James S. Hester Biography and Pension Records

by Carroll L. Hughes

James S. Hester Short Biography

A typical example of vigle manhood of Southern Illinois is found in James S. Hester. Born in the South, he accompanied his parents to Illinois as a youth, resisted the lure of the city and the great West, to which so many of his boyhood companions yielded, and after serving his country valiantly as a soldier during the Civil War, set himself to the task of extracting wealth farming. After more than forty years spent in agricultural pursuits he has now retired and is enjoying the fruits of his labors as a resident of the city of Vienna.

The grandfather of James S. Hester, was B. Hester, who was a pioneer settler of Franklin County, Alabama, and built the first house in Franklin county seat. His son Chesley B. Hester was born in Alabama. and brought his family to Southern Illinois during the fall of 1863, when the Union sympathizers, to which class the Hester's belonged, were driven from the Southern states. On coming to Illinois, Mr. Chesley B. Hester located on a farm near Vienna, about four miles away; having served for eleven months as a member of Company D, 64th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in which he had enlisted at Corinth, Mississippi, September 11, 1862, and from which he received his honorable discharge on account of disability. He never recovered from the bad effects of his army service, and died in May 27, 1885--born June 24, 1822; wife Sarah Rikard b. May 8, 1826--d. June 1, 1885. He had a family of six sons and three daughters, but a number of the children died on coming north on account of the great change in climate: Smaria, Louis, Alfred, Henry, Clinton, Hannah, and Alabama are deceased, James S. the subject of this review, John C., and Emily who is now married to Mr. Dooley.

James S. Hester was born October 14, 1846, in Franklin County, Alabama, and he had not yet reached his sixteenth birthday when he enlisted in the same company with his father (Chesley B. Hester). He was well grown and sturdy and much better able to stand the rigors of army life than the older man, and would have completed his enlistment or three years had not the war closed some three months prior to that time. For some time he was engaged in garrison duty, around Corinth and Iuka, Mississippi as well as Glendale, which was his headquarters for ten months, and then went to Pulaski, Tennessee, and Decatur Alabama, subsequently in the spring of 1864 going to Chattanooga to participate in the battles around that place. He the joined Sherman's division and took part in the famous "March to the Sea," and was in the fighting all through to Savannah, where he boarded ship to Buford, South Carolina marching through Goldsboro, the regiment went on to Raleigh, North Carolina, where they received the news of Lee's surrender. Amid great rejoicing, Mr. J. S. Hester's brigade then went on to Richmond, and then to Washington, D.C., where it participated in the Grand Review, and he was mustered out of the service on June 8, 1865, paid off and discharged at Springfield, Illinois. His brave and faithful services finished Mr. J. S. Hester went to Dongola by rail and joined the family at Vienna, working on his father's farm until 1867. In that year he married and began life for himself on a rented farm situated two miles northwest of Vienna, but in the next year moved to another farm two and one-half miles southwest of Vienna, on which he continued operations until 1879. At that time he purchased thirty-two acres of land, and from that time on his rise as an agriculturist was rapid; his holdings now amounting to two hundred and twenty-three acres of excellent land, which is operated by his sons. In November 1904, Mr. Hester left the farm and moved to Vienna., where he purchased a fine residence and nine lots.

He has been active in civic affairs and county politics and a hard and faithful worker in the ranks of the Republican Party, serving at various times as school director and road commissioner and at present active for the second time as a member of the Vienna City Council. He is a popular comrade of Vienna Post, Grand Army of the Republic, also he and his family are consistent members of the United Brethren Church. Mr. Hester was married (first in May 1867, to Joyce Adeline Ridenhour, daughter of Archie N. Ridenhour (Ridenhower), and she died in 1895, having been the mother of thirteen children, of whom some are deceased. Mr. J .S. Hester's second marriage in Jan. 26, 1896, when he was united with his first wife's sister, Mrs. Mary Jane (Ridenhour) Hester-Newby; she first married John C. Hester, her second husband was William M. Newby, both are now deceased. Mr. James S. Hester has fifteen grandchildren.

He is one of this communities prominent and influential citizens, having proved himself as faithful and capable in discharging the duties that have fallen to his lot during days of peace as he did in his youth as a wearer of the blue during the dark days of the Civil War.

Source: Smith, George W. History of Southern Illinois, Vol. II. Chicago, IL: Lewis Publishing Company, 1912.

Taken from Obituary in newspaper.
Passed away Monday, June 13, 1932

Funeral services for Civil War Veteran held Wednesday afternoon.

J. S. HESTER, aged 85, passed away at his home in Vienna near midnight on Monday, June 13, 1932. He had been in rather feeble health for a year, suffering from a number of paralytic strokes.

Again death breaks the ranks of the few remaining Civil War veterans of this county. There are only two surviving now in the city of Vienna. Uncle Jim was among the few living veterans that made the march with "Sherman to the Sea."

Uncle Jim, as he was known by his friends, will be missed in this city. He was known to be a man of sterling character, recognizing the right from wrong and was immovable from his stand for justice and righteousness. His friends knew him as a true friend, reliable and ready in times of need to lend a helping hand. During his illness the daily visitation and inquiry of his many friends, showed the esteem in which he was held.

Funeral services were held at the First Baptist Church in Vienna on Wednesday afternoon, conducted by Elder H. C. Croslin of Carrier Mills, assisted by Elder Douglas Berry. After the services the body was conveyed to the Bridges Cemetery and after military rites by the American Legion, his remains were laid tenderly to rest beside loved ones passed on before.

Grandchildren of the deceased acted as pall bearers. They were: Lawrence Sanders, Roy Sanders, Marion Hester, Raymond Hester, and Joe Hester. Virgil Hester took the place of Clarence Hester.

Those acting as flower bearers were: Mildred Hester, Gertrude Parker, Pauline Lipe, Helen Hester, Ethel Sanders, Ethel
Shoemaker, Effie Hester, Prudence Gurley, and Lillie Frances Hester.

Those from a distance attending the funeral were:
Mr. and Mrs. Marion Hester, Alton, Illinois.
Mr. and Mrs. Tellus Hester, Woodriver, Illinois.
Dorothy Sanders.. Godfrey, Illinois.
John Rikard and Lizzie Rikard and daughter Ola, of Buncombe, Illinois.
Alf Hester and son Raymond of Marion, Illinois.
Al Kieffer, of Maunie, Illinois.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Mathis of Maunie, Illinois.
Mr. and Mrs. Owen Jones of Woodriver, Illinois.
Sam Wiley of Jacksonville, Illinois.
T. E. Rayburn and Elder and Mrs. H. C. Croslin of Carrier Mills, Illinois.

Following is the obituary read at the services:

"James S. Hester, son of Sarah Rikard and Chesley Burch Hester was born in Alabama, October 14, 1846, died at his home in Vienna June 13, 1932, age as years, 7 months, 29 days. Near the age of fifteen along with his father and brother, he enlisted with the Union Army of the Civil War, being in the 64th Illinois Infantry and called "Yates Sharp Shooters" and at the close of the "Civil War received his honorable discharge. It seemed to be his joy at the last few months for Uncle Jim to tell of the experiences of the March to the Sea under General Sherman, the fierce battles along the Mississippi and of his early pioneer life in settling in the communities of Buncombe and Vienna.

"When a young man, he was married to Miss. Joycie Ridenhour, and to this union were born thirteen children, five with the mother preceding him in death. Those remaining to morn their loss of their father are:
Mary Jane Sanders
Archibald Monroe (Bud) Hester
James Garfield Hester
Alfred A. Hester
Sarah Royer
Cora E. Jones
Marion Tellus Hester
Kitty Mae Nathis

"Also 29 grandchildren and 32 great grand children.

"About 1896, he was married the second time to Mrs. Mary Jane Newby, she too having preceded him in death.

"When about thirty years of age, he professed faith in Christ and united with the Presbyterian Church of No. Nine community, later, after this church cease to function, he moved his membership to the United Brethren Church of the same community. The Church to him was an important institution and it was always his joy when he was physically able to attend Church.

"Sarah, his daughter has been a life long associate of her father and since her marriage to Sam Royer, Uncle Jim had the best of care. They have treated their father with mothers' kindness and tenderness and with his children and friends tarried to the end willing to give help and comfort to their afflicted father, who one year ago on the 16th of June, had his first stroke.

"One of the joys of this invalid father was to car ride with Sam or Sarah, and his many friends will miss seeing Uncle Jim either going or coming in the car.

"As we think of him as a soldier, citizen, father and friend and of his unnumbered burdens and sorrows, of his long life we too like Jesus much resign to our Father's will, 'not my will, but thine be done.'"

War Department,


Washington, January 10th, 1883.

Respectfully returned to the Commissioner of Pensions.

James S. Hester, a Private of Company D, 64th Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, was enrolled on the 11th day of September, 1862, at Iuka, Mississippi for 3 years, and is reported: on muster rolls of Company to December 31, 1863. Private present, January-February 1864. Absent on detached service in Tennessee, March-April 1864 to October 31, 1864. Present, station of Company, October 31, 1864, Cave Spring, Georgia. Present December 1864 to April 1865. Present, mustered out on detachment. Muster out roll, May 1, 1865 near Washington, D.C.

The records of this office furnish no evidence of alleged disability. Company Morning Reports prior to 1865, and Regimental Hospital records not on file.

(signed) M. Barber
Assistant Adjutant General.

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Declaration for Original Pension of an Invalid.

State of Illinois, County of Johnson, SS:

On this 28th day of June, A.D., on thousand eight hundred and eighty personally appeared before me F. M. Jones, Clerk of the County Court, a Court of Record within and for the County and State aforesaid James S. Hester, aged 33 years, a resident of near Vienna, County of Johnson, State of Illinois, who being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is the identical James S. Hester who entered service under the name of James S. Hester on the 11th day of September, in the year of 1862, as a private in Company D, of the 64th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, commanded by Captain James [actually John W.] Stewart, and was DISCHARGED at Springfield, Illinois, on or about the 8th day of June, 1865, by reason of the close of the War. That his personal description is as follows: Age, 33 years; height, 5 feet 6 inches; complexion light; hair dark; eyes hazel. That while a member of the organization aforesaid in the service and in the line of his duty at Dallas, Georgia, on or about the _____ day of October, 1864, he incurred a disability, the symptoms and location of which are hereinafter described: rheumatism of his whole body, caused by exposure.

That he has never been employed in the military or naval service otherwise than as stated above, except _____.

That since the 8th day of June, A.D. 1865, he has not been employed in the military or naval service of the United States. That since leaving the service this applicant has resided in the County of Johnson, in the State of Illinois and his occupation has been that of a farmer. That prior to his entry into the service above named he was a man of good, sound, physical health, being when enrolled a farmer. That he is now part disabled from obtaining his subsistence by manual labor by reason of disability incurred in the service of the United States, as will more fully appear in testimony hereafter to be submitted; and he therefore makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the invalid pension roll of the United States.

He hereby appoints, with full power of substitution and revocation,

of WASHINGTON, D.C., his true and lawful Attorney to prosecute his claim. That he has never received now applied for a pension. That his Post office address is Vienna, County of Johnson, State of Illinois.

James S. Hester
(his mark) X

Two witnesses to Claimant's signature sign here:

(1) (Signed) P. T. Chapman
(2) (Signed) Jas. W. Gore

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Act of May 1, 1920.


STATE OF Illinois, COUNTY of Johnson, ss:

On this 26th day of January, A.D. 1922, personally appeared before me, a Notary Public, within and for the county and State aforesaid, James S. Hester who, being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is 75 years of age, and a resident of Vienna, County of Johnson, State of Illinois; and that he is the identical person who was ENROLLED at Corinth, Mississippi, under the name of James S. Hester on the 11th day of September, 1862, as a Private in Company D, 64th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, in the service of the United States, in the Civil War, and was HONORABLY DISCHARGED at near Washington, D.C., on the 31st day of May, 1865. That he also served none.

That his personal description at enlistment was as follows: Height, five feet, 6½ inches; complexion, fair; color of eyes, hazel; color of hair, brown; that his occupation was farmer; that he was born October 14th, 1846, at Franklin County, Alabama.

That he requires the regular personal aid and attendance of another person on account of the following disabilities: old age, piles, heart trouble, pulmisy [sp?] and rheumatism.

That since leaving the service he has resided at Johnson County, Illinois and his occupation has been farmer.

That he has _____ applied for pension under Original No. _____. That he is _____ a pensioner under Certificate No. 490534. That he makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the pension roll of the United States under the provisions of the act of May 1, 1920.

Two attesting witnesses.

(1) (signed) W. C. Simmons, Vienna, Illinois.
(2) (signed) Sarah Gester, Vienna, Illinois.

James S. Hester
(his mark) X

SUBSCRIBED and sworn to before me this 26th day of January, A.D. 1922, and I hereby certify that the contents of the above declaration were fully made known and explained to the applicant before swearing, including the words _____ erased, and the words _____, added; and that I have no interest, direct or indirect, in the prosecution of this claim.

(signed) Charles J. Heffman
Notary Public
Vienna, Illinois.

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James S. Hester's GAR Ribbons


Welcome Letter
from the Unit President

Unit History

by Members of the 64th

Events Calendar

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