he lived and died. It was the most holy place of his soul probably no human
being was permitted to enter. That was kept for God alone. May we not honor any man who thus
guards the innermost chamber of his being?
LEAVES HIS HOME
There are short times in the human life when the soul is particularly receptive. All
the avenues to it are wide open and it stands alert, eagerly at attention, waiting the entrance of
some angel good or bad. He comes in, the impression is made and it abides, like the die on molten
metal. Such a time came to John when he was seventeen years of age. He had heard of the new world
and his face turned toward the land beyond the wide ocean. With his grandmother he stood upon the
threshhold of her home to speak their goodbyes. Then she said to him:
"Now, my boy, I have been preaching to you eight years. One thing I now say, whenever
you are in company with woman, be a gentleman."
The widsom and fine delicacy of this parting admoniton is yet a significant index to
the character of that Christly woman. It proved to be a strong wall to safely guard this youth
against the deep abyss into which so many have fallen. As an aged man he said, "Say what you please,
those parting words were always with me."
IN NEW ORELANS
This youth landed in New Orleans in 1850. There was the sum of $5 only in his possesssion.
When he paid one week's board, 25 cents remained. He went to a boat landing seeking employment.
"What can you do, Dutchy?" inquired the discriminating captain. To Captain William McFarland's
question he asnwered:
"I can work."
"I go you - come in," said the captain.
His wage was $40 a month. For nearly two years he continued on that boat. On a trip
up the river in December the boiler sprang a leak and the vessel went out of commission, and floated
down stream. Its repair was a hot and hazardour job. Volunteers were called for among the crew and
John was the only one to respond. The repair was quickly made, whereupon his work on the boat was
changed and his wage advanced to $50. Then he learned the work of the pilot and the boats path in
the great river.
AT MADISON, IND.
Next he went tot he home of an uncle in southern Ohio and found work in the summer of
1852 on a farm. Meanwhile he availed himself of the help of a loved school teacher who wished to
adopt him. The self-reliant youth gave a courteous but emphatic refusal. The winter of 1852-3 he
passed in Cincinnati, but soon decided that was no place for him. He crossed the Ohio river to
Madison, Ind., where he worked for a short time in a hotel. He was soon employed as a helper in
a retail grocery store in that town where he served three years. His employer was an upright man
of fine integrity but lacking in commercial ability, so his business did not prosper. Before the
close of the first year the young man said to his employer:
"You do not buy right. You pay too much for your goods."
The reply was, "Suppose you do the buying," which he did up to the close of his
service there. That store was his business college and that period his commercial training.
TO DECATUR IN 1855
He came first to Decatur in the fall of 1855 and the following spring came to make
his home here. He first engaged in the retail grocery trade; then in the wholesale grocery business,
with which he combined a packing house through the period of twenty years.
His father came to the United States in 1857. John met him with a single seated
buggy at Lafayette, Ind., whence they drove to this place. Halting near Sadorus, the father
picked a but of the virgin soil and nibbing it in his hands said:
"This is the finest soil on earth. Son, you should buy some of this land."
The son replied: "Father, I have no money to buy land."
The father answered: "If you are any good you will get some money."
BOUGHT 1,000 ACRES
In 1876 John Ullrich made his first investment in Illinois land. A Mr. Maddox
came to Decatur to see him and passed the night in his home. He said to Mr. Ullrich: "I have
a thousand acres of land to sell. It is so encumbered that I can not keep it and you may as
well have it as any man."
Mr. Ullrich made him a proposition. The next morning the two men went to Mr.
Ullrich's office and Mr. Maddox said: "Mr. Ullrich, I accept your proposition."
The large proportions of the deal then became clear to the would-be purchaser
and he walked out into the stock room, stopping near a stock of filled coffee sacks to think.
Mr. Maddox followed him and finding him in profuse perspiration said: "Why did you not think
before you made your offer?"
At once they returned to the office and Mr. Ullrich said, "Send for an attorney
to write the contract."
In the final settlement of the deal there arose a trifling difference. In the
titles to these lands there were found nineteen material corrections to be made, hence
abstractors charges and attorney's fees. Finally Mr. Maddox wrote from Missouri saying: "Mr.
Ullrich, I wish to meet you in Heaven, so let's settle amicably."
Mr. Ullrich replied, "I certainly wish to go to Heaven," and the final settlement
was soon made.
THRIFT WAS TRAIT
Mr. Ullrich was born on a farm and grew up on one. All his people were farmers.
There are no conditions superior to God's out of doors, on the ground and in the open air and
sunshine for the production in moulding a boy, and they gave to John Ullrich a strong, rugged
physique that was capable to doing much hard work and long continued endurance. His industry
was prodigious and untiring. The disabilities of age brought to him no keener regret than his
inability to continue his accustomed and much loved activities. Thrift was one of his prominent
He was a man of vision. He saw, as most of his contemporaries did not see,
probably because they could not, the possibilities of this city and of Central Illinois. Largely
because of his fore-seeing he never undertook anything that was not successful.
In 1859, at Madison, Ind., he was united in marriage with Miss Litterer. His
marriage was most fortunate. They moved through life like two planets, in the devinely prescribed
orbit of beautiful harmony. His love for his wife was one of the sacred passions of his soul.
As the passing years brought to him ever enlarging material rewards he continued
the same. In the long and prosperous way, he traveled his spirit was always democratic. He was
too large to entertain large, vain and trifling and silly notions of class and caste. To the
end he owned his property, not his property him.
Many can certify to his generosity. Probably there is not a building in this city
used for public worship of the Almighty God, the construction of which he has not contributed. His
personal benefactions were not a few. These were known to only a few people because he utterly
disliked the notoriety that such gifts sometimes bring. Friends, will you here pardon a
self-reference. Its bad taste is confessed. When the First Christian Church of Decatur officially
asked Mr. Ullrich for $10,000 to aid in the construction of their present place of worship he
agreed to give it on the condition that they secure pledges to the undertaking that he would
The meeting arranged for the examination was on Monday. On the Saturday evening
preceeding on his own suggestion, he came to my residence and for one hour and forty-five
minutes we talked the matter. The pledges were accepted and his house built. On Dec. 2, 1915,
I asked him if our former conference had anything to do with it and he replied, "It had
everything to do with it." For emphasis, he repeated, "It had everything to do with it."
HE BELIEVED IN OWN COMMUNITY
"The success of John Ullrich simply shows what a man can do when he sets his
mind to it," said an attorney of Decatur who knew Mr. Ullrich very well.
"He believed in the development of his own locality, he knew that it was a
country great in agricultural resources and nothing could induce him to take more than a
passing interest in investments offered in other parts of the United States. This was
good enough for him and he never hesitated to buy a farm when it was offered at what he
considered a good price."
FOLLOWED JOHN ULLRICH'S ADVICE
"So John Ullrich is dead," said Charles A. Gregory, representative from
Moultrie county to the state legislature, who was in Decatur Friday morning.
"Well," continued Mr. Gregory, who is a comparatively young man, "I
suppose I have consulted Mr. Ullrich more than any other man during the past years in
regard to my future plans. In fact I have talked with him about my plans ever since I
was a boy."
"I owe it to his advice that I am in the legislature as he advised me to
run when I was first asked three terms ago. I rather hesitated to make the race and Mr.
Ullrich cheerfully told me to make it. "They will lick you," he said cheerfully, "but go
in and show them that you have the nerve to try. You are young anyway."
Mr. Gregory did make the fight and is now serving his third term.
Decatur Review, 10 Jan 1919
ULLRICH FUNERAL LATE NEXT WEEK
Body Will Not Arrive Until Then
No word had been received in Decatur up to noon Saturday regarding the time of the
starting of the Ullrich family from California with the body of John Ullrich. It is believed that
Mrs. Spencer Ewing, his daughter, will reach Los Angeles Saturday night and that the return trip
will start at once. It is not expected that the funeral at Decatur will be held before the latter
part of next week.
Decatur Review, 11 Jan 1919
The success of John Ullrich was a demonstration of the fine possibilities in this
country and also of the qualities of a man. He was energetic, hardworking and shrewd; these
qualities combined with what was spread around him in this Illinois community carried him a long
The story of his life as told by a friend tells that he came to America in 1850 and
had $5 in his pocket after landing. Sixty-eight years later he dies in this country and his estate
is well above $2,000,000. It was well for the man that he left Germany and came to America. Had
he stayed in the old country he might with great good luck, by this year 1919 be worth $5,000. But
the chances are he would have succumbed long ago to the rigor and strife of that old country.
It is to be said for Mr. Ullrich that he thoroughly appreciated the good turns this
country helped him to. He was as thoroughgoing an American as though his ancestors had come over at
the time of the Mayflower.
It was in the fall of 1914 he made a remark which illustrated this. There was then
some loose talk about the Germans capturing Canada. Mr. Ullrich said: "I would rather have the
English for neighbors."
He was telling the honest feeling that was in him. But the point is that this was
his feeling. He had to travel a long way to get to this state of mind after leaving Germany as a lad
of seventeen. But he went the route and wasted no time in going it. When the test came his feeling
was as genuinely American and rang as true as that of any New Englander.
John Ullrich died the richest man in the county, by far the richest; his estate is
larger than that of any other person who ever lived here. That is a good showing in a material way
for the boy who started with $5 in a strange land whose language he didn't know.
But in the sixty-eight years he accomplished something besides accumulating this estate;
he got something more out of life. He was with and of men who did things, he was a leader among them.
He didn't seem to care for office, but he took an interest and a part in politics. If at any time in
his active days there was a center in which something big was doing you could expect to find him
there; and he was always present as a directing force.
In one respect he was quite fortunate. He remained active physically almost to the
close of his days. He left here for California only in December last, and right up to the day of
going he was actively looking after and directing his own numerous affairs. Also it may be said
he was doing his work a little better than any one could have done for him, was doing it more
effectively than he could have hired it done. And he enjoyed the doing. He worked and was
Decatur Review, 12 Jan 1919
SET TIME FOR ULLRICH FUNERAL
Rev. R.E. Henry Will Officiate
Definite information came to J.H. Meriweather, president of the National Bank of Decatur
Thursday morning that the body of John Ullrich would arrive in Decatur Thursday morning and the funeral
will be held at the First Christian church, 441 West North street Thursday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock.
Rev. R.E. Henry will officiate.
Knowing Mr. Ullrich's personal preferance for simplicity in all things relating to himself,
the request has been made that no flowers be sent.
AT THE CHURCH
The first telegram coming to Mr. Meriweather stated that the funeral would be held at
the residence but Mr. Meriweather felt that the age of many of the friends of Mr. Ullrich who would
want to attend the services was such that they should not be exposed to the danger of having to stand
out in the weather and he wired a suggestion to that effect and that the funeral might be held in the
A second telegram was received accepting his suggestion and the funeral will be held in
the church Thursday afternoon.
Decatur Review, 14 Jan 1919
The funeral of John Ullrich will be held at 2:30 o'clock Thursday afternoon at the First
Christian church, 441 North Church street. The services will be conducted by Rev. R.E. Henry. The
interment will be in Greenwood.
Decatur Review, 15 Jan 1919
MRS. USREY KNEW ABRAHAM LINCOLN
One of Oldest Residents of Decatur Dies
Mrs. Mary J. Usrey died at 9:30 oclock Sunday morning at her home 615 West
Prairie avenue. She was eighty-six years old last April. She had lived in Decatur for
seventy-six years. Mrs. Usrey was in unusually good health for a woman of her age up to a
year ago last May. In May, 1916, however, she had a hard fall, fracturing her hip. Since
then she had not been able to leave her bed.
Mrs. Usrey was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. He often visited the
Usrey home which stood on North Church street where the Suffern-Hunt mill is now located.
Mr. Usrey was a delegate to the Chicago convention that nominated Lincoln for the presidency
and one of Mrs. Usreys most cherished keepsakes is an autographed picture of President
Lincoln, now in the possession of her grandson, Robert U. Maffit. The Usrey family was
prominent in society and their home was the scene of many brilliant functions.
Mrs. Usrey was the daughter of George and Jane Dill. She was born at Miflin,
Pa., April 23, 1831. Ten years later the parents and family of eight children came to
Decatur. The trip was made overland in covered wagons and it took them three months to
make the trip. Another family accompanied them but soon afterward returned to Pennsylvania.
Usually they were able to reach a farm house where the women of the party could put up for
the night while the men slept under the wagons. Mrs. Usrey remembered the details of that
interesting trip and often told the story to her grand-children. They came direct to Decatur,
arriving here Dec. 1, 1841.
Mrs. Usreys husband was William J. Usrey, who conducted the second newspaper
ever established in Decatur. They were married July 1, 1855, and that same year Mr. Usrey
and Charles Wingate began publishing the Illinois State Chronicle. After five months Mr.
Wingate retired and Mr. Usrey became the sole editor and proprietor.
Mr. Usrey served in the Mexican war and advanced from corporal to captain. He
owned a big plantation near Natchez, Miss., but he was opposed to slavery, and in 1842 he
gave his plantation to his slaves and came north to work for the abolition of slavery. Aug.
22, 1861, Captain Usrey enlisted in the Thirty-Fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry and was soon
made an adjutant. He leased his newspaper office, but after awhile it was closed. Later he
and J.N. Underwood formed a partnership and the publication was resumed. Mr. Underwood
retired in 1864.
When the war closed, Mr. Usrey bought The Decatur Gazette and the two papers
were consolidated and published as one until 1871, when Mr. Usrey retired. A hand-made
flag presented by the women of Decatur to Mr. Usreys regiment is still in possession of
relatives. Mr. Usrey died over twenty years ago.
KNEW GREAT MEN
Mrs. Usrey knew many men of national reputation in the early days. She knew
Lincoln, Logan, Grant, and many others. She heard the great speeches and debates preceding
the Civil War, and during the war she and other Decatur women were active in work for the
relief of the soldiers. She was the last of her family, outliving her brothers, sisters,
and her children. She was the mother of three children. One died in infancy. The other
two, Mrs. D.A. Maffit and Miss Ella Usrey, are both dead, the latter passing away three years
ago. The last of her brothers, Hardy Daly, died about fifteen years ago. There are three
grand-children living, Mrs. W.H. Wehmeier and Mrs. E.D. Earlos of Hanford Wash., and Robert
U. Maffit of Decatur.
The funeral will be held at 10:30 oclock Tuesday morning at the residence on
West Prairie avenue. The interment will be in Greenwood.
Decatur Review, 20 Aug 1917
DEATH OF W.J. USREY
A Pioneer Editor and Veteran of Two Wars
Formerly a Decatur Postmaster He Aided in the Organization of the Republican
Captain William J. Usrey died this (Saturday) morning at 3 oclock at the
family residence, 707 North Church street, in the 67th year of his age. Mr. Usrey has been in
poor health for a number of years, but the immediate cause of his death was an obstruction of
the intestines which baffled successful treatment. He was in the REPUBLICAN office one week ago
to-day, and on Tuesday he was taken sick and had to remain in bed.
The removal of Captain Usrey closes the earthly life of one of the early Republicans
of Illinois, a veteran editor who did yeoman service for the party and the country, and a man
who shouldered the musket and went to the front to fight for the principles he advocated in the
Mexican war and in the war for the union of the states in 1861-5. He was intensely patriotic,
and on no occasion was he ever found lacking in word or deed in defending principles for the good
of the country.
Captain Usrey was present at the birth of the Republican party, which was really
organized in Decatur on Feb. 22, 1856. There was strong opposition to the adoption of the
Nebraska Bill, and Mr. Usrey who was then editor of the State Chronicle. He was one of the
many editors who signed and published a call for the Anti-Nebraska Bill Editorial convention,
which was held in the dining hall of the old Cassell House (present site of the St. Nicholas
Hotel) on Feb 22, 1856. That day scores of editors came to Decatur, a number on special trains.
I.C. Pugh, H.C. Johns and E.O. Smith were members of the committee who arranged for the
entertainment of the visitors. Paul Selby, then editor of the Jacksonville Journal, was the
chairman of the convention, and W.J. Usrey the secretary. Resolutions were adopted denouncing
the Nebraska Bill, and Mr. Usrey offered one which resulted in speedy organization to resist
the further extension of slavery. A state central committee was elected including S.M. Church,
of Rockford, W.B. Ogden, of Chicago, G.D.A. Parks, of Will county, T.J. Pickett, of Peoria,
R.J. Oglesby, of Decatur, and D.L. Phillips, of Jacksonville. The night of convention day there
was a reception and banquet at the Cassell House at which I.C. Pugh presided. Among the
gentlemen present on that occasion were Mr. Selby, Mr. Usrey, R.J. Oglesby and Abraham Lincoln.
Mr. Oglesby toasted Mr. Lincoln and spoke of him as Illinois favorite son for the United States
Senate. There were repeated calls for Mr. Lincoln, who arose to say that he heartily endorsed the
declaration made by Mr. Oglesby, which remark occasioned general applause and laughter. But in
asking to be excused he said he felt like the fellow who was attacked in the dark by a highwayman.
The robber commanded the man to give up his money. I have no money, replied the man, but if
you will come with me to the light, I will give you my note, and Mr. Lincoln added that if the
gentlemen would excuse him he would give them his note. He was not excused and Lincoln delivered
a strong speech for half an hour on the political situation. In late years Mr. Usrey frequently
referred to the early history of the Republican party. He was often visited by political writers
for correct data. He not only possessed the files of the old Chronicle, but also a remarkably
retentive memory. He could recall dates and incidents with surprising accuracy. And to prove
that Mr. Usrey was ever faithful to his principles it may be of interest to mention that during
the campaign of 1884 a Democratic politician came to Decatur from Springfield and offered Mr.
Usrey $3000 to go to Springfield and write Democratic editorials for a newspaper there. The
proposition was indignantly spurned. That politician was mistaken in his man. In his private
life Captain Usrey was a kind husband and a devoted father, and in all his dealings with his
fellowmen he was honorable and upright. In his day he did his part toward advancing the interests
of Decatur, and although he has been inactive for nearly twenty years, he has watched with
satisfaction the development of the city.
William J. Usrey was born at Washington, seven miles from Natchez, Miss., May
16, 1827, his father dying when he was an infant. He was christened Vincent Usrey, but he
never liked the name, and when he came to Illinois by petition to the legislature he had the
name changed to William J. As soon as he could talk the deceased entered the school at Natchez,
and later graduated from the University at the age of 16, and while he attended school at odd
hours he acquired a practical knowledge of the art of printing. He came to Decatur in 1842, and
at intervals taught school in Long Creek township and in Moultrie county. Many old residents
of Mt. Zion and Long Creek will recall the days when Mr. Usrey taught them how to read and write.
Mr. Usrey married Miss Mary Daly and two children were born. They are Mrs. Flo Maffit, wife of
D.S. Maffit, and Miss Elle G. Usrey. The wife and mother, who is now in poor health, is left to
mourn the loss of her life companion. A.J. Williams and Ald. John Williams are half brothers of
In 1846 Mr. Usrey became a private in Co. C, 4th Illinois Infantry, to go to the
Mexican War. Col. Baker commanded the regiment, and I.C. Pugh was captain of the company. The
lieutenants were J.S. Post, R.J. Oglesby and Anderson Froman. He also enlisted in 35th Illinois
Infantry, and was appointed adjutant. On Feb. 3, 1855, the Illinois State Chronicle was
established by Mr. Usrey and Mr. Wingate, the latter retiring in June of that year. Politically
the Chronicle reflected the sentiments of the anti-Nebraska party, and the mission of the
paper was to unite the remnants of all old parties in opposition to the Democratic party on one
common platform. For this work Mr. Usrey was eminently qualified and he made his influence felt
in the state and nation. He continued to publish the paper until 1861, when he entered the
army. He leased the office to B.K. Hamsher and J.R. Mosser, and in 1864 Mr. Usrey and I.N.
Underwood took possession. In 1865 the Chronicle was consolidated with the Gazette, and in
1871 Mr. Usrey retired from active newspaper work. He was one of the early postmasters of
Decatur, before 1850, and also served under the administration of President Grant. The deceased
was a member of Dunham Post No. 141, G.A.R., and secretary of the Macon County Association of
Mexican War Veterans. He was also a member of the Odd Fellows organization, but was not of
late years a regular attendant at the lodge meetings.
In 1865 and 1866 Mr. Usrey represented the second ward as an alderman in the
city council. Franklin Priest was the mayor.
The funeral will take place from the family residence, No. 707 North Church
street, on Monday afternoon at 2 oclock. The interment will be with G.A.R. ceremonies.
Decatur Daily Republican, 20 Jan 1894
DEATH OF W. J. USREY
One of the Oldest and Most Active Business Men of Decatur
Captain William J. Usrey, one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens
of Decatur, died at 3 o'clock yesterday morning at his home, 707 North Church Street. His
death was mainly due to an obstruction of the intestines, although he has been in poor health
for a number of years. His final and fatal sickness dated from last Tuesday, when he was
compelled to take his bed.
William J. Usrey was born at Washington, near Natchez, Miss, May 16, 1827. At
an early age he entered the school at Natchez, and when 10 years of age he graduated from the
Natchez University. He came to Illinois in 1842 and located in Decatur, and taught school
in Long Creek Township and Moultrie County. He was united in marriage to Miss Mary Daly
after his arrival here. Two children were born to them. They are Miss Ella G. Usrey and Mrs.
In 1846 he entered Company C, Illinois Infantry, to do service in the Mexican War.
He was also a member of the Thirty-fifth Illinois Infantry during the War of the Rebellion and
was appointed adjutant. He started the Illinois State Chronicle and continued its publication
until 1861. He then leased the office to B.K. Hamsher and J.R. Mosser, Mr. Usrey joining the
Union army. He again took possession of the paper in 1864 and consolidated it with the Gazette.
He continued in charge until 1871, when he retired from the work. He was one of the early
postmasters of Decatur before 1850 and also served under the administration of President Grant.
Deceased was prominent in Republican politics and was present at the organization of that party
which was started in Decatur in 1856. During the last twenty years he has led a retired life.
His aged wife and two daughters are left. He was a member of Dunham Post, No 141,
G.A.R. and that body will have charge of the funeral, which will be held from his late
residence at 2 o'clock Monday afternoon. The body will be interred with the usual military
ceremonies in Greenwood cemetery.
Decatur Review, Decatur, IL, Sunday, 21 Jan 1894, pg. 2
THE VETERAN EDITOR
Funeral of Captain W.J. Usrey Burial With Military Honors
The funeral of the late Captain W.J. Usrey took place yesterday afternoon
from the family residence on North Church street, in the presence of a very large number
of friends. The house was crowded, and many people stood on the porch, in the yard and
out on the walk. Many floral tributes were brought, one of which was a floral pillow with
the word Grandpa in the center. On the rich black casket were placed the stars and stripes
and a flag of the Mexican war, also a sheaf of wheat and cut flowers. The impressive services
were conducted by Rev. W.H. Penhallegon, pastor of the First Presbyterian service, offered
prayer, and delivered a well-deserved eulogy on the life of the deceased, covering his career
as a teacher, an editor, a soldier and citizen. It was observed that the influence of Captain
Usreys life as a patriot and citizen would live after him, and shape the destinies of those
who knew his many good qualities. The vocal selections were by the Arion Quartette C.W.
Montgomery, R.W. Chilson, C.N. Brown and Bert Gher. At the conclusion of the service at the
house, the members of Dunham Post No. 141, Grand Army of the Republic, took charge of the body
and bore it to the waiting hearse. The escort was a detachment of the Decatur Guards in
uniform, the Grand Army Post with Jas. Garrow in command, and Mexican War veterans, also a
number of Odd Fellows. The honorary pallbearers were members of the Decatur press, printers
and Mexican veterans, and the active pall bearers were Grand Army veterans. There were many
relatives and friends in carriages to form the cortege.
The interment was in Greenwood cemetery, where the beautiful G.A.R. burial
ceremony was observed. The salutes were fired over the grave by the Guards.
In the mail this morning came a letter to the REPUBLICAN from Hon. Paul Selby,
of Chicago, who was in Decatur Feb. 22, 1856, and was the chairman of the Anti-Nebraska Bill
Editorial convention, held there that day, at which Mr. Usrey served as secretary. Mr. Selby
in tender words alludes to the noble purposes and unselfish work of the deceased, and refers
to him as my friend of other days, and adds: Besides myself I know now of only two
survivors of the Decatur editorial convention of Feb. 1856. These are Mr. George Schneider,
now president of the National Bank of Illinois, then of the State Zeitung, and B.F. Shaw,
of the Dixon Telegraph.
Abraham Lincoln was on the ground, and in private consultation with the
committee on resolutions bore an influential part in shaping the declaration of principles.
A personal letter of condolence written by Mr. Selby to the family will appear
in to-morrows issue.
Decatur Daily Republican, 23 Jan 1894
SELBYS TRIBUTE TO CAPT. USREY
A Letter of Sympathy to the Family of the Deceased
Hon. Paul Selby, for many years one of the active newspaper men of the state,
and until lately editor-in-chief of the Springfield Journal, has written a tender letter of
condolence to the family of the late Capt. Usrey. It will be read with interest by all friends
of the deceased and the writer in this and other cities, and we give it place in our columns.
IRVING PARK (Chicago) ILL, January 21, 1894
My Dear Friends, I notice with regret and sorrow a brief dispatch in this
mornings Tribune announcing the death of my old friend and my former contemporary and co-laborer
in early Illinois Republicanism, Capt. William J. Usrey. This intelligence recalls vividly to
my mind events in which we were associated together, especially the convention of a little
handful of Anti-Nebraska editors held at Decatur on the 22d of February 1856. I remember that
Capt. Usrey, in the columns of the Decatur Chronicle, which he then edited, was one of the
most zealous endorsers of the suggestion for such a convention, and it was through his suggestion
and earnest effort that Decatur was chosen as the place of meeting. This was the initial step
in the formal organization of the Republican party in Illinois, and it is but just to say, as
the dispatch in the Tribune says, that he was one of its founders. In all my editorial
acquaintance with him (which continued for several years), I always found him earnest,
enthusiastic and patriotic, and I can testify that he did his full part in moulding the
public opinion of that time in a manner which contributed to the triumphs of the Republican
cause, both at the polls and in the field a few years later. I cannot fail to remember one
with whom I was thus associated with respect and affection.
Did not distance prevent, I would gladly avail myself of the sorrowful
privilege of being present at my old friends funeral and of joining in the last tributes
to his memory. As it is, be assured of my kindly remembrance of him and my deep sympathy
with his bereaved friends.
The last time I saw Capt. Usrey was in the summer of 1886. He then had in
his possession some files of his paper which contained the fullest report of the convention
of February, 1856 (to which I have alluded) and the events which led up to it, that I know
to be in existence the files of the paper with which I was then connected have been
burned. Allow me to suggest that these historical records should be preserved, either
in the hands of some individual capable of appreciating their value or in the custody of
some historical society. Hoping that this may be done, and assuring you of my profound
sympathy in your bereavement. I remain,
Sincerely Yours, PAUL SELBY
Decatur Daily Republican, 24 Jan 1894