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Biography - Joseph McCulley

JOSEPH McCULLEY, one of the prominent and wealthy old settlers of this county, is a well-known resident of LaGrange Township, and has seen almost all of the wonderful growth of the county. His part in the same has not been small, as he came here in the early days when the deer still roamed over the broad prairie at will, and the cultivated fields were only brush and over-grown wilderness.

The subject of this sketch was born in Rockbridge County, Va., November 11, 1821. He was the son of Frederick McCulley, who was a native of County Deny, Ireland, in which country he was also married and came to America in June, 1819. His first settlement was in the State of Virginia and there he found a home until the year 1838, when the desire came upon him to see more of this great country, and accordingly he moved his family to Alabama in 1838, but not finding everything congenial there he came to Montgomery County, Ill., in 1841.

Going into the wilderness at that day was a very serious undertaking, as Indians were still very numerous in the new State, and the wild animals still found a home there. But the hearts of those early pioneers were brave and they had courageous wives and daring children, and the long wagon journey did not appall them. Many long days were consumed and many were the camps made at night by the roadside log fire, but at last the new home was reached; a farm at first was rented, and Mr. McCulley and family settled down to become residents of the great Prairie State. This farm which he leased and worked, is the Poor Farm of Montgomery County. Father McCulley died in Bond County when he had reached the age of seventy-two years. He had become a Whig in his political belief, for he was a man who took a deep interest in his new home as soon as he reached these hospitable shores.

The mother of our subject had also been born among the green hills of Ireland, in County Derry, and after a life of much activity she died at the age of sixty-four years. Both she and her husband had been firm adherents of the Scotch-Presbyterian faith, and lived as they finally died, good, worthy people. Six children were left of the family to mourn the parents' death: Elizabeth, Joseph, Margaret, James, Martha and Jane.

Our subject was reared on the farm and had only the educational advantages which were offered at the subscription schools. The old log house is still remembered with its slab benches and great wide mud and stick chimney, its door with wooden hinges, and the old-fashioned birch rod was not absent. Game was abundant for those who cared to hunt, and wolves were so troublesome that sometimes the settlers would have to combine to drive them away.

Farming was a pleasure to our subject, as the rich, black loam so readily returned profits, but the many inconveniences of pioneer life made the business of tilling the soil much less profitable for time and labor expended than at the present day. One great lack was the distance of the markets, and Mr. McCulley very often made the long trip to St. Louis with grain and stock and camped out by the way, as at least five days were required to make the journey.

Our subject came here in 1846, and bought eighty acres of land and rented more for some years. He began the struggle of life with very little, but industry and thrift have given great returns, and now he is one of the financial pillars of the county. It was not until in April, 1876, that our subject felt himself ready to become a benedict, and at that time Miss Martha L. Mitchell became his wife. She was born in Missouri, November 15, 1840, and one child, Margaret L., has been born to them. The farm of our subject consists of three hundred and twenty acres of land and all of it is improved, and he has become a dealer in stock, horses, mules, cattle, sheep and hogs, but considers that he has made the most of his money out of mules. He has raised some grain, but deals mostly in stock.

Our subject and wife are Presbyterians and are very highly regarded in the neighborhood. Mr. McCulley is familiarly called "Uncle Joe" by all, and enjoys the esteem in which he is held. In politics, he is a Republican, but his pleasant manner, even when disagreeing with his political opponents, never gives offense. He is a typical pioneer, and as such is well known and beloved. Probably no man in the county has more friends than "Uncle Joe" McCuliey. He has gained much more than a competency in these long years of labor, but better still is the regard in which he is held by those who know him best.

Extracted 04 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from 1892 Portrait and Biographical Record of Montgomery and Bond Counties, Illinois, pages 258-259.

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