Biography of Jasper N. Ray

JASPER N. RAY. Jasper N. Ray belongs to that class of American citizens who are enterprising, thoroughgoing and industrious, and who rise in a few years from a condition of dependence to one of prominence and the possession of considerable wealth. In fact, he is a self-made man in all which that much-abused term implies, and the property he has accumulated is the result of his own honest industry. He first saw the light of day in what is now Maries County, Missouri, his birth occurring in 1846, to the union of Hubbard and Vashti (Moon) Ray, the father, a native of Grainger County, Tennessee born in 1820, and the mother born near Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1826. Then young Mr. and Mrs. Ray went with their parents to what is now Phelps County, Missouri, where they grew to mature years and were married. Afterward they came to what is Maries County, Missouri, but, a few years later, moved to Greene County, where they resided for about five years. Their next move was to Barry County, where they were among the pioneers; but they only remained there about three years and returned to what is now Phelps County. From 1861 to 1865 the family resided in Arkansas, and then returned to Phelps County, where Mr. Ray died in 1867. He was a successful farmer, and was upright and honorable during his long career.

The following incident is one instance of his honesty when a young man: Soon after he and his parents started for Missouri, and before they reached Nashville, while Mr. Ray, father of subject, who was then a lad of seventeen, was driving the cattle which they were bringing with them, he found a pocket-book which contained $3,000. It was placed in the wagon for safe-keeping until some one made inquiry. In the evening they met a man on horseback who inquired if they had found a pocket-book and being answered in the affirmative, gave a description of its contents. He then called up the boy who had found it and gave him the liberal (?) sum of 25 cents. The man was a sheriff from one of the eastern counties, en route to Nashville, to make his annual settlement with the State treasurer.

Our subject’s grand-father, Thomas Ray, was a native of Ireland, who came to the United States after the Revolutionary War, and settled in the Hiawassee Purchase, where he married an Indian woman. He came with mule-teams to Missouri in 1837, and was one of the first settlers of what is now Phelps County, where he died in 1854. He was a farmer and miller, became quite wealthy, and was universally respected. His wife, who was quarter Cherokee, died in Missouri about 1843. Her maiden name was Lucinda Ragsdale, and she was a native of the Hiawassee Purchase. Our subject’s maternal grandfather, John Moon, was born in Ohio, whence he migrated to the Hoosier State, at an early day. About 1842 he came to what is now Phelps County, Missouri, and later to Maries County, where his death occurred about 1856. He was a Quaker for many years, but later became a minister in the Christian Church. He was also a farmer. His wife died in Wright County, Missouri, about 1881. They reared seven children to mature years. To the parents of our subject were born eleven children, as follows: Jasper N., subject; Ellen, wife of W. L. Phillips, of Phelps County; Dialtha, wife of W. H. Troxell, of Phelps County; Mary, died in Phelps County; John was killed in Phelps County; Thomas J., of Maries County; James died in Phelps County; Austin, residing in Phelps County; William, of Gasconade County; Lucinda, died in Phelps County when young, and one died unnamed.

During his youth our subject received about eight months’ schooling and assisted on the home place until the latter part of 1862, when he joined Company A, Eleventh Missouri Cavalry, Confederate Army, of the Trans-Mississippi Department. He was in many fights and skirmishes in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, and was wounded and captured on Grand Prairie, Arkansas, August 30, 1864. He was taken to Hickory Plains Hospital, from which he made his escape about seven weeks later, and joined his command in what is now Boone County, Arkansas Subsequently he went with his command nearly to Mexico, and then returned to Arkansas and surrendered near Clarksville, that State, June 16. 1865. He was a brave and faithful soldier and fought valiantly for the Lost Cause. After the death of the father, Mr. Ray took care of the family until twenty-three years of age, and was then married to Miss Nancy David, daughter of John and Jane (Shackley) David, who were then living in Phelps County, but who removed to Texas, where Mr. David died. He was a Free-Will Baptist minister for many years, and was of Welsh extraction. His widow is still living.

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The ten children born to Mr. and Mrs. Ray were named as follows: John H.; Martha; Lewis; Mary, wife of Willis Keithley, of Taney County, Lawrence, Jane, Hiram, Andrew, Charley and Grover. Mr. Ray made his home in Phelps County until 1884, when he moved to Taney County, where he rented land for one year. He then came to his present farm of 280 acres, three and a half miles above Forsyth, and this he has largely improved since locating here, having one of the finest farms in his section. He started with nothing and with the assistance of his good wife has made a comfortable competence. Mrs. Ray worked in the field when necessary, wove all the clothing for the family for many years, and while she did the carding, Mr. Ray would spin in the evenings. The latter has ever affiliated with the Democratic party and his first presidential vote was cast for Horace Greeley, in 1872. He is a member of the A. F. & A. M. Forsyth Lodge No. 453, was junior warden, and has held nearly all the offices in the order. He is also an Odd-Fellow, and past noble grand of Forsyth Lodge. He was formerly a Granger. He and wife are Free-Will Baptists in religious belief.


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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