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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 2. Biographies
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
James F. Black, a descendant of one of the old pioneer families of Livingston county whose history has been intimately interwoven with that of this region, is a foremost representative of agricultural progress in the section, where he owns a valuable farm of three hundred and twenty acres in Jackson township, located on sections 23 and 14. A native, he was born very near the place on which he now resides, July 17, 1850, and is a son of James A. and Mary A. (Hutchison) Black.
The Black family in America traces its origin back to the land of Erin. It was the paternal great-grandfather of our subject and four of his brothers who at a very early date came to Henderson county, Kentucky, where they made settlement. Some of them offered their services for the sake of liberty in the Revolutionary war and distinguished themselves for bravery and gallantry. They left Ireland on account of the unbearable taxes that were imposed, especially upon those cultivating the soil, to sustain the English kings in their many European wars, and after they paid their taxes, there was left to them seldom enough for sustenance. They owned some property and a small piece of land in Ireland on which they made their living in a hand to mouth way, and when rumors came to them of the opportunities offered in the new world, which were then spreading to all parts of the globe and also infected the little island, they with the rest of the people became imbued with the idea to seek the land which offered them a better living. However, they loved their native island and could not readily make up their minds to leave the land of their fathers. A curious accident, however, which occurred to the great-grandfather, when he broke the beam of his plow, was the cause that brought about the realization of the long discussed project. Instead of having the plow repaired, which was no small matter for a poor man to pay, as money was scarce in those times, he concluded to call upon his brothers and conferred with them upon the question whether they would not all sell out and make the move to the new world. They agreed in the affirmative and, disposing of their property, sailed for the new world. Here they arrived safely and sound with their small savings, and being industrious, thrifty and God-fearing men, they succeeded in a short time to found good homes for themselves. The great-grandmother's name in her maidenhood was Wilson and she also had brothers who had fought in the Revolutionary war, and it was after one of her brothers, William Wilson, who was killed during an engagement of that sanguine conflict, that the grandfather of our subject was named. As the years passed the great-grandfather sought the greater opportunities of the west and drifting in that direction with his son, William L. Black, the latter settled on the Missouri river, where he remained for a short time before making removal to Livingston county.
William L. Black, the grandfather, was born October 19, 1796, and his wife, Catherine Hines, on December 28, 1801, and of this union were born: William Wilson Black, March 6, 1826; James A Black, November 22, 1828; and Pernecia Ann Black, March 9, 1831. The grandfather moved to this county in the spring of 1834 settling in the virgin forest that then covered hill and dale. He selected a piece of ground on the south half of the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 14, township 59, range 25, settling on a small quarter of a section, near a little hill, with a branch of the land running on the north and northwest of a distance between fifty and one hundred yards. He also entered one hundred and sixty acres of the southwest quarter of section 14, township 59, range 25, and forty acres of the southwest of the southeast quarter of section 14; forty acres of the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 22; and forty acres of the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 23, all in township 55, range 25, giving him in all land to the extent of two hundred and eighty acres, half of which was covered by fine timber, the other half being in prairie. One hundred and sixty acres of this land he entered, but the rest he acquired by purchase. He built his first cabin on the above mentioned one hundred and sixty acres within a few feet of where his second more pretentious home was later built. At that time there were not more than a half dozen families located in what is known as the forks of the river or Jackson and Sampsell townships. A short distance south of where he built was an Indian trail or road which the Indians traveled frequently in passing from a village on the east of Grand river to another near Utica, but there is no incident recalled that he was ever harassed by the red men. Kindly and generous, and understanding their character, he never meddled in their affairs and was left by them unharmed. A Godly man of strong character, his desires lay more in the line of making a home than to lay up riches, yet by able management and incessant industry he accumulated a gratifying amount of money for his day. Being a kind friend and neighbor, he lent a considerable sum thereof to a man whom he supposed to be friendly and honest. The false friend, however, betrayed his trust and he lost in the transaction the large sum of one thousand dollars, which today would represent a capital that would have to be expressed in much larger figures. Spending most of his life out-of-doors, he was a hale and hearty man, sturdy and strong, and during his whole life paid but one doctor bill, although he lived over eighty years and there was needed no other medical attention for him than that which was given him at the time of his death. Although lie belonged to the whig party as long as that organization existed, he later gave his allegiance to the democratic party. He never owned slaves but his sympathies were with the South - a natural outcome of family tradition and also the result of his own cogitations, which decided him in favor of state rights for the separate sovereign states. At the time of the Civil war he lived surrounded by his children, for whom he had made a nice and comfortable home with the exception of one daughter, who had shortly before married. He was a great lover of good horses and always kept three or four on hand, experiencing during the troublous time of the war great difficulty in keeping them from being sequestered by the militia. He would hide them in the timber south of his house and by this means saved them, as the militia would seldom enter the woods to hunt for anything. One day, while his wife was assisting him to water the horses and while she was riding on one of them, the animal stumbled, causing her to fall, and she unfortunately broke her thigh near the hip joint. Carrying a heavy purse containing twenty-five dollars in silver, this struck her against the thigh and caused the injury. She was carried home and everything that doctors and kind friends could do was done, but the injury never healed properly, making her a cripple. Two of her children were away in the war which was still raging and the affliction she had sustained caused her such grief that gradually she pined away and breathed her last July 1, 1865; and was laid to rest in a spot she had herself selected for burial, about a half mile from her home, on the land of her oldest child, W. W. Black, After his wife's death the grandfather lived in one room of his house, giving up the others to renters who would attend to his farm and look after his meals. When he had no renters to till the land he would make his home with his oldest son, who lived about three-quarters of a mile from the homestead. About five hundred dollars which he had in gold and which he wished to keep secure he buried at the commencement of the Civil war, in a field, but becoming suspicious that the hiding place might become known, he later took it up and, placing it in a jar, buried it in his stable under the manger where he daily fed his horses, and there his gold remained until a few days before his death. A man of strong character, forceful, decisive, yet kindly and genial, he was greatly beloved by all who knew him and died at the residence of his daughter on March 9. 1877, being laid to rest in the family cemetery.
His brother, Adam Black, was born September 11, 1801, and died July 14, 1890, at his home in Jackson township, at the remarkable age of eighty-nine years. He was one of the honored and respected pioneer citizens of the neighborhood and at the time of his death one of the oldest living residents of the county, following, during his active life, the occupation of farming and living in his retirement on a highly improved farm of fifty-six acres, surrounded by many comforts and conveniences which he had made possible by incessant efforts. He was born in Henderson county, Kentucky, and came to Missouri with his parents in 1819, living near Boonville, Cooper county, whence they soon removed to Ray county, which at that time included Carroll, Livingston, Grundy, Mercer, Harrison, Daviess and Caldwell counties. In 1833 he settled near the present site of Jameson in Daviess county. Previously, in 1824, he was elected sheriff of the territory above mentioned and during his term of office took the census, his work in that connection taking him in all twenty-four days, inclusive of making his returns. In 1826 he also served as assessor and he also taught school for a number of years. On September 6, 1825, he was married in Ray county, to Miss Mary W. Morgan, a daughter of Ira and Abigail Morgan, by whom he had nine children. Subsequently he was married to Miss Margaret Grooms, of which union there was no issue, and on October 15, 1857, he contracted a marriage with Miss Sallie Kelly, a daughter of Edward Kelly, and to them were born three children. Various achievements distinguished the life of this granduncle of our subject, for he was one of the first settlers in Daviess county, shortly after the organization of which he served as justice of the peace and also was county judge for four years. In 1844 he went to Gentry county and there also was elected to the position of justice of the peace and later to that of judge, filling the latter position for four years and dispensing justice fairly and impartially. When Gentry county was divided it left him in the new county of Worth and he was appointed by the governor one of the first commissioners to organize the county. In 1861, on account of his southern proclivities, he left and came to Livingston county, which then became his home. For three years he here served as one of the county judges. An old-time whig, he always took a remarkable interest in all matters affecting the public weal and also participated in the Black Hawk war, helping to forever terminate the sway of the red man in these regions.
During the time of the Mormon troubles he was located in Daviess county and suffered heavily from their depredations, his losses being a great drawback to him financially, but he soon recovered. He again, however, underwent reverses when he went security for a friend who failed in business, leaving him the debt to pay. It took all of his property to discharge his obligations, but he rather would stand penniless than have even the breath of taint attach to his honor. He then started out anew at the commencement of the Civil war and had accumulated nearly sufficient land to let each of his children have a good home when he was driven from his property by the soldiery, who were especially hard on any man whom they thought had the slightest sympathy for the South although he was an honest and law-abiding citizen. Having gotten well along in years, he was never quite able to recoup from his last heavy losses and at his death was but in moderate circumstances. He served in the Mexican war and his wife later received a pension on account of the valiant service tendered by her husband. At the time of his death he left seventy descendants, comprising children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They were scattered all over the United States from Missouri to the Pacific ocean. His youngest daughter, Cecilia Black, was a school teacher by profession and made highly creditable records wherever she taught. When he moved to Livingston county he settled on a small farm about a mile and a half northeast of Springhill and there set out a fine orchard of which he took the greatest care, being a lover of high-grade fruit. During the time of the Civil war he sustained the most heavy losses, as he constantly suffered from raids made upon his house and home by the soldiery, these constant visits making heavy demands upon his resources. Even their horses were driven away at that time to Chillicothe, although they were later recovered. At another time, while the family was absent, a company of new militia men entered the house and plundered it from garret to cellar.
James A. and Mary A. (Hutchison) Black, the parents of our subject, were natives of Missouri and Kentucky, respectively. In their family were six children, only two of whom are now living, James F. and J. S. A brother of the father, Alexander Black. had during the war times to hide many days to save his life, and once while he was going to a neighbor, a company of militia overtook him and, thinking him to be his brother, demanded his surrender, at the same time leveling their guns at him, the hand at the trigger ready to fire. The captain, however, recognized him in time and saved his life. Some time later this same Alexander Black and a cousin found shelter in the brother's home and while they were eating their dinners placed on guard James Black, our subject, who was then a little boy, to notify them if any one should appear; and he was not long waiting until a company appeared on the hill within a few hundred yards of the house and he gave the alarm. The two cousins made for their horses, which were hitched at the barn a few yards from the house, and by keeping between two buildings and the militia made their way to the woods and were soon out of sight. They, however, left their revolvers behind them on the floor in their flight to safety, and Mrs. Black, not knowing what to do, buckled them on to her dress and, taking a seat and keeping on sewing, the weapons were not found and in a few days were returned secretly to the men. Mary were at that time the hairbreadth escapes run by different ones in order that they might be with their families for a short time or give them a little help.
James F. Black, our subject, was reared under the parental roof and grounded in the old-fashioned virtues of industry and honesty by his good parents, acquiring his education in the district schools near his father's farm. Relinquishing his lessons at the age of twenty-two years, going up to that time off and on to school, but assisting in the meantime his father with the work on the farm, he became acquainted with thorough methods of agriculture. After having passed his twenty-second birthday he started out to farm for himself on the father's homestead, on which he has continued to follow agricultural pursuits ever since. He has remodeled and greatly added to his residence, making it modern and convenient in every respect, so that it is now considered one of the finest and most up-to-date country homes of the section. A man of progressive ideas, he has instituted such equipment and machinery as is considered indispensable to modern farming and by which he has greatly increased the productivity of the soil. As the years have passed prosperity has come to him as the result of his incessant labors and of late years he rents the larger part of his land, receiving therefrom a gratifying income, enabling him to live with more ease and in comfort. He also has other interests, being a stockholder in several banking institutions.
In Jamesport, Daviess county, Missouri, on September 18, 1873, Mr. Black was united in marriage to Miss Nancy K. Williams, a daughter of Robert and Ellen (Gillen) Williams, the former a well known pioneer farmer of Daviess county who was prominently connected with the public life of the section, having been county judge and a representative in the legislature for several terms. He died and is buried in Jamesport, Missouri, his wife also having passed away. Mr. and Mrs. Black have two children: Frankie O., the wife of Dr. Girdner, of Chillicothe; and Nellie, who married Roy Timbrook, an agriculturist of Dawn, Missouri.
Public-spirited and progressive, Mr. Black carries on worthily the family name and is one of the men representative of the prosperous agricultural conditions prevailing in Livingston county. Not only has he been an interested witness of the changes that have occurred here and transformed frontier conditions into those of the present time, but he has been an active and cooperant factor in bringing about general advancement along material and moral lines. In his political faith he is a democrat and keeps intelligently informed upon all issues of the day. An ardent champion of the cause of education, he has been a force in bettering school conditions in this section and his service as director of the local school board, an office which he held for many years, has been conspicuous. His fraternal relations are confined to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which organization he has served in all the chairs. His sterling qualities, such as have been traditional of the family for generations, are such as have ever commanded for him the respect, confidence and good-will of all with whom he has come in contact and as the years have passed he has become more firmly entrenched in the affection of those who know him. A man strongly marked by character, he is recognized as a forceful element in the locality, where by his labors he has not only attained to the position of one of the most substantial men but by his methods has contributed toward raising agricultural standards. In his life has rolled back the tide of adversity that beset his father and in its wake has come to him a prosperity of which he is well worthy.