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          John C. Cary,was born in Oconee county, South Carolina, near the site of the old Pickens court-house, some eight miles northeast of Seneca, on July 10, 1848. He was the son of Captain John W. L. Cary and Martha M. (Curtis) Cary. His father was a carriage builder and later in years, a farmer. For twelve years he was tax collector in the Pickens district. For a few months in 1863 he was Captain in his company in the Confederate Army. While on the South Carolina coast he was kicked by a horse and permanently disabled.

          John Curtis Cary is descended from an ancient and illustrious English family. Its earliest known ancestor was Adam DeKarry, Lord of Castle Karry, of Somerset county, England, in the twelfth century. The name originally was Kari. Henry Cary, Lord of Kursdon, was, through his mother, Mary Boleyn, a cousin to Queen Elizabeth. For many years he served as governor of Berwick and warden of the borders. It was he who suppressed the rebellion of the north. From him were descended the earls of Devon and Monmouth. Patrick Cary, the poet, was a member of this family, as were also two members of the celebrated London Company of 1620, namely, Sir George and Sir Henry Cary. The son of Sir George, a second Sir Henry Cary, fought in the Army of Charles I, and upon the success of parliament, was heavily fined. In 1651 he was again put under the law, and his estate, Cockington, was confiscated. Three years later he emigrated to Virginia, but, on the restoration under Charles II, returned to England, where he died.

          The son of Sir Henry, above noted, was a celebrated literary character. He was dignified by James I with the Scotch title of Viscount of Falkland. His son, Lucius, the second Lord of Falkland, was secretary of the state to Charles I and was the typical cavalier of his race.

          Among the members of this family who came to Virginia was Colonel Miles Cary, who came over from Bristol, England, and served in the Colonial Council of Virginia under Governor Berkeley.

          Not all, however, of the Cary family were supporters of royalty. A notable exception was afforded by Archibald Cary, a member of the Virginia convention of 1776, and conspicuous for zeal and ability. He was the type of Colonial capitalist, owning a large iron furnace and mills, which Tarleton, of unsavory memory, committed to the flames.

          Archibald Cary was familiarly styled “Old Iron.” This sobriquet was appropriate for more reasons than one, for Archibald Cary suggested iron, not only by his commercial dealings, but also by his character and conduct. He was as pronounced a patriot as some of his ancestors were royalists. To him a monarch by any other name was equally odious; and when, as later, some misguided spirits proposed to make Washington king, others equally misguided proposed to make Patrick Henry dictator, Archibald Cary hurled his defiance at the popular hero in these words: “The day of your appointment will be the day of your death; for, before the sun sets, you will find my dagger in your heart!”

          One of these early Englishmen in Virginia was the father of James Cary, who was the father of Captain John W. L. Cary, who in turn was, as stated, the father of John Curtis Cary.

          John Curtis Cary’s maternal ancestry dates back to the famous Kentucky hunter and Pioneer, Daniel Boone. Martha M. Cary was born in what is now Oconee county, and was the granddaughter of Nathan Boone, a descendant of Daniel Boone, The early life of John Cary was spent in the country, training to perform all kinds of farm work customary of boys of that time. Being but thirteen years old at the close of the Civil War, and having a family that was close to poverty, he encountered a great deal of difficulty in acquiring an education. Nevertheless, he derived his education from the early study of the best classics, and the Bible. Later his interest in reading became the lives of men who had left their impress on the times, among whom was George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Grover Cleveland.

          John Cary studied in the local schools and prepared for college in Thalian Academy, taught by the Reverend J. L. Kennedy, a famous educator of that time. While at the academy, in 1864, he responded to the call for sixteen-year-old boys, and enlisted in the Confederate Army. He served six months, was second Lieutenant of Company I, First regiment of South Carolina militia, with which he remained until the close of the war. On returning home he promptly re-entered Thalian Academy, where he studied until August of 1866. In the fall of that year the appointment of beneficiary from Pickens district to South Carolina college was offered to him, but as his father had recently died, he declined to leave home. During 1867 he studied under Professor W. J. Ligon, of Anderson, while the year 1868 he spent at home on the farm.

          Mr. Cary began an active work life in 1869, as a clerk in a general merchandise store in Walhalla. Later he held an engineering position with various railroads; was employed as a bookkeeper, and as paymaster for a railroad contractor. On account of the panic of 1873, he returned home to the family farm for a brief period. He assisted in the survey of a railroad from Greenville, South Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina; and then became a clerk in a general merchandise store in Seneca, South Carolina, where he remained until 1876.

          In the fall of that memorable year in South Carolina polities history, Mr. Cary became a candidate for county clerk. He was an enthusiastic admirer of General Wade Hampton and he threw into the campaign all the ardor and energy of his young manhood. Though defeated, he received a flattering vote. Mr. Cary now turned his attention back to business. This he could not enter on his own account, for at the close of the war until now, he had saved not a cent for himself, as every penny of his earnings had gone to his mother, for the support and education of his younger brothers. He accepted the agency for the great cotton merchants, George H. McFadden & Brother, of Philadelphia and Liverpool and up to 1890 he was their representative for western South Carolina and northeastern Georgia. In addition to his services for this firm, he improved many opportunities to do business for himself, and thus laid the foundations for his own operations. He built the well-known Keowee Hotel, at Seneca in 1880 and sold it in 1889. In that same year he organized the Lockhart Railroad Company, and was elected it’s president and treasure. He had the rail open for business by June of 1900. Mr. Cary owned about 2,000 acres of land in Oconee county and gave much attention to practical farming. He was president of the Seneca Oil Mill and Fertilizer Company, and a promoter of manufacturing interest of the New South.

          In 1893 he sold his water power on Little River, in Oconee county, to Charleston capitalists and superintended the construction of a large cotton mill for the Courtenary Manufacturing Company. The following year he purchased the officers of Lockhart mills their water power and other property, which had been obtained for the purpose of erecting a cotton mill at Lockhart Shoals on the Broad River in Union County, South Carolina. He reorganized the company and erected Mill Number 1 with 25,000 spindles and 800 looms. This mill was completed in 1895 at a cost of $650,000. Mr. Cary was treasurer and general manager of the company from its reorganization in June of 1894 to November of 1895, when he was elected its president and treasurer. On May 25, 1905, the capital stock of the Lockhart Mills was increased to $1,300,000 for the purpose of building Mill Number 2. This mill contained 25,000 spindles with a full complement of looms and other more modern machinery.

          In politics Mr. Cary was a lifelong and active Democrat of the gold wing. He represented his county in several state conventions of his party, and in 1884, he presented it at the Congressional Convention of the third district of Seneca. At this convention he gave a brilliant speech as he renominated Mr. D. Wyatt Aiken for congress. Mr. Aiken received the nomination from the convention and was re-elected. In the same year Mr. Cary was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention which nominated Grover Cleveland.

          Mr. Cary was deeply interested in the schools of his town and served as a member of the board of trustees and as secretary of the board. He was also a Mason. In religion he was a Presbyterian, and held the office of one of the elders of his church.

          On February 12, 1885, Mr. Cary married Miss Mary Frazer Livingston. They had only one son, Whitner Livingston Cary.


Men Of Mark in South Carolina, Volume I


James Calvin Hemphill



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