Joseph Franklin Culver (1834-1899)

Joseph Franklin Culver

Birth: November 3, 1834; Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Death: January 20, 1899 (age 64);  Emporia, Kansas

 Military Service: USA, 1861-65

 Unit:  Company A, 129th Illinois Infantry

Alma Mater: Dickinson College, B.A. (Class of 1857)

Joseph Franklin Culver was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania on November 3, 1834. He grew up in the town and enrolled in the local Dickinson College with the class of 1857. A popular and involved student, he was elected to the Belles Lettres Society at the college. He withdrew before graduating in order to study law with William J. Shearer of Carlisle. He also studied at the Iron City Commercial College for a time, but then left Pennsylvania for Ohio soon after. He continued his studies in Wooster, Ohio for several years and taught school in Burbank, Ohio before settling in Pontiac, Illinois.

During the Civil War, in September 1862, he secured a lieutenant's commission in Company A of the 129th Illinois Infantry then being recruited and organized in Pontiac. He served throughout the remainder of the war in this regiment, including its 1864 "March to the Sea" with Sherman in Georgia, winning promotion to captain in the process. He mustered out in June 1865 and returned to Pontiac, where he finally completed his legal studies and was called to the Illinois bar. He moved quickly to prominence, serving as mayor of the city for two terms and then as the county judge of Livingston County for four years. He then entered banking with his brother in Pontiac and soon expanded into real estate law and banking business of J.F. Culver & Bro. In 1876 he was a delegate from the city to the Republican National Convention that nominated Rutherford B. Hayes and had served ten years as a trustee of the state reform school system in Illinois. Still a devout Methodist, he had also served as a chaplain to an Illinois national guard unit. In July 1879, he wound up his business in Illinois and took his expertise in real estate and the law to Emporia, Kansas where he practiced for the rest of his life. There he was elected a justice of the peace. Culver was a Mason, as well as an active member of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic and the local Methodist church.

In December 1861, Culver married Mary Murphy, the New York born daughter of an Irish immigrant. The couple had seven children: Howard, Marion, Helen, Chester, Hattie, Grace and Essae.  Joseph Franklin Culver died on January 20, 1899. He was sixty four years old.

For more information the University of Iowa holds a sizeable collection of letters Culver wrote to Mary during his military service and after.

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Dickinson College Archives
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