Biography - Levi Lay

LEVI LAY, a veteran of the late war, and one who was in active service, owns a well-improved farm of two hundred and sixty acres, which is situated in township 12, range 5, Pope County, on section 7. Mr. Lay was born in Smith County, Tenn., in 1835, his father, Moses Lay, being a native of Kentucky, and a farmer. The latter married Jane Reagan, of Tennessee, who bore him four sons and two daughters, our subject being the second in order of birth. In the fall of 1847 the family went to Johnson County, Ill., making the trip in two large covered wagons, one of which was drawn by horses and the other by a yoke of oxen. They had sold their small farm in Tennessee and brought a few household effects, saddlehorses and a cow.
On their arrival in Illinois the parents purchased a settler's improvement for $130, paying for it with the oxen and one wagon. This eighty-acre tract was Congress land, which he purchased at 11.25 per acre, and he later added to this forty acres, bringing the whole under good cultivation. The mother was called to her final rest while still in the prime of life, leaving four sons and two daughters. Her family had been as follows: Ephraim F., who died in this county aged fifty-five, leaving two sons and two daughters; Levi, our subject, the next in order of birth; Fountain M., who died in Arkansas in 1875, leaving three daughters; Mary, now deceased, the wife of Henderson Jackson; Jane, the wife of Joseph Stone; Frank, who is now engaged in farming in Colorado; and George, who died in childhood. The father was again married, and of his second union were born three sons and three daughters. He died in 1871, aged about sixty years.
Our subject was reared on his father's farm and inured to hard labor from early boyhood. He assisted greatly in clearing the farm, and remained with his father until arriving at mature years. Leaving home at twenty-one years of age, he rented land, which he farmed for one season, and was married in the fall of 1859 to Elizabeth, daughter of Elijah Reeves, of Kentucky. Seven months after her marriage she departed this life, and on the 17th of February, 1861, Mr. Lay was married to Miss Nancy Morray, of Williamson County, Ill. She, too, was called to her final rest May 22, 1871, aged only twenty-five years. She left three sons and two daughters to mourn her loss, viz: Elizabeth, wife of Richard Jackson, a farmer of Johnson County; Mary, who became the wife of William Grissom and is the mother of four children, her husband carrying on a farm in this neighborhood; Sherman, who carries on a farm near Glendale, and is married and has two sons; Robert, who is single and owns a farm near his father's; and William, who is now in Indian Territory.
In the fall of 1861 Mr. Lay and his brother Fountain enlisted in the army, our subject as a private and his brother as First Sergeant in Company B, Sixth Illinois Cavalry. They left for the front on September 10, Mr. Lay returning to his home on Christmas Day of 1864. With the exception of four months, when he was off duty on account of sickness, he was with his company all this time, and with them had some stern and rough experiences of war. He was in the battle at Memphis (Tenn.), Holly Spring (Miss.), in the Guntown fight at Wyatt (Miss.), and at Collierville (Tenn.). During these numerous battles he escaped from serious injury, but had many a narrow escape. At one time he had his horse shot from under him while at Moscow, Tenn., and at another time a bullet grazed his neck in dangerous proximity to the jugular vein. On account of rheumatism, caused by exposure to all kinds of weather, he did not re-enlist when his term had expired, but returned to his farm. His brother was wounded in the hip near Murphysboro, and was a prisoner for about a month, when he succeeded in making his escape and getting back to his regiment.
Mr. Lay was married to his present wife, Mrs. Rhoda Rorex, on her thirtieth birthday anniversary, December 25, 1873. Mrs. Lay is a daughter of William Watters, and is a native of Pope County. Our worthy subject and wife have one son and three daughters, viz: Ida, aged seventeen; Effie, fourteen; Arthur, twelve; and Rosa, seven. Mrs. Lay's first husband, James Rorex, was a member of Company A, Sixteenth Illinois Infantry, in which he enlisted as a private soldier, and rose to the rank of First Lieutenant. He served through the war and died in 1866, while still young in years.
Our subject has always engaged in general farming, and the present secure income which is now his is entirely due to his own efforts and industry. When he first started in agriculture he commenced growing corn and tobacco extensively. He cultivates one hundred and fifty acres of his two hundred and sixty acre farm, growing from seven hundred to fifteen hundred bushels of corn, and from three to four hundred bushels of wheat annually. He keeps a few cattle, raises Poland-China hogs, and owns a fine large flock of Cotswold and Southdown sheep. Of late years Mr. Lay is making a specialty of raising good draft horses, and has several fine thoroughbreds. He erected a commodious barn, and in 1888 remodeled his house, the main portion of which is 42x18 feet in dimensions, and having an L 14x20 feet. Everything about the place bespeaks the care of a thrifty owner, and is but another proof of the practical and enterprising farmer that our subject has become.

Extracted 16 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from 1893 Biographical Review of Johnson, Massac, Pope, and Hardin Counties, Illinois, pages 600-601.

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