JAMES WILLIAM ALVEY, merchant, Mechanicsburg, is a native of Sangamon county, Illinois, and was born in Springfield, in 1834. William Alvey, his father, was a Kentuckian by birth, and married Madeline Watson, of the same State, in Sangamon county. He learned the hatter's trade in his youth; and moving to Springfield, Sangamon county in 1835, and married in November, 1825. He then engaged in the manufacture of hats by hand, the process then in use. Being the pioneer in the business in Central Illinois, he opened a small store which was stocked with his work in addition to that made to order. From the product of his skill and industry the early settlers of Sangamo country for many miles about Springfield were supplied with head gear. In about 1846, he moved with his family to Iowa and settled on a farm. he died in Marengo, that State, some eight years later.
The subject of the memoir is the fourth of their family of six children, three of each sex, and commenced his mercantile life in Springfield in the grocery of J. W. Bates at twelve years of age. After clerking a year or two for him, and about the same length of time for Reuben Buchanan, young Alvey went with his parents to Iowa, where he continued clerking in a general store. Returning to Springfield he was employed several years in the store of his brother-in-law, S. B. Fisher. In 1867, he embarked in the mercantile business as proprietor of a general store in Mechanicsburg, and has prosecuted the business there since that time. He carries a stock of $10,000 to $12,000, and has an annual trade of $20,000 to $25,000.
In May, 1860, Mr. Alvey married Alzina Brown, who was born in the State of New York, and came with her parents to Sangamon county, Illinois, when a small child. Mr. and Mrs. Alvey have a family of two daughters and four sons, namely, Melvina, Helen B., James William, Jr., Henry Pickrell, Homer Watson, and Robert Edwin Alvey. Melvina was educated at Bettie Stuart Institute, and is accomplished in music and has a special talent for portrait work. Helen B. is attending the Springfield High School. Imbibing the political proclivities of his father, who was a Henry Clay Whig, Mr. Alvey has been a firm Republican since 1860.