He was born on January 13, 1849 in Middletown, Maryland. When he was two years old, his family moved to Casstown, Ohio, where he was educated in local schools. He thereafter he worked for his father, a house painter. In 1867 began to devote his time to writing, mainly of short stories and serials for dime novels. He was one of the authors of the Nick Carter Detective Stories. He wrote from 300 to 600 thrillers, at the rate of one a week, with pen; later, in the days of the typewriter, he sometimes bettered his speed. He died penniless in the Miami County Poor House, Ohio on October 28, 1924.