Biography - James Downey

JAMES M. DOWNEY. Among the farming community of Pope County, Ill., there is perhaps no man who deserves more honorable mention than Mr. Downey, for it is owing to his own excellent qualities that he is possessed of his present fine property. He is a native of the Prairie State, having been born in Gallatin County in 1841. His father, however, who also bore of James M. Downey, was born in Jackson County, Ala., in 1820. The paternal grandfather was also James M. Downey, a North Carolinian by birth and a farmer by occupation, which calling has descended from father to son down to the present generation. The grandfather reared seven children, of whom James M., the father of our subject, was the fifth. He, the grandfather, was a farmer and a minister of the Regular Baptist Church, and lived to a ripe old age, dying in Arkansas. The father was also a Regular Baptist minister, and was married to Lavina Gattes, a daughter of William Gattes, who was born on the Isle of Erin, but came to America when a young man of eighteen years, and first resided in Alabama, and then in Mississippi, where he died at an advanced age, in comfortable circumstances. He and his wife became the parents of eight children.
In the fall of 1840 the parents of the subject of this sketch became residents of Gallatin County, Ill., the long journey thither being made with ox-teams, they camping out on the way. They came without means, and after residing here a few years went to Randolph County, Ark., later returning to Illinois and settling on new land near Vienna, Johnson County, about 1847. After improving this land they sold it and settled on a tract of school land near Goreville, where the father owned at one time two hundred and ninety acres. He disposed of this property also and went to Middle Tennessee in 1868, where he died within two years, at about the age of fifty, leaving a widow and seven children. , The mother was called from life in Mississippi about 1878, aged sixty years. Their children who are living are: James M.; Martha, wife of Columbus Humphrey, a farmer of Johnson County, Ill.; Louisa, widow of Riley Hutchens, who resides in the same county; Delilah, the wife of Calvin Green, a farmer of Arkansas; and Samuel H., of West Tennessee.
James M. Downey was reared a farmer's boy, but owing to the many changes of residence made by his parents, and to the fact that the schools of those days were poor and conducted on the subscription plan, he had little chance to obtain an education, but managed to become fairly well versed in the "three R's." In the fall of 1861 he volunteered in Battery K. First Illinois Light Artillery, as a private, and in the spring of the following year was sent to the front. He was in but two skirmishes, and was mustered out, owing to the fact that his right hand was badly crippled by the explosion of a cartridge. He receives a pension of $24 per month. He also had a severe attack of lung fever and the measles while in the service, which left his health so shattered that he has since been unable to work, to any extent. He was married in Johnson County July 31, 1864, to Miss Rebecca E. Jones, a daughter of Jackson and Elizabeth (Key) Jones, of Tennessee, in which State Mrs. Downey was born and reared. She came to Illinois in 1863, at the age of sixteen years, with her parents, who were Union sympathizers, and left Tennessee on that account. Her father was at one time a well-to-do farmer of Kentucky. He served in the Rebel army for eighteen months, but with others changed his views at the end of that time, and after hearing a speech by a Confederate general, deserted the Confederate standard, stole away to his old Kentucky home, and came thence to Illinois with his family. After the war he returned to Kentucky, where he died May 7, 1873, at the age of forty-eight years. His first wife, the mother of Mrs. Downey, died in Kentucky in 1857, when thirty-three years of age. She became the mother of four sons and four daughters: W. W. and J. F. Jones, of Pope County, Ill.; Mary F., wife of T. A. Hughes; Rebecca E.; Martha A., who lives in Middle Tennessee; two that died in early childhood; and Lucinda L., who died about the time she was grown.
Mr. and Mrs. Downey resided in Johnson County for three years, and then moved to Kentucky with Mr. Jones, but became residents of Mississippi in 1870, and there lived for eighteen months. They then returned to Kentucky, but in 1880 took up their residence in southwest Missouri. Four years later they went to McCracken County, Ky., but three years later found them in Metropolis, Ill., and in May, 1891, they settled on land on which a son is residing about one mile from their present place. On the latter place they settled in September, 1891. He is the owner of one hundred and twenty acres of land, eighty of which are under cultivation, and this, with the farm on which his son resides, amounts to two hundred and fourteen acres. He and his wife have two sons. William J., who was born in Kentucky August 24, 1867, and is now farming on the above-mentioned place, is married and has three daughters; and Luther L., who was born in Kentucky, March 20, 1877, is at home with his parents. They also lost a son and daughter in infancy. Mr. Downey has been a Mason since 1857, and politically, is a Republican.

Extracted 12 Mar 2002 by Rick Girtman from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois.

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