COL. JAMES A. SEXTON

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 251-253

COL. JAMES ANDREW SEXTON, a representative Chicago business man, and one of the most efficient Postmasters of the city, is descended from Scotch and Irish ancestors.  Extended mention of his father, Stephen Sexton, will be found on another page of this volume.  His maternal grandmother was a relative of President Andrew Jackson, for whom Colonel Sexton received his second baptismal name.

James A. Sexton is among Chicago's most worthy sons, having been born ten years after his parents' arrival here—on the 5th of January, 1844.  His youth was spent in his native city, the public schools furnishing all the training given to his mind, except that afforded by his varied experiences—the latter forming, perhaps, the most practical and valuable portion of his education.  Within a few days after he saw his beloved parents placed in their last resting-place, the land was convulsed by the sound of civil war.  He was then but little past his seventeenth birthday anniversary, but he at once enrolled his name among the defenders of the Union.  He first enlisted April 19, and went out on the 21st as a private in the three-months service.  At the expiration of that period he was appointed a sergeant and authorized to recruit Company I, Fifty-first Volunteer Infantry, of which he was to be Captain.  In June, 1862, he was transferred to Company E, Sixty-seventh Illinois Infantry, and promoted to a lieutenancy, and within three months thereafter was elected Captain of a company recruited under the auspices of the Young Men's Christian Association of Chicago, which became Company D, Seventy-second Illinois.

He commanded the regiment at the battles of Columbia, Duck River, Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee, and in the Nashville campaign.  In 1865 he was assigned to duty on the staff of Gen. A. J. Smith, Sixteenth Army Corps, acting as Provost-Marshal, and served until the close of the war, leaving a record on its annals which added lustre to the pages, and which will compare favorably with that of any officer from Illinois.  At Spanish Fort, on the 8th of April, 1865, Colonel Sexton's left leg was broken by a piece of a shell which exploded over his head.  He also received gunshot wounds at Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee.  The Seventy-second bore a part in seven battles and eleven skirmishes, being under the enemy's fire one hundred and forty-five days.  It went out with a force of nine hundred and sixty-seven officers and men, and came back with three hundred and thirty-two.  During its three years' service it had received two hundred and thirty-four recruits—more than two-thirds the total number mustered out at the close of the war.

After the close of hostilities Colonel Sexton purchased a plantation in Alabama, which he tilled two years, and then returned to Chicago, with has ever since been his home. Soon after his return he engaged in the foundry business, founding the immense stove factory now operated by Cribben, Sexton & Company, occupying large grounds on Erie Street.

Colonel Sexton takes a sincere interest in Grand Army affairs, and is a Past Commander of the Department of Illinois.  He is a member of the Loyal Legion, the Chicago Union Veteran Club, the Veteran Union League, and a Mason of high degree; has held the highest positions in them, and is an honored and esteemed comrade and friend in all.  He has never applied for nor received a pension.

On the 22d of February, 1868, Colonel Sexton married Miss Laura L. Wood, daughter of William Wood and Dorcas Sophronia. Her father was of English birth, and the mother a lineal descendant of Revolutionary soldier and representative of one of the earliest American families. Mrs. Sexton died in October, 1876, leaving four sons.  In 1878 another wife was taken, in the person of Augusta Loewe, who is of German extraction.  Five daughters have blessed this union, and the children of the family are named in order of birth as follows:  Stephen W., George W., Ira J., Franklin Tecumseh, Laura A., Mabel Nevada, Leola Logan, Edith M. and Alice E.

A recent publication compiled by the Chicago Postoffice Clerks' Association says of Colonel Sexton in most fitting terms:

"A veritable and notable son of Illinois is Col. James A. Sexton.  He is a man of noble and dignified appearance, and is essentially a self made man in the true sense of the term.  He was appointed Postmaster of Chicago by President Harrison, May 1, 1889, and his administration has been so superior as to receive merited recognition from the department at Washington and the public which is served at this office, and that means the entire civilized world, in one way and another.  While Colonel Sexton was not trained in postoffice duties, he has evinced remarkable administrative ability in his management of the second office in the United States, as to the extent of business and amount of mail matter handled.  He has administered the duties of the important trust confided to him with fidelity and competency, and has evinced singular ability and aptitude; is zealous, vigilant and competent, hence the man especially needed at the helm, so to speak, of this great office, which is now managed with the accuracy of a mathematical formula; brought about by his skill, tact and constant attention. He is patient, persevering, industrious, of urbane and unassuming manner, always at his post of duty, and does his work conscientiously and well; has deliberation and discretion, which are essential requisites to success in the head of the postoffice.  He is always calm and self-reliant, under the evident consciousness that he is able to perform the work before him; has none of the pretenses of a vain man, and none of the hesitancy of a weak one.  He has been influential with the department at Washington in securing needed reforms and appropriations in the interest of the office, and hence the public.  There seems to have been a certain leaven of intellectual and moral power formed in him, or infused there, which has been the prime impetus in spurring the powers of his youth and impelling the energies of his manhood."

                -- Submitted on November 28, 2000 by Sherri Hessick ( slhessick@earthlink.net )