Some time ago, I received a request to have James A. Carley's biography
transcribed. After I sent notice of the biographies' transcription and publication I received this reply:
Thank you for sending the information on James A. Carley. I have to tell you that I was
bowled over by his impressive achievements. However, I am not related to him.
I came across James Carley's signature at the bottom of an old debt collection letter
dated June 9, 1905. The letter is addressed to my great-grandfather on my mother's side.
Evidently, it is the final letter in a series. The letter is short and politely worded, as collection
letters go. Unfortunately, the letter I am speaking of does not mention either the nature of the
debt or the amount of the debt. These are the two things I was hoping to gain some insight into by
reading Carley's biography. However, after reading his biography, I find that he had so many
different affiliations that it is unclear who he might have been representing in this particular letter.
The reason that I am so interested in the collection letter, and James Carley, too, is that
two days after receiving this letter, back in June 1905, my great-grandfather committed suicide - a
sad but true story, which was pretty well documented at the time in the local newspaper. One of
the articles said he committed suicide because he was "worried too much about a small debt," and
another article gave the debt as $600.
My great grandfather, who was only twenty-eight years old at his death, was a small
farmer. He had lived his entire life in southwestern Minnesota. I don't understand how he could've
been connected with James A. Carley, who lived on the opposite side of the state, and who was of
all things the Wabasha County Attorney. I can only assume that when Carley wrote the collection
letter to my great grandfather, he was not functioning in his capacity as county attorney, although
that title does appear in the letterhead, but as a private businessman.
You can post this email if you wish, and if you or anyone else finds it interesting, feel
free to email your ideas about the nature of this mysterious debt.
I just read with great interest your webpage of this name. James A. Carley was my husband's uncle, and while I have no knowledge about this matter, one possibility crossed my mind. It seems that James had offered legal help to his large family. Most of them remained in Olmsted, Wabasha, Ramsey and Hennepin Co., however I have only recently located one brother who lived in the western part of MN. He was Frederick A. Carley in Altona Twp., Pipestone Co. in the 1900 census. I do not know the location of the writer's grandfather, and she may well be right that James A. was functioning as a private businessman, however I also thought there might be a small chance that James A. Carley was representing his brother Frederick. This may be a far reach, but I am always interested in furthering my Carley research, and understand the writer's hope to do the same for her grandfather.
At one point, I asked my aunt, Inez Russell Dillon, if she might have any ideas concerning this debt.
She said that, since Mr. Carley was a public official and a lawyer, it would have been common for people to write him
requesting his help in various legal matters. For that reason, it would not be unusual for him to become involved in matters
of people to whom he was not related or even with which he had an acquaintance. He may have volunteered or been hired to
represent clients from all over the state and not only in Wabasha County.
Another possibility is that the person against whom the
debt was made by man mentioned above could have moved to southeastern Minnesota after the debt was made and for that reason may have requested Carley's help in collecting the bill, having no current knowledge of the debtor's situation and no current contact with the debtor.