Biography of John Hornbeak

John Hornbeak
John Hornbeak

Success in business life is a guerdon that is very cautiously bestowed upon a person by the goddess, who in a measure guides, and invariably decorates, man’s efforts. And this same success is far more apt to come because of the pursuer’s genius or adaptability for his calling, than from any mere luck, ambition, push or demand. There are favorable opportunities in men’s lives, which, if taken advantage of, will take them far along the road toward the consummation of their ideals, and, too, there are those who have a strange intuition of that time and avail themselves of it. But never does this mysterious aid come to those without ambition and fixed purpose. Determined effort invites success. Included in the narrow circle of men who have fought the battle successfully is John Hornbeak, a prominent merchant of Sparta, Missouri He was born in Warren County, Tennessee, August 12, 1830, and is of German descent. His ancestors came to this country at an early date and settled in North Carolina, where they made their home for many years.

The parents of our subject, James F. and Sarah (Johnson) Hornbeak, were natives of Tennessee, and in that State were married. The father was born in Grainger County in 1800, and about 1841 he and family moved to Greene County, Missouri, locating about six miles south of Springfield. There he resided about two years and then moved farther south, within five miles of Ozark, on a farm. where he lived until his death in 1864. He took an active part in the Civil War, but did not become a soldier in 1861; instead of this he acted as a guide for an army through the country to the Arkansas line, and was a prominent man in the first years of the war. After the war he resumed agricultural pursuits in Greene County, and was the only one of his father’s family who came to this section of the country. In political matters he stood with the Democratic party and held a number of offices of trust in Greene and Christian Counties. He was a Mason, a member of the first lodge in Springfield. Of superior education and well informed on all the events of the day, he wielded no small influence in his section. He was also well posted in law, and acted as an attorney at an early day, holding the office of justice of the peace for a number of years. He accumulated a good property, was the soul of honor, and was one of the most enterprising men of his day. His wife died in Christian County about 1857, and her people were early settlers of Arkansas, where many of the Johnsons reside at the present time. Mr. and Mrs. Hornbeak attended the Christian Church and the latter was a lifelong member of the same. To their marriage were born eleven children, ten of whom are still living: John, our subject, is the eldest; Martha is the wife of W. G. Bralliar, of Iowa; W. C. has charge of the water works in Springfield; Nancy is the wife of William Hunt and resides in Greene County; Eliza, wife of S. M. Gernigan, resides at Ozark; Elizabeth married Mr. Smith and is now living in Nebraska; Bethenia, wife of P. R. Brown, resides south of Springfield; Telitha, widow of John Dunlap, resides at Springfield; Camelia was the wife of John Mack, of Greene County, and died in 1893; Thomas A., who is a merchant and James M. The parents of these children were among the early pioneers of southwest Missouri.

John, the original of this notice, passed his early life in Tennessee, assisted on the farm and attended the schools of his native county. After coming to Missouri he attended the school there and remained with his father until 1853, when he engaged in merchandising at Ozark with A. L. Farmer, who died many years ago, and who entered the land on which the town of Ozark now stands and built the first store building there. Mr. Hornbeak resided in Ozark until 1854 and then moved to Kenton, where he continued his former business up to 1860. In 1862 he enlisted in the Home Guards, and, after the battle of Wilson’s Creek was over, he was detailed on secret service. When the Union Army again came to Springfield he enlisted in Company F, as private, for the term of three months. After that he was made major of the Seventy-second Regiment, Missouri Enrolled Militia, served with the same three months, and commanded the post during the Marmaduke raid in Springfield, taking part in that fight. He received a gunshot wound in the left shoulder during the Springfield fight, and returned to Ozark, where he assisted in organizing another regiment, called the Rangers. Mr. Hornbeak had charge of the Second Battalion of that regiment, with the rank of major. They remained in the Ozark Region and protected the farmers, who were trying to raise a crop, from the bushwhackers, etc., of the county. After the fall of 1863 Mr. Hornbeak left the service and moved to Canton, Missouri, where he followed merchandising for one year. In November, 1864, he took his family to Richland, Iowa, but in 1865 he again located at Kenton and followed his former occupation. He also owned a farm near Kenton, and in connection with merchandising also tilled the soil. There he resided until 1883, when he moved to Sparta, where he has since been engaged in merchandising. In politics Mr. Hornbeak has always been with the Republican party, and in 1857 he was elected to the Legislature from Christian County. In 1880 he was again elected to represent this county, thus showing his popularity. He has ever been active in politics and has been a delegate to a number of conventions.

Our subject selected his wife in the person of Miss Amanda Murray, a native of Greene County, Missouri, born in 1840, and the daughter of Joseph Murray, who was a descendant of the old Murray family of this county. Nine children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Hornbeak. five of whom are living: Sarah died in infancy; William died when small; John L. died when eleven years of age; Edward died at the age of two years; Laura married Charles R. , of Sparta; Thomas E., single and clerking in his father’s store; Belle, wife of R. E. Lee of this place; Florence, at home, and Grace, also at home. The family attend the Christian Church. Mr. Hornbeak is a member of the Masonic order at Sparta, and has held the office of treasurer. Born of sturdy German blood, whence so many of our foremost men have sprung, Mr. Hornbeak enjoys the reputation of uprightness and strength of character that distinguished his ancestors, and compels the admiration and respect of their associates. He has for years been one of the leading men of business in this county, and is doing an annual business of S25,000. He is also the owner of considerable real estate in this county, and is a progressive, thoroughgoing citizen.


A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region: comprising a condensed general history, a brief descriptive history of each county, and numerous biographical sketches of prominent citizens of such counties. Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers Publishers. 1894.

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1 thought on “Biography of John Hornbeak”

  1. I was wondering if you had any further information on the Hornbeak family in North Carolina. I have an ancestor – Dorcas Horbee – I think the last name was misspelled from NC born in the late 1700s and married in 1805.

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