Biography of M. M. Harry

M. M. Harry, whose home is on Route No. 5 out of Urbana, is one of the honored veterans, a sergeant, of the Civil War still living in Champaign County, and has made his own career of industry count for a great deal in the development of this section during the past half century.

Mr. Harry was born in Lewis County, Kentucky, January 8, 1844, the third in a family of sixteen children born to Joseph M. and Lucinda (Ruggles) Harry. His parents were both natives of Kentucky. When M. M. Harry was four years of age he came to Illinois, locating in the town of Urbana, where his father followed the trade of carpenter. Several of the children died young, and of those who attained maturity M. M. Harry had the following brothers and sisters: H. James, who was a soldier in the Civil War; Wilson and Harkness, who own a foundry at Gibson City, Illinois; Oscar; Etna Roby of Danville: Bertha M., who died several years ago; and Francis M., a Methodist Episcopal minister living at Bloomington, Illinois.

M. M. Harry received his early education in the public schools of Urbana. He was seventeen years of age when the war broke out, and late in 1862 he responded to the call for troops to put down the rebellion and enlisted with other neighbor boys at Urbana in Company I of the Sixteenth Illinois Cavalry, under Captain Jackson of Kankakee. They were mustered in at Springfield and kept in training at Camp Butler for a time, then sent to southern Illinois and soon got into action in Kentucky. On one of the scouting raids made by his regiment through Lee County, Virginia, Mr. Harry and his comrades to the number of 185 were all captured. He was first sent to Lynchburg, Virginia, then to Richmond, and spent two months in the prison camp at Belle Isle in the James River. From there they were sent to Andersonville, and in that notorious stockade suffered everything that human beings could be called upon to endure. For more than eleven months he was a prisoner of war. From Andersonville he was removed to Florence, South Carolina, and as at that time Sherman’s army was rapidly advancing across the Carolinas the prisoners were kept moving. Finally the order came to exchange 10,000 sick and convalescent prisoners, and they were paroled at Benton Barracks in St. Louis. Unable to do further service on account of their weakened condition, they were kept at different points and Mr. Harry was finally discharged at Nashville, Tennessee and mustered out at Chicago. He was in the army nearly three years, from December 3, 1862, until August 2, 1865.

On January 9, 1868, Mr. Harry married Olivine Billing. She was born in Champaign County, Illinois, daughter of David Dilling. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Harry engaged in farming at Big Grove, Illinois. Two children were born to their marriage: Olivine, who died in infancy; and Effie May. Effie May is now the wife of Samuel Somers. Her children are Harry Kerr, Francis M., Ralph, Joseph and Dorothy.

On March 81, 1873, five years after their marriage, the death angel entered the Harry home and Mrs. Harry entered into rest. On October 30, 1877, Mr. Harry married Mary J. Boyd. She was born in Urbana Township, daughter of James W. and Frances (Rhoades) Boyd, the former a native of Kentucky and the latter of Illinois. In the Boyd family were the following children: John W., deceased; William M., deceased; Sarah E. Strover of Sacramento, California; and Alfred, who died at the age of twenty. Mrs. Harry also had two half sisters and a half brother: Mrs. William Jones of Urbana; Frank Boyd of Alma, Michigan; and Florence Sperling, now deceased.

Mrs. Harry with her brothers and sisters were educated in the public schools of Urbana Township. Mr. and Mrs. Harry have four children, Frances, Mary Ethel, James Lewis and Daisy E. Realizing the advantages of good training, Mr. and Mrs. Harry gave them a good education, finishing in the high school at Urbana. The daughter Frances is now the wife of Arthur L. Aiken, and they live at San Diego, California, where Mr. Aiken is employed in a furniture store. They have an adopted daughter, Leona. Mary E. married Ralph T. Smith, a practical farmer in Urbana Township, and their family consists of four children. Rollin, Harry, Mary and Rex. The son, James Lewis, is still at home with his parents. Daisy E. married Frank O. Edwards, who is in the baking business at Dayton, Ohio. They have one child, Lois.

Progressiveness has always been the keynote in the career of Mr. Harry. He has gained sufficient material success and all the time has had by his side a good wife to give him advice and Christian counsel. While they began life as renters, he made his first purchase of twenty-eight acres and used that as a nucleus of a permanent home. Mrs. Harry is a member of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Urbana. Politically Mr. Harry is a Democrat and has served as school director, supervisor and road commissioner. Mrs. Harry is a most energetic woman, and has been enthusiastically a worker for the cause of temperance and prohibition and has never failed to lift her voice and use her influence toward the progress of that movement which even now is finding results in an almost total abolition of the liquor traffic. Mrs. Harry’s great-grandmother was a cousin of President Zachary Taylor. In the passing years Mr. and Mrs. Harry’s careers and work have been closely identified with Champaign County. They have endeared themselves to the community by their neighborly acts of kindness and their home has always been a center of true hospitality.


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

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