Pulaski County

Biography - James Kennedy

JAMES B. KENNEDY. It is the purpose of this work to place in an enduring form the record of the lives and accomplishments of those men who have been potential factors in building up this opulent section of the great commonwealth of Illinois. One of these men is James B. Kennedy, of Pulaski, a retired farmer and a successful and substantial business man whose efforts have been directed not only toward building up a personal prosperity but toward the growth and development of both his town and county. His name is a familiar one to all old residents of this section because of its pioneer origin and because of the political and civil prominence which members have attained since the early advent of the family to Southern Illinois. The name of Kennedy has figured largely in the history of both Scotland and Ireland, but it was from the latter country that David Kennedy, the grandfather of James B. Kennedy, immigrated to the United States in the beginning years of the nineteenth century. He located first in Ohio, where he was married and resided for a number of years thereafter. To David Kennedy and his wife, Elizabeth, were born the following sons and daughters: Thomas and Alexander, who were soldiers in the Black Hawk war and died in Southern Illinois; Samuel, who located in Mississippi and left a family upon his death in that state; Brazilia B. Kennedy, the father of our subject; Malinda, who married "W. R. Hoopaw, the last sheriff of Alexander county before the formation of Pulaski county from it; Phoebe, who married a Mr. Woods; Sarah, who became Mrs. George Bankston; and Mrs. James Boner, whose husband came into Pulaski county from Iowa. David Kennedy was a farmer and continued that vocation as a pioneer in Illinois, where he became a resident in the early days of its statehood. He died near Villa Ridge in 1853.

Brazilia B. Kennedy, the third son of David and the father of James B., was born in Ohio and accompanied his parents upon their removal to Illinois. For a time his home was in Sangamon county, but from there he came to the peninsular end of the state, where he soon became identified with the public affairs of Alexander county, serving as a deputy sheriff there when the county seat was situated at Unity, now Hodges Park. He was a man of strong character, fearless but tactful, and well qualified for a peace officer, and when Pulaski county was formed he was honored by election as its first sheriff. He was originally a Whig, but upon the organization of the Republican party he joined its ranks and to it thereafter gave his undivided allegiance. He maintained his residence at Villa Ridge, residing there continuously until his death, in 1859, at the age of forty-six, having met death in a railroad accident. Brazilia Boyd Kennedy married Ruth Wright, an Illinois maiden who was born in 1815 and died in 1895. To them were born children as follows: D. B. Kennedy, now of Cairo, Illinois; W. R., deceased; James B., the subject of this review; Elizabeth, who married Joseph Dille and died in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, but is buried at Villa Ridge, Illinois; Thomas C.; Anna, the wife of Rev. John Pierce, of St. Louis, Missouri; and Medora, who married L. P. Craine, an exsheriff and ex-treasurer of Pulaski county and postmaster of Villa Ridge at the time of his death.

James B. Kennedy was born March 15, 1845, and grew up in the home of his parents, who were worthy people but were without the means to provide their children with the educational advantages which today are deemed essential in preparing for the fullest and most capable citizenship. His school days had ended before the opening of the Civil war and his educational opportunities were limited to those of the time and locality. The untimely death of his father threw him upon his own resources while yet a youth, and at the age of sixteen he assumed independence of industry as a farmer. The care of his mother fell to him for a number of years afterward, and it was on the family homestead that he first took up business life on his own responsibility. Success attended his efforts as a farmer and at the close of the Civil war he began buying land on time payments. Later he embarked in the stock business and followed it up with much profit for a number of years. Prom time to time he increased his own holdings of real estate and eventually abandoned farming to give his whole attention to land speculation. About this time the farm lands of that section began to be much sought and to rise rapidly in value, and for a decade or more he dealt in them extensively and with much profit. In some instances he bought raw land, brought it to a state of successful cultivation and made such improvements thereon as were necessary to profitable habitation, thus adding largely to the inherent wealth of the lands of the county.

In 1898 Mr. Kennedy moved to Pulaski and there exerted the same positive force in the developing of an urban community, taking upon himself the financial burdens of incorporation and otherwise encouraging the making of a new town in Pulaski county. He set the example as a builder by erecting business houses and residences, and in other ways showed his effectiveness as a citizen.

In politics he is a Republican. He served as a deputy under -Sheriff Spencer, Sheriff Wilson and Sheriff Craine, and was a delegate to the Republican state convention in 1906. He has been president of the village of Pulaski and its treasurer, and is now serving his fourth term as justice of the peace. The Kennedy family has been prominent in county politics ever since the formation of the county. B. B. Kennedy, father of the subject of this sketch, having been its first sheriff. He was elected in 1843, and his commission was issued by Governor Thomas Ford.

On January 19, 1864, Mr. Kennedy was married at Vandalia, Illinois, to Miss Sarah C. Buckmaster, who was born in Fayette county, Illinois, in 1847, and is the daughter of Benjamin Buckmaster, from Baltimore, Maryland. Two daughters blessed this union: Ora, the wife of Charles G. Sheets, of Pulaski, and Flora, now Mrs. Hugh B. Eshleman, postmaster and a prominent business man of Pulaski. Mr. Kennedy is a Methodist, as is his family, and fraternally he is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Extracted from A History of Southern Illinois, 1912, Volume 2, page 855-857


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