GOLTRA, JOHN WRIGHT, one of the early merchants of Jacksonville, was born at Bound Brook, N.J., May 26, 1813, a son of Oliver and Phoebe (Compton) Goltra. In youth he learned the trade of a hatmaker, and, strong in the conviction that Illinois would prove a profitable field for that industry, started overland for this State, in the spring of 1835. He traveled on an Indian pony, the journey consuming forty days, and soon after arriving in Jacksonville established a small store and hat manufactory on the south side of the Public Square, where he remained until 1850. During this time he made, by hand, practically all the hats he sold. The material employed in their manufacture was, for the greater part, beaver and Russian fur. The hats were soft and flexible, weighed about twelve ounces, sold for an average price of $10 in gold coin, and usually lasted about ten years. This manufactory was the first of its kind in Jacksonville, and, in fact, in this section of the State. Mr. Goltra was known as an expert and painstaking workman, and the product of his establishment found a ready sale throughout a considerable territory surrounding Jacksonville. In 1850 he removed to the store building now occupied by Frank Byrns, on the southwest corner of the Public Square, where he continued in business until his death. During the later years of his life he combined with his trade the business of merchant tailoring, in partnership with Joseph Tomlinson.
Mr. Goltra was a man of deep religious convictions. When he arrived in Jacksonville, there were not more than a half-dozen adherents to the Baptist denomination in the place. He became one of the most active leaders in that denomination in the city, and largely through his efforts the organization of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville was made possible. For the last thirty-five years of his life he served as Deacon in that church. In politics he was originally a Whig, but became a Republican upon the organization of the latter party in 1856. He was united in marriage with Mary A. L. Becraft, who was born in Kentucky, August 4, 1820, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Aquila Becraft. Mr. Becraft came to Morgan County about 1828, and settled upon land, a portion of which now is occupied by the Diamond Grove Cemetery. His wife died at the age of fifty years. They were the parents of the following named children: Maria, deceased; Judson A.; Mattie F., deceased, wife of Marcus Hook; Mary, deceased wife of Willard Franch; and Emma, wife of Samuel T. Anderson.