Edwin Farley, ex-postmaster and prominent citizen of Paducah, Kentucky, son of Michael and Mary (Dolan) Farley, was bom August 28, 1842, in Walworth County, Wisconsin, before that territory had been admitted to statehood. His father was born in County Meath, Ireland, in 1809; received a good education and was interested with his father in the manufacture of linen there before he came to America in 1830. He first located in New York, remaining there until 1836, when he removed to the territory of Wisconsin, settling in Walworth County, where he purchased a tract of land, which he cultivated until recently, but is now living with his daughter in Iowa, retired from business, having accumulated a handsome fortune. He was one of the pioneers of Wisconsin and found Indians there at the time of his settlement, but they were not as troublesome as they had been to the early settlers of Kentucky.
While living in New York Mr. Farley married Mary Dolan, who was born in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1815, and died in Wisconsin in 1885. They were members of the Catholic Church, and prior to the war were strong abolitionists, Mr. Farley being quite active in political matters. Since the war he has been an ardent Republican.
His father was a linen manufacturer in Ireland, who succeeded his father (great-grandfather), in the business. The family is of English descent, one of the members having gone to Ireland a great many years ago, where he established the linen manufactory to which several generations have succeeded.
Ed. Farley was educated principally in the Elkhorn Academy and, soon after completing his course, in August, 1861, he joined the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry, which became famous as the “Live Eagle Regiment,” and was in the thickest of the fight in many of the vigorous campaigns in Mississippi, including the battles of Farmington, Corinth, Jackson (in two engagements), Vicksburg Champion Hill, Yazoo City, Woodville and Franklin, Mississippi, and was severely wounded at the latter place. He was taken prisoner at Iuka, Mississippi, in 1862, and was taken to Vicksburg, where he was paroled, returning to his regiment, January 1, 1863. He also took part in the charge upon Vicksburg, May 22, 1863, and was there during the siege. In October, 1863, he was commissioned first lieutenant in the Third Regiment, United States Cavalry, and was in this service until mustered out, January 26, 1866.
One of the most desperate small battles in which he was engaged was that which resulted in the taking and burning of Black River bridge, November 27, 1864, thereby cutting off communication between General Hood and the reinforcements of his army and his supplies, and preventing Nashville from falling into the hands of the Confederates. This was accomplished by the regiment to which Mr. Farley belonged, after many unsuccessful attempts had been made by other commands. It was one of the most daring exploits of the war, and was complimented by the department commander and the war department. Its accomplishment was attended with great advantage to the Union army, and with disaster to the southern forces. It may be said this was the beginning of the end of the fearful strife between the sections.
After leaving the army Mr. Farley was engaged for two years as a cotton planter in Cohoma County, Mississippi; and in February, 1868, he came to Paducah, where he was a merchant for a short time, subsequently engaging in the manufacture of staves for flour barrels, in which he established a flourishing business.
In 1871 he was appointed deputy collector and gauger of the Second collection district of Kentucky, in which capacity he served the revenue department for five years. He resigned this position to engage in the wholesale grocery business in Paducah. This enterprise was successful for four years, when President Arthur appointed him collector of internal revenue for the Second collection district of Kentucky, with headquarters at Owensboro. He held that responsible office until the first election of President Cleveland. In 1890 he was appointed postmaster of Paducah by President Harrison, without having made application for the office. There was a spirited contest for the office by other candidates, and some of the authorities of Washington wrote him to ask if he would accept the office. After consulting with a friend to whom he had previously given his support for that office, there being no prospect of a selection from other candidates on account of political complications, he accepted the appointment and served until June, 1894. Captain Farley has been a prominent figure in local, state and national politics during the past twenty-five years. In 1884 he was the Republican candidate for the legislature in his district in opposition to Meyer Weil, and should have been declared elected, for he had a majority of six votes on the first count, but a lost (?) sheet was found the next day which gave his Democratic competitor a majority of twenty-eight votes and the honors and emoluments of the office.
In 1888 he was the Republican candidate for Congress in the First district, and reduced the majority of the opposing party in the “Democratic Gibraltar” of the state 5,566 votes, the city of Paducah going Republican for the first time since the war. He was a candidate for the constitutional convention in 1890, but was defeated by Judge W. J. Bullitt.
Captain Farley has been an honored member of the Republican State Central Committee for many years, and is a trusted leader in his party in the state and in the local affairs which concern the welfare of his party and the people. He is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Odd Fellows, Knights of Honor, Masons, Knight Templars and Ancient Order United Workmen, and is always ready to lend a helping hand in the cause of charity, benevolence, and Christianity. His friends are not confined to the orders or the party to which he belongs, and he is one of the most universally popular citizens of Paducah.
Captain Farley was married October 3, 1871, to Ella M. Nunn, who was bom in Paducah, May, 1852. They have three sons and four daughters: William H., Marie, Edwin Phillip, Maud, Rosela Ilda, Dora and Herbert Warren; and the family circle remains unbroken.
Source: Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. John M. Gresham Company, Chicago, Philadelphia, 1896.