James Robert Lemon, James R. Lemon, Col. J.R. Lemon; J.R. Lemon appears to be his preferred name.
James R. Lemon was a prominent person in Western Kentucky, having been an an educator, merchant, newspaperman and an influencer in the Democratic party. He was the founder and active member of the Mayfield Daily and Weekly Messenger which became Graves County, Kentucky's best newspaper. James also prepared and published Lemon's Hand Book of Marshall County, Kentucky which provided "its history, advantages, etc. and biographical sketches of its prominent citizens".
In 1848, J.R. was born seven miles from Greensboro, NC in Guilford County where the Battle of Guilford Court House was fought during the American Revolutionary War (1781). He was the son of Joseph G. Lemonds b. 23 Dec 1818 Rockingham Co, NC d. 21 Jan 1885 Marshall Co, KY and Demaris A. Helton b. 11 Apr 1833 Rockingham Co, NC d. 14 Nov 1878 Marshall Co, KY. The Lemonds were early NC settlers and farmers.
In Nov 1855, J.R.'s parents brought him and his two brothers on a 7-week trip 800 miles "west" across the Appalachians in a two-horse wagon to Birmingham, Marshall County, Kentucky. The surrounding area had just a few settlements and the family were renters in a few of them for several years. James was raised on a farm and attended public schools in poor neighborhoods at the time which wasn't conducive to learning. His parents furnished J.R. books and he studied hard to become one of the top scholars in the community.
In 1870, a 22-yo J.R. visited relatives in Henry County, Tennessee and taught in subscription school at Lebanon Church for three months and made $56. He also taught at public schools in both Salem and Briensburg Kentucky. On 27 Mar 1870, J.R. entered the Marshall County Seminary in Benton, Kentucky led by Professor A. Pomroy, a able educator. He attended both the spring and summer sessions and taught fall school in the country until the seminary disbanded in Apr 1871. Then J.R. clerked at Col. T.B. Waller General Store in Briensburg until Sep 1871, taught at another school and returned home. From Aug 1872 until the spring of 1873, J.R. taught in a Briensburg schoolroom.
In 1874, the Lemons moved to Benton where J.R. partnered with his father-in-law, Dr.Wilson, in Lemon & Wilson, a drug store. Shortly thereafter, Wilson died so he continued the business under his name until the 1880s when he partnered with W. A. Holland in a drug and grocery store. In 1881, J.R. became a traveling salesman for Patrick & Wilson, book and stationery dealers at Evansville, Indiana. His territory included western Kentucky, southern Illinois, southeastern Missouri and Arkansas and was considered the most successful salesman on the road. on 17 Nov 1884, he expanded his Benton drug business by buying all competitors and becoming a junior partner a well-known firm Starks and Lemon. On 13 Oct 1890, when Barry retired he bought out J.R.'s interests in Starks and Lemon and continued the business in the Lemon name. In 1894, J.R. formed a stock company at Paducah, Kentucky, under the name of the Lemon-Gregory Hat Company, being the prime mover in establishing a wholesale hat house in that city, and was president and general manager of the company until it discontinued business in 1899. On 06 Jan 1897, J.R. was a Paducah resident, a hat company president, the editor of the Paducah Evening Journal, the postmaster at Benton and the vice president of the Register Company.
Although a teacher and successful businessman, J.R. gravitated toward politics, became a strong Democrat and served in several positions. On 19 Jun 1873 J.R. was appointed postmaster at Old Briensburg, Marshall Co, KY Kentucky and served until 1875. In 1875 as Benton's postmaster, he earned $93.21. Colonel Sam Gaines of Hopkinsville, Kentucky appointed J.R. supervisor of Marshall County and took the Benton and Oak Hill census. In March 1886, He was the Benton postmaster for seven years under the administrations of Grant and Arthur, and was again appointed at Benton on 05 May 1893, by William Johnson Stone (June 26, 1841 – March 12, 1923) the US Representative from Kentucky's 1st District under Cleveland’s administration. J.R. held that position for nine years and was considered one of the best of postmasters. As Benton's postmaster in 1895 and 1897, he made $504.89 and $538.29, respectively.
J.R. was appointed by Governor J. Proctor Knott, of Kentucky as a member of the state board of equalization, with headquarters at Frankfort, to fill out the unexpired term of C. C. Coulter, deceased. To this position J.R. was elected in November 1886, over several competitors, and received a three thousand majority. He was one of the most prominent members of the board and did much for his constituents in reducing taxation. In 1892 J.R. was appointed master commissioner of Marshall county by D. G. Clark, a judge of the common pleas court of that district, which position J.R. held until his resignation in 1893.
On 09 Jun 1898, J.R. received letters from friends urging him to run for railroad commissioner in 1899 and although he was non-committal he said there was plenty of time for him to make that decision. It was reported 25 Jan 1901 that J.R. considered running for state senator against Mack D. Ferguson, incumbent and Bill Dance. J.R. said, "I'd make just as good a senator as either of the other two, and think I would be a complete failure if I couldn't make a better one." On 18 Apr 1901, he decided to run for state senator in a crowded field of five candidates.
On 07 May 1904 in Mayfield, KY, J.R. was made secretary of the newly formed Hearst Club to support William Randolph Hearst's failed run for the U.S. presidency that year. This club had 537 members making it the largest Hearst Club in the state. In Feb 1906, J.R. was in favor of Mayfield and Graves Co, remaining dry and praised the town's effort to prosecute recent violators. J.R. said, "There will come a time in the near future when a bottle filled with whiskey will be as much a novelty in Mayfield as is possible to imagine." In 2018, Graves is currently a "limited" dry county, meaning that the sale of alcohol in the county is prohibited except for wine and beer in restaurants in Mayfield which have seating for at least 100 patrons or at the Mayfield Golf & Country Club. In 1906, J.R. was among those who supported the immigration movement convention. He was quoted as saying, " I will gladly attend your meeting and will help you In my paper. In fact It will be helping all of this end of the state for I believe as you do that a great deal of good can be done for this section of the country along the lines you suggest."
On 03 Mar 1909, J.R. was one of the prominent Kentuckians to appear at the first meeting of the state's Alaska-Yukon commission in Louisville, KY. The commission was appointed by Republican Augustus E. Willson, Governor of Kentucky to have Kentucky represented at the Seattle Exposition (World's Fair) held 01 Jun-17 Oct 1909. J.R.'s motion to confer the commission's chairmanship upon E. M. Flexner was unanimously endorsed. Meeting members discussed how funds could be raised to give Kentucky an attractive exhibit at the show. On 24 May in Lexington, KY, J.R. was chosen as one of two delegates from the First District to 1916 Democratic National Convention held at the St. Louis Coliseum, St. Louis, MO. In Jan 1913, J.R. was appointed by KY Gov. McCreary as a delegate to represent the state at a Southern National Highway Association meeting in Asheville, NC on 12 Feb that year. In Mar 1915, it was reported that J.R. had wanted the Mayfield postmaster position but didn't get it.
Dating back to the late 18th Century, Southern Harmony Singing is a pure and authentic form of religious music using geometric shapes for the heads of notes. Those shapes are known as fasola notation: the right triangle is fa, the circle is sol, the square is la, and the diamond is m. This approach revolutionized the teaching of music singing to untrained church congregations. William Walker's Southern Harmony and Musical Companion became the most popular tune-book ever published and it is still being regularly used today over 180 years later in Benton, KY. This form of music has been celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday in May at an event called The Big Singing.
The Big Singing began in 1884 Benton, KY under the leadership of James R. Lemon. We can only speculate why J.R. was interested Southern Harmony music. The Lemon family was from Guilford Co, NC which within range of William Walker's Spartanburg, SC home and his singing activities. It's thought that the Lemon family may have know Walker personally and participated in one of his schools. If so, it's possible that the Lemons brought the Southern Harmony tune book and their love of the music to Kentucky to share with other pioneers. As far as J.R. knew at the time, the last edition of the Southern Harmony tune book was published in 1854, although later editions appeared starting in 1939. J.R. likely thought that the musical style was dying thus created The Big Singing event to keep it alive. On 24 May 1903, thousands of people from surrounding districts came to Benton for the Big Singing Day and many were a part of a train load of seven coaches that left Paducah. J.R. was there as the leader and a basket dinner was served at noon. J.R., being a fine tenor, wrote this poem, "Big Singing", in 1908 to honor the day: "It is a great pleasure to us. To meet and shake your hand; And greet you once again, In singing 'Happy Land'.
On 23 May 1910 at Benton's 25th Annual Big Singing Day attended by over 10,000 people, J.R. was on hand to conduct the singing as he had over the previous 25 years. The event was described in the reunion style attended by people from all sections of Jackson's Purchase, a region in the U.S. state of Kentucky bounded by the Mississippi River to the west, the Ohio River to the north, and Tennessee River to the east. On 23 May 1915, the event was moved to Paducah's county courthouse yard because the Benton courthouse burned down the previous year. At least 10,000 visitors were expected and the railroads offered favorable rates to visitors. J.R. was reported as having a find bass voice and with his ancient baton directs the huge choir. Is was assumed that the event would end that year, however, the 135th Annual Big Singing just occurred on 27 May 2018 at Marshall County Fiscal Courtroom at 1101 Main St, Benton.
J.R. was fond of the newspaper business and considered a natural journalist. On 01 May 1890, he succeeded W. F. Story to become editor and proprietor of the Benton Tribune, soon making it one of the leading county papers in western Kentucky. On 01 Jan 1895, J.R. planned to move to Paducah and the Tribune's management was to be assigned to I. B. Wear. By 31 Jul 1896, the Benton Tribune had been sold twice after his control and the last issue of the newspaper was published Jun 1903.
In 1894, J.R. prepared and published Lemon's Hand Book of Marshall County, Kentucky which provided "its history, advantages, etc. and biographical sketches of its prominent citizens". On 04 Jan 1895, it was reported that the book was "well received."
In 1895 J.R. became part owner of the Paducah Register, serving as vice president of the company until 1896, when he disposed of his interest. In 1898 politics in Kentucky became very warm, when the lamented Senator Goebel was a candidate for governor. At this time both papers in Paducah bolted the Democratic ticket, and he, together with W. W. Martin, of Eddyville, threw themselves into the breach and established the Kentucky Leader, which was the only paper that supported the Democratic ticket that year. On 24 Dec 1898, J.R. purchased the controlling interest in the Paducah Daily News. As reported on 12 Aug 1899, he had recently established the Paducah Sunday Leader which was to be converted into an afternoon daily and "will heartily support the Democratic ticket." He disposed of his interest in The Leader in 1899. On 30 Mar 1899, J.R. and Capt. E. W. Crumbaugh planned to launch a Sunday and weekday Paducah newspaper. The paper's outfit was purchased in Louisville, KY by Crumbaugh.
On the 17th of April, 1901, J.R. went to Mayfield, Kentucky, and formed a copartnership in the newspaper business with W. K. Wall, a prominent young lawyer and city attorney, and established the Mayfield Daily and Weekly Messenger, which was not long in becoming Graves county's greatest newspaper. In Apr 1904, he bought Wall's interest in the Messenger and son Clay, who was working on the Ledger, left Paducah to take Wall's former position. On 20 Jun 1901, J.R. and his wife left their many friends in Paducah for Mayfield to select a house and move to be closer his business, the Mayfield Messenger.
In Mar 1904, J.R. and T. B. Wright of Murray, KY purchased the Murray Ledger plant and established Prof. Wright as the business manager. In Jul 1909, he bough the Mayfield Monitor plant. It was purchased for $1,001. J.R. was protective of the newspaper business. He wrote in Jul 1918: "There is another danger confronting the newspapers of the United States, and that is that there will hardly be a session of congress in the future that an attempt will not be made to punish the newspapers in some way. Congressman throughout the country, as well as United States senators, have come to the conclusion that newspapers are afraid to criticize their acts, and in order to prevent criticism they will do everything possible to destroy the power and influence of the newspapers." 
J.R. was an active member of the KPA. On 13 Jan 1869, the KPA was founded in Frankfort. KP and today is the nation's 10th oldest state press association. It's purpose is "to promote the interests of its members, the newspapers of Kentucky; to expand their field of endeavor; to maintain a high code of ethics among all journalists; to enhance the usefulness of the newspaper industry and to promote and maintain a spirit of fraternal regard among its members; and to do any and all things necessary to carry out the purposes of this corporation." On 12 Jun 1904 at the KPA business meeting in Louisville, KY, an application was approved for J.R. Lemon and Miss Maud Lemon (daughter) of the Mayfield Messenger to travel to St. Louis and remain there for meetings until after Kentucky Day on 15 Jun. On 22 Jun 1911 after the election of officers at the annual outing of the press association held in Cadiz, KY, J.R. was scheduled to lead participants in the song "God Be With You 'Till We Meet Again."
On 13 Jun 1913, it was announced that J.R. would be a KPA vice-president. On 11 Jun 1914, he was elected KSA president and he was eulogized by some half dozen members of the association seconding the nomination. J.R. responded "feelingly." On 10 Jun 1915 in Olympian Springs, Olympia, KY retiring KSA president J.R. gave a speech called "A Polished Traveler," which was full of 'wit and humor." At the time of his death in Jan 1919, J.R. was referred to as the dean of the KSA. As a KPA member, he gave many presentations and led roundtable discussions for many years at the association's meetings.
First, a little history of the automobile in the US. Thirty American manufacturers produced 2,500 motor vehicles in 1899, and some 485 companies entered the business in the next decade. The four-cylinder, 15 horsepower Ford Model N (1906-7) was the first instance of a low-cost motorcar driven by a a gas engine. The $825 four-cylinder, 20 horsepower Ford Model T was first offered in Oct 1908 but not mass produced until 1913-4. Here’s a newspaper article on J.R. Lemon's early look at a car in 1909 with a quote from James' article on that event in the Mayfield Messenger:
Editor J.R. Lemon, of the Mayfield Messenger, traveled to California with the winners in a popularity contest consisting of: Miss Mary Hargrove, Mrs. Emma Blane, Miss Maymie Leonard, Miss Ruby Usher and Misa Kathleen Wyatt. They were going by the Southern Pacific route and planned a return by another road, about three weeks later. He seemed to surround himself with pretty women because on 17 Jul 1911, J.R. accompanied five attractive girls to the Capitol in Washington D.C. who were guests of Rep. Ollie Murray James.
In his book, The Hand Book of Marshall County, J.R. described himself as "a Mason, a Knights of Honor, an Odd Fellow, a Democrat, a member of the Christian Church and trustee of the Marshall County Seminary for 15 years." He goes on to say that he was "an energetic, hard working, business man, and never drank whiskey, chewed tobacco, or gambled, and was always punctual to comply with his contracts." During what must have been an unseasonably hot 1914 summer in Western Kentucky, J.R. was quoted: "If you are going to visit these hot days, please wait until you are invited and don't rush yourself upon your kinfolks, thinking they are crazy for you to pay them a visit. Hot weather visitors are not always accompanied with abundant welcome, but if you do impose yourself upon your kinfolks and good friends please be as gentle and easy to please with what you have, to eat as possible."
Back in Oct 1912, J.R. was "seriously ill of kidney and bladder troubles and malarial fever." In Dec 1918 at the Mid-Winter KPA meeting in Louisville, KY, he was in "good health and cheerful spirits" leaving the meeting by Illinois Central train. Shortly in mid-January 1919, J.R. became critically ill for days with rheumatism which alarmed his family and friends.
It's likely due to his poor heath condition in early 1919 that J.R. created his last will and testament dated 15 Jan 1919; the will that would later be contested in court by his daughters. The document filed in Graves County Court in Mayfield distributed his estate as follows:
J.R. appointed Lucretia his executrix and the will was witnessed by J. E. Robbins and R. G. Robbins. 
On 27 Jan 1919, only 12 days after creating his will, 71 year-old J.R. died of paralysis at his home in Mayfield, Kentucky. On 29 Jan, his body was accompanied by Western KY officials, numerous friends and his family from Paducah, KY to Murray, KY. Rev. J.J. Castleberry of Mayfield held services in Benton and "floral tributes were profuse." J.R. was buried next to his first wife Cora in Strow Cemetery, Benton, Marshall Co, KY.
Two days after his death, a dispatch to the Courier-Journal from Mayfield concerning the death of J.R. Lemon, Editor of the Mayfield Messenger read:
The 1919 will J.R. executed was probated on 05 Jun 1919 at Graves County Court in Mayfield by H.A. Coulter, county court clerk. As the will directed, the Mayfield Messenger newspaper and plant were given to his three sons - Clay who was the paper's editor, Scott the business manager and Bryan who oversaw the mechanical department. J.R.'s spouse Lucretia who was a stepmother to Clay, Luna and Maude, received J.R.'s residence and personal property which was valued at approximately $30,000 ($438,000 in 2018). As the will stated, the $1,000 ($15,000 in 2018) in life insurance was split by J.R.'s daughters Luna and Maude..
Luna and Maude sued Mrs. Lemon by challenging J.R.'s will made 12 days before his death on the ground of mental incompetency and lost in Graves Circuit Court. Luna appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals and lost on 12 Oct 1921.
J.R. and Cora had issue:
J.R. and Lucretia had issue:
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J. R. is 19 degrees from John James Audubon, 25 degrees from Jacques-Yves Cousteau, 34 degrees from Gerald Durrell, 17 degrees from Dian Fossey, 19 degrees from Steve Irwin, 28 degrees from Ernest Just, 24 degrees from Ian Player, 15 degrees from Peter Scott, 32 degrees from Antoon van Hooff and 18 degrees from Marta Johnson on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.