Mary Darke Kain Slade Dennis was born 10 August, 1799 in Harper’s Ferry, Jefferson County, Virginia. Like most women of the time, her success in life was determined by the support she provided her husband in his profession and his social status in the community, the raising and educating of their children, and the maintaining of a proper home. Mary’s life was an eventful one. She emigrated with her parents from an established city in Virginia to the new land of Illinois that was admitted into the Union on 3 December 1818. The state where she married twice. The first marriage ending with the sudden death of her husband Charles Slade and the second marriage ending in divorce from her husband Elias Dennis. She raised her family of six children, loosing her second son, Charles, in the Mexican War and her youngest son, Joseph, who was hung for a misdemeanor by a group of Montana vigilantes trying to prove a point. And yet she still lived a life full of pleasure, prosperity, social status, and for the most part, happiness, until near the end of her life.
Mary Darke Kain was the daughter of John Kain and Mary Darke. They were natives of Virginia. When the tide of immigration began, John Kain was one of the first to move westward to southern Illinois. John Kain was one of the enterprising men of the early times. He brought up a very respectable family of five children, and died at an old age, in the spring of 1833. Mary Kain, his wife, died many years before her husband. John Kain’s land records were some of the first entries in Clinton County, Illinois: 27 June 1818, John Kain entered lots 2 and 3 in sect. 7, 199 acres in Township 2 North, Range 2 West. 18 January 1818, John Kain entered the south-east quarter section 13, Township 2 North, Range 3 West.
Charles Slade, a Representative from Illinois, was born in England, immigrated to the United States with his parents who settled in Alexandria, Virginia, attended the public schools, then emigrated to southern Illinois where he engaged in mercantile pursuits. Charles held several local offices, was a member of the State House of Representatives in 1820 and 1826, then elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-third Congress and served from 4 March 1833, until his death on 26 July 1834.
Mary Kain and Charles Slade were married 23 June 1819. He died 11 July 1834 in Vincennes, Indiana of typhoid fever. He founded Carlyle, Illinois in 1818. Charles Slade had a tavern, a toll bridge, and he established the first grist mill in Carlyle in 1820. Charles was a U. S. Congressman at the time of his death. Mary and Charles Slade had acquired an estimated 736 acres of land in Clinton County plus several lots in the City of Carlyle. Recorded 4 July 1825, Charles and Mary donated or deeded, in Middle Town, 20 acres of land for the building of a Courthouse. Mary was forced to sell 25 blocks of land at the door of the courthouse to satisfy the debts of her husband Charles Slade. These transactions were recorded as being sold for the sum of $81.50.
Mary Kain Slade and her husband Charles were widely known and highly respected in the community and surrounding area. They were known to hold many gala events in their hospitable Carlyle home, with high ranking political acquaintances as well as the other socialites of the area as their guests. Charles and Mary were one of the few families in the area that had servants.
Four years after the death of Mary Dark Slade’s first husband, Charles Slade, Congressman and founder of Carlyle, Illinois, Mary married Elias Smith Dennis on 24 February 1838 in Marion County, Illinois. Elias Dennis was 11 years younger than Mary. By this marriage, Elias acquired title not only to a rather unsuccessful gristmill, but also a stepson who later became a celebrated western desperado, the notorious Joseph Alfred "Jack" Slade and who, in his early years, assisted in the mill. When Elias married Mary Slade, Jack was age 8 and his sister Maria Virginia was 6. They probably considered Elias their father, as they were very young, ages 4 and 2 respectively, when their biological father, Charles Slade, died 11 July 1834.
Elias served in the House of Representatives from 1842 - 1844. He was also appointed Circuit Clerk and served until 1844. Charles R. Slade, Elias' step son, was appointed Circuit Clerk in 1844. Charles went into the Mexican War and died there in 1848. Elias S. Dennis was appointed to fill the vacancy in 1848. Elias was appointed 12 March 1857, Marshal of the Kansas Territory. He served until 1 March 1858. Elias was elected President of “The Douglas Club” of Clinton County on 16 February 1860. Elias fought in the Civil War, supporting the north, even though they were one of the few families in Carlyle that owned slaves. Elias was promoted to brigadier-general on 29 November 1862, and on 13 April 1865 he was promoted brevet major-general of Volunteers for gallant and meritorious services in the operations before Mobile, Alabama. Elias was the highest ranking officer in Illinois to serve in the Civil War. Elias returned to Carlyle 22 March 1866, the first he had been home since the end of the Civil War. Mary still enjoyed her social status, gala affairs and prosperity with the marriage to Elias Dennis. In June of 1867, Elias left for business in Louisiana and never returned to Carlyle or his wife Mary until after her death. For Mary, life as she had known it for so many years had ended. She filed for a divorce from Elias on 17 August 1871 on grounds of abandonment and the divorce was granted 14 November 1871.
Mary Darke Kain Slade Dennis died 15 January 1873. For all the wealth she and her husbands had acquired during their life times, at the end of her life, the last of her possessions were sold at auction on Saturday, 22 August 1874 to pay her debts. Lands that were sold included 9 lots in the "Lower Town of Carlyle", 1 lot in the "Middle Town of Carlyle", and 40 acres of land in Clinton County, Illinois. The appraised land value before auction was $326.00. All of her personal items sold at auction were purchased by her children for the sum of $131.00.
Written by: Carolyn Kress Dennis
History of Marion and
Clinton Counties, Illinois
Dennis Family Bible
Slade – Dennis marriage record, Marion County, Illinois
The Carlyle Weekly Reveille newspaper published in Carlyle, Illinois
The Union Banner newspaper published in Carlyle, Illinois
Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1711-1949
Carlyle, Clinton County, Illinois Census
Elias S. Dennis Military Pension Records from NARA
Illinois Daily Journal newspaper published in Springfield, Illinois
Sangamo Journal newspaper published in Springfield, Illinois
Sangamon Journal newspaper published in Springfield, Illinois
Kansas Daily Ledger newspaper published in Leavenworth, Kansas
Submitted by: Carolyn Kress Dennis
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