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 J. GIDEON. The name of Judge James J. Gideon has been a prominent and honored ,one in Greene county for many decades and he is still in the front ranks of the local bar. His force and effectiveness are strongly emphasized in his arguments to the jury, as he seems not so much to look at them, as to look through them, less for the purpose of seeing how they felt, than to rivet their attention, and, as it were, to grasp their attention by the compass of his own. The calm and masterly manner in which he disposes of the preliminary considerations is the reminder of the experienced general, quietly arranging his forces and preparing to press down with overwhelming force upon a single point. His manner becomes aroused; his action animated. It is first the expression of extensive views and the enunciation of general principles applicable to the case; then the application of those to particular facts, examining the testimony of each witness, showing its weakness, the suspicions attaching to. it and its inconsistency either with itself or with the other parts of the evidence. As a judge he was an active, hard worker. Always careful, painstaking and prompt, he was a valuable member of the court--always sustained himself well on the bench. The decisions made by him were always short, clear and to the point, disposing of cases rapidly and satisfactorily. Possessed and imbued as he is to a large degree with the elementary principles of the law, he was able in his written opinions to make them models of perspicuity and force and plain to the comprehension of all. But while he has distinguished himself as a lawyer and jurist, he has a far greater claim to the respect of the people of Springfield and vicinity in his sturdy integrity of character and his life-long course as a friend of justice.

Judge Gideon was born on Ozark Mountain soil, was reared in the latter part of the pioneer period and he springs from a sterling Irish-Scotch ancestry of Colonial American stock. His birth occurred in Taney county, in a section that is now a part of Christian county, Missouri, on December 11, 1846. He is a son of William C. and Malinda (Byrd) Gideon. James Gideon, the great-grandfather of our subject, was the founder of the branch of the family in America. He came from Dublin, Ireland, with his brothers, Reuben and Edward, and bringing his wife, Nancy. His sons were Edward, William,, Isham, James and John. They all settled on land in southwestern New York. Edward, brother of James, was killed in battle during the Revolutionary war. All of the family moved to North Carolina about 1781 and settled on the Yadkin river. James Gideon moved to what is now Hawkins county, Tennessee, in 1821, where he settled on wild land and there established the family home, cleared and developed a farm. He took with him the apple trees with which to plant his orchard. Several members of the Gideon family went with him besides his own immediate family. He was a substantial farmer and lived to be an aged man, passing the remainder of his days in Tennessee. William Gideon, his son and the grandfather of our subject, was born in the state of New York in 1789, and went with the rest of the family to North Carolina, and there he married Matilda Wood, and to them these children were born: James H., Burton A., William C., Francis M., Woodson T., Green B., John A., Minerva and Elizabeth. Mr. Gideon moved to Tennessee in 1821 and engaged in farming, although he was a hatter by trade. He was a member of the Baptist church and was an elder in the church for forty years. However, in his old age he became a Universalist. In the spring of 1836 he came to Missouri and settled on land north of Ozark, entering two hundred acres of wild land two miles from that town and here began life in true pioneer fashion. He became a successful farmer here and a well-known and highly respected citizen. His death occurred in 1868 at the age of seventy-nine years. His son, William C. Gideon, our subject's father, was born in Hawkins county, Tennessee, on February 15, 1824, and received a limited education in the schools of his day, and was but twelve years old when he came with his father to Missouri, and was reared among the frontiersmen of this state in a rugged and primitive environment. When twenty-one years old he married Malinda Byrd, a daughter of James Byrd and wife, and to this union eight children were born, namely: Thomas J., James J., Francis M., William W., John M., Martin V., George B. and Matilda.

William C. Gideon settled on a farm in what was then Taney county, now Christian county, Missouri, and during his life lived on a number of different farms in this locality. He was a hard worker and managed well, and even prior to the breaking out of the war between the states he owned four hundred and eighty acres of land in Christian county. He cleared up several farms. During the war he was obliged to remove his residence to Greene county, settling four miles south of Springfield on account of the depredations of guerrillas. His sympathies were with the Union, and during the war he served in the Home Guards, three months under Capt. Jesse Galloway, and on March 5, 1862, he enlisted in Company . F, Missouri State Militia, and was mustered into United States service. He was promoted to sergeant and detailed as recruiting officer at Springfield, Missouri, for Rabbs' Battery, having been transferred to the Eighth Missouri State Militia. While in this service, he was killed by a band of guerrillas, in Christian county, at the home of his father on December 16, 1863, at the early age of thirty-nine years. He had participated in the battle of Ozark and the battle of Springfield when Marmaduke and Shelby made their raid and attempted to capture the town on January 8, 1863. He was also in other engagements and proved to be a brave and gallant soldier. In religion he was a Methodist. He was a man whose judgment was respected by the people and he was influential in his community. He served as justice of the peace four years. In politics he was a Douglas or war Democrat, but after the war began became a Republican. He was a man of quiet and peaceful disposition, was honorable in character, and had the confidence of the community in which he lived.

Judge James J. Gideon grew to manhood on his father's farm in Christian county and there worked hard when a boy. He received his early education in the common schools, and when a boy, being fired with the patriotism of the youth of this country during the Civil war, he ran away from school at the age of sixteen years, and on June 20, 1863, enlisted at Springfield in Battery A, First Arkansas Light Artillery. After serving a short time in this battery he re-enlisted in Company H, Sixteenth United States Cavalry, in which he served twenty months. While in this regiment he was in the fight at Boonville against General Price, at the battle near Jefferson City, at Big Blue, where General Marmaduke was captured, Independence and in the Newtonia fight and many skirmishes, in all of which he deported himself as creditably as did any of the veterans of his regiment. He was promoted to corporal and was honorably discharged on July 1, 1865. During his service he was neither wounded nor imprisoned. At the close of the war he was elected captain of Company E, Ninety-ninth Regiment, Missouri Militia, but saw no active service as such. After his military career he returned home, attended school and farmed. On December 29, 1868, he married Mary S. Ball, a daughter of Captain Jackson and Elizabeth (Keltruer) Ball. To Judge and Mrs. Gideon the following children were born: Percy P., Frederick E., Nora (died when thirteen years old), Kate M., who died on November 20, 1900, and Mary, born on January 1, 1894, died on March 10, 1907.

After his marriage Judge Gideon settled on a farm near Ozark, but agricultural pursuits were not exactly to the tastes of a man of his active mind and laudable ambitions, and he began the study of law during his spare moments, and, making rapid progress, he was admitted to the bar in January, 1872, and immediately began the practice of his profession at Ozark, where he soon had a good practice and where he continued until 1886. During this time he won the confidence of the people of his county and filled the office of public administrator and prosecuting attorney for eight years. He also represented his county in the state Legislature one term and was elected to the state Senate from the Nineteenth Senatorial District in 1884 and served one term, giving his constituents entire satisfaction in both offices. On July 26, 1886, he removed to Springfield, where he still resides and where he was successful in the practice of his profession from the start and his ability recognized, in 1888, by his election as prosecuting attorney for one term and in the year 1902 by his election as judge of the criminal court. In November, 1900, he was again elected judge of the criminal court for one term, which important office he filled to the satisfaction of the people. It is said that under his administration the business of the criminal court was dispatched expeditiously, as indicated in the beginning of this article, and that wisdom accompanied his judgments, which were tempered with mercy. Judge Gideon is widely known throughout southwestern Missouri as a stanch leader in the Republican party and a successful politician. He has never been defeated before a convention or at the polls for any office for which he has seen fit to run except in the free silver craze of 1896. He is still active in the practice of his profession. Fraternally he belongs to Solomon Lodge of Masons at Springfield and at Ozark held all the offices of Friend Lodge, No. 352. He also belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He, is an active member of Capt. John Matthews Post, Grand Army of the Republic, Springfield, of which he has been commander, and he was at one, time assistant inspector general of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Judge Gideon's life record might well be emulated by the ambitious youth whose fortunes are yet in the making, for our subject is an example of the self-made man who came up from the soil and has battled his way to the front unaided and along honorable lines.

[1131-1134]


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