JOHN H. B. RENFRO. A native of southern Tennessee, not far from the border line of Alabama, but becoming a resident of Illinois at an early age, years before the dense cloud of the Civil war shrouded our country in gloom, the late John H. B. Renfro, of Carbondale, where his life ended on the 26th of October, 1908, grew to manhood in an atmosphere very different in its political character from that in which he was born. And when the destructive besom of sectional strife swept the land, leaving a trail of blood and ruin in its wake, he joined the forces gathered to save the Union from dismemberment, and fought valiantly for the flag under which his life began. In his military service he manfully exemplified the valor and resourcefulness of the citizen soldiery of Illinois on one side of the momentous conflict, as he would probably have exemplified the same qualities in the military spirit of his native state on the other if he had remained in the locality of his birth and been reared under the influence of its political teachings.
Mr. Renfro came into being on January 2, 1842, in Lincoln county, Tennessee, and in his boyhood he came to Hardin county, Illinois, where he became established as a farm hand and later took up a tract of wild land which he transformed into a well improved and productive farm. His parents joined him here. He had obtained what education he was able to secure in the public schools. During his boyhood he had witnessed several public auctions of slaves, which he never thought right, and at the beginning of the war he enlisted in the Federal army, in Company C, Forty-eighth Volunteer Infantry, of which he was third sergeant. He took part in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson and the sanguinary battle of Shiloh. In the last named engagement he was wounded in the right lung and disabled for further service for a time, but after recovering his health he rejoined his regiment. He remained with it until August 27, 1864, when he fell from a wagon and broke one of his arms. This accident occurred in the neighborhood of Jonesboro, Georgia, and from there he returned to his Illinois home. His brother Phenix, who was a boy at home, while hunting got blood on his clothes, and being suspicioned of the ambushing and killing of two northern soldiers was sentenced to be shot. The crime, however, was committed by a neighbor, who came to Phenix Renfro and told him of the circumstances and asked him to get his brother, who was a northern soldier, to save him, but if he could not that he, himself, would come forward in time to save him. Our subject, however, saved his brother. J. H. B. Renfro was discharged from the service on March 25, 1865, and resumed his residence in Elizabethtown, Hardin county, this state. In the fall of the same year he was elected treasurer of the county, and was reelected in 1867. In 1869 he was elected county clerk, and this office he filled with great acceptability to the people of the county for a continuous period of seventeen years.
Mr. Renfro was first married on May 4, 1870, to Miss Emeretta Leone McClellan. They had two children, their sons Robert E. and C. Duncan Miller Renfro, both of whom are residents of Carbondale. Their mother died on November 9, 1892, and on April 29, 1894, the father contracted a second marriage, uniting himself with Miss Fannie J. Holden, of Carbondale, he having become a resident of this city in 1888. They became the parents of five children, four of whom are living. They are: Harvey L., Anna Lois, Laura Jeannette and Margaret Josephine. A son, named Samuel B., died a number of years ago.
During his residence in Carbondale the father served two years as township clerk, two years as city attorney and four years as police magistrate and won general approval by the manner in which he discharged the duties of each of these positions. In fraternal life he was a Freemason for a long time, and also belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic. In the latter organization he was a past commander of John W. Lawrence Post, No. 297. Throughout his long service in public life, in the army and in civil offices he never shirked a duty or gave one slight attention. His citizenship was valued wherever he was known, and was worthy of the regard it won.
Extracted 23 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Southern Illinois, published in 1912, volume 2, pages 706-707.
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