Historical Highlights

The life and mysterious disappearance of Representative John V. Creely of Pennsylvania

November 14, 1839
The life and mysterious disappearance of Representative John V. Creely of Pennsylvania Image courtesy of Library of Congress Representative Charles O'Neill of Pennsylvania only lost one election contest during his 15-terms in the House and that was to John V. Creely.
On this date, one-term Representative John V. Creely was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A lawyer and Civil War veteran, Creely entered politics as a member of the Philadelphia city council. After Republican Congressman Charles O’Neill of Pennsylvania fell from the good graces of the Philadelphia political machine, Creely found support to run as an Independent Republican against O’Neill. Elected to the 42nd Congress (1871–1873), Creely was assigned to the Committee on Indian Affairs. However, newspaper accounts suggested the Congressman failed to embrace his new role and shirked his duties as a Member. With only one listing in the Congressional Globe index for the ceremonial roll call of the Members for the start of the Congress, Creely seemed to do little to dispel the allegation. The Representative disappeared sometime in 1872 with little fanfare or news coverage. Few realized his absence. A year after his disappearance creditors attempted to collect on his House paychecks. The 42nd Congress came to a close with no sign of the Congressman; Philadelphia voters returned O’Neill to the House for the 43rd Congress (1873–1875). Nearly 20 years later, John Creely’s sister successfully had him declared dead. When the Joint Committee on Printing prepared to reprint the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress in 1927, the committee clerk, Ansel Wold, went to great lengths to obtain more information on Representative Creely. In a series of letters, he wrote to the men who served with Creely in the Union Army. One respondent noted, “He [Creely] was a splendid soldier, with a fine record and was honorably discharged at the end of his term of service. . . He went to Washington and that was the last time I, or any of his friends, ever heard of him. He never came back to Philadelphia, and disappeared utterly.”

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