Was born in Caldwell, New Jersey, in the year 1800. Early in life he emigrated to the West. His first residence in Indiana was at Lawrenceburgh, in the year 1818, and afterwards [sic] at Connersville; in each of which places he was engaged as deputy clerk. He came to where Indianapolis now is early in the year 1821, and was clerk at the first sale of lots in October, of that year. At the first election, in 1822, he was elected Clerk of Marion County. Morris Morris was the principal opposing candidate, and it was a warmly contested election, Madison and Hamilton Counties being attached to Marion County for voting purposes. He was afterwards [sic] re-elected as clerk and elected as recorder, and held those offices until he resigned them at the time of the organization of the State Bank of Indiana, when he was elected cashier, which position he held during the existence of the bank. He was then appointed cashier of the “Bank of the State,” which position he held until he was elected president of the same, which office he still holds.
Mr. Ray was
active in the first Bible society, and helped to organize the first Sunday
school; and has been the Treasurer of the Indianapolis Benevolent Society since
its organization in the year 1836.
He was secretary of the first temperance society, also of the
Colonization Society; secretary of the first fire company, that of the Marion,
organized in 1835, and one of the principal stockholders in the first
steam-mill. He has ever been
liberal in contributing to the erection of churches of all denominations. There has been but very few, if any,
public enterprises undertaken in Indianapolis that he has not aided by money
and countenance since the first settlement of the place. And even now, at his advanced age, he
does not seem to have lost any of the zeal of his younger years for the public
good. His public positions and
private successes were well calculated to bring down upon him the envy and
jealousy of those less fortunate, but the tongue of slander and vituperation
has never been hurled at James M. Ray, or the defamation of his character ever
His great simplicity of character and manner; his well-known and unostentatious piety, with a pleasant word and a smile for all that business or circumstances have brought him in contact with, have endeared him to all who know him. The duties of time and the reward of eternity seem to be his greatest pleasure on earth. In his family circle,
“His ready smile a parent’s love expressed,
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed,
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
But all his
serious thoughts had rest in heaven.”
Mr. Ray is a small man, who would not weigh over one hundred and thirty pounds, but has prominent features, a mild black eye, and his whole contour at once denotes intelligence and an active mind. He was always very neat in his person and dress, even when engaged in the common avocations of life, but would never be taken for a fop.
In the late war he took an active interest in the cause of the Union, and was treasurer of the Indiana Branch of the Christian Commission, of the Indiana Freedman’s Aid commission, and also of the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors’ Home. He also aided in selling the State bonds to procure means to arm and support our troops. He yet resides at the northwest corner of Meridian and Ohio streets, where has been his homestead for over thirty years. That antique, large and comfortable mansion, and beautifully laid out grounds, are the admiration of all who see them; and their whole appearance at once stamp the owner as a gentleman of culture, taste, and refinement. With one exception, this is the largest piece of very valuable property in the city, and long may the worthy proprietor and his estimable lady live to enjoy the comforts of such a home.
Nowland, John H. B., “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis, with Short Biographical Sketches of Its Early Citizens, and of a Few of the Prominent Business Men of the Present Day,” 1870, pp. 89-91.