Pulaski County

Biography - N. R. Casey

DR. N. R. CASEY, physician and surgeon, Mound City, whose portrait appears in this volume, was born in Jefferson County, Ill., January 27, 1826. His father, Gov. Zadok Casey, was a native of Georgia; when quite a youth he moved to Tennessee; there he was married to Rachel King, and in 1817, with his wife and one child six months old, the late Hon. S. K. Casey, moved to what is now Jefferson County, Ill.

N. R. Casey's first school teacher was Uncle Neddy Maxey, as he was familiarly called; he was not a man of much learning, having obtained what he had without a teacher. There were no schools or schoolhouses in that immediate neighborhood. Consequently a room of small dimensions was set apart in his father's house, where the old man taught his two older brothers, and an older sister, with himself. In a few years afterward, a log school house was built; one end of the building was taken up by the fire-place, while the floor was the original mother earth. The seats were made of split and hewed timber, their ends resting on blocks. The teacher's name was Tally; he was a large stout man; his own education was limited to spelling, reading and writing. His armory, of which he kept a good supply, consisted of long strips of tan oak bark, that had been peeled from oak trees nearby, to be used for tanning animals' hides (not human's); it was neatly corded up near the schoolhouse, and every morning the teacher brought and laid an arm full of it near where he sat. The bark was not dry, hence each strip, about three feet long and six inches wide, made a formidable weapon, and in the hands of an able-bodied man, did a wonderful amount of execution before it broke up in small pieces over a boy's back. After this academic course, his father, in 1838, sent him to the Hillsboro Academy, at Hillsboro, Ill. In 1840, he attended the Mount Vernon Academy, that had just been built; while it was of no great proportions for that day and time, it was considered quite an institution. In 1842, his father sent him to the Ohio University, at Athens, Ohio, where McGuffy, the great school book author, was President. He remained there until 1845, when he returned to Mount Vernon, and commenced the study of medicine with Dr. John W. Grathrum, a gentleman of fine acquirements, both as a surgeon and physician. He had come a few years before from Baltimore, Md., after one year's study, he attended, in 1846, a course of lectures at the Louisville Medical Institute. It was in the days of Gross, Professor of Surgery, Drake, of Practice, Colt, of Anatomy, Yondell, Chemistry, Charlie Colwell, etc. He continued his studies after his return from the lectures, and at the same time doing some practice under the supervision of his preceptor, until the summer of 1847, when he moved to Benton, Ill., and became a partner in the practice of medicine with Dr. Towns, of that place. Dr. Towns was an educated physician, some years before he had emigrated from Virginia to Franklin County, Ill.; his bearing and manners were that of the old-time Virginia gentleman. He had an extensive practice. Benton was the county seat of Franklin County.

On the 4th of December, 1847, he married Miss Florida Rawlings, of Louisville, Ky., daughter of Gen. M. M. Rawlings, a young lady of education and superior accomplishments. She had but recently graduated with honors at the Nazareth Academy, near Bardstown, Ky., a Catholic school then, and still maintaining a high reputation. He returned from Louisville to Benton with his bride, and continued the practice of medicine until 1848, when he moved back to Mount Vernon, Ill., his native place, and there continuing the practice. The winter of 1856-57 he attended his second course of lectures at the Missouri Medical College, at St. Louis, receiving his diploma. The late Dr. McDowell at that time was the leading spirit of the institution. In June, 1857, he moved to Mound City, Ill., at the earnest request of his father-in-law, Gen. Rawlings, who had in 1854 laid out Mound City. In 1858, he was elected one of the City Councilmen. In 1859, he was elected Mayor of the city, and was elected Mayor annually until 1874, a period of fifteen years. At the end of which time, he declined to be a candidate again. In 1860, he was a delegate to the National Convention at Charleston, and was an ardent admirer and supporter of Stephen A. Douglas. When the U. S. G. Hospital was established in 1861, at Mound City, he volunteered his services for quite a while, and aided in treating the sick and wounded. Afterward he was appointed assistant Surgeon; and for a long time occupied that position in the hospital.

In 1866, Union, Alexander and Pulaski Counties were entitled to one member in the State Legislature. There was an understanding that Pulaski should name the candidate, Union and Alexander Counties, having had the member for some years. N. R. Casey and the late Col. E. B. Watkins were the Democrat candidates for the nomination both of Pulaski County. The contest in Pulaski County, between Casey and Watkins, was an active one. An unpleasant state of affairs existed in the county, resulting from the removal of the county seat from Caledonia to Mound City. Casey had taken an active part in favor of the removal, while Watkins had taken an active part against the removal. The result was two sets of delegates were sent to the District Convention, which met in Jonesboro. After two days spent by the convention in trying to determine the claims of the contending delegates from Pulaski, they referred the matter back to the people of the district, and adjourned. New county conventions were held, new delegates appointed, but the same difficulty presented itself in Pulaski County, there being a Casey, and a Watkin's delegation, but with convincing evidence, that Casey's delegation represented a majority of the Democrats of the county. The district convention met in Cairo, and after two more days spent without making a nomination, the convention adjourned for one week. Union County had seven delegates, Alexander four, and Pulaski three delegates. Before the convention adjourned, Watkins withdrew from the contest. When Union County cast her seven votes for Judge Naill, of Union, Alexander and Pulaski, having seven votes between them, cast their votes for Casey, which made a tie. Upon re-assembling, after the expiration of the week, balloting commenced and continued until late in the day, seven votes being cast for Naill, and seven for Casey, when Casey requested his name withdrawn from the Convention, which was done, when Judge Naill's name was also withdrawn, and Union County placed N. R. Casey again in nomination, when he received the unanimous vote of the convention, and thus ended one of the hottest contested scrambles for the Legislature that ever occurred in the State. Casey was elected by some 1,500 majority, his Republican opponent being a young man by the name of Cleser. When the Legislature met the following winter, it contained only twenty-four Democratic members, but going upon that promise, "Where two or three are gathered together," etc., they met before the organization of the house and nominated N. R. Casey, of Pulaski County, as the Democratic candidate for Speaker. He received twenty-four votes and Franklin Cronin, the Republican candidate, forty-eight, Casey voting for Cronin and Cronin for Casey. In the formation of the committees, Casey was placed upon the most important ones. In 1868, he was nominated by the Democratic Convention, without opposition, his Republican opponent being Dr. Taggert, of Cairo, but he was elected by a large majority. When the Legislature met in the winter of 1868-69, the Democratic members again nominated him for Speaker of the House; but he was again defeated by Franklin Cronin, the Republican candidate.

The redistricting of the State and the new Constitution of 1870, giving each Representative District three members, of which the minority would be entitled to one, placed Pulaski County with Johnson, Massac, Pope and Hardin Counties. The district in 1873 was thought to be in some doubt as to its political character, and when the Democratic Convention met at Golconda, they nominated two candidates for the Lower House, N. R. Casey and Dr. Low, both from Pulaski County. Casey was elected and two Republicans. When the General Assembly met, the Republicans nominated Shelby M. Cullum, of Sangamon, for Speaker of the House, since Governor and now United States Senator. The Democrats nominated N. R. Casey, of Pulaski, for Speaker. Each candidate received the full vote of his party, Cullum's majority being twenty. N. R. Casey made an active and an influential member, and enjoyed the confidence and good will not only of the Democratic members but the Republicans. During each term of the Legislature of which he was a member, he served upon the most important committees of the House. He made but few speeches, was not addicted to much talking when his constituents were not interested. He introduced but few bills, but passed those he did introduce. Among them, during his last term in the Legislature, was the one appropriating $25,000 to build a monument at the national cemetery at Mound City. When introduced, the idea of passing it was scouted pretty generally among the members, but it became a law. The subject of this brief sketch has been frequently spoken of as a fit Democratic candidate for Governor. Pulaski and other southern counties have, upon several occasions, instructed their delegates to State Conventions, to vote for him. His name has often been used in connection with other Democrats as a proper candidate for Congress. While he is not a politician, still he keeps himself posted upon the politics of the country, and never swerves from the Democratic teaching of the fathers.

In August, 1878, his wife died, having been stricken with paralysis more than two years before. This was a great loss to him. Five years have elapsed since her death, and he still keenly feels her loss. He has three children. His oldest, Ida M., married, in 1870, Col. D. B. Dyer, of Baxter Springs, Kan.; Dyer is now United States Indian Agent at the Quapaw Agency, Indian Territory, and they reside at the Agency; Frank R., a young man, who has reached his majority, and is now City Clerk of Mound City; and Maude H. Casey, who will finish her education in another year. For more than a quarter of a century that he has lived in Mound City, he has taken and occupied a prominent position in everything that had for its object the interest of the place. Since 1874, the Doctor has been in the active practice of his profession, ignoring offers of offices.

Extracted 02 Nov 2014 by Norma Hass from 1883 History of Alexander, Union and Pulaski Counties, Illinois, Part V - Biographical Sketches, pages 256-259.

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