BAILEY, J. R. , (deceased), founder of the "Jacksonville Sentinel" and its editor and publisher from January, 1855, to January, 1872-seventeen years-was a native of Bucks County, Pa. He was of Protestant Irish descent, his ancestors having emigrated from the north of Ireland during an early period in the first settlement of the colony of Pennsylvania. They bought a tract of land on the banks of the Delaware River, some thirty miles above Philadelphia, of the London Land Company, on which they settled, and on part of which some of their descendants yet reside. Here the subject of this sketch was born, in May, 1818. In 1824 his father sold his farm and moved with his family to the city of Philadelphia. At the age of fourteen years he soon found it necessary to quit school and engage in active business life. He first served two years at the printing business, in a small German and English office. At this time buckskin balls were in use for inking the type, and he remembers working at one time on the old wooden press used by Benjamin Franklin during his publishing career in Philadelphia, since on exhibition in the Patent Office at Washington. It came about in this way: The Franklin press had fallen into the hands of Mr. Ramage, the veteran Philadelphia press-maker, who had it stored away. The Ramage press in the office needed repairing, and while this was being done, the old wooden Franklin press was loaned to the office as a substitute. The frame was like that of an ordinary country loom; the bed of stone and the platen a block of wood, just half the size of the bed, requiring two impressions for a full form. Tiring of the printing office, young Bailey, at the age of sixteen, began learning the carpenter's trade, and in company with his brother Judge J. S. Bailey, of Macomb, Ill., worked at that business two years. Desiring a vocation giving him more outdoor exercise, and seeing an opportunity to better his condition by moving west, Mr. Bailey made up his mind for such a move.
After his marriage to Miss Ann Henderson, a young lady from New Jersey, Mr. Bailey removed to Iowa, and there engaged in opening up a farm on a claim in what was known as the Black Hawk Purchase, a strip of land fifty miles wide, west of the Mississippi River. Becoming interested in politics he was elected a Justice of the Peace, and in 1844 received the Democratic nomination for Representative in the Territorial Legislature for Jefferson County, but declined in favor of a candidate from Wapello, a new county which was attached to Jefferson. Within the next two years a State Constitution was adopted and Iowa became a State. In 1846 Mr. Bailey was again nominated for Representative and was elected to the first State Legislature, thus participating in setting the wheels of the new State government in motion. During this period he began to exercise his talents as writer, contributing articles to the local press. In 1852 he sold his farm and removed to Mt. Sterling, Brown County, Ill., where he began his career as editor and publisher in a newspaper office established by John Bigler, who afterward became Governor of California. The paper was called the "Prairie Pioneer," but afterward the name was changed to Chronotype. Here he was appointed Postmaster under the Pierce administration, but three years later, resigning, he removed to Jacksonville, in the winter of 1855, and there established the "Jacksonville Sentinel," a Democratic paper. He was an active member of the Illinois Press Association, was one of the committee that drafted its constitution, and was twice elected Treasurer of the Association. His wife having died in 1854, during the fall of 1861 he was united in marriage to Miss Mary T. Williams, a lady of some local literary reputation.
During the Civil War he supported the principles of the War Democracy in sustaining the policy of the Government for the suppression of the rebellion. In 1872, on account of impaired eyesight amounting to almost total blindness, he was compelled to retire from newspaper work, and spent the remaining years of his life on his farm near Jacksonville, dying of cancer of the mouth, August 20, 1880. His memory was honored by the adoption of a series of resolutions by representatives of the Jacksonville newspapers held in the office of the "Jacksonville Journal."
Mr. Bailey was survived by eight children, including Mrs. J. H. Hackett, Mrs. Reeves and Mrs. D. H. Hall, of Jacksonville.