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Album of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) online

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Mr. McMahon was born at Belfast, Ireland,
June 4, 1813. He is a son of Alexander Mc-
Mahon and Mary Ann Douglass, both of whom
were of the stanch Scotch-Irish blood which has
ever been active in promoting the best interests
of mankind. Alexander McMahon was the de-
scendant of a family which had been for many
generations engaged in the linen trade. Two of
his brothers were extensive merchants at Belfast,
Ireland, and amassed a fortune there. Alexander
turned his attention to agriculture, and in 1819
came to America. After living for a time near

Watertown, New York, he removed to a farm near
Kingston, Canada, upon which he resided for fifty
years, departing this life in 1883, at the age of
ninety-three years. He was the father of fourteen
children, of whom James was the eldest. He was
an honorable and thrifty business man, and accu-
mulated a competence, in the enjoyment of which
his later years were spent. He and his wife were
devout Presbyterians. The latter died at King-
ston, several years later than her husband.

James McMahon enjoyed excellent educational
advantages, pursuing courses of study success-
ively at Andover Academy; Cheshire Academy, at
Cheshire, Connecticut; and Washington (now
Trinity) College, at Hartford, Connecticut. His
parents designed to fit him for the Presbyterian
ministry, but, while a student at Washington
College, he became converted to the Episcopal
faith, and abandoned his theological studies, to
their great disappointment. While a young man,
he spent considerable time in travel, visiting Eu-



rope three times, and becoming quite familiar
with the ways of the world and its business
methods. In 1849, in company with a party of
young men of his acquaintance, he went to Cali-
fornia, by way of the Isthmus. He remained
three years in that state, during which time he
mined successively at Hangtown, American Val-
ley and Big Bar, and also recovered his health,
which had become considerably impaired before
his departure from the East. At the last-named
mines he gained a rich reward for his labors, and
thence returned to the East, again making the
voyage by way of the Isthmus, a regular line of
steamers having been established since he first
made the journey.

He landed at New Orleans, thence went to Dal-
las County, Alabama, where he purchased an ex-
tensive cotton plantation with a retinue of slaves,
and had just established a profitable business
when the Civil War broke out. On account of his
political views, he found it impracticable to re-
main there, and in 1860 he was obliged to
abandon his property and remove to the North.
He located in Chicago, where he became asso-
ciated with the insurance agency of Thomas B.
Bryan, and continued to carry on that line of
business for a number of years, representing the
Mutual Life, the Mutual Benefit and the Equit-
able Life Insurance Companies. His business
ventures were fairly successful, and he had accu-
mulated considerable property when the great fire
of 1871 visited the city. Most of what he saved
from that disaster was swept away by the panic
of 1873. At the latter date he moved to Evans-
ton, and for a few years conducted a restaurant
in Davis Street. Since 1882 he has filled the of-
fice of Township Supervisor, being re-elected
each season without opposition. In addition to
his official duties, he acts as a purchasing agent
for Evanston merchants, making regular trips to
Chicago in their interests.

He is a thirty-second-degree Mason, and is
held in the highest regard by his brethren of that
order, from whom he has received many testimo-
nials. He first joined Oriental Lodge, and is
now identified with Evans Lodge, Evanston
Chapter, Evanston Commandery and Oriental

Consistory, his duties as Tyler of these several
bodies taking up considerable of his time.

Mr. McMahon was married, in 1865, to Martha
Cornelia Converse, daughter of Samuel Augustus
and Anna (Easton) Converse, of Stafford, Con-
necticut. Mr. Converse, who was a descendant
of the French Huguenots who located in America
during the Colonial period, died in Connecticut,
at the extreme old age of ninety-three years. He
was an influential citizen of Stafford, and a pen-
sioner of the War of 1812. Mrs. McMahon came
to Chicago in 1860, and was associated with Mrs.
Mary A. Livermore in conducting the great San-
itary Fair. Mr. McMahon was also one of the
promoters of this undertaking, and sold thousands
of tickets in its support. Though not blessed
with children of their own, Mr. and Mrs. Mc-
Mahon have adopted and partially reared several
children, one daughter, Harriet Wilmina, having
been a member of the family from infancy. She
was first married to Professor W. W. Graves, an
instructor in the Northwestern University, and
since his death has become the wife of Edwin
O'Malley, of Chicago. Jennie, another adopted
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. McMahon, is now Mrs.
Cameron, of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

When he first located in Chicago Mr. McMahon
resided on the South Side, near the home of
Stephen A. Douglas, who became his intimate
friend. He helped to organize St. Mark's Church,
on Cottage Grove Avenue, and was for some
years one of its most active and influential mem-
bers. He served four years as Superintendent of
Trinity Mission, and he and his wife have been
communicants of St. Mark's Church of Evanston
since removing to that city. Previous to the
Great Rebellion, he was a Democrat, but since
coming to Chicago has been a consistent Repub-
lican. He is a life member of the Masonic Vet-
erans' Association of Chicago, and during the
war acted as agent for the numerous Masonic
charities of the city of Chicago, securing relief
and transportation for many indigent members of
the order belonging to the Union army. The
retrospection of his long and useful life may well
afford comfort and satisfaction in his declining

1 -'-.RY





(JONATHAN CLARK, prominent among Chi-
I cago contractors and builders, was born at
G) West Walton, in the county of Norfolk, Eng-
land, May 28, 1828. His parents were William
and Christina Clark, and his father died when
Jonathan, the eldest of four children, was only
seven years old. At the age of eight he was put
to work herding sheep on the Norfolk commons
and keeping the birds off the fields of grain, for
which he received two shillings (fifty cents) per
week. He went out to service on a farm at twelve
years of age. His earnings during the last year
of service he saved to pay his way to America.
Previous to that time he had contributed his
wages to the support of his widowed mother and
his younger brothers.

On the aist of September, 1848, Mr. Clark
sailed from England, and arrived in Chicago on
the 27th of November, via New York, being nearly
ten weeks on the journey. He came by way of
the Lakes directly to Chicago, penniless and
friendless, but resolute and ready for whatever
came. His first employment was hauling wood
into Chicago. The winter was very severe, and
he froze his feet, and, through the dishonesty of
his employer, he lost his wages. In the spring
of 1849 he worked six weeks for Jefferson Mun-
son, of Downer's Grove, and then returned to
Chicago and became an apprentice to P. L. Up-
dyke and John Sollitt, with whom he spent three
years, learning the trade of carpenter and joiner,
and at the expiration of that time receiving the
sum of $200 for his services. He spent six months
as a journeyman, and then began contracting on
his own account, and was successful, accumulat-

ing money from the start. By saving his earn-
ings, he was able to pay his brother's passage to
America in 1849, and in 1850 the two brought
over the remainder of the family.

In 1860, in company with his brother, Mr.
Clark went overland to Denver, where they
fitted up the first express building and the post-
ofEce. After spending the summer there, they
returned in the fall by team, as they had gone.
On the Platte River Mr. Clark's horse was stolen,
and while trying to recover it, he traveled on
foot in the night, and was surrounded by wolves,
barely escaping with his life. The thief was
captured, and Mr. Clark's companions wanted to
try him, but as that meant conviction and hang-
ing, he refused to allow it, and the offender was
permitted to accompany the outfit to Omaha, and
to go unpunished. In 1867 Mr. Clark was ap-
pointed by Gov. Oglesby to superintend the con-
struction of Illinois buildings at the Paris Expo-
sition. There the United States Government,
recognizing his worth, secured his services in the
Department of Works, and appointed him assist-
ant to the Superintendent of the American por-
tion of the exposition. Before returning to the
United States, he visited his old home and por-
tions of Switzerland and Germany.

During the years he was engaged in contract-
ing, Mr. Clark did an immense business, and
erected many residences, stores and business
houses. Among them were the Bowen Block,
McCormick Hall Block, Kingsburg Music Hall,
Kingsburg Block, the Chicago Water Works,
Bigelow Hotel, the Young Men's Christian Asso-
ciation building and Academy of Design, the



Brother Jonathan building and the First National
Bank building. The reconstruction of the Chi-
cago Water Works was the first job he did after
the fire, and the embers were still hot when he
began work on it. The Bigelow Hotel occupied
the site of the present postoffice, and disappeared
in the great fire. Mr. Clark was both builder
and owner of the Academy of Design, which was
the first building ever erected in Chicago for a
fine-arts exhibit.

In 1852 Mr. Clark married Miss Alice Sarde-
son, a native of Lincolnshire, England, but then a
resident of Chicago. Of the marriage, five chil-
dren were born and all are now living in Chicago.
They are: Euna, the wife of Shea Smith, of Shea
Smith & Co.; F. W.; George T.; Retta M., now
the wife of Dr. KaufFman, of Chicago; and J. Y.
The sons F. W. and G. T. are members of the firm
of Jonathan Clark & Sons Co., contractors, who
have erected many buildings, notable among
which are the Art Institute and the Government
buildings at Ft. Sheridan. The senior member of

this firm is not now actively connected with the
company, but is employed in erecting and manag-
ing buildings, of which he has about a score, built
on ground held on ninety-nine-year leases.

Mr. Clark is a Republican, a member of the
Union League and Sunset Clubs, and a Thirty-
second Degree Mason, in which order he has held
many high offices. He attends, but is not a mem-
ber of, Dr. Thomas' Church. In his later years
he has traveled largely through the United States,
including the Pacific Coast and Florida. He has
a fruit farm and an elegant residence at Fru.tland
Park, in the latter State.

Jonathan Clark is numbered among the men
who have made Chicago, and given it the char-
acter which it bears. Through trials, by perse-
verance and an honest course, he has risen to
prominent place in the city which he has made
his residence for almost half a century, and where
he is an honored citizen, who bears his years
with dignity, and grows old gracefully in the
midst of a large circle of devoted friends.



b serving as Auditor of the City Board of Ed-
ucation, was born on the 6th of December,
1838, in Sanford, Edgar County, Illinois. His
father's ancestors bore the name of Granger, and
came from England to America, locating in Con-
necticut. His father was a physician, and in
Newark, Ohio, married Nancy Link. His death
occurred at the early age of twenty-eight years,
and soon after our subject, then a child of six
months, was taken for adoption by Isaac D. Cus-
ter, of Terre Haute, Indiana, whose name he
then assumed. He found in his foster-father a
kind-hearted and liberal man, who could not have

treated an own son with more kindness and con-
sideration. The maternal ancestors of the sub-
ject of this sketch were of French origin, and on
emigrating to the New World settled in Freder-
icksburg, Virginia, about the middle of the eigh-
teenth century. From there the maternal grand-
father with his family removed about the year
1825 to Newark, Ohio.

When George was a child of six years, the
Custer family removed to St. Louis, Missouri,
and for five years he attended Wyman's private
school. Soon after he accompanied his father on
a trip to California, where they remained for one
year. Mr. Custer went to the West to see the



country, and took his adopted son on account of
his poor health. The result of the trip proved the
wisdom of the father, as the son became a strong,
hearty boy, and now enjoys a vigorous manhood.
He made the journey across the plains on horse-
back, leaving St. Louis on the 4th of April,
1850, on the steamboat "Princeton," and arriv-
ing at old Ft. Kearney, Nebraska, fifteen days
later. There they remained until the early part
of May, when, the grass having grown sufficiently
to furnish feed for horses and mules, they re-
sumed their journey. They were eighty-six days
in making the trip from the Missouri River to
Hangtown, now Placerville, California. Their
next resting-place was Sacramento, from whence
they went to San Francisco. They suffered the
usual hardships and privations incident to the
trip across the plains in days of the gold excite-
ment, being sometimes for days with very small
rations of food, and only water sufficient to moisten
the lips; but, notwithstanding, no illness fell to the
lot of father or son during the trip to and from
California. Mr. Custer had no mining experi-
ences, for he was then too young to dig for gold.
After a sojourn of a few months in California, he
returned home, by way of the Isthmus, stopping
on the way at the island of Jamaica and in New
York City, from whence he came West, by way
of the Hudson River to Albany, thence to Buffalo
by rail, by lake to Chicago, by canal to La Salle,
and on the steamer "Robert Fulton" to St. Louis.
Mr. Custer then attended Jones' College until
eighteen years of age, and resided in St. Louis
until 1854, when the family removed to a farm
near Davenport, Iowa. In the fall of 1855, he
returned to St. Louis and accepted a position as
assistant book-keeper in the retail grocery house
of Ellis & Hutton, at that time the largest estab-
lishment of the kind in the city. In the summer
following he returned to Davenport and entered
the employ of Thomas H. McGee, wholesale
grocer, as chief clerk and book-keeper, and in the
spring of 1857 took charge of the office of the
Burtis House, then the best-equipped hotel west
of Chicago. After a few months he was taken
sick and returned to the farm, where he remained
until coming to Chicago, in April, 1862.

In the mean time Mr. Custer was married. On
the 4th of October, 1860, he wedded Miss Sarah
Ann Kelly, of Davenport. The lady was born in
Mt. Carmel, near Cincinnati, Ohio, September 7,
1842. Her father, Daniel C. Kelly, a native of
Cincinnati, is now living in Davenport, Iowa,
where the foster-father of this subject also resides.
They are aged respectively eighty and eighty-
three years, and still active and in good health.
Four children have been born to Mr. Custer and
his wife: Tillie, who is now the wife of Robert J.
Clark, and has one child; Hattie Winchell, wife
of William G. R. Bell; Sadie Belle; and George G.

On leaving the farm in Iowa, Mr. Custer came to
Chicago and accepted a position as assistant com-
mercial reporter on the Morning Post, edited by J.
W. Sheahan, with which he was connected for a
year. He then entered the employ of Hobbs, Oli-
phant & Co. .commission merchants, and at the end
of three years started in business for himself as a
member of the firm of Olcott, Lash & Co. , in the
same line of business. This venture proved un-
successful, on account of the credit given country
customers. Mr. Custer then engaged in the
brokerage business, but during the great fire again
met with losses, after which he spent three years
with Hall & Winch, sash and door manufacturers.
He then returned to the Board of Trade, and was
quite successful in business for several years, but
at length lost his fortune in a "big corner.".

At that time Mr. Custer left the city, removing
to Nevada, Illinois, where he took charge of an
elevator owned by A. M. Wright & Co. On his
return in 1880, he accepted a position with
James H. Drake & Co., commission merchants,
with whom he remained for a year and a-half,
when failing health forced him to abandon that
work. Farm life had previously proved benefi-
cial, and he again resorted to that cure, carrying
on agricultural pursuits until his health was re-
stored. Once more he entered the employ of
Hall & Winch, with whom he continued until
the death of the junior partner, when the business
was closed out. He was then with the firm of
Garvey & Jenkinson until they retired from busi-

In May, 1886, Mr. Custer became Auditor of



the Board of Education, and has been unani-
mously re-elected since that time. He was the
candidate for the office of Assessor of West Chi-
cago, on the Democratic ticket, in 1871, but
never sought political preferment, although he
took an active part in politics in early life. He is
known as a conservative Democrat. Socially, he
is connected with the Royal Arcanum and the
Royal League, and is the First Vice-President of
the California Pioneers. In early life he joined
the Baptist Church, but as its doctrines were not
in accordance with his broad and liberal views, he

joined the Third Unitarian Church, and was, until
his removal from the West to the South Side, one
of its active and respected members. He is so-
cially inclined, possessed of a genial nature and
pleasant disposition. He is popular among his
acquaintances, and is one who makes and retains
friends. He possesses a sanguine temperament,
is an energetic worker and not easily discouraged.
Fond of home and family, he is true to those who
rely upon him, and his faithfulness and sterling
worth have won him warm regard.


P 6JILLIAM WEST, one of the enterprising
\Al c iti zens f Cook County, now successfully
Y Y engaged in farming on section 30, Niles
Township, is numbered among the early settlers
of the State, having come to Illinois with his
parents in 1836. He is a native of Yorkshire,
England, born on the 2ist of June, 1814. His
father, James West, was born in Shipton, Eng-
land, in 1768, and died in the fall of 1838, two
years after his emigration to America. His wife
bore the maiden name of Jane Hodgen, and was
a daughter of Thomas Hodgen, a shoe-maker of
Great Husband, England. As above stated,
James West, accompanied by his family, bade
adieu to friends and native land and sailed for
America in the good ship "Sylvenus Jenkins,"
which brought him to New York after an un-
eventful voyage of thirty-one days. He was de-
tained in New York quite a while on account of
the sickness of a relative, John Dewes, but at
length resumed his journey and traveled toward
the setting sun until he reached Cook County.
He became the first settler of Jefferson Township,
and it was his intention to purchase a claim as

soon as the land came into market, but death
frustrated his plans.

William West pre-empted a quarter-section of
land in Jefferson Township, on which he resided
until 1856, when he came to Niles Township, his
present home. One of the most important events
of his life occurred in 1843, when was celebrated
his marriage with Mrs. Isabella Mosley, a daugh-
ter of John Kendel, who was a native of York-
shire, England, and a farmer by occupation.
Mrs. West was born in \orkshire, December 18,
1821, and died January 28, 1864. Their union
was blessed with four sons and five daughters,
and five of the number are still living, namely:
William, who was born June n, 1850, and now
resides in Chicago; Mary Jane, who was born
April 27, 1852, and is the wife of Robert Robin-
son, of Avondale; Isabella E., who was born
August 27, 1857, ar "d i s the wife of John Proctor,
a resident of Arlington Heights; Martha Ann,
who was born February 20, 1860, is the widow
of Emil Haag, and resides in Niles; and Edward,
who was born January 18, 1864, and is now en-
gaged in the flour and feed business in Chicago.



In 1866, Mr. West was again married, his second
union being with Mrs. Frances Ollinger, who is
now deceased.

Mr. West cast his first vote for William Henry
Harrison and has voted at each Presidential elec-
tion since that time. He now affiliates with the
Democracy, but from 1860 until 1892 supported
the Republican candidates. He received no spe-
cial advantages in life, his school privileges being

obtained previous to his tenth year, and his edu-
cation from that time was acquired through con-
tact with the world. He had no capital or influ-
ential friends to aid him in business, and the suc-
cess which has crowned his efforts is the just re-
ward of his own labors. As a citizen he is pub-
lic-spirited and progressive and devoted to the
best interests of the community, and by those who
know him he is highly respected.


(TOHN DILLON TOBEY, who is doing an
I extensive business as a dealer in hay and
O grain in Chicago, was born at Worth Sta-
tion, Cook County, on the 3d of September,
1859, and is a son of Wales and Elizabeth Tobey,
who are represented on another page of this work.
He spent his early boyhood days upon his father's
farm, and acquired his education in the district
school of the neighborhood and in the High School
of Blue Island. At the age of seventeen he left
home with $2.85 in his pocket. From that time
he has made his own way in the world unaided,
and the success he has achieved is therefore due
entirely to his own efforts. He began work as a
farm hand, receiving $15 per month in compen-
sation for his services. With his first season's
wages he bought a half-interest in a threshing-
machine, and the following winter started a hay

Fifteen months after leaving home, Mr. Tobey
had accumulated $3,300, besides a hay-press,
teams, etc. In connection with his other work
he also did road contracting in Worth Township.
For one year after coming to Chicago he was in
the employ of Nelson Morris & Co. , buying sup-
plies of feed for the stock. Since 1886 he has
engaged in his present business as a dealer in hay
and grain at No. 309 Twenty-sixth Street. He al-

so handles ice. His business has steadily in-
creased in volume, until it has now assumed ex-
tensive proportions, and on the ist of June, 1894,
the J. D. Tobey Hay and Grain Company was in-
corporated. Of this Mr. Tobey is president and
general manager. For some years he has been
the best known dealer in his line on the south side
and is now the largest retail dealer in the United
States. He also deals in city real estate and
farm property, and has invested to some extent in
western lands.

On the loth of September, 1885, Mr. Tobey
was united in marriage with Miss Clara M. Burt.
The lady is a native of Westport, Essex County,
N. Y., and is a daughter of Alvin Burt. Their
union has been blessed with one child, Grade.
They also lost two sons who died in infancy
within two weeks of each other.

Mr. Tobey takes considerable interest in civic
societies, and is a member of Golden Rule Lodge
No. 726, A. F. & A. M. ; a life member of Chi-
cago Commandery No. 19, K. T. ; and also be-
longs to Medinah Temple and the Mystic Shrine;
to Acacia Club; to America Lodge No. 271, K.
P. ; Longfellow Lodge No. 708, R. A. ; George
B. McClellan Council of the National Union;
Chicago Heavy-Weight Base Ball Club, the Sud-
seite Turngemeinde, and several other social and



insurance orders. He votes with the Republican
party, but has never sought or desired political
preferment, in fact has several times refused pub-
lic office. Physically, Mr. Tobey is the picture

of health and strength. He is of a social, genial
nature, and is a gentleman of rare business abil-
ity, having attained success through good j udg-
ment, ready decision and energetic determination.


LEXANDER McDANIEL, of Wilmette, is
I I now living a retired life, enjoying a rest which
/ I he has truly earned and richly deserves. He

Online LibraryJohn MorleyAlbum of genealogy and biography, Cook County, Illinois : with portraits (Volume 1900) → online text (page 28 of 111)