Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


JAMES BISSETT. The pioneer railroader, for many years master mechanic in the Springfield shops, the gentleman whose life history is herewith outlined, was a man who lived to good purpose and achieved a large degree of success solely by his individual efforts. By a straightforward and commendable course Mr. Bissett climbed to a responsible position in his calling, winning the hearty admiration of his fellow workmen and earning a reputation as an enterprising, reliable, trustworthy and efficient man of affairs which a number of the leading railroad officials of the country were not slow to recognize and appreciate, and those who knew him best will readily acquiesce in the statement that he was eminently deserving of the good things which fate brought him during his life.

James Bissett was born in Scotland, May 15, 1840, and had many of the characteristic traits of the noble race of Scots. His birth occurred within two blocks of the house in which Andrew Carnegie first saw the light of day, but his family brought him to America when he was a child and he was reared in Madison, Indiana, receiving his education in that town and in Indianapolis. However, his schooling was limited, and his knowledge, which was considerable and general, was acquired chiefly by experience in the practical affairs of life. He was a son of Thomas and Mary (Walker) Bissett, both natives of Scotland, where they grew up and were married. The father died in Madison, Indiana. He was a machinist by trade. His family consisted of seven children; five of whom are still living, namely: Thomas is deceased; Elizabeth; William; Robert; David; Ellen, and James of this sketch, who was the second in order of birth and who died on November 11, 1914.

James Bissett returned to Madison, Indiana, after he left school in Indianapolis, and went to work in the railroad shops of North Madison, remaining there as an apprentice about four years, or until 1858, then went to Nashville, Tennessee, and from there to Huntsville, Alabama, where he was living when the war between the states began. He returned to Nashville and went to work in the Memphis & Nashville machine shops there, later ran a locomotive between Huntsville, Alabama, and Brownsville, Mississippi, and while thus engaged was captured at Huntsville by the Federals, the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, under Col. O. M. Mitchell. The invaders were later driven out of that city, and our subject went to Chattanooga, Tennessee, arriving there while General Bragg was crossing the river with his army, just prior to the battle of Chickamauga. He went on to Atlanta, being with Bragg's army most of the time. All the while he had been running an engine for the Confederates, and he took his engine from Atlanta to Macon, Georgia, later, where, the fire box giving out, he left it, and from there went to Selma, that state, and worked on the Blue Mountain route. From there he went to Birmingham, Alabama. He was captured at Selma by "Billy" Wilson.

After the war Mr. Bissett came to Nashville and went to work on the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad as engineer, but in 1865 he returned to his old home in Madison, Indiana, then went to work for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company. Later he was in the employ of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, with headquarters at Galesburg, Illinois, and from there he went to Omaha, Nebraska, for the Union Pacific, which company sent him to Wyoming, in 1868, that country then being a territory. He ran an engine for some time and later was foreman of the company's shops at Laramie, remaining there three years, then came to Moberly, Missouri, and took charge of the old North Missouri shops, remaining there some time, then went with the Santa Fe road, and was the first master mechanic on that road west of Topeka, Kansas, his headquarters being at Dodge City, where he remained two years, after which he went to Los Angeles, California, in 1876, from which city he ran an engine to and from Wilmington. Later he went to Colton, at the edge of the desert, which was at the end of the road, which was only one hundred miles long. It was a private road at that time, but is now a part of the Southern Pacific. Subsequently Mr. Bissett ran a locomotive for the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad Company between Parsons, Kansas, and Hannibal, Missouri. Leaving this company, he ran an engine out of Marshall, Texas, for the Texas Pacific road, and later was given an engine on the International Great Northern. He came to Kansas City in 1883 and was made foreman of the Missouri River, Ft. Scott & Gulf shops, remaining in charge of the same until October, 1890, when he came to Springfield, Missouri, as master mechanic for the Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Memphis road, remaining with the same until 1901, when this road was purchased by the Frisco System. He remained in the same capacity with the latter road, discharging his duties with his usual fidelity and success and to the eminent satisfaction of all concerned. When the old Gulf shops on the South Side were closed, he was retired with a pension, having reached the age limit.

Mr. Bissett was married on December 25, 1866, in Madison, Indiana, to Levena Aigner, who was born in Jefferson county, Indiana, November 13, 1844. She is a daughter of M. C. Aigner and wife, her mother dying in the year 1865. She grew up in her native city and had the advantages of an excellent education.

Three children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Bissett, two of whom are living, namely: James, born in Galesburg, Illinois, is deceased; Harry, born in Laramie, Wyoming, February 13, 1871, was graduated from the high school in Kansas City, after which he came to Springfield and went to work for the Frisco, beginning at the bottom, and is now foreman of the South Side shops. He married on June 27, 1900, Emma Weaver, daughter of Major Weaver and wife, and they have one child, Marion, born September 7 1903; Clyde, youngest child of our subject, was born March 19, 1876, and is living in Kansas City.

Politically, Mr. Bissett was a Democrat. He was an interesting talker on early railroading in this country, and his vast experience in so many places, made his reminiscences entertaining and instructive. His death was a great loss to the community and he will long be remembered as one of Springfield's best citizens.

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