James Harlan Hale was born October 10, 1832 in Jonesboro, Washington County, Tennessee, the son of Mark and Polly Mulkey Hale. While still a boy, they moved to Barren County, Kentucky. Two years later his Mother died and his father returned to Tennessee where he married Jane Long in McMinn County before returning to Barren County.
In 1850 the family moved to McMinn County, Tennessee and in 1851 they moved to Bradley County, Tennessee. By 1852 they were in Christian County, Missouri but they settled in Stone County.
James Harlan was about 20 years old and had traveled much with his family. He had learned the blacksmith trade by helping his father on the farm and in the shop but only had about six months of formal schooling.
On November 22, 1855 James Harlan married Nancy Margaret Estes Messenger, the daughter of John C. and Margaret Estes and the widow of Birdie Messenger. James Harlan and Nancy Margaret were members of the Missionary Baptist Church and well-respected citizens.
He served in the State Militia for some time, but in 1864 he joined Company K, 46th Missouri Infantry and was a corporal operating in southwestern Missouri until the close of the Civil War. He was wounded in the wrist and captured by some Confederate soldiers near his home, kept a prisoner for about nine days and released at Wilson's Creek. He was mustered out at Springfield on May 22, 1865 and afterward lived on his 160 acre farm five miles southeast of Billings.
James Harlan and Nancy Margaret raised a fine family of ten children with many descendants still living in the area. One daughter, Nancy Margaret Ann married Lorenzo Boon Wright and moved to Illinois.
James Harlan died August 24, 1911 and Nancy Margaret preceded him on January 14, 1895. They are both at rest in the Smart Cemetery a few miles outside Clever, Missouri.
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© 1996, 1997 Jo Dunne