JAMES S. HESTER. A typical example of the virile manhood of Southern Illinois is found in James S. Hester. Born in the South, he accompanied his parents to Illinois as a youth, resisted the lure of the city and of the great West, to which so many of his boyhood companions yielded, and after serving his country valiantly as a soldier during the Civil war, set himself to the task of extracting wealth from the farm. After more than forty years spent in agricultural pursuits he has now retired and is enjoying the fruits of his labors as a resident of the city of Vienna.
The grandfather of James S. Hester, B. Hester, was a pioneer settler of Franklin county, Alabama, and built the first house in Franklin, the county seat. His son, Chesley B. Hester, was born in Alabama, and brought his family to Southern Illinois during the fall of 1863, when the Union sympathizers, to which class the Hesters belonged, were driven from the Southern states. On coming to Illinois Mr. Hester located on a farm near Vienna, about four miles away, having served for eleven months as a member of Company B, Sixty-fourth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in which he had enlisted at Corinth, Mississippi, September 11, 1862, and from which he received his honorable discharge on account of disability. He never recovered from the bad effects of his army service, and died in 1881. He had a family of six sons and three daughters, but a number of the children died on coming North, on account of the great change in climate. Samaria is deceased; James S. is the subject of this review; John C. and Louis are deceased; Emily married a Mr. Dooley; and Alfred Henry, Clinton, Hannah and Alabama are deceased. Mrs. Hester survived her husband only five days.
James S. Hester was born October 14, 1846, in Franklin county, Alabama, and had not yet reached his sixteenth birthday when he enlisted in the same company with his father. He was well grown and sturdy and much better able to stand the rigors of army life than the older man, and would have completed his enlistment of three years had not the war closed some three months prior to that time. For some time he was engaged in garrison duty around Corinth and luka, Mississippi, as well as Glendale, which was his headquarters for ten months, and he then went to Pulaski, Tennessee, and Decatur, Alabama, subsequently, in the spring of 1864, going to Chattanooga to participate in the battles around that place. He then joined Sherman's division and took part in the famous March to the Sea, and was in the fighting all through to Savannah, where he boarded ship to Buford, South Carolina. Marching through to Goldsboro, the regiment went on to Raleigh, North Carolina, where they received the news of Lee's surrender amid great rejoicing. Mr. Hester's brigade then went on to Richmond, and then to "Washington, D. C., where it participated in the Grand Review, and he was mustered out of the service June 8, 1865, and paid off and discharged at Springfield, Illinois. His brave and faithful services finished, Mr. Hester went to Dongola by rail and joined the family at Vienna, working on his father's farm until 1867. In that year he married and began life for himself on a rented farm situated two miles northwest of Vienna, but in the next year moved to another farm two and one-half miles southwest of Vienna, on which he continued operations until 1879. At that time he purchased thirty-two acres of land, and from that time on his rise as an agriculturist was rapid, his holdings now amounting to two hundred and twenty-three acres of excellent land, which is being operated by his sons. In November, 1904, Mr. Hester left the farm and moved to Vienna, where he purchased a fine residence and nine lots.
He has been active in civic affairs and county politics and a hard and faithful worker in the ranks of the Republican party, serving at various times as school director and road commissioner, and at present acting for the second time as a member of the Vienna city council. He is a popular comrade of Vienna Post, Grand Army of the Republic, and he and his family are consistent members of the United Brethren church.
Mr. Hester was married (first) in May, 1867, to Joyce Adeline Ridenhower, daughter of A. M. Ridenhower, and she died in 1895, having been the mother of thirteen children, of whom two are deceased, William, who passed away at the age of thirteen years, and John, who died when six months old, while the survivors are: R. A., A. M., T. P., Mary Jane, Nancy Ann, Alfred, Garfield, May, Sarah, Marion Tullis and Mrs. Cora Jones. Mr. Hester's second marriage occurred in 1897, when he was united with his first wife's sister, Mrs. Mary Jane (Ridenhower-Hester) Newby, who married first John Hester and for her second husband William M. Newby, both of whom are now deceased. Mr. Hester has fifteen grandchildren. He is one of his community's prominent and influential citizens, having proved himself as faithful and capable in discharging the duties that have fallen to his lot during days of peace as he did in his youth as a wearer of the blue during the dark days of the Civil war.
Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 2, page 648-649