Captain James Nish

Company I, 95th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

See the family history.

Submitted by William Baran

Captain Nish is one of McHenry County's oldest and most highly esteemed citizens, and a distinguished veteran of the Civil War. The original orthography of the surname was McNish, and the family is Scotch. Nathaniel McNish, the father of Captain James was a farmer of Wigtonshire, Scotland, and died near Newton Stuart, in that country, at the age of seventy-six. He married Jean McGeoch, and their eight children were named Margaret, William, Alexander, Nathaniel, Isabella James, David and John. He was a member of the Presbyterian church, and a man who 'was considered well-to-do. His son James has changed the spelling of the patronymic by abbreviating it to Nish. He (James) was born three' miles west of Newton Stuart, Scotland, on May 5, 1824. He attended the public school, but the greater part of his earlier education was obtained at home, his studies being pursued by the clear, bright light of a cannel-coal fire. At the age of sixteen, he opened a grocery, with capital advanced by his father, but his youth and lack of business experience militated against his success, and three years later he abandoned the enterprise and resumed work upon his father's farm. On reaching his majority he became a salesman for a tea merchant of Gloucester, England. This life he follower for three years, when a severe sprain of an ankle compelled his return home, where he was confined for eighteen months. On recovering he went to Glasgow, where for a time was employed in the commission business. In 1851 he embarked on a sailing vessel at Liverpool for New York, where he landed in May after a passage of nine weeks. His first three months in America were spent in Auburn, New York, whence he went to Peoria, Ill., where he served in a clerical position in a lumber yard. In 1853 he removed to Chicago, where he took charge of two lumber yards until the Spring of 1856, when he changed his residence to Cary Station, McHenry County and there he opened a general store in a building which he had purchased the year previously. This business he still carries on, his son being associated with him in its management. Through his efforts a postoffice was establish at Cary Station during the administration of President Pierce, and for 30 years Mr. Nish was connected with its management, either as Postmaster or deputy, and holds the first named office at the present time.
On August 9, 1862, Mr. Nish was commissioned to raise a company for the volunteer service in Algonquin Township, and in Sept. he received his Commission as Captain of Company I. Ninety-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He took part in the sieges of Vicksburg and Natchez,and on Nov. 8th 1863, detailed for recruiting service at Woodstock, IL.
In April 1864, he started to rejoin his regiment, but on reaching Cairo, IL received orders to take command of the canvalescent group at that poing. In May he was directed to command this body of 750 men, representing twenty different commands, to Huntsville, Ala. were the able bodied rejoined their respective regiments, the remainder being left at Chattanooga. On June 2, 1864, he was individually assigned to service with the Seventeenth Army being attached to Major Worden's Battalion of the Third Brigade, Third Division.
Seventeenth Corps was attached to the wing of Shermans's Army at Big Shanty and participated in the fighting around Atlanta, Jonesboro, Lovejoy Station, rejoining his own company Dec. 2, 1864 at Nashville, and aided in the annihilation of Hood's Army on Dec. 15 and 16. From Tennessee his regiment moved into Alabama and was engaged in the investment and reduction of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, at Mobile Ala April 8, and 9, 1865(fought after surrender of Confederate Forces). For a time he served as Commissary of Col. Moon's Brigade, with headquarters at Tuskegee, Ala. and on Aug. 17. 1865 received his honorable discharge from the service, his command being mustered out in Springfield, IL.
The high moral character and enlightened public spirit of Capt. Nish, no less than his keen, native intelligence, have won for him the respect of his fellow citizens, while his gallantry has challenged their admiration and his kindly, generous disposition has awakened their affection. He has held various township and county offices: serving as Village Treasurer 1863-64 and as President of the Village Board 1865-1866; as Supervisor for ten years with various terms; and as County Treasure from 1876-1887. While holding the office named it was necessary for him to pass most of his time at Woodstock, the county seat, for two to three years and served on the school board for eight years.
He was married twice. First in 1854 at La Porte, IN to Carrie Donington, who was killed by lightening at Cary, IL. in 1857. She left two children John D. and Elizabeth. The son died at Geneva Lake, Wisc. September , 1899 at the age of forty-two; the daughter passed away in her seventeenth year. His second marriage was solemnized on Nov. 12, 1865, his bride being Sara Ruth Smith, who was born in Algonquin Township August 23, 1846. Her father was Levi A.C. Smith and her mother's name before marriage was Rachel Ann Miller. Mrs. Nish is of English lineage, her ancestors being among the early Puritan settlers in the Massachusetts Colony. Her grandfather, Samuel was the son of a Revolutionary soldier who was captured by the kings troops and died on a British prison ship. Samuel Smith was by trade a cooper, as well as a powder maker. He removed from Massachusetts to Cattaraugus County, N.Y., but died in middle life before he had fully cleared his farm. His children were Geroge, Levi, Heman, Cynthia, Julia, and Samuel. Levi was born Oct. 12, 1818 and as a boy was noted for his proficiency in mathmatics. He was a farmer and settled in Algonquin Township in 1841. He was a typical pioneer and a man of substance, owning one hundred and twenty acres which were well improved for the times. In 1867 he removed to Kansas, where he died at the age of sixty-five. He was a deacon in the Baptist church and long held the office of school director. Besides is daughter Sarah (Mrs. Nish) he had two sons George S. and Alexander.
Captain Nish is a prominent member of the Masonic Order into which he was first initiated at Woodstock in 1878. He is affiliated with the Woodstock Chapter No. 36, Royal Arch Mason (R.A.M.) and with Calvary Commandery No. 25, Knights Templer (K.T.)

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