It is held by some that there is no longer room at the top, that there is practically no chance for the youth of moderate circumstances to rise to the head of affairs because of the changed conditions of modern business. This theory is refuted, however, in the career of John Alexander, who, starting in life with no particular advantages, has triumphed over all obstacles in his way and has set an example of success won without double dealing or unfair advantage over any man. Today there is no better known man in the business world in Jackson county, and his life may prove an encouraging example to the aspiring youths of the present generation. Mr. Alexander is a native of Scotland, having been born in Glasgow, June 12, 1862, a son of James and Jessie (Glenn) Alexander.
James Alexander was born in January, 1837, in the city of Glasgow, where his father, John Alexander, was forester to Lord Douglas. He was educated in his native country, where he spent four years in a merchant's office to learn the business, and then apprenticed himself to the machinist's trade. In 1865 he came to the United States, and for two years was employed by the Eagle Foundry in St. Louis, Missouri, from whence he went to Galesburg, Illinois, and for a like period was employe of the machine shops of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. In 1871 Mr. Alexander came to Murphysboro, where for three years he was engaged in a general merchandise business, and at the end of that time, with his brother, Walter Alexander, founded the firm of Alexander Brothers Foundry and Machine Shop, which did a large business until the brothers sold out in 1897. Mr. Alexander was president of the Jackson County Homestead and Loan Association and of the Southern Illinois Building and Loan Association, and a director in the First National Bank. He was a man of the highest business integrity, and in his death the county lost one of its foremost citizens. In 1859, in Scotland, he was married to Miss Jessie Glenn, and five children were born to this union: John, Walter, Mary, Kate and Janet. Mr. Alexander was a trustee in the Presbyterian church, and was fraternally connected with the Masons, the Knights of Pythias, the Ancient Order United Workmen, in which he was a master, and the Knights of Honor, and with the exception of the first named, represented all of these in the Grand Lodge. His wife was a member of the Ladies of Honor, and was a most estimable woman, being possessed of those qualities of mind and heart that go to make up the highest type of Christian womanhood. Mr. Alexander's brother, Walter Alexander, with whom he was engaged in business for so many years, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1837, and came to the United States in 1863, working for some time at the trade of machinist in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, where he was working when he was sent by the Government to Mound City, Illinois. For two years he worked in the navy yard there during the Civil war, and subsequently went to the Eagle Foundry, at St. Louis. He became foreman of the shops of the Grand Tower Mining, Manufacturing and Transportation Company, a position which he held until he engaged in business with his brother, but in 1897 the firm sold out and Mr. Alexander retired from business activities and until his death, July 14, 1909, he lived a quiet and contented life. He was a director in the Chicago-Herrin Coal Company, and a business man of rare judgment.
John Alexander received his education in the public schools of Murphysboro, and at the age of thirteen years began to learn the trade of molder in his father's shops. He then served one term as court reporter.
being the first to follow this line of work in Jackson county, and when twenty years of age secured employment as a stenographer with the firm of Kingman & Company, of St. Louis, implement dealers, and during the eighteen years that followed he continued with this firm, rising from the position of stenographer to that of bookkeeper and subsequently became cashier. In 1901 he returned to Murphysboro, where he became one of the organizers of the Chicago-Herrin Coal Company, of which he is secretary, treasurer and general manager, and organized the Carterville and Herrin Coal Company, with which he holds like positions. He is secretary and treasurer of the Chew Mercantile Company, of Herrin, secretary of the St. Louis-Carterville Coal Company, and a director in the Anchor Ice and Packing Company of Murphysboro, the First National Bank of Murphysboro and the Herrin Building and Loan Association; of which latter he was organizer. In 1907 the First National Bank of Herrin was organized, with a capital of fifty thousand dollars, and a surplus of ten thousand dollars, the officers being: John Alexander, president; R. A. Karr, vice-president; and Paul D. Herrin, cashier. The bank building, a structure thirty-four by one hundred and ten feet, two stories in height and built of steel gray brick with granite pillars, is furnished in mahogany, and modern in every respect, being one of the finest business edifices to be found in this town. The bank is on a sound, substantial footing, and the business integrity of its officials has been all that is necessary to win the confidence and patronage of the people of this community. Mr. Alexander is a trustee of the First Presbyterian church of Murphysboro, and is fraternally connected with the Masons, the Knights of Pythias, and several social clubs. In political matters he is a Republican. His integrity and honesty have never been questioned, and his public spirit as a citizen is commendable. Such a man, naturally, has many friends, and Mr. Alexander is no exception to this rule, as those who feel a warm, natural regard for him are numerous in this city.