My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published by Biographical Publishing Company in 1893.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

* * * *

WILLIAM CONLEY. Ohio has contributed to Michigan many estimable citizens, but she has contributed none more worthy of respect and esteem than William Conley, who is classed among the prominent and wealthy agriculturists of Cass County. He was born in Stark County, Ohio, in the part that is now Summit County, March 3, 1822, and was next to the eldest of a family of nine children, four sons and five daughters, born to William and Elizabeth (Williams) Conley.

William Conley, Sr., was a native of the Old Dominion, born near Hagerstown, and was the son of Eli Conley, who was born in London, England, but who came to America when quite young. The latter settled in Virginia and followed the occupation of a farmer up to the time of his death. He was a man of moderate means. William Conley, Sr., was a shoemaker by trade in early life, and was a soldier in the War of 1812. After moving to Stark County, Ohio, he entered a small tract of land, on which he lived until his death in 1836. His wife was a native of the Keystone State and was the daughter of George Williams, who was a Pennsylvania Dutchman. Early in life, Mrs. Conley was taken by her parents to Stark County, Ohio, and there her father took up land from the Government. There both her parents passed the remainder of their days.

The mother of our subject died in Elkhart County, Ind., in the year 1887. She had removed there in the year 1850 to live with one of her sons. Of her children, James died when small; Delila married D. H. Norton, a prominent physician of South Bend, Ind., and died there in March, 1891, leaving two children, a boy and a girl; George is a farmer in Elkhart County, Ind.; Eliza Jane married Samuel Williams, a farmer, and they went to Illinois, where she now resides, her husband having died there; Eli resides in Elkhart, Ind., and has made a fortune in the real-estate business; Caroline married Fred Shaffer, who resides at Elkhart, and who has been in the employ of the railroad company for thirty years; Jeremiah married Anna Miller, and died at Elkhart about 1873, leaving two children, a boy and a girl.

Owing to the death of his father when our subject was but fourteen years of age, the latter received very little schooling, for the support of the family fell upon his shoulders. Even at that early age he showed much good sense and judgment in his manner of doing work, and has ever been considered a man of more than ordinary ability. He took up his father’s trade, that of shoemaker, and for years afterwards he contributed out of his small earnings to the support of the family.

In 1844, he married Miss Caroline Menser, who was born in Lancaster County, Pa., August 9, 1821, and is the daughter of Conrad Menser. The latter was born in Lancaster County, Pa., and early in life emigrated to Stark County, Ohio, where he became a prominent farmer, accumulating quite a fortune. He died there in 1883. Mrs. Conley received a fair education in the German language, and from her Mr. Conley learned to read, write and speak that language. He continued to work at the shoemaker’s trade for eleven years, after which he was engaged in other business enterprises for some time. In 1856, he went to Indiana, and with 1450 which he had managed to save from the time of his father’s death, he bought a team and other necessary things, and went to work on forty acres of land that he had gone in debt for.

This proved to be the turning-point in his life, for he soon paid for his land, sold it later at a good price, and in 1865 came to Cass County, Mich., where he bought one hundred and sixty acres of land in Mason Township. He ran in debt for this farm, but later paid this off, erected good buildings on it, and made many other improvements. Since then he has purchased two other farms, paid for them, and is now considered one of the wealthiest farmers in Mason Township. The greater part of his property is the result of great industry and perseverance on his part, and he has every reason to be proud of his success.

Nine children have been the result of the marriage of our subject, two of whom died young. Susan married Isaac Moser, one of the wealthy men of Mason Township; William H. is a resident of Benton Harbor, Mich.; Uriace resides on one of his father’s farms; Rohanna married Peter Hunt, a farmer of Adams County, Neb.; Eliza Jane married A. P. Boyer, a prominent inventor; Frances resides with her parents; and Elizabeth married Frank Butler, and resides on one of Mr. Conley’s farms. In politics, Mr. Conley has ever been a stanch Republican, but came from an old-line Democratic family. In fact, he is the only Republican in the family. He has never aspired to office and has never accepted one.

* * * *

This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in the Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published in 1893. 

View additional Cass County, Michigan family biographies here: Cass County, Michigan Biographies

View a map of 1911 Cass County, Michigan here: Cass County Michigan Map

Use the links at the top right of this page to search or browse thousands of other family biographies.