Alexander County

Biography - James B. Wall

JAMES BORAH WALL, a highly honored and eminently successful man of affairs in and about Cairo, Illinois, is by inheritance and instinct a southerner, but he lays just claim to the rights of a northerner by reason of his northern birth. He is the son of George E. and Florentyne (Meeks) Borah, both of whom died when their son, James Borah, was an infant, passing away within a few days of each other. The orphaned boy was reared by Anderson L. Wall, and he assumed the name of his benefactor in his boyhood, going by that name ever since.

Anderson L. Wall, the foster father of James Borah Wall of this review, was born in Wayne county, Illinois, in the year 1836. When the War of the Rebellion broke out in 1861 and there came the call to arms he enlisted straightway to fight in the cause of honor and justice. He left the farm home of the family to enlist as a private in Company G, Fortieth Illinois Infantry, and he fought throughout four bloody, bitter years. He was with the army of General Grant when operating through the Cairo country and down the Mississippi river. He was engaged in the campaign which resulted in so disastrously overcoming the Rebel forces, and he was in active service at the capture of Vicksburg. Following the evacuation of Vicksburg, his regiment was transferred to General Sherman's magnificent band of men, and it was his privilege to take part in the Atlanta campaign and the famous "march to the sea;" back through the then devastated and suffering Carolinas, when they besieged and captured the army of General Johnston, and thence on to Washington for the Grand Review and final mustering out of the army which marked the close of hostilities.

Peace restored once more. Anderson Wall settled down to the quiet and uneventful life of the agriculturist, and he prospered very materially in the following years. In the early 'nineties he decided to leave his country place and engage in the real estate and insurance business in the nearby town of Fairfield, in which business he was especially successful from the beginning. Mr. Wall was married a few years subsequent to the close of the war to one Sarah J. Porterfield, a representative of the Pennsylvania branch of the Porterfields. A daughter was born of their union. The daughter is Mary E., the wife of T. P. Moore, editor of the Olney Times. Following the death of George E. Borah and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Wall adopted the orphaned son of their deceased friends, and James Borah was reared as they would have reared their own son had they been given one.

James Borah Wall was born in Wayne county, Illinois, on July 25, 1877. He passed his early boyhood days in the delightful freedom and happiness which are the attributes of country life, and when a youth of fifteen years his parents removed to Fairfield, where his foster-father engaged in business as heretofore mentioned. Here he attended school, graduating from the Pairfield high school, after which he entered the Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois. But he was restless, and disinclined to the life of a student, and in his junior year he left the university and started on an exploring tour through the northwest, finally bringing up in the Klondyke regions. No sooner did he find himself in the mining camp than the "gold madness" seized upon him, and the young adventurer was fired with the burning ambition to make a "strike" in the richest mining district then known to the civilized world. For five years the glamour of the far famed Eldorado held him enthralled a willing victim. During that time he prospected in every known part of the Klondyke district, but with only indifferent success. He had the experience of seeing his cabin mate strike pay dirt on a claim adjoining his own, and he followed many a promising lead blindly and doggedly, only to have it finally peter out, leaving him always in the depths of despair, but, consistent with the prevailing spirit of the camp, always ready to take one more chance. After five years of roughing it, in the truest acceptance of the word, James Wall turned homeward. The call of home and friends was stronger than the enticements of the golden west, and he found himself longing for a sight of his native state and all who were dear to him. When he finally made his way back to Fairfield, he did so in the conscious knowledge that the only reward of his five years of self-imposed exile lay in the generous fund of experience he had gleaned in the prospector's school of hard knocks, and in the further knowledge that the greatest opportunities are not always those that lie farthest from us.

Returning home, Mr. Wall engaged with his foster-father in the flourishing business which he found Anderson L. Wall still conducting, and he applied himself with energy and brains to the thorough mastering of every detail of the real estate and insurance business. That he succeeded admirably in his ambition is well attested by the fact that in a comparatively short time he found the field of Fairfield too restricted for his efforts, and he accordingly removed to Cairo, Illinois, where he opened offices for the carrying on of a general real estate and insurance business, which has grown apace from that day to the present time, and James Borah Wall is recognized in Cairo and Southern Illinois as a successful and representative business man.

In 1906 Mr. Wall married Miss Mercedes M. Vincent, a daughter of Francis and Virginia (Verin) Vincent, Mrs. Wall being one of the four children of Mr. and Mrs. Vincent.

Mr. Wall is a man of quiet and homelike inclinations. Thus far in his promising career he has not permitted himself to be drawn into any political alliances. As a matter of conscience he casts a straight Republican ballot at the proper times each year, but beyond that he has never gone. Mr. Wall is a Pythian Knight and an honored and useful member of the Cairo Commercial Club and as a prosperous and honorable man and an all around good citizen the city of Cairo does well to evince pride in him and his achievements.

Extracted 06 Nov 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 History of Southern Illinois, Volume 3, pages 1382-1384.

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