Biography - Jacob Fry

GEN. JACOB FRY was born in Fayette county, September 20, 1799; was the youngest of a family of six children of Barney and Nettie Fry, whose ancestry is traced back to sturdy Germany. As a soldier in the revolutionary war, Barney Fry was a participant in the ever-memorable battle of Bunker Hill, and in the many protracted campaigns of that desperate and almost hopeless struggle. Previous to the war he was united in marriage to Miss Hettie Swiggert, of Maryland. He died in 1802.

General Jacob Fry, in early life, had not the facilities of big school and collegiate education of the present day, but, in the humble school house by the wayside, obtained the rudiments of the necessary branches of an English education, which to-daty in practice use has placed so many on the straight road to success. His boyhood's sunny days weer passed on the farm; after that he was principally employed at carpenter work until October, 1819, when he came to Greene county, and spent a few months west of Carrollton. In December following he engaged at carpenter work near Alton until the following July. In 1820-21, Greene county being organized, he returned to section 16, township 10, range 12, and cut the first stick of timber for the improvement of Carrollton, and erected the first swelling, a house which stands to the presnt day - a relic of the past. After the organization of the county, he became the people's servant, in being appointed to several public offices in the county; first serving as one of the first Grand Jurors, and next appointed a constable by the first county commissioners. Next he reached the more responsible position of deputy sheriff, holding it under yount ___ Wood for a period of six years. The year 1827 saw him in the position of sheriff of Greene county, which he kept for ten years, being elected to the successive terms. On the twenty-fifth day of May, 1826, he was married to Miss Emily Turny, the daughter of General James Turny, the attorney-general of Illinois. General Turny was born in the state of Tennessee - the Vermont of the West - and it was there he became a student in law, under such distinguished men as Andrew Jackson and Judge Williams, spending a great portion of his time at the home of General Jackson; and it was in such circumstances as these that the future jurist spent the earliest years of his youth. His mingling with such great minds in his daily intercouse could not but imprint in his character the geerms of future fame in the chosen profession of law. At one time he represented Greene county in the senate chamber of Illinois. By his rare natural talents and thorough culture he soon took a prominent stand among the great lawyers of ILlinois, as one of the eminently successful advocates in the supreme court. In 1850 he removed to Texas, and after residing there fourteen years he fell a victim to the great destroyer - Death.

General Fry is the father of five children, three sons and two daughters: James B., the eldest son, provost marshal general of the United States during the late rebellion, is too well known to receive special mention here, although his graduating at West Point in 1847, and one year's service in the Mexican war fitted him for the highest office during the late war of the rebellion. William M. Fry, the second son, now a resident of Carrollton, was a provost marshal of the Tenth District of Illinois. Edward M. Fry is a citizen of the Eldorado State, at San Francisco. The eldest daughter, Sarah, is the wife of J. D. Fry, also resident of San Francisco. Miss Julia at present resides at the homestead place.
At the breaking out of the Black Hawk war in 1831, the subject of our sketch enlisted and was elected lieutenant colonel of a volunteer regiment. After the march from Beardstown to Rock Island he participated in the engagement which compelled the Indians to take refuge beyond the Mississippi river. After General Gaines effected a treaty with the Indians, the volunteers were disbanded and returned to their homes. In 1832 the Indians, in violation of that treaty, crossed over into Illinois, and the government having called for more troops, Mr. Fry was chosen colonel of a regiment this time. Governor John Wood, Judge Archie Williams, and O. H. Browning were members of that regiment; also, Edward Baker, who afterwards became known to fame. THe day after General Stillman's defeat, the regiment marched back to the battle ground and buried the dead; thence, at General Atkinson's order, they marched to Ottawa, where the regiment was disbanded. At the request of Governor Reynolds, Colonel Fry raised a regiment to serve twenty days. THey were afterwards mustered into service by that gallant hero of Fort Sumter fame, in the war of 1861-1865 - Major Robert Anderson, who, at that early day at Ottawa, was serving as Adjutant General under General Atkinson. At the end of twenty days, Roboert Anderson mustered them out of service. Thereupon Colonel Fry joined the new recruits at LaSalle, and was elected Colonel of the regiment, which was soon after transferred to Dixon, and from there to Fort Winnegago, where they drew twelve days' rations. Having discovered the Indian trail, they immediately started in pursuit, and overtook them at what is known as the Wisconsin Heights, where a battle was fought. Traversing the country to Bad Axe, they met a large body of the savages, whom they routed after a severe battle, which was ended by the capture of large numbers of the Indians. This battle terminated the war, and the troops marched back to Dixon, where they were again mustered out by Anderson, when Colonel Fry returned to his home in Greene county.
Soon after the Blackhawk Indian war, in which he was so actively engaged, Colonel Fry was elected a Major General of the militia, and was commissioned as such by the Governor of Illinois. His return to Greene county was followed by being elected Sheriff, and, during the session of the legislature of 1836-37, he was appointed acting Canal Commissioner of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and had the entire charge of that office for three years, the old Canal Board, with the exception of General Fry, having been repealed out of office. He was afterwards appointed, by Governor Ford, trustee for the state of the same canal, which office he filled for the period of two years.
In 1850, General Fry, accompanied by his second son, William M. Fry, and five other young men, made an overland trip to California, where he spent three years, during which time he was quite successful in gold operations, and served in the State Senate one term. He returned home in the summer of 1853.
In 1856 General Fry again entered official life, when he was appointed by President James Buchanan to the office of Collector of the port of Chicago; but, during the antipathy between Buchanan and Douglass, General Fry was a friend of the latter, and, on account of his friendship to the "Little Giant," and for refusing to yield for the sake of office, Buchanan soon removed him from the Collectorship. After his removal from office, he remained at Ottawa, Illinois, until 1860, when he again removed to Greene county.
In the fall of 1861, at the age of sixty-two years, he again entered military life, having been requested to raise a regiment in this section of the country. His headquarters were situated at Carrollton until 1862, when, by orders from his superior officer, he joined Gen. Grant's army at Pittsburg Landing, and took a part in the battle of Shiloh. At Trenton, Tennessee, he was captured by the guerilla chieftain, Forrest, his regiment having been reduced to convalescents, the able-bodied soldiers beign sent to guard other points.
On account of diseases contracted while in the army, the venerable soldier was obliged to resign his position, which he did in 1864, since which time he has resided on his farm, two and a half miles north of Kane. As a result of disease contracted in the war, he has lost the greatest boon of life - eyesight.
In early life, Gen. Fry became imbued with the principles of the old Jefferson and Jackson schools of national politics, to which he has ever since strongly adhered. During the late war for secession from the glorious Union of States by the rash people of the South, his reord places him among the staunchest supporters of the Union cause.
In 1870, when James Monroe was elected to the high office of President of the United States, General Fry was one of the clerks of election of this county, which was then embraced within the limits of Madison county.
When General Fry commenced the toil of life he was very poor; yet he succeeded in carving out of the rough material a handsome competence for himself and his family, and, by his natural genius and talents, he has attained a prominent position among the public men of Illinois. By his honest and patriotic principles, he has won the respect of the every-censuring public.
It has been the fortune of General Fry to have been identified with this state from its earliest day, when it was in its primitive condition, and to have assisted, as an active pioneer, in its progressive development to its present wonderful growth.
General Fry, wife, and daughter are members of the Christian Church. The General has always been classed with those gentlemen who dispense their hospitality with all the ease and grace of the olden times.
Such, in brief, is the history of the life and career of the aged subject of this sketch, still lingering with us, at the age of seventy-three years - a survivor of the almost forgotten past, whose honored contemporaries, with whom he figured in early times, hav passed away, struck down by the withering touch of Time, leaving only to the veneration of the rising generation his and a few other honored names, that so far have eluded the Grim Destroyer. His is a memoir that needs no embellishment - his memory will be ever cherished by grateful posterity.

Transcribed 05 Jan 2017 by Norma Hass from Atlas Map of Greene County Illinois, 1873, page 27.

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