Cavarly, Alfred W.

Born: 1793-09-15 Connecticut

Died: 1876-10-25 Ottawa, Illinois

Born into a long line of decorated military veterans and ship masters and serving himself in Lemuel G. Crocker's company of the Connecticut militia during the War of 1812, Cavarly entered the law practice of Joseph Platts, Samuel Ingham and Larman Clark in 1816 in Saybrook, Connecticut, earning his admittance to the Connecticut bar in December, 1819. Immediately upon receiving his admittance, he emigrated to Edwardsville, Illinois, then on to Carrollton, Illinois with his younger brother Lyman, a ship master and inventor. Possibly the first attorney to settle in the area, Cavarly joined the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Illinois in 1821, serving until his appointment in 1823 as Greene County probate judge, at which time he also founded the Illinois Antiquarian and Historical Society. Variously elected as Greene County treasurer, La Salle County commissioner, and La Salle County probate judge, Cavarly also served as trustee for the Carrollton Seminary and as a director of the Mississippi and Illinois Canal Company. A member of the 1830 surveying committee for the Illinois and Michigan Canal, Cavarly invested heavily in the canal properties running through Ottawa, eventually owning over 480 acres of the canal commission's federal land grant along the Illinois River, just east of the terminus in La Salle. Elected state representative for Calhoun and Greene counties in 1826 and for Greene and Jersey counties in 1840, Cavarly served on the judiciary committee and on the committee for revising controversial senatorial redistricting practices following the 1840 federal census. Elected in 1842 to a contested state senate seat representing Jersey, Calhoun, and Greene counties, Cavarly retained his seat in 1844 and 1846. As a Democratic presidential elector, Judge Cavarly debated Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois in March 1844 as part of a debate schedule that also included John Calhoun and Edward D. Baker. A prominent candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1846, Augustus C. French eventually defeated Cavarly in a closely contested vote. A long-time elder in the Carrollton Baptist Church, Cavarly argued cases before the Illinois and United States Supreme courts and trained young lawyers, such as Edward D. Baker. In 1853, Cavarly moved to Ottawa and practiced law there until his death.

U.S., War of 1812 Service Records, 1812-1815 (Provo, UT: Operations, 1999); John M. Palmer, Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 160, 233, 336; Elmer Baldwin, History of La Salle County (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1877), 252; Past & Present of La Salle County (Chicago: H. F. Kett, 1877), 360; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1853), 1:333-35; Henry L. Fowler, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell, 1918), 1:85; History of Greene County, Illinois (Chicago: Donnelley, Gassette & Loyd, 1879), 280, 302, 335, 363; An Act to Incorporate the Mississippi and Illinois Canal Company; An Act to Incorporate the Seminaries Therein Named; The Connecticut Register and U.S. Calendar (New London: Samuel Green, 1821), 39; Jesse Weik, "An Unpublished Chapter in the Early History of Chicago. Reminiscences of James Bucklin, Chief Engineer of the Illinois and Michigan Canal," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 7:4 (January 1915), 329-49; Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales, LaSalle County, R13:6, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 200, 209, 210, 211, 213.