Putnam County

JEFFERSON DURLEY

clerk of the circuit court of Putnam county, Illinois, has filled that position continuously since 1876. He was born in Sangamon county, Illinois, about ten miles south of Springfield, December 7, 1822. His father, Jehu Durley, was a native of South Carolina and was of English descent, the family it is supposed coming from Durleyville, a little town in the north of England. His mother, Jane (Rankin) Durley, was a native of North Carolina, of Scotch descent. Jehu Durley and Jane Rankin were married in South Carolina, and emigrated to Illinois in 1818, the year in which the state was admitted to the Union. They were both members of the Scotch Presbyterian or Seceders' church, and lived the strict lives of those connected with that body.

The subject of this sketch was reared upon the home farm and received a limited education in the old subscription schools. His father died in 1840, and two years later, at the age of twenty, he went to the Galena lead mines, where he remained two years engaged in trading and prospecting. In 1844 he came to Putnam county and located on a farm two miles from Hennepin. His mother came from Sangamon county about this time and they united their forces in the cultivation of the farm. On the 24th of December, 1846, he was united in marriage with Miss Eleanor Seaton, who came from Indiana with her parents at the age of eight years. By this union were five children — Leslie, who is an attorney by profession, is now with the Northeastern railroad at Boston, in charge of their warehouses; Rosalie is deputy circuit clerk and has charge of the abstract department; Frances is the widow of W. S. Lamb, of Sheldon, Iowa; Helena is the wife of George F. Stanton, county treasurer of Putnam county, and Anna, who died at the age of thirty-three years.

Mr. Durley continued farming until 1852, three years of which time on a farm six miles from Hennepin, in Granville township. He then sold out, and in company with several others left Hennepin for the gold fields of California, the outfit requiring four wagons. With the party was Enos Prickett, Mr. Watson, now of Tiskilwa, and Porter Durley, who died about three years since at Puget Sound. It required one hundred and twenty-one days' time in making the journey. They crossed the Missouri river at St. Joseph, Missouri, and were shortly afterward joined by a doctor from. Ohio, who proposed making one of their company across the plains He was very much afraid of Indians, and one night when it came his turn to stand guard in company with our subject he became so frightened that he pulled out and left the company. The road for miles was lined with dead animals lying by the wayside.

Mr. Durley remained in California some three years, engaged in mining with moderate success. He then returned home, and the following year was elected sheriff, succeeding Amos T. Purviance, and served one term. In 1861 he went to Colorado at a time when the Pikes Peak fever was raging throughout the country, but continued on to the Salmon river mines in Washington Territory, where he found about forty claims had already been taken. There was great suffering in the camp at the time and as high as two hundred and fifty dollars in gold was paid for a sack of flour. From the mines he went to Elk City, Washington, and in the fall of 1863 returned home with no better success than before, but with plenty of experience. The war for the Union had now been in progress for two years, and he determined to enter the service. Raising a company for the one hundred day service, which became Company B, One Hundred and Thirty-ninth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, he was elected and comimissioned captain. With his company and regiment he went to Cairo, and from that city into Kentucky. The regiment was shortly sent back to Peoria, and later ordered to St. Louis, ^lissouri, and took part in the campaign against General Price. For a time they were stationed at St. Louis and Franklin to guard the former city. After serving some five and a half months the regiment was mustered out.

Captain Durley returned home after receiving his discharge, and in 1864 raised a new company, of which he was commissioned captain, and which became Company I, Forty-seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He joined the regiment at Spanish Fort, and was later sent to Blakesly, Montgomery and Demopolis, Alabama, where his regiment was stationed until Lee's surrender. It was a part of General A. J. Smith's army corps, and after the surrender of Lee it was retained in Alabama to guard government supplies. For a time the captain was district provost marshal at Selma, Alabama, where he had charge of nine companies, and where he had several interesting experiences. The regiment was mustered out and discharged in February, 1866.

Returning home, Captain Durley clerked in a general store at Hennepin for four years, and was then elected sheriff of Putnam county, and re-elected in 1872. After an intermission of two years, in 1876 he was elected circuit clerk, which office he has filled to the satisfaction of the people to the present time. Since the organization of the party he has been an uncompromising republican, and with one exception has been elected to office by safe majorities. He has always taken an active part in political affairs, and has done yeoman service in every campaign. He has close personal acquaintance of almost every man in Putnam county. At the congressional convention held in Peoria in 1894, he was elected chairman and served with ability.

Captain Durley has been a resident of Putnam county for fifty-two years, and for fifty years he and his good wife have traveled life's journey together. Both are well known and highly respected. Fraternally, Captain Durley is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and has served as commander.

Source: The Biographical Record of Bureau, Marshall and Putnam Counties, Illinois  published in 1896, page 429.


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