GURLEY, WILLIAM FRANK EUGENE REED

Copyright 2000-2019 John N. Lupia, III



William Frank Eugene Reed Gurley (1854-1943), was born on June 5, 1854, at Oswego, New York, son of Benjamin Franklin Reed (), a printer, and Leonora Hall Reed. His father died unexpectedly when William was an infant of one year old. In 1858, his mother married Daniel Gurley, a blacksmith, who adopted him.

In 1861, William had measles which gave him temporary blindness, but he suffered with visual impairment until he went completely blind at age 64. At this young age William began collecting postage stamps, coins, Indian relics, fossils, shells, curios, minerals, and geological specimens.

In 1863, his family moved to Quincy, Michigan.

In 1864, his family moved to Danville, Illinois. Along the banks of the Vermilion River young William found pyritized fossils. His supply was great and he soon began trading and exchanging for geological and fossil specimens from other regions.

In 1871, the Imperial-Royal Geology Society of Austria made him a corresponding member.

In 1873, he entered Cornell University, and that same year was invited as a charter member of the Swiss Paleontological Society.

In 1876, he mined for gold in Colorado.

In 1877, he help found the Vermilion County Historical Society.

In 1878, his first paleontological publication, "Notice of a discovery of the position of the crural process in the genus Atrypa, in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical  Society, Vol. 17 (1878) : 337-338. A typo of his surname rendered him Ginley, not Gurley.

In 1879, was a founder of the State Historical Society of Illinois.

On June 17, 1880, he married Anna Sophronia Barnes (1850-1918), at Lucas, Ohio.

From 1885-1887 and 1891-1893, he was city engineer of Danville, Illinois.

In 1888, he was a founding charter member of the Geological Society of America.

In 1893, he was appointed the State Geologist by the governor and curator of the State Museum of Natural History.

Akron Beacon Journal, Thursday, March 15, 1894.

In 1897, his fossil collection comprised 15,000 species and over seven hundred thousand specimens. That year his eyes went temporarily blind from proofreading the Bulletin of the Museum in too bright a light.

In 1900, he became Associate Curator of Paleontological Collections, University of Chicago.

Gurley correspondence with Scott Stamp & Coin Company, postmarked June 20, 1902. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library.

In 1903, he was accused of failing to turn in his funds belonging to the American Philatelic Society, and sued in 1904.

In 1918, he became totally blind about the time his wife Anna died.

In 1921, he married his second wife Katherine Eberly Beard (1872-1949).

Also in 1921, he and his wife donated 5,000 drawings by Old Masters to the Chicago Art Institute.

He died on June 27, 1943. He is buried at Spring Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Danville, Illinois. 

He was President of the Illinois Society of the Sons of Liberty. He was a 33 degree Mason, Knight Pythias, Knight Templar, &c.


Ithaca Journal, Monday, August 23, 1948, page 4

Bibliography :

The American Philatelist (1903-1904)
Cornell University Report (1943-1945) : XXIII

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