Ivory Quinby:

A Man with a Dream

  By Erica Beyer, MC ‘07

         Ivory Quinby lived a long and prosperous life. He was known to be a husband, father, mayor, judge, founder and above all, a good man. He was a model citizen of Monmouth, Illinois, and helped the town grow successfully. Not only was he in politics, but he cared about the education of the people, by opening the first library in town and was a beneficiary for Monmouth College during its first few years.

Ivory Quinby was born in Buxton, Maine, on July 14, 1817. His parents were Asa and Mehitable Quinby.[1] Ivory had two siblings, a sister Elizabeth and a brother, Rodney.[2]

At the age of fifteen, Ivory Quinby attended Waterville College.[3] During Quinby’s time at Waterville, he was a contemporary of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, who was a leading abolitionist to the period leading up to the Civil War.[4] Quinby’s favorite subject in school was natural science and he was especially interested in Chemistry. Quinby graduated with honors from Waterville at the age of nineteen on August 3, 1836.[5]

After college, Quinby went to live with his uncle in Parsonsfield, working as an assistant teacher at the academy in Parsonsfield. After a short time, Quinby decided to study law at Saco, under the direction of Judge Shepley. But just before Quinby’s twenty-first birthday, he decided to take all of his money, approximately $125, and move to Illinois.[6]

Quinby traveled to Quincy, Illinois, where he met both Honorable O. H. Browning and John Mitchel. Quinby was advised by both Browning and Mitchel to move to Monmouth. He set out on foot, from Oquawka, for Monmouth, Illinois with Mr. Mitchel. Both Mitchel and Quinby opened a law office after they arrived in Monmouth.[7] When Quinby arrived in Warren County, he purchased 8,000 acres on May 1, 1837, with the money all the money he had.[8]

Quinby married Jane A. Allen on March 14, 1839.[9] Jane A. Allen was the daughter of Benjamin W. Allen, who was a native of Oneida County, in the state of New York. Jane moved to Illinois with her father in the year of 1835.[10] Ivory and Jane A. Quinby had three children, Henry, Arthur and Willis.[11] All of Ivory and Jane A. Quinby’s children died before Quinby’s death in 1869. Jane died at 31 years of age of consumption.[12] According to her obituary in the Review Atlas, “She was a woman of more than ordinary mind, of very agreeable manners, and she was greatly endeared to all her acquaintances.”[13]

In 1839, Quinby’s brother Rodney Quinby, along with his mother and sister moved to Monmouth, Illinois. Rodney studied under Judge Ivory Quinby and A. C. Harding at the firm, Harding & Quinby.[14]

After the death of Jane, Ivory Quinby moved to Berwick, a few miles southeast of Monmouth, where he opened a mercantile business  and ran it for four years. In Berwick, he married Mary E. Pearce on February 17, 1848.[15] Mary was a native of Ohio and she moved to Warren County in 1831.[16] Ivory and Mary E. Quinby had five more children, adding to the three children from Quinby’s previous marriage.

In 1849, Ivory Quinby was elected judge of the probate court in Warren County, serving one term in office from 1849 to 1853.[17] It was said that Quinby was “…an excellent judge of law and his opinions were always listened to with attention and respect.”[18]

During Quinby’s time as a Judge, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of Monmouth. On May 24, 1851, there was an election held at the Courthouse in Monmouth, Illinois. Quinby had eighty-six votes in the election. Ivory Quinby, Chancy Hardin, James Thompson, Charles Armsby and Hiram Baldwin were all elected to the Board of Trustees. At that time, there was not a mayor of Monmouth, but a Board of Trustees, which was elected for one year.[19] On May 28, 1851, Ivory Quinby was elected the president of the Board.[20] During the year Quinby was mayor, the Board of Trustees met at the office of Harding and Quinby.

During the time Quinby was president of the board, the trustees made a number of changes in the ordinances in Monmouth. On June 3, 1851, Quinby and the board made amendments to an ordinance that that related to drinking and disorderly conduct.[21] The City Council Minutes detailed a change in the taxes for the year:

Ordered by the president and trustees of the town of Monmouth that the note of the tax for the year 1851 be one half of one percent.[22] 

At the end of Quinby’s term in office, there was a meeting at the office of Harding and Quinby on the 3rd day in May, 1852, the board of trustees gave a notice of an election of five more members to the board of Trustees. The election was called to be twelve days later, on the 15th of May. At the end of his term, Quinby was paid five dollars for serving as president of the board of trustees.[23]

Ivory Quinby was very interested the railroad and worked hard for Monmouth to be a part of it. There was a public meeting held on February 27, 1851, to discuss the Peoria and Oquawka Railroad traveling through Monmouth. The voters approved the plan and the County Court elected Quinby to be in charge of the money. Quinby purchased land with his previous real estate knowledge, helping the town acquire more land for the rail road. Construction of the railroad started in the fall of 1851, because of the successful fundraising and purchasing of land. For a short time, Quinby and Harding ran the railroad, but finally they sold it to Military Tract RR.[24]

When Monmouth College was founded in 1853, Ivory Quinby decided to become a part of the college. Since Quinby valued education, he became a member of the Board of Trustees. For a short time, Quinby held the position of Treasurer.  Quinby was involved in the early years of the college by sitting on a board that was in charge of building a new college building, he was a member of the executive board and president for a few years. Quinby’s time was monopolized by the college, but he still freely and gladly gave his time to Monmouth College. [25] Quinby has also made many donations to Monmouth College, which amounted to about $10,000. [26] Ivory was seen as, “One whose loyalty and benevolence helped make Monmouth College.”[27]

Ivory Quinby shifted his focus from law to Banks in 1856. Quinby along with T.L. McCoy, became partner, opening the Warren County Bank and it was the first bank in town.[28] According to the records at City Hall: 

May 10, 1856: Ordered that a license be granted to Thomas L. McCoy and Ivory Quinby for one year commencing on June 1st, 1856, and ending on June 1st, 1857, establishing a banking house in exchange office in the city of Monmouth, for ten dollars. [29]

 The bank became prosperous and helped make Ivory Quinby a very wealthy man.

In 1857, Quinby was again elected Mayor of Monmouth. Ivory Quinby ran on the democratic ticket during his election in 1857. He ran against Samuel Wood and G.W. Savage. Quinby won by one-hundred-twenty votes.[30] Ivory Quinby took an oath for the office of mayor on April 6, 1857. For his second time in office, he worked again with Chancy Hardin, who served as alderman.[31] Along with Chancy Hardin, Theodore Cornell, Horatio Henry and James Neil were also aldermen. The city clerk at the time was A.E. Arnold.[32]

On June 2, 1863, Ivory Quinby was elected to the Board of Health, along with H.G. Hardin and health officer Doctor J.R. Webster.[33]

Ivory Quinby owned a lot of land in Monmouth, much of whoch he decided to donate to the city, for expansion and improvements for the city.  He was an owner in the Quinby and Lawrence addition to the city of Monmouth. This area of land, located between North First and North Sixth Streets, and South of East Boston Avenue and North to Harlem Avenue,[34] was dedicated to the city in 1865. An area of land donated to the city, was an area set aside for a park, located on the north side of East Euclid Avenue between North Fifth Street and Park Place. The park covers an entire block. The park was used by the residents of Monmouth often because of its beauty and large amount of shade.[35] The park was intended to be used always for a park, and to this day, it is still a park in Monmouth.

Toward the end of the Civil War in 1866, Ivory Quinby decided to build a house right outside the Quinby & Lawrence addition, on the corner of East Euclid and North Sixth Street.[36] Quinby had owned houses in Monmouth previously, but he wanted something bigger and better. After Quinby’s death in 1869, both his son Ivory Quinby II and Ivory Quinby III lived in the Quinby house, before they donated the house to the college. Today, the presidents of Monmouth College live in the Quinby House.[37] The Quinby house was a Victorian style house influenced by Italian and Greek revival, and designed by the former architect, J.C.Cochrane.[38] The Quinby house was the first house in Monmouth to be designed and built by an architect. It was a large house including, six rooms on the first floor, six rooms on the second and four rooms in the attic. There were three marble fireplaces and a beautiful central staircase.[39]

In the election of mayor in 1867, the republicans won the election with their candidate, John M. Turnbull, over the other candidates, George Babcock and I.P. Pillsbury.[40] A week after Turnbull’s election for mayor, Turnbull resigned. He had been commissioned postmaster for Warren County and Turnbull could not be both mayor and postmaster. According to the Atlas, since the paperwork was filed under the new President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, Turnbull could not be both postmaster and mayor. If the paperwork had been filed under Abraham Lincoln, he could have held both positions. The citizens of Monmouth were “outraged” from his removal from office.[41] Since Turnbull resigned, there were five people who took over his position as mayor until the next year including: Geo Babcock, J.N. Reece, Ivory Quinby, R.Y. Frew, and Samuel Wood.

To fill the vacancy in the position of mayor after Turnbull’s resignation, Ivory Quinby won the election between Quinby, M.D. Campbell, G.W. Savage, and J. Hill. Quinby won the election with one-hundred ninety-four votes.[42] In the summer of 1867, Quinby became mayor of Monmouth for the last time. Quinby was elected without opposition in June.[43]

During Quinby’s time as mayor, he attended meetings and helped improve the town of Monmouth. On August 19, 1867:


…The mayor introduced a bill for “an ordinance to provide for the levy and collection of assessments for local public improvements, which being read and fully considered was, on motion, adopted, and passed; and the little of the same as aforesaid agreed to and on motion, ordered that the same be signed by the mayor and clerk, and published in the Monmouth Atlas and Monmouth Review.[44]

 Along with the proposal for a levy, Quinby worked towards the installation of sidewalks. In September, Quinby oversaw the placement of sidewalks around the city. He was involved with the planning of the location of the sidewalks and had a vote in the location of the sidewalks and crossings.[45] But due to Quinby’s unstable health, he resigned the position of mayor a few months later.[46]

Not only did Ivory Quinby put his time and money into Monmouth College, he cared so much about education of the people that he was also an integral part of the Public Library and Reading Room, started in Monmouth in 1867. There was a demand for a public library in the town of Monmouth and was requested by many citizens and groups, including the Evangelical Union of Monmouth. Ivory Quinby became a very important person in the beginning for library and took an active role in establishing a reading room to ensure its success. He was chosen to draft the Constitution and Rules for the Library. Ivory Quinby, along with twenty-four other people, were responsible for maintaining the reading room both running and taking care of its monetary needs. The reading room opened in 1868, the reading room had no books, only periodicals and newspapers. [47] Most importantly, he provided a room for the library and did not charge for the room. The room that was used was located on the corner of Broadway and South First Street.[48] The Reading Room ran for two years, before the founding of a permanent library.[49]

Ivory Quinby died on October 23, 1869 at around 2 o’clock A.M. Quinby was fifty-two years old at the time. After years of failing health, Quinby’s consumption, the disease that had killed his fist wife, took its toll on his body. For five to six weeks leading to Quinby’s death, he was confined to the house.[50] He left behind his four children who survived to adulthood, Jane, George, Frank, and Ivory II. At the time, Jane was married to Dr. A. F. Backnam, George lived in Colorado and owned a large estate, Frank was an attorney of law in Monmouth and Ivory II was a student at the time of Quinby’s death.[51]         Ivory Quinby was a religious man. He was an active member of the Baptist Church. It was said, “Judge Quinby was a man of deep religious convictions, and was a Christian in the highest sense of the world.”[52] On his death bed, he requested that his funeral be in the Methodist Church. Reverend E. Wasmuth, the officiate of the funeral, Dr. Matthews and Dr. Wallace both attended the funeral, and both spoke at the funeral. After the ceremony, a large group of Quinby’s citizens, colleagues and family gathered at the cemetery to mourn the loss of Ivory Quinby.[53]  The death of Ivory Quinby shook the town of Monmouth. Many of the people Quinby came into contact with remembered the impact Quinby had on the town of Monmouth. Monmouth College issued this statement:


At a meeting of the Board of Trustees and Directors of Monmouth College, on Monday, Oct. 25, 1869, the following action was taken:

Resolved, By the Trustees and Directors of the Monmouth College:

  That in the death of the Hon. I. Quinby, long a member and officer of the Board, we lost a colleague, who we ever found, in all our intercourse with him, an upright citizen, courteous, Christian gentleman, and in whose counsel we have been accustomed to repose the utmost confidence.

   That we found him a fast, true, and efficient friend of the college in the time of need; by his able counsels, active services, liberal and timely donations, he has placed the college under a debt of gratitude which can never be repaid.[54]

 Another press release was released by the Warren County Board with A.C. Harding, as Chairman: 

Resolved, By the members of the Warren County Bar, assembled out of respect to the memory our deceased brother, and to pay proper tribute to a good man who has fallen in our midst, that in the loss of him who now “after life’s fitful fever sleepeth well,” the members of the legal profession have lost one who to the virtue of private life added calm, dispassioned judgment and consistent uprightness or character, which rendered him, while in the practice of law, an ornament to the profession, a guide to his brethren, and one who worthily illustrated the exalted principles of enlightened jurisprudence.[55]

 Ivory Quinby made an impact on many people in Monmouth and many people mourned the loss of one of their most prominent leaders.

Ivory Quinby was known for his many accomplishments. He was a well known and respected in the town of Monmouth. Not only was he a mayor of Monmouth, but he lived his life helping others, from family members to the citizens of Monmouth. Ivory Quinby was a model for success. He overcame the heartache of losing his children and first wife, and became an influential citizen of Monmouth.


[1] Portrait and Biographical Album (Chicago, Chapman Brothers, 1886), 375.

[2] Monmouth Review Atlas, January 17, 1879.

[3] Waterville College is now known as Colby College.

[4] Earl H. Smith, e-mail to author, March 22, 2007.

[5] Portrait and Biographical Album, 375.

[6] Portrait and Biographical Album, 375.

[7] Thumbnail Sketches Death and Obits mid 1800s0 1900, 49. 

[8] State of Illinois, Illinois Public Land Records [Database on-line]. Provom UT, USA: The Generations Nectwork, Inc., 1999. (ancestry.com)

[9] Warren County Marriage Records, A-54.

[10] Monmouth Review Atlas, February 12, 1847.

[11] Warren County Cemeteries, Volume 1, Book 9.

[12] Monmouth Review Atlas, February 12, 1847.

[13] Ibid, February 12, 1847.

[14] Monmouth Review Atlas, December 1887.

[15] Warren County Marriage Records, A-182.

[16] Portrait and Biographical Album, 375.

[17] Monmouth Review Atlas, October 29, 1869. p. 3 Column 1

[18] Ibid,  p. 3 Column 1.

[19] City Council Minutes, 1836-1853,  252.

[20] City Council Minutes, 1836-1853, 254.

[21] City Council Minutes, 1836-1853, 261-263.

[22] City Council Minutes, 1836-1853, 269.

[23] City Council Minutes, 1836-1853, 269.

[24] William, Urban. “Ivory Quinby, The Burlington Railroad, and Monmouth College.”  https://department.monm.edu/history/archive/QUINBY.htm

[25] Portrait and Biographical Album, 375.

[26]Monmouth Review Atlas October 29, 1869. p. 3 Column 1. 

[27] Plaque in Wallace Hall, Monmouth College.

[28] Warren County, Illinois: History and Families (Turner Publishing Company: Paducah, KY, 2003), 234.

[29]Moffitt. “Old Timers Columns.” Volume B. p. 68. 

[30]Monmouth Review Atlas, April 10, 1857. p. 2 Column 1. 

[31]Journal of the City of Monmouth from November 31, 1852July 3, 1865. April 6, 1857. p. 116. 

[32] H.D. Lewis, The City Code of Monmouth Illinois of 1935, 1935.

[33]  Journal of the City of Monmouth from November 31, 185-2July 3, 1865, June 2, 1863.

[34] Thumbnail Sketches Death and Obits mid 1800s0 1900, p. 51.

 [35]Moffitt, Old Timers Columns, Volume A. p. 6.

[36] Thumbnail Sketches Death and Obits mid 1800s0 1900, p. 51.

[37]Eckley, Ralph. Monmouth Reiew Atlas “City has Number of Quinby Houses.” April 27, 1979. 

[38] National Register of Historic Places, http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/il/Warren/state.html

[39] Eckley, Ralph. Monmouth Review Atlas “Quinby House named Landmark.” December 15, 1980. 

[40]Monmouth Review Atlas April 5, 1867. p. 3 Column 1.

[41]Monmouth Review Atlas, April 12, 1867. p. 3 Column 1.

[42]Monmouth Review Atlas, June 7, 1867. p. 3 Column 1. 

[43]Monmouth Review Atlas, October 29, 1869. p.  3 Column 1.

[44] Council Minutes July 14, 1865- February 3, 1879. p. 58. 

[45] Ibid, p. 62.

[46] Monmouth Review Atlas, October 29, 1869. p. 3 Column 1.

[47] The Past and Present of Warren County, (Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co., 1877), 134-135.

[48] Thumbnail Sketches Death and Obits mid 1800s0 1900, p. 50.            

[49] The Past and Present of Warren County, 134.

[50] Monmouth Review Atlas, October 29, 1869. p. 3 Column 1

[51] Portrait and Biographical Album, 375.

[52]History of Monmouth and Warren County. Volume II, p. 483. 

[53] Thumbnail Sketches Death and Obits mid 1800s0 1900, p. 51.

[54] Monmouth Review Atlas, October 29, 1869. p. 3 Column 1.

[55] Ibid., p. 3 Column 1.