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Usrey, William J.

Born: 1827-05-15 Natchez, Mississippi

Died: 1894-01-20 Decatur, Illinois

Flourished: Decatur, Illinois

William J. Usrey was a printer, army soldier, teacher, postmaster, newspaper editor and publisher, city government official, and army officer. Usrey moved from his native Mississippi to Vidalia, Louisiana, where he learned the printer’s trade. He moved from Louisiana to Illinois in 1843, settling in Decatur. During the Mexican War, he served as a corporal in Company C of the Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers. In 1850, he was teaching school in Macon County. From September 1851 to July 1853, Usrey served as postmaster of Decatur. In 1855, Usrey and his partner Charles H. Wingate founded the Illinois State Chronicle, publishing the first edition on February 3, 1855. Usrey and Wingate continued their partnership until June 1855, when Wingate retired and Usrey became the sole editor and publisher. In 1860, Usrey was living in Decatur’s Second Ward and owned real and personal property valued at $3,000. Usrey continued to edit and publish the Chronicle until August 1861, when he enlisted in the Thirty-Fifth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers. In September 1861, he became an adjutant at regimental headquarters. Usrey never formally mustered in, and he resigned his commission in April 1862. In October 1863, Usrey and his partner J. N. Underwood revived the Chronicle, which had suspended operations in August 1862, resuming publication in April 1864. Underwood retired in July 1864, and in July 1865, Usrey merged the Chronicle with the Gazette to form the Gazette and Chronicle. In 1865 and 1866, he served as alderman of Decatur’s Second Ward. Usrey continued to edit and publish the Gazette and Chronicle until his retirement in 1871.

In July 1855, Usrey married Mary Daly, with whom he had two children.

Decatur Daily Republican (IL), 20 January 1894, 1:3-4; The Decatur Herald (IL), 20 August 1917, 3:7; Franklin William Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879, vol. 6 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1910), 157; History of Macon County, Illinois (Philadelphia: Brink, McDonough, 1880), 66-67, 88, 124; Isaac H. Elliott, Record of the Services of Illinois Soldiers in the Black Hawk War, 1831-32, and in the Mexican War, 1846-8 (Springfield, IL: H. W. Rokker, 1882), 289; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Macon County, IL, 126; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, Decatur, Macon County, IL, 39; Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971, NARA Microfilm Publication, M841, 145 rolls, Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28, 1845-1855, 18:120, National Archives Building, Washington, DC; Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls , Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Gravestone, Greenwood Cemetery, Decatur, IL.