John Markillie

Hudson's Early Photographer

by James F. Caccamo

Ex Libris, May 1984

John Markillie’s photographs of Hudson, ca. 1890 (p.04.00.00376)

When Lucy Markerly brought her family from England to America in 1833, she did not realize the impact that her teen-aged son John would have on the community where the family would ultimately settle: Hudson, Ohio.

John was born in England in 1814, the son of Samuel and Lucy Markerly. After his father died, John left for America, and the next year sent for his family. After spending time in New York State, the reunited Markerlys made their way to a booming town on Ohio’s Western Reserve. Once the family arrived in Hudson, John decided that it would be easier if the family surname was spelled as it sounded, so he changed the spelling to Markillie.

Carte-de-visite, portrait of Lauren Hinsdale. Printed on bottom of card: “Photographed by J. Markillie, Hudson, O.”

While he worked as a miller when he first came to America, John Markillie soon found a fascinating new profession in Hudson. He became a professional photographer, taking advantage of the raging fad of the 1850’s, the carte de visite. Indeed, many of the calling cards with photographs of early Hudsonites that survive bear the imprint of Markillie’s studio. “Cardomania” must have made a comfortable living for Markillie, and he saw no hesitation in getting involved with the political life of the town, including becoming the Village Clerk.

When his mother, Lucy, died in 1850, he was reluctant to have her buried in the Old Hudson Township Burying Ground on Chapel Street, which was already becoming crowded. Instead, he interred her on the family property, and five years later established a cemetery around her burial site.

But it wasn’t until after John’s death in 1868 that his widow, Lucinda, and their children decided to deed the cemetery over to Hudson. In 1869, Markillie Cemetery officially became a public cemetery, with control given over to a Union Cemetery Board.

And while most people in Hudson recognize Markillie’s name from the cemetery, few realize his valuable contribution to Hudson’s history via his photographs, for not only did he capture many of the town’s venerable citizens for cartes de visite, he also spent a considerable amount of time photographing street scenes and buildings, which are his true legacy, since they allow us to see the Hudson of the past that might have been lost if it weren’t for Markillie’s camera.

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Lucy Markerly journal

Handwritten journal of Lucy Markerly (Markillie) (1771-1850) describing her journey from Lincolnshire, England, to the United States (“A Journal from Old England Towards America.”)

John Markillie family papers

Collection of journals, and papers belonging to John Markillie and the Markillie family of Hudson, Ohio.

Photograph Collection, Album G. John Markillie, photographer


Hinckley, Sara Stewart. Markillie Journals, 1833 & 1857. [catalog record]

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Portraits of David Hudson, Founder of Hudson, and Mary “Polly” Robinson Hudson