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THERE ARE TWO BIOS of William Conley
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From:  History of he State of California
San Joaquin Valley, California
By Prof. J. M. Guinn, A. M., -- Published 1902

CONLEY, William M.
Page 658

   HON. WILLIAM M. CONLEY.  Ever since the organization of Madera County,
with which he was intimately identified, Judge Conley has been a Democratic
leader in the county and one of the most influential citizens of the city of
Madera.  His entire life has been passed in central California.  Born in
Mariposa County July 17, 1866, he is a son of Matthew and Margaret (Ryan)
Conley, natives respectively of Ireland and Maine.  When a very small child
Matthew Conley was left an orphan and at the age of seven crossed the ocean
to New York with older members of the family.  Few advantages came to his
boyhood years, for he was obliged to earn his livelihood at an age when most
boys are in school; yet by thoughtful reading and self-culture, he gained a
breadth of knowledge not always possessed by college graduates.  From New
York he went to Chicago and later purchased from Colonel Beaubien the old
Fort Dearborn hotel which he sold in 1892.  During that year he came to
California and took up mining in Mariposa County, but in 1870 removed to
Snelling, Merced County, where he continued to reside until his death in
1871.  His wife, who now makes her home with Judge Conley, is a daughter of
John Ryan who moved from Maine to Chicago and in 1849 crossed the plains to
California with ox-team, settling in Coulterville, Mariposa County, where he
engaged in mining from the time of his arrival until his death in 1890.  In
the family of Matthew Conley there were only three children, William M., C.
C. and J. T.  The latter since 1894 has served as the official reporter of
the superior court of Madera and Mariposa Counties.

   After having completed the course of study in the Merced public schools
and graduated from the Stockton Business College, William M. Conley taught
school for four years in Merced and butte Counties.  In 189, he became chief
deputy assessor of Merced County and continued in that capacity until the
expiration of the term of the incumbent, M. D. Wood, whereupon in October
1890, he took up the study of law.  On successfully passing the required
examination, January 13, 1891, he was admitted to the Supreme Court.  His
initial experience as a practitioner was gained at Bakersfield, but ill
health led him to return to Merced.  In 1892, as the Democratic nominee for
District Attorney, he was defeated by F. G. Ostrander by a ninety majority.
December 4, 1892, he came to Madera, hi object in so doing being to assist
the County in the county division struggle then being fiercely waged.  To
promote the cause, he spent a considerable part of the winter of 1892-93 in
the state legislature, endeavoring to interest assemblymen.  In a large
measure it was due to his efforts that victory was won.  At the first County
election on May 16, 1893, he was candidate for Superior Judge, and received
a fifty-one plurality over the three independent candidates.  May 20. 1893,
he was elevated to the bench and took the oath of office, being the youngest
superior judge that had up to that time been elected in the state.  At the
general election of 1894, as the Democratic nominee, he was elected for a
term of six years, receiving a plurality of four hundred over the Republican
and Populist candidates.

   During the session of the Democratic state convention at Sacramento in
1898 Judge Conley was nominated for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court,
over Judge James V. Coffey, Judge J. W. Hughes, Joe Hamilton
(ex-attorney-general), L. D. McKiseck, ex-Chief Justice of Tennessee, and
five others.  The contest was one of the most exciting in the history of the
Democratic Party of California.  By the aid of the Santa Clara delegation he
was nominated on the fourth ballot.  In addition, he was the nominee of the
People’ s Party and the silver wing of the Republican Party.  However, in
the general election the entire Democratic ticket suffered defeat.  It was a
source of gratification to his ardent supporters that he ran sixteen
thousand votes ahead of his ticket, being defeated by some three thousand
votes, while the candidate for governor lost by nearly twenty thousand
votes.  At the biennial session of the state legislature in 1899 he received
the unanimous vote of the Democratic senators and assemblymen for the United
States senate.  In 1900 the Democratic county convention placed him in
nomination for superior judge over two competitors.  His election was
bitterly opposed and the campaign was one that called for arduous labor.
When Election Day came the County went Republican for the first time in its
history.  President McKinley receiving a majority of twenty-seven.
Notwithstanding this, he was elected judge by a majority of one hundred and
forty-eight, a fact which furnishes added proof of his popularity.  In
January 1901, he entered upon the administration of his duties for a term of
six years.

   One of the most remarkable facts in connection with Judge Conley’s
experience in the bench is summed up in the statement that he has tried over
thirteen hundred cases in the various counties of the stage and in the
appealed cases only four have been reversed, two of thee four having been
tried by jurors.  Such a record is unsurpassed I the state.  While he is a
stanch Democrat, politics does not enter into his service upon the bench,
nor are personal reasons ever allowed to influence his decisions.  Calmness
and impartiality characterize his mental deliberations.  With a
comprehensive sweep of mind, he reviews the disputed points in a case,
weighs up the evidence logically and reaches a decision promptly.  Indeed,
his attributes of mind are such as qualify him admirably for judicial

   The marriage of Judge Conely was solemnized in Merced and united him with
Emma Bedesen, who was born in Gallatin, Mo., and in 1875 accompanied her
father, Philip Bedesen, to California, settling in Merced.  Judge Conley has
two sons, Philip and Matthew.  In fraternal connections he is associated
with Fresno Lodge, B. P. O. E.; Madera Lodge No. 130, K. of P., in which he
is past chancellor; Yosemite Parlor No. 24, N. S. G. W., of which he is past
president; Madera Parlor No. 134, N. S. G. W., in which he has likewise held
the highest office, being further honored by election as grand president of
the order, Native Sons of the Golden West, in 1898-99.  Few men in
California are as well known throughout the state as he and none has
accomplished more in promoting the welfare of his city and county through
the distinguished character of his public service.

submitted by Harriet Sturk

Newest Addition---------------added June 2002-

From History of Fresno & Madera Counties
Fresno Editor Ben R. Walker, President Fresno County Historical Society
Madera Editor Joseph Barcroft
Published 1933
Not copy written.

        Judge William M. Conley was born July 17, 1866, near Dog Town, Mariposa
County, the son of Matthew and Margaret (Ryan) Conley. His maternal grandfather came
to California in the gold rush in 1849; his father was also a miner.
W. M. Conley attended school in Merced and Stockton, and studied law in
offices in Merced and San Francisco. He started practice in Bakersfield where he
continued for eight months. Then he removed to Madera, and in the first election under
the first Madera Count Government act, in 1893, he was elected judge of the
superior court. At the time he was only twenty-six years of age, and the youngest man
ever elected to a court of record in California and possibly in the United States,
up to that time. Re-elected again and again, at six years intervals, he continued
in this position for twenty-eight years and three months.

        On September 1, 1921, Judge Conley resigned from the bench and removed to
Fresno, taking up practice at first in partnership with Carl E. Lindsay, as Lindsay
& Conley, Later this firm was dissolved and he formed his present partnership with his
sons; Phillip M. and Matthew Conley. This firm, with its offices in the Pacific
Southwest building, represents numerous large corporations in Fresno and elsewhere.
During his long period on the bench, Judge Conley tried many famous cases,
including the Clarence Darrow case in Los Angeles. By assignment from the
governor—this was before the state judicial council was established—Judge Conley sat in nearly
every county in the state, presiding in cases in which the local judges were

There he acquired a wide reputation as a trial judge throughout California.
In 1898, when only thirty-two years of age, Judge Conley was nominated by
the Democratic convention of California for associate justice of the supreme
court of the state, but was defeated by small majority in an overwhelming Republican
election year.

        Judge Conley served as chief deputy assessor while residing in Merced
County. In 1914 he was candidate for congress on the Democratic ticket, and was a
delegate to the Democratic National convention in 1908. He has been a delegate to
State Democratic conventions for the past twenty-five years, and before the days
of popular election of United States senators, on one occasion he received the
complimentary vote for United States senator of the Democratic minority of the State

        Judge Conley married Emma Bedesen, a native of Missouri. He is a member of
the Native Sons order, of which organization he was president in 1898 and he
also belongs to the Elks, Eagles, Knights of Pythias and the various bar associations.

submitted by Harriet Sturk


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