Biography of David Bailey

David Bailey. In the latter part of 1854 or the early part of 1855 Mr. Bailey moved to Monticello, Illinois. After a short sojourn there he came to Urbana, and in March or April, 1856, moved to Champaign, where for a number of years, in connection with W. B. Bailey, he conducted a small country store in a frame building that he erected on the site now occupied by the Robeson Department Store.

David Bailey was one of the thirteen men who founded the First National Bank of Champaign, in 1865. Application for organization was made to the government in January, 1865, and certificate was issued in April, 1865. The thirteen men signing up were in the following order: J. S. Wright, J. H. Thomas, W. M. Way, Hamilton J. Jefferson, B. F. Harris, J. S. Beasley, David Bailey, Daniel Gardner, W. C. Barrett, Simeon H. Busey, S. P. Percival, J. G. Clark and A. E. Harmon. Each took fifty shares, making a capital of sixty-five thousand dollars. David Bailey disposed of his interest in the bank some time in the ’70s.

In 1882 he, with other men, founded the Champaign National Bank. The nine men signing the organization certificate and present at the organization were: Edward Bailey, 110 shares; Wm. S. Maxwell, 100 shares; Jas. C. Miller, 150 shares; Bernard Kelley, 40 shares; David Bailey, 60 shares; Isaac S. Raymond, 10 shares; Geo. F. Beardsley, 10 shares; Francis T. Walker, 10 shares; James B. McKinley, 10 shares. In this bank he held his holdings until his death. During his residence in Champaign, Mr. Bailey was several times elected a member of the Board of County Supervisors of Champaign County; also served as school trustee. He was a public spirited citizen, contributed liberally, yet wisely, to every worthy enterprise, whether secular or religious. His giving was not ostentatious, but it may be said that among his gifts was a lot now occupied by the Baptist parsonage, he being a member of that society, and the ground now occupied by the city building.

Mr. Bailey gave up his residence in Champaign about 1877, and after traveling for a season, finally located in St. Joseph,  Missouri, where he remained until after the death of his wife in 1879. Subsequently he lived for a short time in New York City, and then returned to the home of his boyhood in New Hampshire, where he spent most of his time, though frequently visiting his old home and friends in Champaign.

On the 22nd day of March, 1882, he married Miss Harriet Hazelton, of Methuen, Massachusetts. Two weeks later he followed her remains to the tomb. He was then married to his third wife, November 1, 1886, she being Mrs. Mary B. Ewings, who survives him.

In Champaign, in 1897, he had erected a new residence on the site occupied by the old home into which he had moved in 1856. The new home had just been completed and occupied by him when he was called from this life December 17, 1897, it being his intention to spend the closing days of his life in the city to which he had contributed so much toward the upbuilding.

Mr. Bailey was a man of magnificent physical presence, and it may be truly said that he carried within his breast a soul worthy of so splendid a habitation. He sought no man’s praise, satisfied to have the approval of his own conscience, and he was immovable in his adherence to justice and right. Once his duty was made plain, nothing could swerve him from it. Yet under a stern exterior beat a great, big, kind heart, as those who knew him best can testify.

He was a manly man, and that means much. His character was developed in pioneer days, and while his early opportunity for acquiring an education was very limited, yet by extensive reading, observation and travel, he became a well informed and polished gentleman. The life and labors of such as he have made possible the greatest comfort and beauty in the world at present. His heart beat warm for the oppressed and distressed, and his purse opened probably with as great frequency as any other in Champaign to alleviate the suffering of his fellowmen. Yet it was done so modestly that only in rare instances did any but the beneficiary know of his beneficence.

David Bailey was born in Salem, Rockingham County, New Hampshire, August 2, 1814, of poor yet honest parents. His father was a farmer and a shoemaker. There were nine children in this New England: home three sons and six daughters. The children attended district school about three months in the winter season. David had no further scholastic, training. When a boy of twelve years he was put out to work for a neighbor to help lift a debt that was pressing his father.

After spending a number of years on a farm, the subject of this sketch entered a country store at Haverhill, Massachusetts, as a clerk, but did not long remain there on account of poor health. He soon drifted to Boston, or, rather, to Charleston, just across the Charles River from Boston, where for a time he occupied a position as clerk in the state penitentiary.

Late in the ’30s he decided to come West, and came to Danville, Illinois, making the trip by canal and stage coach. At Danville he secured a clerkship in a general country store. While there he became acquainted with Miss Hannah Finley, to whom he was married on February 9, 1841, and to this union were born five children, three sons, who survived their father, namely, Edward, David and Ozias, and two daughters, Abiah, who was the oldest of the family and died in early childhood, and Susan Bailey Slayden, who died at Waco, Texas, some years before her father.

After spending some time in Danville, Mr. Bailey went to Bloomfield, Edgar County, Illinois. There he accepted a position on salary, but later, having saved a little money, he formed a partnership with his brother Ozias (who had recently come West) under the firm name of O. & D. Bailey.

The Bailey peddling wagon soon became well known throughout the section between the Wabash and Sangamon rivers. The brothers also operated a small pork packing establishment at Clinton, Indiana, shipping their product by flat boat to New Orleans.

While on one of these trips Mr. Bailey first met Abraham Lincoln, also J. S. Wright, who was afterwards the first cashier of the First National Bank of Champaign.



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

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