Alexander County

Biography - Alfred Comings

JUDGE ALFRED COMINGS is one of the few men still in active life whose residence here covers the period of the Civil war. Since 1862 he has occupied a place among the body politic of the city and has for more than forty years of that time been connected with public affairs. For nearly a third of a century he has been justice of the peace for the second precinct, and has therefore been a prominent actor in the drama of municipal litigation. Born at Cornish, New Hampshire, December 24, 1830, Alfred Comings is descended from Colonial ancestry on both sides of the house. His remote ancestor and the founder of the Comings family was Isaac Comings, born in the north of Scotland in 1601, who came to America in 1632 and settled at Ipswich, Massachusetts. One of his great-grandsons was Leonard Comings, the direct ancestor of Judge Comings, tracing down through Samuel L. and Uriel, the latter the father of the Judge. Uriel Comings was born at Cornish, New Hampshire, in 1793, passed his life in the sawmill industry, also operated a gristmill, and had some ability as an architect. There were patriot soldiers in the Revolution among his forefathers, and his characteristics reflected the strong points and fighting stock of these loyal Americans.

Uriel Comings married Sarah Robinson, a lineal descendant of George Robinson, who left his native Scotland in 1680 and settled in Massachusetts. From this old patriarch three Georges descended in a direct line and were grandfathers, far removed, of Sarah. The third one was Rev. George Robinson, her grandfather, and his son, David, was her father. Sarah Robinson was born February 28, 1793, and was the exact age of her husband. She passed away in 1878, and he died two years later. Of their eight children Alfred is the only survivor. The issue in order of birth were: Farris, born in 1817; Warren, who was two years younger; Samuel L., born in 1811, who was killed in the battle of Antietam and is buried in Baltimore; Nellie M., born in 1815, who married W. F. Smith; Angeline, born in 1823, who became the wife of Gilman Bartlett; Dr. David L. M., born in 1825, who was a surgeon in the Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers during the Civil war and died in the service in 1863; Uriel L., born in 1829, who was honored with the position of doorkeeper of the lower house of the Legislature of New Hampshire for ten years and postmaster of Windsor, Vermont, for twelve years; and Judge Alfred, who is the youngest of the family.

Judge Alfred Comings' boyhood and youth were passed in the healthful atmosphere of an ancient community, and his education was secured without much ado, he being a part of the domestic circle until he reached the age of twenty-six years. In 1856 he came to Illinois and located at Decatur, where he spent two years teaching school, and he then went to Sangamon county and taught there until his departure for the war in 1862. While in Sangamon he made the personal acquaintance of Abraham Lincoln, then attaining a national reputation and engaged in expounding Republican doctrines. He became a stanch partisan of "Honest Abe," and has steadfastly remained an adherent of the party the great war president honored. His patriotism prompted Judge Comings to enlist in the Illinois Volunteers, and he joined Company F, Seventieth Infantry, and was commissioned captain of the company. Orrin T. Reeves was colonel and the regiment was assigned to the duty of guarding Confederate prisoners at Camp Butler from June until September, 1862. Judge Comings was then detailed to take one thousand two hundred prisoners to Vicksburg for exchange. He was conveyed down the river on the boat "Albert Pierce," and arranged his exchange with General Robert Olds and returned to his regiment at Alton. On October 23, 1862, the whole company was mustered out. On November 2nd, Judge Comings was paid off in Springfield, and there met Hon. Newton Bateman, then state superintendent of public schools, who sent him to Cairo to take charge of the public schools.

After a year with the schools of Cairo Judge Comings entered the postoffice as a clerk, remained a year, and then took a position in the paymaster's office here. This position gave him a vivid insight into the methods of graft practiced by his superior. With the termination of this employment he engaged in the commission business and continued it here four years. Returning to the government service, he was appointed ganger at Cairo, holding that position three years, and spent the next nine years as bookkeeper for a wholesale whiskey house. At the end of that time he organized the first building and loan association of Cairo and named it after the city. He was chosen its first secretary and has held that office in the Cairo Building and Loan Association ever since.

In 1870 Judge Comings entered city politics and was elected police magistrate, an office which he held by repeated elections for twelve years. He was chosen justice of the peace some thirty years ago and has been biennially elected to it since. He is a Republican, and during the early years of Republicanism he was an active participant in county and congressional conventions and was a delegate to the national convention of 1884 when Blaine and Logan were nominated. He is a Master Mason and belongs to the subordinate and encampment of Oddfellowship. In addition he is a member of the Elks Camp at Cairo, and of the Commercial Club of this city.

Judge Comings was married at Newbury, Vermont, to Miss Maria E. Jordan, a daughter of the Rev. E. Jordan, of the Methodist church. She died at Metropolis, Illinois, where the Judge lived for some years, in 1868. The children of this union were: Lenora B., who married H. E. Ince and is now deceased; and Elmer E., born November 25, 1861, who grew up in Cairo, spent five years in Buenos Aires, South America, where he married Miss Sarah Morse, an English lady, and is now identified with the Cairo Building and Loan Association; and Walter, the third child of the Judge, who married Maggie McEwen, and died in 1889, leaving a daughter. The second wife of Judge Comings was Sarah A. Mason, who died in 1891, leaving one child: Alfred B., who is a court reporter in Mississippi, and who married Miss Julia E. Tierney. Judge Comings was married the third time to Mrs. Adelaide Cundiff, a daughter of Moses Phillips, of Vermont.

Extracted 15 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 History of Southern Illinois, Volume 2, pages 727-729.

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