Mr. Hedges comes of a Kentucky ancestry. His father was James Ferman Hedges, born in the old "Blue Grass State," where he married Miss. Ruth Brown, also a native Kentuckian. While yet a young man Mr. Hedges moved to Illinois, where his son, the subject of this sketch, was born. Later the family removed to the state of Kansas, and afterwards to Missouri. The father died in this state in 18995, his wife having passed away fifteen years previously.
The family of this couple consisted of five boys and three girls, all of whom are still living With the exception of two. James H. Hedges is the younger of these five sons. He was born in Macoupin county, Illinois, on the 20th day of May, 1860. He attended the common schools during boyhood and finished his education at the Normal school at Warrensburg, Missouri, leaving there in 1878.
In 1879, while yet lacking more than two years of being of legal age, Mr. Hedges took up his life work by engaging in contracting work upon the Missouri Pacific railroad. He remained in this position for six years, thus serving a long apprenticeship and laying deep the foundations of knowledge of his business that was to stand him in good stead in the days to come.
In 1885 he decided to undertake contracting in a small way upon his own responsibility. He had but small capital in money, and he asked no financial assistance from anyone. But he had what was better than money a thorough knowledge of his business and an iron determination to succeed. It was inevitable with those two essentials that he should succeed and he did.
In 1886 he took an interest in the firm of Scott, Hinkley & Hedges in the business of quarrying and handling stone and stone contracts. This company endured for some ten years. Four years of that time was covered by the great financial depression from 1893 to 1897, when very little was doing in the way of contracting or construction work, either in this field or anywhere else in the United States, but with the revival of business, Mr. Hedges was again actively at work in his chosen line.
About this time he formed a partnership with Napoleon Gosney, under the firm name of Hedges & Gosney, for the business of railroad contracting and construction work.
The new firm was a success from the first day. Work flowed in upon it and the business prospered in every way. So much was this the case that in 1900 a corporation was formed under the title of the Hedges & Gosney Construction Company. Of this corporation Mr. Hedges was elected the president, which position he still holds.
A list of all the construction work which this company has done since its organization would be too long for the space reserved for this sketch. It is enough to say that they have done the masonry and concrete work on the Frisco Railroad, the Missouri Pacific, Kansas City Southern, Eastern Illinois and other roads. Their work has extended into Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kansas and Missouri. And the quality of the work done is attested by the fact that they have returned again and again to do new work for the same companies. As a matter of fact this company, organized in a quiet way, and without great capital has simply by strict attention to business, and work of high quality, attained the position of the heaviest contracting company in their line in this entire region.
As the business of the original company has increased other companies have been organized, each handling some special lines of contracting and construction work. Of these companies, Mr., Hedges is the vice-president of the Jarrett Construction Company, also vice-president of the Weaver-Weeks Construction Company, and of the Jarrett-Richardson Paving Company. He also served in the same capacity in the Willier Construction Company, until it was dissolved by the untimely death of Mr. Willier. These various companies occupy spacious offices in the Holland building, in Springfield, and are reckoned among the most solid and reliable institutions of the city.
Mr. Hedges was married on the 1st of June, 1892, to Miss Edna B. Houghton, of Springfield. Mrs. Hedges' father died in Andrew county, Missouri, while she was still a young child, and her mother, Priscilla, removed from that county to Springfield with her two children soon after the father's death. Mrs. Houghton taught in the schools of Springfield for many years, and lived to a ripe old age, passing away about 1911.
To Mr. and Mrs. Hedges have been born a family of four children, two sons and two daughters. The oldest, Miss Rolla H. Hedges, was educated in the Springfield high school, and finished with one year at Hollins College, Virginia. Franklin H. Hedges is a graduate of the Western Military Academy, of Upper Alton, Illinois, and is now a student in Drury College. Jeannette E. Hedges, the second daughter, also attended the Springfield high school, and is now attending Drury College. Warren B. Hedges, the youngest son, is at present attending the Springfield high school. The Hedges' home is at number 940 North Jefferson street, Springfield, and is one of the finest, most home-like residences in the city.