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Below is a family biography from the book, History of Kentucky, Edition 8a by J. H. Battle, W. H. Perrin and G. C. Kniffin and published by F. A. Battey Publishing Company in 1888.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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HON. H. J. STITES, son of Abram and Ann Stites, was born in Georgetown, Scott County, Ky., in 1816. In infancy his parents removed to Hopkinsville, Christian County, where he grew up to manhood and continued to make his home until 1862. At an early age he was sent to school to Dr. James Buchanan, an excellent teacher, the father of Dr. Joseph R. Buchanan, afterward distinguished as a philosopher and essayist. His next and only teacher was James D. Rumsey, who was noted as an instructor throughout the Green River country. At the age of fourteen young Stites besought his father to permit him to learn some calling whereby he could support himself and relieve his father, who was encumbered with a large family. In compliance with his request his father bound him to service for a period of four years for his victuals and clothes as a merchant’s clerk to George Ward, Esq., then doing a large business in Hopkinsville. During this service, which was most faithfully performed, he gave every moment that he could properly spare from his duty as clerk to reading and the culture of his mind. At the end of his term he was offered a partnership by his master, but preferred to enter partnership with a fellow-clerk, Leander D. Holman, who had a small capital and for whom he entertained a strong attachment that continued until Holman’s death, which occurred in 1840. For over four years he with Holman pursued successfully the mercantile business, until the great financial crash of 1837. This firm of young men, having but limited capital, was necessarily compelled to rely upon their credit, and was always largely indebted to eastern merchants. They, however, maintained their credit and were never sued. But young Stites, always averse to debt, then resolved to adopt another calling which would enable him to live without debt. He selected the law and began at once to study Blackstone, Kent and other elementary writers, giving all his time he could spare from his business to his law books. In 1839 he formed a partnership as merchant with one of the best men that ever lived, John Bryan, of Hopkinsville, and continued successfully with him until 1841 — all the time, however, pursuing his studies when his business would allow. In 1840, and while a merchant, he obtained license as a lawyer from Judge John Marshall, of Louisville, and Judge Benjamin Shackelford, of Christian County. In 1841, after winding up his mercantile business, he began as a lawyer with Hiram A. Phelps, then also a young practitioner, but, since, a lawyer of fine repute and high standing. They soon had a fine practice, and derived great benefit, in a business way, from the favorable acquaintance which young Stites had with the eastern merchants with whom he had formerly had dealings.

After his dissolution with Mr. Phelps, Stites continued to pursue his profession until 1851. He was induced then to become a candidate for the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney, but before the election was compelled by the overwhelming voice of his friends to run for the office of Circuit Judge. He was elected and before the expiration of his term of office was reluctantly induced to become a candidate for the office of Appellate Judge as successor of Judge Elijah Hise, who had declined a re-election. In August, 1854, he was elected Judge of the Court of Appeals by a majority of nearly 6,000 votes in a district which then had a majority of more than 5,000 politically opposed to him, and having as an opponent a distinguished lawyer and politician, once a member of congress, and also of the convention which formed the present constitution. He continued on the Appellate bench until he became Chief Justice of the State, and until the summer of 1862, when, because of his sentiments as a State’s Right Democrat, and his opposition to the war, he was compelled to leave his home to avoid the oppression of the military on either side, which were then at one time or another alternately in control of southern Kentucky. Arrest and imprisonment, or an unconstitutional oath, or a departure from his section of the State were the alternatives presented, and he chose the latter and went to Canada. There he remained over three years. After the termination of the war he returned to Kentucky. In 1867 he was appointed Judge of the Jefferson Court of Common Pleas, an important civil tribunal in the city of Louisville. To this office he has been three times elected without opposition, making, when his present term expires, over thirty years of judicial service among those who have known him during his life, his fellow-citizens of Kentucky. From 1868 to 1873 he held the position of professor of law in the University of Louisville as an associate of Judge Pirtle and Bullock, but was compelled to resign this place because of his judicial labors.

In 1841, soon after Judge Stites began the practice of law, he married Miss Mary Jane Sharp, a daughter of Dr. Maxwell Sharp, of Christian County, with whom he lived most happily until her death in 1875. Afterward he married Mrs. Caroline M. Barker, a sister of his first wife and the widow of Richard H. Barker, a lawyer of New Orleans, with whom he is now living at his home near Louisville. No better testimonial to Judge Stites’ worth could be given than the following editorial from the Courier-Journal of August 1, 1880. Speaking of Judge Stites’ judicial service, it says: “The admirers of this eminent judicial officer rejoice that he enters upon the race for the Judgeship of the Court of Common Pleas without a competitor. It would have been a very foolish thing for anyone to attempt opposition to him. He is so perfectly endeared to the hearts and minds of the people; he is so devoted to the responsible duties confided to his care; he is so thoroughly equipped in all the matters that pertain to his high office; he is so upright in every principle of action, courteous and urbane to all with whom he comes in contact, without respect to party or condition, that running against him would be about as bootless a thing as one could have undertaken. We are gratified in knowing that for the high position of Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Louisville is able to command the services of this eminent jurist. We have often thought, when watching the exercises of his high vocation, the quick, sudden, clear rules by which he governs cases before him, of T. Arnold’s appropriate limning of the high attributes belonging to such a position as that filled by Judge Stites. Arnold says: ‘To accustom a number of persons to the intelligent exercise of attending to and comparing and weighing evidence, and to the moral exercise of being placed in a high and responsible situation invested with one of God’s own attributes, that of judgment, and having to determine, with authority, between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, is to furnish them with very high means of moral and intellectual culture; in other words it is providing them with the highest kind of education.’ The people of Louisville are very familiar with the perfect exhibition, on the part of Judge Stites, of those high and ennobling qualities. They rejoice to know that in him they have an upright, learned and incorruptible judicial officer, in whose hands all the interests committed to him are secure and sound and honest legal action. The all, one and all, join in saying to him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ of the people. The ermine could not more appropriately fit the person of any one.”

When Judge Stites served out the judicial term, alluded to in the above extract, he retired from judicial labor. Upon retirement the bar held a meeting, June 19, 1886, of which Hon. Hamilton Pope was president, and Hon. A. G. Caruth was secretary, and presented Judge Stites an address showing the estimation in which he was held among them. The following is the address as published in the Courier-Journal at the time: “The committee appointed by the bar recommended the adoption of the following address which shall be signed by the officers of the meeting after being engrossed, and presented to his Honor, Henry J. Stites, and a copy spread upon the record of the Jefferson Court of Common Pleas: ‘Hon. Henry J. Stites: Your brethren of the bar of Louisville cannot let the occasion of your last regular sitting as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas pass without taking notice of the interesting event. Your relations with us have been of such intimate, almost affectionate, nature that we cannot contemplate the fact that you will, after today, cease to preside over this court without feeling a pang of parting. You have become in our minds so associated with this court, and your benevolent and venerable presence will be so missed, that with your retirement we shall almost feel as though the court itself had gone with you. You will not deem us indelicate if we state in this public place our regard for you personally and our opinion of the manner in which you have discharged your duties as Judge. The qualities which have most endeared you to us and to the people of Jefferson County are those which most become a Judge, your impartiality and love of justice. While we have admired your large attainments in jurisprudence and your accuracy and complete knowledge of our civil code and statute law, we have practiced before you with the confidence that the scales have been held firmly and steadily, and the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak, have received equal justice at your hands. The indomitable industry with which you have in summer’s heat and winter’s cold, sometimes when your health required you to; desist, come to your place on that bench and borne the fatigue of tedious trials with patience, have excited our admiration and commanded our profound respect. In your retirement you will carry with you the approval of your fellow citizens and the verdict that for thirty-four years, first as Circuit Judge, then as Judge of the Court of Appeals and Chief Justice, and lastly as Judge of this court, you have in a manner that reflects honor upon yourself and upon the judiciary of Kentucky, discharged all your duties and are now entitled to a peaceful life, free from public care, attended by the respect and affection of your fellow-men.’ ” Since Judge Stites laid aside the ermine he has been passing his time in his pleasant home, with his family, just outside of the limits of the city, enjoying the rest he has won by a long life of faithful public service.

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This family biography is one of 195 biographies included in the Jefferson County, Kentucky section of the book, The History of Kentucky, Edition 8a published in 1888 by F. A. Battey Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: History of Kentucky, Edition 8a

View additional Jefferson County, Kentucky family biographies here: Jefferson County, Kentucky Biographies

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