Biography of John M. Ackley
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

JOHN M. ACKLEY is one of the oldest living native sons of Cleveland. He was born in a log house on what was Center Road, now Ridge Road, in Parma Township of Cuyahoga County, January 18, 1835. He is an engineer by profession, and a large part of his life was spent in the far West and in the South in the lumber industry.

Mr. Ackley's grandfather, Benjamin Ackley, was a native of Connecticut and served in the commissary department of the American department in the Revolutionary war. He spent the rest of his life at Castleton, Vermont. His wife was Elizabeth Buel, whose first husband was Major Lorenzo Carter. John Anson Ackley, father of John M., was born at Castleton, Vermont, in 1789 and died in 1866. He prepared for college in Vermont and took a special course of engineering in what is now Cornell University at Ithaca, New York. He was one of the few pioneers in Northern Ohio who possessed a technical education. Coming to Ohio he located in Cleveland, then a hamlet, and when Cleveland was organized as a village he was made the first marshal. For many years he did work as an engineer on state and federal projects, including the building of the Ohio Canal and improvements on the Muskingum River to provide slack water navigation. He was asked by the United States Government to estimate the cost of building a stone pier on the east bank of the river, and the itemized statement he submitted in 1831, is now possessed by his son, John M. Ackley. He superintended the building of this pier. After his marriage he bought a tract of land in Parma Township, the improvements consisting of a small clearing and a log house. On this land, now known as York Road, he erected good buildings and though his professional duties kept him away much of the time his home was there until his death at the age of seventy seven. He was a member of Cleveland City Lodge No. 15, of Masons, and in 1816 served as its secretary. John A. Ackley married Miriam Emerson, who was born in the State of Maine. She died at the age of seventy years. Their children were: Mary E., John M., Solon N., Miriam, Elisabeth, and Sarah L. The daughter Miriam married J. P. Collins, Elisabeth became the wife of Burr Robbins, the circus man, and Sarah L. married Theodore M. Towl. Julia A. married Capt. Daniel W. Stearns.

John M. Ackley first attended public schools and at the age of twelve was made a personal pupil of Professor Churchill, who prepared him for college. Owing to ill health at the time his parents decided that he was not strong enough to enter Yale College as had been planned, and instead he completed a course in the Brooklyn Academy in Cuyahoga County. Soon afterward he joined the engineering department of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, then building the Air Line Road between Toledo and Elkhart, Indiana. He was in this service until the road was completed, and then went out to the territory of Minnesota, the same year that Minnesota was admitted to the Union, 1856. At that time any amount of land could be secured in Minnesota at $125 an acre, and Minneapolis and St. Paul were mere villages. In 1859 Mr. Ackley went out to the Pacific Coast, traveling by way of Panama and landing at San Francisco, where for a time he was associated in business with his brother David. He next went over the mountains into Nevada, and all his travels in the West were made before the construction of railways. He did a great deal of surveying work in the far West. In 1862 he was elected a member of the Nevada Territorial Legislature representing Lyon and Churchill counties. At that time Samuel Clemens, better known to fame as Mark Twain, was in Nevada as reporter for the Sacramento Union, the San Francisco Bulletin and the Territorial Enterprise, collecting those experiences which he subsequently wove into one of his best known books. Mr. Ackley made his home at Dayton, Nevada and Carson City, where he served as county surveyor of Ormsby County, Nevada, Carson City, county seat and capital of territory at that time.

On returning to Cuyahoga County from the far West he was elected county surveyor in 1869, holding that office for six years. Also built a home on West Thirty third Street. Mr. Ackley in 1887 went South, becoming associated with the Peters Lumber Company, operating mills in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. While connected with this company he inspected over 200,000 acres of timber land and assessing and paying taxes in these three states. The Peters Lumber Company and the J. M. Ackley Lumber Company, of which he was a member, cut the timber from 80,000 acres.

Mr. Ackley spent about twenty years in the South, but in 1905 returned to Cuyahoga County and soon afterward built a home on a part of the old Ackley homestead in Parma Township. He continued occasional work as a surveyor until he was eighty five years of age, when he retired and took a trip out to California, spending four months. He now lives in the family of his daughter and son in law, Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Stumpf, in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1857 he married Miss Jennie A. Sprague, who died in 1858. Their only son, Jena Alva Ackley, married Rena Benton, their daughter Sadie Alice, marrying John W. McFall, and the McFalls have two daughters, the great grandchildren of Mr. Ackley. The McFalls live in Shoshone, Idaho. Mr. Ackley's second wife was Charlotte Lydia Gray, who was born in Lapeer, Michigan, daughter of Asahel J. and Jane P. (Vosburg) Gray. Mrs. Ackley died in 1909, having reared four children, named Genevieve M., John A., Helen C. and Marie E. One child, Solon, died when seven years of age. Genevieve was the wife of Edgar Laurens Hamilton. Helen C. married Lewis H. Stumpf, and their three children are Chalmers L., Miriam H. and Marie E. Mr. Ackley's youngest daughter, Marie, became the wife of J. R. Robbins, and died leaving two children named Charlotte Ackley and Mary Elizabeth.

Mr. Ackley is a member of Norris Lodge No. 301, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Brewton, Alabama, is affiliated with Webb Chapter No. 14, Royal Arch Masons of Cleveland, Oriental Commandery No. 12, of the Knights Templar, Lake Erie Consistory and Cleveland Council No. 36. He also belongs to the Early Settlers Association of Cuyahoga County, and the New England Society and Sons of the American Revolution.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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