GAGE COUNTY 775
ON. ELIJAH FILLEY. No one sojourns long within the precincts of Gage County without becoming familiar with the name of the subject of this biography, a man who has borne no unimportant part in its development and prosperity. A self-made man in the strictest sense of the word, he has risen from a modest position in life to one of wealth and influence, and is distinguished for his public spiritedness, liberality, intelligence and good judgment. He has one of the most beautiful homes in the county, and with a refined and interesting family, is surrounded by all the comforts and luxuries of life.
Our subject is the scion of a substantial old family, being the son of Ammi Filley, who was born in Bloomfield, Conn., Jan. 2, 1808. The latter sojourned there until a man twenty-nine years old, then in 1837, leaving New England, emigrated to Michigan about the time of its transformation from a Territory to a State, settling in Jackson County. In Connecticut he had been engaged with his father in the slaughtering and packing business, but upon coming West took up the pursuit of agriculture, and prosecuted this in the Wolverine State for a period of thirty years. In the summer of 1867, retiring from active labor, he came to this county, and made his home with his son Elijah until his death, which occurred May 13, 1880, at the age of seventy-two years.
In 1861, at the first call for defenders of our flag and country, Ammi Filley enlisted in Company D, 2d Michigan Cavalry, and served through the entire war, participating in many of the prominent battles of the Army of the East, and also taking part in the siege of Vicksburg and the famous charge at Ft. Donelson.
Mrs. Mary (Marvin) Filley, the mother of our subject, was, like her husband, a native of Bloomfield, Conn., and they became the parents of six children, four sons and two daughters, and four of these are still living. Susan is the wife of Willie Sutton, a well-to-do farmer of Jackson County, Mich.; Abel T. is a retired farmer of Fairhury, Ill.; Amanda R. is the wife of James Z. Ballard, a retired farmer in good circumstances, and now a resident of Michigan Center, Mich.
Mr. Elijah Filley, the subject of this sketch, was born in Jackson County, Mich., Nov. 28, 1839, and lived there until 1858. During this time, from the age of twelve years, he attended the public school in the winter, working mornings and evenings for his board, and in the summer was employed by the month by the farmers in that region. In the year mentioned he repaired to Joliet, Ill., and one summer was in the employ of Pool & Ring, who operated a boat on the Michigan Canal. The winter following he was occupied in sawing wood for a railroad company with a tread-power buzz saw.
In the spring of 1859 Mr. Filley changed his residence to Odell, Livingston Co., Ill., where he worked on a farm one year with D. A. Reese; next we find him in LaSalle County, that State, where he lived three years, engaged in herding, driving and dealing in stock for William Strawn, under whose tuition he gained the knowledge and experience which years afterward laid the foundation of his present fortune. In due time he commenced farming for himself in Livingston County, of which he was a resident until 1867.
The marriage of Mr. Elijah Filley and Miss Emily Burd was celebrated at the home of the bride in the town of Pleasant Ridge, Livingston Co., Ill., Nov. 4, 1863. This lady was born Nov. 6, 1844, in Will County, Ill., which was then the home of her parents, and is the daughter of Silas and Betsy Ann Burd. Silas was born Dec. 8, 1818, in Wayne County, N. J., and departed this life in Waco, Tex., where he was sojourning for his health, Feb. 22, 1859. Mrs. Burd was born in Wayne County, N. Y., Sept. 13, 1817, and is still living, making her home with her daughter, Mrs. Elijah Filley.
Mrs. Filley is a woman of noble and generous impulses, and has the love and respect of all who know her, and to the deserving poor she is a friend and benefactress. Her ruling traits are industry and a love of systematic arrangement in all work, study, recreation, and a close sympathy for all animal and vegetable nature, as well as for humanity. To her valuable assistance and timely suggestions Mr. Filley attributes in a large measure his success in life. In the years to come, long after these pages
776 GAGE COUNTY
are yellow with the tint of time, she will be remembered for her many noble qualities of both heart and mind. The family consisted of six children, of whom three are living: Hiram A., born Aug. 22, 1866; Oscar E., June. 25, 1870; Daisy C., June 2, 1876. Abel Fitch, born Oct. 23, 1864, died Oct. 10, 1876; Emily Jane, born Aug. 27, 1868, died Sept. 6, 1886; Elmer C., born Aug. 22, 1874, died May 23, 1877.
The close application of Mr. Filley to his business, and his persevering industry, bore their legitimate fruits, and he found that he could advantageously operate a much larger tract of land than that in Illinois. He accordingly started out in the summer of 1867, and coming to the newly made State of Nebraska, bent his steps to this county, looking for land. He was favorably impressed with the face of the country, and soon purchased two sections from the Government, lying along Mud Creek. Having lost his horses which he brought from Illinois, he purchased twelve yoke of oxen and commenced breaking prairie, not only for himself but for the people around him, in order to pay for his oxen, he was thus occupied about three years, and in the meantime worked upon his land as time and opportunity permitted.
When Mr. Filley first settled upon his land, instead of living in a "dug-out" or "sod house," as did most of the early settlers, he lived in a tent through the summer, and when fall admonished him that this was rather thin protection against Nebraska zephyrs, he commenced the erection of what is now known far and wide as the "old stone house." Mr. Filley quarried the stone and burned the lime, while Mrs. Filley did the hauling with oxen, and together they made the mortar and laid up the walls around the tent, and roofed them over. They lived in this one room during that winter, and the following summer added more rooms, until they had quite a commodious and comfortable dwelling they occupied for a period of sixteen years. In the year 1874 Mr. Filley erected a stone barn near the house, at a cost of $5,000.
Soon after coming to Nebraska Mr. Filley began to buy cattle in order to stock his farm, and also dealt largely in land for a number of years. He soon began feeding and shipping, and upon the completion of the railroad through Beatrice, loaded the first car of cattle transported from Gage County to Chicago. Later, when the railroad was completed to Filley, he erected a large and commodious elevator, and began dealing in grain, which business he has followed for years. When the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad was completed front Beatrice to Nebraska City, Mr. Filley, in the summer of 1883, founded the town which bears his name, and which is located on one of his farms. In. 1885 the name of the township of Mud Creek was changed to Filley, in honor of its first settler.
Mr. Filley is the leading farmer and business man of this region, carrying on agriculture extensively, also stock-raising, buying and shipping. At this writing he has 700 head of steers in feeding for the spring market.
Our subject labors diligently both with mind and muscle, and takes a deep interest in Gage County, contributing of his means and influence to the enterprises which have for their object the best good of the people, socially, morally and financially.
Mr. Filley, politically, is a stanch Republican, and in 1881 and 1883 represented Gage County in the Nebraska Legislature. Later he was elected as Senator from his district, serving until 1885, and in this, as in all other relations of life, performed his duty with that conscientious care which is a distinguishing trait of his character, he identified himself with the Masonic fraternity about 1866, and belongs to both Chapter and Commandery, being also Master of the lodge at Filley. He is also a Director of the Bank of Filley, and of the First National Bank of Beatrice.
Mr. Filley is a Western man, and is never so happy as when engaged in subduing the wilderness, and making it bloom and blossom with the vegetation of civilization. Only a few years since, where the village of Filley stands was the primitive prairie, with only Mr. Filley to transform it from its wild state to one of civilization; now, through his instrumentality, a beautiful little village has sprung up, and is rapidly striding toward, the magnitude of a city.
When the future historian writes of the pioneers of Nebraska, and gives each his proper mend of credit, he will place the name of the lion, Elijah Filley in the front rank. It is with pleasure that we present the portrait of Mr. Filley in connection with this sketch, and also that of his most estimable wife. A fine double-page view of his place is also shown in this work.
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