Biography - James F. Hight

JAMES FRANKLIN HIGHT. Probably there is no better known figure in Southern Illinois than the Hon. James Franklin Hight, judge of the County Court of Johnson county, a man universally respected as a public official, known as an efficient and practical agriculturist, and a preacher of wide reputation at various evangelistic meetings. In every walk of life Judge Hight is well-worthy the esteem and respect in which he is held, and no citizen enjoys to a greater degree the warm personal friendship of so many of his community's people. He was born April 17, 1858, on a farm in Grantsburg township, Johnson county, Illinois, and is a son of Robert D. Hight, a native of Tennessee.

William Hight, the great-grandfather of Judge Hight, was a native of North Carolina, and his brother, Robert Hight, fought as a soldier during the war of 1812, serving under General Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, and later fighting valiantly in the Indian wars, participating in the battle at Horse Shoe Bend, where the power of the Indians was broken. Robert D. Hight 's brother, Archibald Hight, fought in the Civil war. In 1844 Robert D. Hight came to Southern Illinois with his father, Sion Hight, and settled in Grantsburg township, where he purchased an improved farm and also entered Government land. Some of his first land had been granted during President Van Buren's time, and a number of the old deeds and grants in possession of the family were made out over the signature of President Fillmore. Robert D. Hight became a very successful farmer, and at one time owned eight hundred acres of land, also being prominent in county affairs and serving as sheriff and county commissioner. He died March 20, 1880. Mr. Hight was married first to Miranda Smith shortly after settling in Illinois, and she died a few years later. His second wife was Mrs. Ann (Vanderbilt) Donaghy, widow of W. B. Donaghy, and he married for his third wife Eliza Lorina McCorkle, who became the mother of Judge Hight and Alonzo D. Hight. She died September 9, 1875, at the age of forty-three years. In 1876, Robert D. Hight married for his fourth wife a widow, Mrs. Nancy (French) Conley, and she survived him some years but is now deceased. Mr. Hight had two daughters by his first marriage, and two sons by each of his second and third marriages, named as follows: Mary and Miranda, both deceased; Milton L., who is engaged in farming; Robert Marshall, who is deceased; James Franklin; and Alonzo Decatur, a lawyer of Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

James Franklin Hight was reared on the home farm and attended the old log and frame district schools, his boyhood being spent much the same as that of other farmers' youths of that day. He is remembered to have been the leader of the lads in his neighborhood in games, sports and all kinds of frolics. The year after he completed his studies in the old Grantsburg school he returned as teacher and for the next twenty years, off and on, was engaged in teaching, varying this profession with farming and preaching. For the past twenty-three years he has been a preacher in the Church of Christ, and is an evangelist of renown and ability, having held evangelistic meetings in several states. As an orator and exhorter he has taken part in a number of religious discussions, in which he has defended his positon in a proper manner and earnest spirit. In political matters he is a Republican, but is inclined to be independent, reserving the right to cast his vote for the candidate whom he deems best fitted for the office. In December, 1885, he was commissioned justice of the peace in Massac county by Governor Richard Oglesby, and a quarter of a century later was commissioned by the former governor's son, Acting Governor John G. Oglesby. He has always resided on a farm, and now has a tract of fifty-five acres in Vienna township, situated eight miles from Vienna. He has found time to spare from his religious and official duties to engage in hunting, his favorite sport, and maintains a fine pack of foxhounds. Judge Hight belongs to the Brotherhood of America, and also is connected with the Farmers' Union, of which he served as county, state and local champlain in 1910.

On March 19, 1882, Judge Hight was married to Mary Isabella Presgrove, of Massac county, daughter of D. F. and Sophia (Curtis) Presgrove, and nine children have been born to this union, as follows: Joy, who is the wife of William Poe; Alonzo R. D.; Atha, who married Harris Clymore; Zenia, who is deceased; Frank; Dewey, who is deceased; Mary; and two unnamed children who died in infancy. Judge Hight has two grandchildren: Ruth and Bernice Poe.

The popularity of Judge Hight is beyond the question of a doubt. As a leader of movements calculated to benefit Johnson county in an educational, commercial, spiritual or social way, he has given his influence and means freely and gladly, and has done his full share in building up and developing the community. His home life has been beautiful, while the extent of his charities will probably never be known as he has given in a quiet, unostentatious manner. A true Christian gentleman, he well merits the high esteem and respect in which he is held.

Extracted 14 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 758-759.

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