James M. Ray

James M. Ray
(1800 – February 22, 1881)

A native of New Jersey who grew up in Kentucky, James Ray moved to Indianapolis in 1821 and took an active role in the life of the city, even in the planning of its original cemetery. He eventually served as the secretary of many organizations in the growing town, often alongside his friend and early pioneer, James Blake, who provided the leadership while Ray provided the organizing skills. Anna Nicholas in her book, The Story of Crown Hill, states that Ray was, “Never idle, vigilant, never careless, his word was as good as any other man’s oath and his aid in any good cause was confidently expected. His character brought him public trust and responsibility.”

Among his many civic contributions, Ray, the first Marion County Clerk, presided over the original county land sales on October 9, 1821. In 1823, he became the first superintendent of the Indianapolis Sabbath School Union, a post he held until his death almost 60 years later. He was elected secretary of the Marion County Bible Society in 1825, and of a local temperance society in 1828. In 1836, he joined Blake and Fletcher in the Indianapolis Benevolent Society and was its faithful treasurer for over 40 years. He was a commissioner of the State Blind School and helped charter the Indianapolis Female Institute in 1837. During the Civil War, Ray served as Secretary of the Sanitary Commission (with Blake as president) and was charged with the oversight of the health and welfare of Hoosier Civil War soldiers. He was also one of Governor Morton’s most trusted agents during the war years, managing the state’s external finances. In addition, Ray held a post in the Internal Revenue Department in Washington, D.C., from 1871-1875.

With Blake and Nicolas McCarty, Ray co-founded the Indianapolis Steam Mill Company, which provided power to businesses and factories in town. His other business ventures included banks, insurance, and railroads.

In the summer of 1863, Ray discussed the need for a new cemetery for the city with financier Hugh McCulloch, a friend and the former director of the Bank of Indiana, President Lincoln’s Comptroller of the Currency (1863-65) and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (1865-69). McCulloch suggested Ray contact John Chislett, a Pittsburgh architect and manager of its Allegheny Cemetery. Ray and other city leaders met with Chislett on September 12, 1863, and within two weeks land for the cemetery was secured and the Crown Hill Association was incorporated with Ray as president of the Board of Corporators, a position he also held when he died on February 22, 1881.

Buried in Section 1, Lot 70; GPS (39.8195557,-86.1734852)