Biography of Charles Zilly

Charles Zilly. One of the men whose sterling character, energy and industry have given an enviable prominence to Champaign as a commercial and financial center of Illinois is Mr. Charles Zilly, of the firm of Zilly & McKinley, mortgage loans, and who has been a resident of Champaign since 1890. His home has been in Illinois for more than half a century, and he is a veteran of an Illinois regiment in the Civil War.

Mr. Zilly is the example of a poor boy coming from a foreign land and eventually attaining and filling an honorable place in the business life of Champaign. He was born in Switzerland, February 11, 1842, a son of Frederick and Elizabeth Zilly. Both parents died during his early boyhood.

After having had some of the advantages of the schools of Switzerland, Charles Zilly at the age of fourteen immigrated to America. He was practically alone when he came and for the first year and a half he lived with some relatives in the East. From there he came West to Illinois, and while earning his living in the summer by farm work he made up for his earlier deficiencies in the way of an education and especially for his lack of fluency in the English language by attending school in winter seasons. While in school one winter he fell and broke his leg, an accident which disabled him for farm work. In consequence he removed to Chandlerville, Illinois, and was employed in mercantile lines until 1861.

Though a foreigner by birth, Charles Zilly lacked nothing of the patriotism of the true American, and soon after the Civil War broke out in 1861 he was enrolled in Company E of the Tenth Illinois Cavalry. He was with that gallant organization throughout most of the entire war. He rose to the rank of adjutant and was finally given an honorable discharge in 1865.

After the war, in 1867, Mr. Zilly became identified with a private bank, which afterward became the First National Bank of Petersburg, Illinois, and was with that institution for a period of twenty years. His financial judgment brought him other interests and he became associated with J. B. and W. B. McKinley, interested in Western loans, and has since been a member of the firm of Zilly & McKinley, loan brokers.

Mr. Zilly was elected president of the first Anti-License Board at Petersburg, Illinois, when residing there. He is a Republican in politics, an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic and affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. In 1865, soon after the close of the war, he married in Chandlerville, Illinois, Emma Rickard. She died February 13, 1872, and the one child of the union, Carroll K., now lives at Portland, Oregon. On February 12, 1874, Mr. Zilly and Miss Helen L. McKinley were married in Petersburg, Illinois. Five children have been born to their marriage: Mabel H., wife of L. H. Hamilton, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Fred McKinley Zilly, of Portland, Oregon; Alice, deceased; Marie Louise Zilly; and Agnes Elizabeth, wife of F. E. Berger, of Davenport, Iowa.


Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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