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There are men, and the number is by no means small, who drift into what we are accustomed to look upon as the learned profession in the same way that thousands of men in the lower walks of life drift into the ordinary bread-winning occupations. Having no special preference for any calling, and without feeling that they have any particular fitness for a certain profession, they find themselves drifting in that direction as a result of associations or environment, and in the course of time they find themselves shouldering responsibilities for which they have scant liking, carrying burdens which rest heavily upon them, and laboring in a field which has for them no attraction other than what is yielded in the way of annual incomes.
The prominent lawyer whose name heads this sketch impresses even those who meet him in a casual way as a man who has drifted easily and naturally into his calling, who realizes he has made no mistake in the choice of his vocation, and feels thoroughly at home in the position which he occupies. This first impression deepens as a more intimate acquaintance and familiarity with his life leads to the unbiased and impartial view that the success he has achieved is the logical sequence of talent rightly used, together with energy and industry never misapplied. Mr. Bruton is a native of this State, born in Greene (now Christian) County, February 22, 1845, to the union of Thomas and Lavina (Scott) Bruton, both natives of Maury County, Tennessee The grandparents, David and Nancy Bruton, were natives of Tennessee, and were among the early settlers of that State.
The name, Bruton, is of French and Irish origin. The grandfather was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and was also in the Mexican War. About 1843 he came to Missouriand took up a claim in Web-ster County, near Henderson, and there passed the remainder of his days, dying October 1, 1868. His wife died in 1889. They were the parents of the following children: Thomas (subject’s father); Hiram, who died in October, 1848; Dorcas, wife of Frederick Branstutter, resides in Webster County; Benjamin died just after the war; Terrell P. died while he was representing Douglas County in the Legislature, and while holding his third term; Eddie, wife of Edward Cordwill, died at Waldo, this State, April 14, 1874; Clerinda, wife of Mark Hatfield, resides in Texas; J. T., living at Carl Junction, is a prominent physician and a member of the Baptist Church, and minister of that Church; D. P., also a physician and a minister in the Christian Church, died in 1886; Miles died in Webster County in 1889; and Elizabeth, wife of Mr. Merril McDonald, resides in Webster County. The early members of this family were with the Hardshell Baptist Church, and were Whigs and later Republicans in politics. Several of the above mentioned sons were in the Civil War, and Terrell was captain of a Missouri regiment. Miles was also a soldier, and several others took part in the war.
The father of our subject was a young man when he came to this part of the country, but previous to settling in Greene County he married Miss Lavina Scott. Our subject was but six months old when his father entered the land on which Sparta now stands. This was in 1845, and he made a home about a quarter of a mile south of the town. where he reared his family. He was a Republican in politics. In connection with farming he also taught school, and was thus engaged for many years. He was well educated for his day, and being a cripple and not able to work hard, taught for the most part, being one of the first educators of the county. He owned a tract of about 300 acres and his sons carried on the farm. Mr. Bruton was a member of the Hardshell Baptist Church and a most worthy Christian. He held the office of justice of the peace and county assessor for a number of years, and took a deep interest in politics, as he did in all enterprises of a laudable nature. Our subject’s maternal grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Scott, were of old Tennessee families. They came to this county and settled at Scott Spring in 1843, and there received their final summons.
The original of this notice was one of five children, as follows: David, who died before the war; Lucinda A. married W. T. Guthery, who is deceased, but who resided in Sparta for many years, and who was a soldier during the Civil War (only one of their three children is living, Olive J., who makes her home in Sparta with her mother); James J. (subject); Benjamin B., who is a farmer, resides two miles west of Sparta, he is also a minister in the Baptist Church; and Nancy J., wife of L. R. Bramon, of Sparta. The mother of these children was a member of the Methodist Church. Benjamin B. and James J., our subject, were soldiers in the Rebellion, the latter serving in the Fourth Missouri Cavalry.
He was reared on the old home place, secured a fair education in the country schools, and assisted his mother on the farm until the 7th of April, 1862, when he enlisted in Company M, Fourth Missouri Cavalry, State Militia, as a bugler. He was only seventeen years of age when he enlisted, and he was with his regiment on the Price raid through Missouri. He served principally in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas. He participated in the Marmaduke fight at Springfield, and after that he was in many fights with bushrangers, such as the James boys, etc. He was at Jefferson City, Booneville, Independence, Big Blue, Lamar and Fort Scott, besides many other skirmishes. He was discharged April 7, 1865, after serving three years to a day. After the war he came to his old home, which he found in a bad condition, but began immediately to make improvements. He was married on the 11th of November, 1866, to Miss Margaret A. Farmer, daughter of Jackson and Nancy Farmer, a native of Christian County, born February 24, 1849. Following his marriage Mr. Bruton bought a tract of land near the old home, and built a house on Main Street, in Sparta, his being the first house in that town. He cultivated his land up to 1869, when he erected a store building and embarked in general merchandising. This he followed successfully until 1891, when he retired. He has considerable real estate and he erected the Sparta Roller Mill in company with W. G. Holland and H. H. Lee, who is an old pioneer of this place. Mr. Bruton studied law at an early day, and is now engaged in the practice of the same. He has held a number of prominent offices and has always advocated the principles of the Republican party. He was deputy sheriff for four years, and in 1892 he was elected to represent the county in the Legislature with 794 majority, thus showing his popularity. Mrs. Bruton died on the 1st of October, 1885. She was a member of the Baptist Church and a true Christian. To Mr. and Mrs. Bruton were born two children: James W. and Lillie Leotta, the latter the wife of W. G. Holland, of Sparta. The latter is manager of the roller mill and a first-class business man. James W. is a graduate of the Barnes Medical College, class of 1893, and is now practicing at Sparta. Socially the family stand high in the community, and are leaders in business and social circles. Mr. Bruton is a very popular man, has a host of warm friends, and both parties gave him their support. He has a law and real estate office at Sparta and is doing a good business. Socially he is a Mason, a member of Sparta Lodge No. 296, and also a member of the I. O. O. F.. Sparta Lodge No. 424. He has represented the latter lodge in the Grand Lodge. He is also a member of the G. A. R. Post No. 269, of which he is commander. His son, Dr. Bruton, is also a Mason, as is Mr. Holland. Our subject has one grandchild, Nora Holland, a bright little girl. Mr. Bruton is at this time a candidate for the office of prosecuting attorney of Christian County, with a good prospect before him for election.