REV. JAMES J. HAYCRAFT. Among the prominent and successful business men of Medora who are selected for representation in this Record is the Rev. J. J. Haycraft, whose work as minister and business man has done much to aid the prosperity of the county. His residence within its bounds dates from New Year's Day, 1844, at which time, a young man of twenty years, he came hither. He was born in Hardin County, Ky., January 20, 1824, his parents being John and Hannah (Parker) Haycraft, natives of Kentucky and Virginia respectively. The father had fair school advantages and was an earnest student, and became very proficient in mathematics. He taught school for some time, but after his removal to this county, in 1846, he gave his attention to farming in Chesterfield Township until he retired from active life. In 1863 he sold out and removed to Fidelity, where his wife breathed her last. He afterward became an inmate of the home of our subject, and died at Medora. The parental family consisted of eight sons and daughters, all of whom grew to maturity.
Our subject is the eldest member of the parental family. His early education was received with his father as tutor and he subsequently attended school at Elizabethtown, the county seat of his native county, the school being known as the Robert Hunt High School. From it many statesmen and other leading men of Kentucky were graduated. Among the classmates of the Rev. Mr. Haycraft were George and Hardin Helm, sons of Gov. John M. Helm, and grandsons of the Hon. Benjamin Hardin, the noted criminal lawyer. After his education was completed Mr. Haycraft engaged to teach school but before entering upon his professional labors he came to this State and within two years he was married and had established his home on a farm.
Mr. Haycraft located in Jersey County not far from Medora and gave his attention to tilling the soil and dealing in live stock. He remained at that point fifteen years and then became a resident of Medora. In 1858 he built a steam flouring mill at Fidelity, which he operated until July 15, 1863, when it was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of $27,000. Mr. Haycraft had no insurance, but friends and bankers offered to raise $5,000 within twenty-four hours after the catastrophe and urged him to accept the money and rebuild. He refused the kind offer, as he had never accepted a dollar, but subsequently his bankers Dorsey & Cheney of Jerseyville, voluntarily furnished him the money to rebuild and after doing so he operated the mill two years. The mill site was valuable but the bankers would neither take a mortgage or note, so much confidence had they in Mr. Haycraft's honor.
Mr. Haycraft soon recovered from his losses and engaged in mercantile pursuits, soon having a commercial standing of $45,000. When he came to Medora he bought a home, and rented a mill which he carried on while also running a store and dealing in grain and stock. He afterward built a mill which he operated two years, then moved it to Alsey, Scott County, on the railroad, added an elevator, and there carried on an extensive business. He sold his property after some years and returned to Medora where he carried on mercantile pursuits two years, then removed to Palmyra and for eighteen months was similarly engaged there. He again came to Medora, and in May, 1889, entered upon the business he is still conducting - the sale of groceries, notions and gentlemen's furnishing goods. He has prospered in business affairs notwithstanding the fact that he has met with some losses, and he has given two of his daughters well improved farms and purchased for the husband of another a mill in Palmyra.
The marriage of Mr. Haycraft was solemnized October 15, 1846, his bride being Miss Matilda Rhodes, daughter of Josiah Rhodes. The bride was born in Kentucky April 13, 1826. To Mr. and Mrs. Haycraft nine children have been born, six of whom died in infancy or childhood. The living are Melissa, now the wife of H. C. Kemper; Emma, wife of Francis Watson; and Ella V., who married D. W. Rhodes.
Mr. Haycraft belongs to the masonic fraternity, having been initiated in Fidelity Lodge, No. 152, A.F. & A.M., in 1858. He was Chaplain of that lodge twelve years. Politically he is a Democrat and he has frequently held local offices. In religion he is a Baptist and in 1876 he was ordained to the ministry and has since given considerable time to the work of the Gospel. He had charge of Big Spring Church, Scott County, organized Liberty Church, near Carlinville, and was the pastor in charge there three years. He resigned to go into the field as an evangelist, preaching in different churches, and subsequently with the Carrollton associate carried on one of the most successful meetings ever held in the church at Fidelity. Twenty six members were added and so much life was infused into the congregation that a commodious house of worship was soon undertaken and completed.