Family Stories

John O. and William J. Harkless Biographies


Perrin’s Kentucky – A History of the State, 1885

Ballard County Biographical Sketches

John O. Harkless was born September 17, 1832, in Ballard County, Kentucky, and is the fourth of five children (two boys), born to Daniel J. and Ann C. (Goldoon) Harkless, of Irish and English origin. The grandfather on the mother’s side was William Goldoon. Subjects father was born in Ohio; his mother in Virginia. The father came to Ballard County in the fall of 1821, and settled five miles east of Milburn, where he entered four sections of land in different tracts, it being military land, but lost all in a suit to hold. In January, 1844, he settled one mile north of Blandville, where he died in 1848 with cholera. He was born in 1801. John O. Harkless continued to live with his mother till 1860, when he commenced the struggle of life for himself at farming. His education he procured by his own industry and perseverance at home; the schools being held in log cabins and the teachers of a very inferior grade. He had purchased, in 1858, 200 acres of land, where he now resides, one-half mile west of Blandville, where he and brother now own 1,400 acres in good condition. They also own 2,200 acres of land in other parts of the county. These brothers have made their fortunes by their own industry and perseverance, except about 260 acres left from their father’s estate. The brothers were engaged in railroad construction for about five years on the Mississippi Central, Chesapeake, Ohio and Southwestern Railway, Memphis and Kansas City Railway. Their principal business through life, however, was raising all kinds of stock, mostly mules and cattle. They were the owners of several negroes before the war. The mother of our subject died in 1879, aged eighty-seven years, and both parents were Baptists. John O. Harkless was married October 2, 1860, to Miss Sarah Nichols of McCracken County, a daughter of Jesse and Elizabeth (Wadlington) Nichols, natives of Caldwell County, Kentucky, and had born to him by this union six children: Mary J. (now Shearin), Nannie B., Sarah B., Willie M., John R. and Jessie J. Mr. Harkless and wife are members of the Baptist Church and he is a member of I. O. O. F. The brothers had the only mill in the Purchase that was not burned by troops during the war.


William J. Harkless, a brother of the above, was born December 26, 1826, in Ballard County, and is the second child, and received a limited common school education. His father once raised a crop with the hoe, his last horse having been killed by buffalo gnats or flies. William J. lived with his parents till married in July, 1855, to Mrs. Mary Gholson, of Missouri, who bore him three children (deceased), and died in April, 1860. William Harkless was next married May 30, 1882, to Mrs. B. P. Ross, who was born in Grandville County, North Carolina, and is a daughter of W. R. and Mattie (Peoples) Haygood, natives of Grandville County, North Carolina. To this union was born one child, Nannie B. Mrs. Harkless had two children by her former husband, one living, Edwin Ross. Mr. and Mrs. Harkless are members of the Baptist and Christian Churches, respectively. Mr. Harkless is a member of the I. O. O. F. He began for himself at the age of twenty-one in partnership with his brother.

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