Gridley, Asahel

Born: 1810-04-21 Cazenovia, New York

Died: 1881-01-25 Bloomington, Illinois

As a youth, Asahel Gridley studied at an academy in New York and, at age twenty-one, he decided to move west. On October 8, 1831, he settled in Bloomington, Illinois, where he began a mercantile business. During 1831 and 1832, Gridley served in the Black Hawk War as a first lieutenant in a militia company from McLean County. Later, Gridley won promotion to the rank of brigadier general. Gridley traveled to St. Louis, Missouri; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York City to buy goods for his business and to sell Bloomington town lots. On one of those trips in 1836, he married Mary Ann Enos. When the financial collapse of 1837 ruined Gridley's business, he began studying law, and, by 1841, he was admitted to the bar. Gridley began his practice in Bloomington. In 1842, Gridley went into bankruptcy and he had to sell off all of his holdings to pay debts. He won a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Whig in 1840 and served two terms in the Illinois Senate from 1850 to 1854. As a state senator in 1851, Gridley successfully lobbied to have the proposed Illinois Central Railroad routed through Bloomington. The Illinois Central Railroad then appointed Gridley to the post of land agent in McLean and Woodford counties. In 1853, Gridley founded the McLean County Bank. In 1857, he became the sole proprietor of the Bloomington Gaslight Company and turned over much of his legal practice to Abraham Lincoln to manage his business ventures.

Gravestone, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, Bloomington, IL; The Biographical Encyclopedia of Illinois of the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: Galaxy, 1875), 13-14; The History of McLean County, Illinois (Chicago: Wm. Le Baron Jr., 1879), 785-86; Alice McCarty Schlenker, “The Resurrection of Asahel Gridley,” Illinois Magazine (July-August, 1972), 8-12, 39-44; The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Illinois Volume (Chicago: American Biographical, 1876), 772-73; Albert A. Woldman, Lawyer Lincoln (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1936), 103; E. Duis, The Good Old Times in McLean County, Illinois (Bloomington, IL: Leader, 1874), 262-76. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.