Search billions of records on

John Pearsley 1839 -1915


John Pearsley's life began in Scotland near Glasgow, October 20, 1839, and he must have been born laughing for it was said, "He was always happy and jovial [and]... imparted that same feeling to his companions on all occasions." (from his Obituary, Plattsmouth Journal, April 5, 1915)

Born the youngest of six brothers into what was probably a poor family, John, nevertheless appeared to grow strong and adversity made him stronger. Their father died first in 1847, and then their mother went six years afterward. John would have been only 13 at the time. Two of his older brothers, Joseph, nearly 20, and James (age unknown) decided to emigrate in 1853, taking John along. They came to the New England states where John grew to manhood.

Young Manhood:

Later Joseph and John (and perhaps James (no record found in Whiteside County) located at Morrison, Illinois, around 1860. Joseph appears on the 1860 Federal Census - Whiteside County, as Joseph Peachley, in the household of Edward Vennum. In 1861, Joseph signed up as a "Private in Company "B" 34th Illinois Infantry from Morrison, Whiteside Co., Illinois and mustered on 7 Sep 1861." Before leaving, Joseph wrote a will, leaving all his worldly goods, consisting of "a mortgage & note, against Edward Vennum now in the hands of John Boyd" for the sum of almost $1500.00 (John's half came to $747.02) to his brothers, James and John.

"According to the Adjutant General's report, Joseph's company arrived at Pittsburg Landing [Shiloh], April 6, 1862, and was hotly engaged in that battle through April 7, 1862 losing Major Levanway and 15 men killed and 112 men wounded." Joseph was one killed on 7 Apr 1862 as stated in the proving of the will. Thus John lost what must have been the only father figure in his life since he was seven. However, by then he was nearing twenty-two, strong and hard-working. He must have maintained himself as a good citizen, for in January of 1868, he applied for and was granted U. S. Citizenship.


On Oct. 1, 1868, John married Susan Olive Scaggs in Whiteside County, Illinois. He must have loved her a great deal for when she died a mere 8 years later, he wrote on her gravestone the poignant "gone but not forgotten." After their marriage, John appealed to the court to settle the other half of Joseph's will. James, by 1869, had not been heard from in "more than seven years," another sorrow for John to bear. The court declared James dead and awarded all monies to John along with interest and the $56.16 paid by the United States for service in the army.

In 1870, while still living in Illinois, John and Susan had a little girl, Martha, always called Mattie. Before Mattie was very old, John and Susan left Illinois to take up lands near the town of Vesta in Johnson County, Nebraska. There a son, Adolphus Orison, was born on August 10, 1872.

Widowhood and Remarriage:

After Susan's death on November 10, 1876, at their home near Tecumseh, Nebraska, John needed someone to care for his young children, Mattie age 6 and Arthur (as he was called) age 4. Elias Parrish who had been a neighbor in Illinois and now lived nearby in Johnson County, had an unmarried daughter, Ellen. John married her on "October 21, 1877, at Tecumseh, and they resided there until 1890 when they moved to Cass, county and located on a farm three miles northeast of Union." (from his Obituary in the Plattsmouth Journal, April 5, 1915)

According to a family story, Arthur and Mattie did not get along with their step-mother and went for a time to live with relatives out of the area. The two must have returned shortly after this move, for Mattie met Peter J. Becker and married him in 1893 in Cass County, and Arthur married (1896) Ravina Etta Pell, a resident of Cass County.

Later Years:

John Pearsley apparently continued in Cass County for some years, living "two years in Plattsmouth, then came back to this neighborhood [Union, Liberty Twp.] and resided on a farm southwest of here. In 1905 [John and Ellen] went to the Pacific coast and lived fifteen months at Forest Grove, Oregon, then returned and made their home near here until 1909, when they became residents of this village." (from his Obituary in the Plattsmouth Journal, April 5, 1915)

In the late winter of 1915, John became ill with a recurring stomach ailment. After heart trouble entered the picture, John knew the end was near and expressed as much. He was a devout Christian man and stated that he "was fully prepared and anxious for the end to come." During his last days, John's jovial nature showed itself when he requested that his friends be admitted to his room to greet him. John wanted no display after his death, and in deference to his wishes, there was no funeral service. On a Sunday evening, his remains were taken to the train depot and relatives accompanied them to the village of Vesta where he was laid to rest beside his beloved first wife, Susan.

It was said of John that he was "one of the most highly esteemed citizens whose motto was to do right at all times and in all things and wrong nobody. People who knew him, said that he'd always strictly followed that policy and that he'd used his influence always for the betterment of his associates.

By Julia Pearsley Ryden
Great granddaughter to John
March 2, 2000
Photo from John's obituary added August 2002

Biographies| Main Page