WILEY GRAY one of the oldest, best known and most highly respected citizens of Jackson County, now makes his home in Elkville, where he is practically living a retired life. His parents, Russell and Martha (Phelps) Gray, were natives of Hopkins County, Ky., and there the father followed farming as a means of livelihood. On the 15th of August, 1825, a son was born unto them, to whom the name of Wiley was given. Two years later, on horseback, they crossed the state of Kentucky to Illinois and took up their residence in Perry County, where the boy grew to manhood, his time being passed in the usual manner of farmer lads of that day, while with the family he experienced the hardships and trials of frontier life.
After arriving at years of maturity, Mr. Gray came to Jackson County, where he has since made his home. On the 17th of September, 1851, he was united in marriage with Miss Julia Glotfelty, and to them were born four children, Philip, Franklin, Martha and Eliza. In August, 1864, the mother passed away, and was laid to rest in the village cemetery. Two years later, in 1866, Mr. Gray married Miss Phoebe Porter, a daughter of Russell R. S. and Dorothea (Burnham) Porter. Her parents were numbered among the early settlers of Ohio, and in 1844 they left the Buckeye State and emigrated to Jackson County, Ill. Seven children were born of the second marriage, of whom five are yet living, namely: Hattie J., Annie, Russell, Amy and Wiley.
When the threats of secession were carried out and the south attempted to destroy the Union, Mr. Gray entered the service of his country in defense of the Old Flag, and the cause it represented. He participated in many of the most noted engagements of the Rebellion, and made for himself an honorable war record. As a private he joined what was popularly termed the “preachers' regiment," the Seventy-third Illinois Infantry, which was commanded by Col. James F. Jacques. His term extended over nearly four years of hard campaigning, during which time he followed the fortunes of General Sherman through tlie Atlanta campaign. He participated in the hard-fought battles of Chattanooga, Franklin, Nashville and others, and was ever found faithful to his duty, although the service was hard and arduous. When hostilities had ceased and the preservation of the Union was an assured fact, he received an honorable discharge, and returned to his home with the consciousness of having been faithful to his country when the loyalty of its citizens received a severe test.
Mr. Gray is a member of De Soto Post No. 564, G. A. R., and belongs to the Lutheran Church. He is an honored pioneer, and can relate many laughable and interesting incidents of frontier life. The county in which almost his entire life has been passed he has seen developed from an almost unbroken wilderness, and has ever borne his part in its advancement and progress.
Extracted from Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, Illinois, published in 1894, page 252.
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