James J. Netterville

Biography of James J. Netterville

James J. Netterville
James J. Netterville

JAMES J. NETTERVILLE. It is highly probable that there are few residents of Madison County who are unfamiliar with the name of James J. Netterville. His is the name of a man, essentially self-made and the term in this instance is used in the broadest application possible, being that of one who in early life determined to win success if industry :Ind good management might be held as factors in the ultimate realization of his ambition. With neither the prestige of family nor the open sesame of money to aid him, he has made his way to the front ranks the citizenship of Anderson, and is today foremost among business and political circles of the city.

Of Irish birth and parentage, Mr. Netterville was born in Ireland, en February 8, 1849. He comes of a family whose paternal ancestors were born in that country. The paternal grandfather, Mr. Netterville, was a well-to-do farmer and landlord in County Mayo, Ireland, and the father was also engaged in the same vocation while he remained on the island, but he migrated to America and settled in Pennsylvania, where he died in 1851. Following his death, his wid0w, who was Margaret Murphy in her maiden days, took her two children to Canada in the fall of 1851, and there made her home with her brother, who was living some sixty miles distant from Toronto. She came to Anderson in 1887, where she resided until her death. Besides James J., of this review, Mrs. Netterville had one other son, Frank, who died at the age of four years.

Young Netterville continued to live in Canada until Le was twelve years old, and at that early age he launched out in independent life. His first stop was at Detroit, Michigan, and there he was employed as check boy at the American Exchange Hotel. After two years he went to Chicago, and from thence to Milwaukee where he enlisted in the regular army, serving three years in the reconstruction days following the Civil war. At the expiration of his term of service he returned to Chicago. In that city Mr. Netterville received employment as time keeper in the North Chicago Rolling Mills, but when the works were destroyed by fire in 1881, he went to Cincinnati, there accepting a position in the wholesale and retail dry goods house of H. B. Claflin & Company, of New York City. It was while thus employed that he met and married Miss Amanda, the daughter of James and Emily (Ross) Smith. She was born in Boone Township, Madison County, Indiana, where her parents, who were well known farming people, were pioneer settlers. Until 1875 Mr. Netterville continued in Cincinnati, and in that year with his wife he located in Anderson, and engaged in the grocery business, investing his entire savings and available capital in the business.

For two years he continued in that enterprise, but it failed to meet his expectations in any way, s0 that he decided to dispose of it and for some time engaged in farming. This, too, was not satisfactory to Mr. Netterville, and he felt a str0ng inclination to yield to a latent desire to study law. His indecision resulted in his beginning the study under the tutelage of C: D. Thompson, long since deceased, and within a year after he began his studies he was appointed deputy County clerk under R. H. Hannah, then officiating, and continued in the office through the administration of Mr. Hannah’s success0r, Jesse L. Henry. After three years of service in the office of deputy clerk, he was appointed Deputy County Treasurer under George Ross. In these departments of public service he was afforded the best possible opportunity to become acquainted with the people, and so well did he utilize that opportunity that the Democratic convention of 1885 nominated him for County clerk, and he was elected with a majority of 350, despite the fact that certain of his fellow candidates for various other offices were ingloriously defeated, some of them by majorities of four hundred,-a simple statement, but highly indicative of the position of the man in the esteem of his fellows. Mr. Netterville assumed the duties of his office in 180, and three years later he was renominated without serious opposition, being elected by a pleasing majority. When he was first the incumbent of a public office in Anderson the population of the city was 4,520, and during the years of his service the city grew to s0mething like 25,000, three deputies being required to carry on the work of the office of County clerk.

In 1887 Mr. Netterville bought the interests of Mr. Myers, then Secretary of State, in the Weekly Democrat and became associated in its publication with Dale J. Crittenden. In 1891 a daily edition of the Democrat was launched, and when Mr. Crittenden was appointed postmaster of Anderson by Mr. Cleveland, the paper was sold to the Democrat Company in 1893.

Mr. Netterville has been identified with the organization and operation of a number of the more important enterprises that are now in operation in the city, and his relati0n to many of them today is a highly influential one. He was a leader in the organization of the Anderson Fuel Company, of which he became secretary, and which was organized with a capital stock of $250,000, and owned twenty-five natural gas wells. In 1896 he established the Netterville Insurance Agency, a concern that rapidly assumed generous proportions and carried on a large and lucrative business in the city. This was afterwards merged with the Farmers’ Trust Company, one of the leading banking institutions of the city, and Mr. Netterville is now president of the concern, with George E. Nichol as secretary and treasurer, and A. T. Dye assistant secretary-treasurer.

The Maplewood Cemetery Association was another enterprise with which Mr. Netterville has been conspicuously identified, and as one of the promoters of the Association has done excellent work for it since the organization was effected. A purchase was made of 300 acres of land north of White river and just opposite the city, where is platted and maintained one of the most beautiful cemeteries of the state. Mr. Netterville is an active member of the executive committee, now serving as its chairman.

In the line of public service, his name has long been a prominent one. In 1895, when Congress enacted a national income tax law, he was appointed by President Cleveland collector of that tax in Indiana, and he served in that capacity until the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional and therefore void. He was chairman of the Board of Public Works of the City of Anderson from 1902 to 1906 and while serving in that position he planned and c0nstructed the water system that now furnishes pure and healthful water to the city. He also made such other improvements in the public utilities of the city as to transform -them from a revenue consuming to a revenue producing basis. In 1910 Mr. Netterville was elected to the state legislature as joint senator from the counties of Henry and Madison, and was appointed by Governor Marshall a member of the legislative visiting committee of 1911 to visit the various penal, benevolent, and correctional and educati0nal institutions of the state, and make recommendations as to their financial needs for the biennial period of 191 2 and 1913. And it is gratifying to add that these duties were so well performed that Mr. Netterville was reappointed by the Governor to serve on the same committee for the legislature of 1913. He was appointed by the Lieutenant-governor to a membership on the Penal Farm Commission, of which he was afterward made chairman, and as such visited and investigated the work farms and similar correctional institutions in the United States and Canada. As a result of this investigation work he caused a law to be enacted providing for a Penal Farm for the state of Indiana, for the detention of short term jail prisoners, and this law is regarded in the state as the most advanced pris0n reform measure undertaken in Indiana in many years, and it is believed will go far towards relieving the state of the odium of the present disgraceful jail and prison system. In the sessions of 1911 and 1913 Mr. Netterville was an especially active and influential member, and he served on many important committees in the senate, as well as serving as chairman of the joint committees on Ways and Means of the House and Finances of the Senate.

Mr. Netterville is a man who has ever displayed the utmost interest in the securing of industrial establishments for the city of Anderson, and has been influential in that good work to a large extent. With Colonel Storer he platted Grandview addition of four hundred lots, which has been long built up and is surrounded by such factories as the Anderson Paper Company and the American Wire and Nail Company. He is the owner of two fine business blocks on Meridian street and it is undeniable that his enterprise along many lines has materially aided in the splendid growth of his home city.

Mr. Netterville is a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Loyal Order of Moose, and the Masonic orders, in which he is well advanced, and he is well known for his advanced ideas of fraternalism and brotherhood. Politically, he is a Democrat, as has been stated, and has been active in the party ranks for years, serving as Chairman of the County Central Committee on a number of occasions and on the State Committee. He is known for a systematic and effective organizer, as well as a worker of the utmost energy, and has represented his party in many state and County conventions.

Mr. Netterville was married July 15th, 1874, and five children have come to them, three of whom are yet living. Their names, in the order of their birth, are as follows: Lorena May, George F., Victor Hugo, James J. Jr., and Emily Ross. George and Victor are deceased, the former dying at the age of seven and the latter when four years old.

The family home, which is one of the finest in the city. is located on West Eleventh street.



Madison County IN,

Forkner, John. History of Madison County, Indiana: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests. Chicago: The Lewis publishing company, 1914.

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