BIOGRAPHY AND GENEALOGY
(b. Feb 18, 1835 d. 1906)
Charles Waldron Buckley was born at Unadilla (“the meeting place,” in the nomenclature of the Iroquois Indians), on the upper Susquchanna river in the State of New York, February 18, 1835. This whole region abounds in unsurpassed beauty and in Indian history.
Here the powerful Indian chief, Brant, held his council fires and planned the barbarous massacre of Cherry Valley. Near here in the same county, lived the “father of American fiction” and here he lies buried amid the scenes of his immortal Leatherstocking Tales.
Charles was the youngest of eleven children born unto John Jay and Mary (Musson) Buckley . His father was of New England stock and Puritan ancestry and inherited in a marked degree the sturdy traits which characterized the settlers of New England, claiming descent from the Buckley’s who settled in Salem, the second oldest town in Massachusetts, some of whom were cruelly persecuted during the witchcraft delusion in 1692-93.
His mother, a gentle, pious woman dearly loved by all her children, was of French descent. Her ancestors came from France after the Norman conquest and settled in Leicestershire, England, whence her father, when she was two years old came to America, bringing with him across the seas his English inheritance of honorable independence and imperishable love of liberty, and also of what was of great value to himself in his new home, and to the early settlers of that region, a thorough knowledge of English agriculture.
Here on his father’s farm, amidst scenes which witnessed the early struggles and hardships endured by his ancestors in their conquest of nature, the subject of our sketch passed his infancy and childhood. In 1846, when eleven years of age, his parents moved from the State of New York to Freeport, Ill. In the agricultural region of the great West he grew to manhood, laboring on his father’s farm in summer and attending the village school in winter. His early ambition was to obtain a college education. He fitted himself and entered Beloit College, Wisconsin, from which he graduated in 1860 with the highest honors of his class. He engaged in teaching for one year. Then he entered Union Theological Seminary, New York City, from which he graduated in 1864.
While yet a student he was appointed in November 1863, chaplain in United States army, which position he accepted after graduating. He joined the Union army at Vicksburg, Miss. and served as chaplain of the Forty-seventh Regiment, United States Colored Volunteer Infantry, and of the Eighth Regiment, Louisiana Colored Infantry. After the capture of Spanish Fort and the surrender of Mobile, he was ordered by Gen. Canby to proceed to Montgomery, Alabama, on special duty, as superintendent of the Bureau of Refugees and Freedmen for Alabama. On the 27th of April, 1865, he arrived in Montgomery, Alabama. Here he entered upon service the most trying and difficult.
Dealing with the fierce passions engendered by four years of terrible war, his only guide was his conviction of duty. In the new and unsettled condition of affairs growing out of war and emancipation, his aim was to deal justly and righteously with conflicting interests of race and restore to the country peace and prosperity. He was elected to represent Montgomery county in the State convention which assembled November 5, 1867, to frame a new constitution for the State of Alabama.
In this convention, he served as chairman of the committee on public institutions and as a member of the committee on education. His efforts were especially directed in this convention to the work of framing into the Constitution of the State that outline of a free public school system which in its subsequent development has brought the opportunity of a good common school education within the reach of every child of the State. He was at all times an advocate of general education.
In February 1868, he was elected to the fortieth Congress from the Montgomery district and took his seat upon the readmission of Alabama to the Union, July 21, 1868. He was unanimously renominated and re-elected to the forty-first Congress in August 1869. In this canvass of his district, he strongly declared himself in favor of amnesty for all and impartial suffrage. He early believed, after the suppression of hostilities, that peace, social order and the restoration of fraternal feeling between the States could best and speedily be restored by removing all disqualifications and disabilities imposed by the third section of the fourteenth article of amendment to the constitution and giving to all citizens the equal protection of the laws. And he had the satisfaction of knowing when he left Congress that there was not a citizen in his district under political disabilities.
Elected to the forty-second Congress, he devoted his time mainly to those subjects of legislation demanded by the new and changed condition of affairs in the South; such as increasing the National Bank circulation, urging liberal appropriations for the more important works of internal improvement. He secured the renewal of a land grant which had lapsed during the Civil war, to the State of Alabama for the benefit of the South & North Alabama railway, by the aid of which that important link in the great L. & N. system was speedily built. He was especially earnest to secure such legislation as shall encourage the manufacture of cotton in the States where the raw material is produced; of bringing the spindle and loom to the cotton fields.
He argued that as the Gulf States held against all the world the supremacy of cotton production, so also should they hold the supremacy of its manufacture and thereby add from five to five hundred per cent to its export value; that the States which produced the cotton and not Liverpool, as now, should dictate the price of the raw material, and that our Southern factories, and not Manchester, should fix the price of yarns and fabrics. The rapid development of the South along this line since that time attests the wisdom of the policy advocated. In November 1874, he was elected judge of the probate court of Montgomery county for a term of six years. This position, the citizens of Montgomery say, he filled with credit to himself and singular satisfaction to the public.
In 1881, the same week President Garfield was shot, he appointed Judge Buckley postmaster of Montgomery, which position he continued to hold after the death of President Garfield, during the administrations of Presidents Arthur and Harrison and until President Cleveland accepted his resignation. He established the free delivery system in the city, improved the character of the mail service, and went out of office bearing the reputation of having made a good postmaster.
After the inauguration of President McKinley, he was again appointed postmaster and assumed charge of the office in November 1897. When his commission expired in May 1902, he was re-commissioned by President Roosevelt. Decided and honest in his political convictions, no one questions the sincerity of his Republicanism. He was a Garfield elector, also a McKinley elector, in 1896. He was chairman of the Alabama delegation to the St. Louis convention and cast nineteen of the twenty-two votes of his delegation for the nomination of William McKinley for President.
Successful in business, he won the confidence of the business men. He was one of the organizers of the Commercial Fire Insurance Company, the Bank of Montgomery, the Tecumseh Iron Company, the Black Warrior Coal & Coke Company, and several other coal companies in the Black Warrior coal field. In religious faith, he was a Presbyterian, a member and officer of the First Presbyterian church of Montgomery and a liberal contributor to the support of his church. Judge Buckley was married in April, 1869, to Georgiana Lord, only daughter of Benjamin Lord, of New York City. One child was born to them, Benjamin Lord Buckley, a graduate of Columbia University and principal of a private school in New York. He died December 4, 1906, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, New York.
- Notable men of Alabama edited by Joel Campbell DuBose Vol. III