Biography of General Samuel T. Busey

General Samuel T. Busey. A soldier, banker, a patriot and public-spirited citizen, the late General Samuel T. Busey was without question one of the ablest factors in the history of Champaign County and was widely known and his leadership gratefully acknowledged throughout Illinois.

Necessarily the name Busey is one that frequently recurs throughout the pages of Champaign County history. The family was founded here by Matthew W. Busey, father of General Busey. Matthew W. Busey was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, May 15, 1798, a son of Samuel and Catherine (Siegler) Busey. When he was a small boy they removed to Washington County, Indiana, where he learned the brick mason’s trade. From 1823 until 1847 he followed the business of contractor and builder.

It was in 1832, eighty-five years ago, that Matthew W. Busey first visited the region of eastern Illinois, including Champaign County. This was then a part of Vermilion County. During this visit he entered land from the Government on the site of what is now a part of the city of Urbana. In 1836 Matthew Busey brought h s family to Champaign County and lived there from that time until his death on December 13, 1852. He married in Washington County, Indiana, Miss Elizabeth Bush, who was born in Shelby County, Kentucky, March 6, 1801, and died in Champaign County in 1880.

General Samuel T. Busey, the sixth child of his parents, was born at Greencastle, Indiana, in 1835. He was only an infant when the family removed to Champaign County and he grew up in almost a frontier community and had the advantages of such schools as were maintained here seventy or eighty years ago. His early experiences were those of his father’s farm, but in 1856, when a little past twenty years of age, he entered merchandising. That was his active work until 1862, when he sold his business and prepared to assume the responsibilities of a patriot and defender of the flag.

Obtaining a commission from the war governor, Richard Yates, he recruited a company and with it went into camp at Kankakee August 6, 1862. When the company organized he was elected captain. On the organization of the regiment he was elected colonel. His company was Company B, Seventy-sixth Illinois Infantry. On the 22d of August, 1862, the regiment started south for Columbus, Kentucky, which was then the base of supplies for Grant’s army operating about Corinth. He afterwards joined the field forces at Bolivar, Tennessee, and subsequently was with Grant at Coffeeville, Mississippi. In 1863 Colonel Busey led his regiment to join Grant’s army in the rear of Vicksburg. His regiment was closer to a rebel fort than any other regiment on the entire fourteen miles, they occupying the extreme left of the command. They arrived at Chickasaw Bayou the night Grant drove the Confederates into the Vicksburg strong-hold. After that city surrendered Colonel Busey was the first Union officer to enter. His able services again and again attracted the attention of his superiors, but he refused promotion to the rank of brigadier-general in order that he might not be separated from his comrades in the old regiment. Subsequently he was offered command of the post at Natchez, Mississippi, but he declined this for the same reason. On January 1, 1865, leaving Memphis with his regiment, he was the first to report to General Canby at New Orleans, went from there to Pensacola, Florida, later to Pollard, Alabama, and then moved down to Fort Blakeley, the last strong-hold in the rear of Mobile. This fort was carried by assault on the 9th of April, after a ten days’ siege. Colonel Busey’s regiment was the first to enter the works and it suffered greater loss than all the rest of the command. Colonel Busey was the second man to surmount the works, and his companion was killed and he himself wounded. He recuperated from his wound in the hospital at New Orleans, and it was June before he was able to rejoin his command. He went to Texas and was mustered out for discharge at Galveston and was given his honorable discharge at Chicago, August 6, 1865. Subsequently, on the recommendation of Generals Andrews, Steel and Grant, for his gallantry in leading his regiment in the assault on Fort Blakely, he was commissioned brevet brigadier-general, and by active and meritorious service perhaps not one of Illinois’ brigadier-generals more completely deserved this honor.

The war over, General Busey resumed civil life in the role of a farmer in Champaign County. In 1867, in company with his brother, Hon. Simeon H. Busey, he organized what is today known as Busey’s State Bank at Urbana. General Busey afterwards bought his brother’s interest and associated with him his nephew, Matthew W. Busey, in the management and direction of the bank’s affairs.

General Busey finally retired from active business affairs and lived quietly at his home in Urbana until his death on August 12, 1909. Politically he was a Democrat, one of the best qualified leaders of his party in this section of the State, and had the distinction of defeating Hon. Joseph G. Cannon for Congress.

Mrs. Mary E. Busey, widow of the late General Busey, has long been identified with the life and affairs of her home county, and through her repeated elections to the post of trustee of the University of Illinois is one of the most widely known women of the State. Her maiden name was Mary Elizabeth Bowen. She was born in Delphi, Indiana, June 21, 1854, a daughter of Abner and Catherine J. (Trawin) Bowen. Her father was born in Dayton, Ohio, and her mother in Calcutta, India. Mrs. Busey’s paternal grandparents were Enoch and Elizabeth (Wilson) Bowen, both natives of Pennsylvania. Her great-grandfather, David Bowen, was born in Pennsylvania. Her maternal grandparents were John and Mary (Webber) Trawin, and they and her great-grandmother, Sarah (Brett) Webber, were all natives of England.

Mrs. Busey was educated in Vassar College, and on December 25, 1877, at her parents’ home in Delphi, Indiana, she married General Busey. For forty years she has been a resident of Champaign County, and not only shared with her husband the many social distinctions paid them, but is active also in the responsibilities of home and the community. She is an active member of the Presbyterian Church and has served on the board of trustees for more than twenty-three years. For several successive terms she has also filled the post of trustee of the University of Illinois, having been re-elected in 1916. She is identified with the patriotic order, the Dames of the Loyal Legion and the Woman’s Relief Corps.

General and Mrs. Busey had three children. Marietta was married April 7, 1909, to Guy A. Tawney, who is head of the Department of Philosophy in the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Professor and Mrs. Tawney have two children, George Busey, born July 7, 1912, and Elizabeth, born February 4, 1916. The daughter Bertha lives at home with her mother in Urbana. Charles Bowen was married June 6, 1911, to Louise Carter of Dallas, Texas, and they now reside at Urbana. They have one child, Charles Bowen, Jr., born November 15, 1915.


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

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