Biography - JAMES CAHILL
No more eloquent illustration can be given of the appreciation of the benison bestowed upon its people by a republic than in the respect and admiration given to its self-made men. The history of such an one is always of interest, and the life record usually contains lessons which others may profitably follow. Mr. Cahill sought not the alluring promises of the future, but strove in the present to utilize the opportunities that surrounded him, and thus he won a distinguished position in connection with the great material industries of the state. His efforts were so discerningly directed along well defined lines that he carried forward to successful completion whatever he undertook. A man of distinct and forceful individuality, of broad mentality and mature judgment, he left the impress of his individuality upon the industrial interests of LaSalle county, and while promoting his individual success also contributed materially to the general prosperity.
Mr. Cahill was a native of county Kerry, Ireland, and was one of a family of five children. His parents died on the Emerald Isle. When a young man he determined to seek a home in the New World, believing it offered superior advantages to those whose advancement in life must depend upon labor. In 1837 he arrived in Peru, Illinois, and with this city was identified throughout the remainder of his life. He entered upon his business career in the humble capacity of a wood chopper, but the work was honest and he was industrious and soon better things offered. He began buying and selling wood, and as his financial resources increased extended the field of his labors, until eventually he became quite an extensive dealer in that commodity. In 1853 he also opened a grocery and general mercantile establishment, which he conducted with marked success to the time of his death. For some time he was a director in the Peru National Bank, and gradually, as opportunity for safe investment offered, he became the owner of extensive realty holdings in LaSalle and in some of the southern counties of Illinois. In 1879 he began mining coal, owning the property known as the Cahill coal fields. It was not long before he had built up a thriving trade, and his business necessitated the employment of one hundred and twenty-five men in the mines. He shipped coal in large quantities and at the same time carried on a considerable retail business. Thus year by year his capital was augmented until he took rank among the wealthy men of the county, and was regarded as one of the leading factors in business circles in northern Illinois.
In his political views Mr. Cahill was a Democrat and served for several years as a member of the school board of Peru, but never sought office. His membership in the Catholic Benevolent Society of America covered a period of several years, but before joining the organization he exemplified its spirit in his life. He married Miss Johanna Lee, also a native of Ireland, as were her parents; but her father spent his last years in America. Both Mr. and Mrs. Cahill were consistent members of St. Mary's Catholic church, and were numbered among its first parishioners. By their marriage they became the parents of five children, but two of the number have passed away, those living being Catherine, Cornelius J. and John D. Death did not long separate the parents, for Mrs. Cahill died October 21, 1887, and a month later, on the 24th of November, Mr. Cahill departed this life.
Cornelius J. Cahill, the elder son, occupies a leading position in connection with the business interests of his native county. He was born in Peru, July 18, 1854, and for forty-five years he has resided on one street. He has long been familiar to the people of the town as one of its oldest, most enterprising and public-spirited citizens, and he has carried forth with ability the work which his father began. He was reared in his native town and acquired his education in the public schools and in the parochial school of the Christian Brothers of that town. During the months of vacation and after leaving school he acted as clerk in his father's store until 1879, when his father began his coal-mining operations, which were afterward developed so extensively. In 1881 Cornelius Cahill assumed the superintendency of the mines, and has since remained in charge, so that the success which has attended this important industrial concern is largely attributable to his management. The company now employs about two hundred men and ships coal throughout Illinois and Iowa and quite extensively in other western states; also handles hard coal in large quantities. While the stockholders in the company have gained a handsome competence from the mines, the industry has also proved a very valuable one to the community, furnishing employment to so large a force of workmen.
On the 5th of November, 1884, Mr. Cahill was united in marriage to Miss Bridget Kirby, daughter of Thomas and Sarah (Berry) Kirby, and they now have three children, - Mary, James and Gertrude. The family are parishioners of St. Mary's Catholic church, of Peru, and in politics Air. Cahill is a stanch Democrat, well informed on the issues of the day. He is not an office-seeker, how-ever, and has persistently refused to accept several important offices to which he might have been elected without opposition, so great is his personal popularity. His time is devoted to his business interests, the superintendence of the mines, and the management of the estate, being one of its trustees, in connection with his brother.
The birth of John D. Cahill occurred during the great civil war, June 23, 1863. He attended the public schools of Peru, his native town, and later pursued his studies in what was then known as the Seminary of Our Lady of Angels, but now called the Niagara University, on account of its location on the bank of the Niagara river, near the suspension bridge, on the American side, Well equipped with a good education for the duties of life, Mr. Cahill entered his father's store, where he served as a clerk until his father's death, when he took charge of the financial affairs of the estate, the other trustees being his brother Cornelius and Michael Flaherty. They continue to operate the Cahill coal mines and to carry on the various business enterprises begun by the father, and the volume of business which they control is an indication of the splendid success which is attending their efforts.
On the 11th of October, 1887, was celebrated the marriage of John D. Cahill and Miss Margaret A. Monks, daughter of Joseph Monks. They have two children, James and Zita. The Cahill family is one of the most prominent in Peru, and in social circles its representatives occupy leading positions. Mr. and Mrs. John Cahill are members of St. Mary's Catholic church and he belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America and the Catholic Order of Foresters. His political support is unwaveringly given the Democracy. No name is better known in connection with the coal-mining interests of Illinois than that of Cahill, and in the development of the "black diamond" districts the owners have not only promoted their individual wealth, but have also added to the general prosperity by advancing commercial activity.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 293-295.