Fry, Jacob

Born: 1799-09-20 Fayette County, Kentucky

Died: 1881-01-27 Greene County, Illinois

Flourished: Illinois

Jacob Fry obtained a basic education and trained as a carpenter before leaving home at age sixteen to pursue his trade in Ghent, Kentucky. In 1819 he moved to Illinois and settled near Carrollton. Fry soon relocated to Alton, but returned to Greene County after a year, where he ultimately built the first house in Carrollton. A Democrat, Fry served as Greene County constable and deputy sheriff concurrently for six years before winning election as sheriff for six terms. He enlisted in the militia during the Black Hawk War, in 1832, earning promotion to colonel and commanding the regiment that included Private Abraham Lincoln. The Illinois General Assembly elected Fry acting commissioner of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1837. He moved to Lockport to take up the position and later served as trustee before retiring from canal management in 1847. Fry followed the gold rush to California in 1850 and remained there for three years, serving in the California State Senate for one term. After Fry’s return to Illinois, James Buchanan appointed him collector for the port of Chicago in 1857, but removed him the following year due to his political connections to Stephen A. Douglas. In 1859 Fry uncovered the canal scrip fraud in which Governor Joel A. Matteson was implicated. Fry was described as a farmer in the 1860 census, and he returned to the Carrollton area that same year. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Fry raised the Sixty-First Illinois Volunteer Regiment late in 1861 and mustered into service in the regiment the following March. He served in the western theater of the war, including at the Battle of Shiloh, and was captured by Nathan B. Forrest’s cavalry while defending the Union garrison at Humboldt and Trenton, Tennessee. Fry was quickly paroled, but resigned from service due to poor health in May of 1863 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He married Emily Turney in 1826 and the pair had five children, one of whom was future adjutant general, James B. Fry.

The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Illinois Volume (Chicago: American Biographical, 1876), 695-97; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Greene County, 25 May 1826, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Illinois House Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 833; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Ottawa, La Salle County, IL, 202; Lockport, Will County, 9; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell, 1900), 77; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ottawa, La Salle County, IL, 472; Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 29 January 1881, 4:1-3; Gravestone, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, IL.