HIRAM M. AIKEN. One of the most prosperous agriculturists of Franklin county, Hiram M. Aiken is an excellent example of the self-made man, having started in life as a poor boy, without educational or financial advantages, and his present position in life has been attained solely through his own efforts. Mr. Aiken belongs to one of Franklin county's oldest and most honored families, members of which have been identified with the agricultural interests of Southern Illinois for more than eighty-five years. He was born on a farm eight miles from Benton, August 17, 1867, and is a son of Robert M. and Teresa (Atchinson) Aiken.
William Aiken, the great-grandfather of Hiram M., was a native of Ireland, and after the battle of Culloden, where his family met with defeat and their goods were confiscated, he came to America, being then eighteen years of age. He joined General Washington's army at Philadelphia, served throughout the Revolutionary war, and moved to South Carolina, where he died. His father, the first William Aiken to come to America, and from whom there have been over three thousand descendants, was one of the richest planters of South Carolina, and his uncle, also named William Aiken, was governor of that state in 1860. James Aiken, the grandfather of Hiram M., was born in South Carolina, and came to Illinois in 1816, settling in Franklin county, where he was engaged in agricultural pursuits until his death in 1863. He married Jane McLean, and among their children was Robert M. Aiken, who was born in Franklin county, May 5, 1822. Reared to agricultural pursuits, Robert M. Aiken on attaining his majority took up and cleared a large tract of land, became one of the well-to-do agriculturists of his day, and died August 25, 1901. He was a Democrat until 1864, at which time he joined the ranks of the Republican party. Mr. Aiken married Teresa Atchinson, who was born in Hamilton county, Illinois, December 20, 1326, daughter of Thompson Atchinson, who was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Tennessee in later years. He participated in the War of 1812, and soon after the battle of New Orleans came to Hamilton county in search of a Mr. Moore, who had come to the Salt Wells and had never returned. After searching for some time, Mr. Atchison discovered a skull, which he took back to
Tennessee, and which was identified as that of Mr. Moore by means of the teeth. Having become impressed with the opportunities offered the agriculturist in Hamilton county, Mr. Atchison came back to this section, where he spent the rest of his life in farming. He belonged to one of the distinguished families of Tennessee, being a nephew of General Montgomery, of Revolutionary fame, and a son of Arnold Atchinson who served during that struggle. Mrs. Teresa (Atchinson) Aiken died December 3, 1906, aged eighty years, the mother of eleven children.
Hiram M. Aiken attended Ewing College and the State Normal School at Carbondale, and in 1894, while still a student in that institution, was elected to the office of county superintendent, receiving the re-election in 1902. He is a Republican in politics, and recognized as a leader in his community, where he has worked faithfully in the cause of education. For about fifteen years he taught school. but he now gives his attention to farming, owning his father's old estate and four hundred and forty acres of some of the best land in this part of the county. He also is engaged in the hay and grain business in Benton. For years he has served as secretary of the Farmer Institute, and he is widely and favorably known among agriculturists in Franklin county, although he resides in a beautiful residence in Benton. He and his wife are consistent members of the Missionary Baptist church, and fraternally he is connected with the Odd Fellows the Knights of Pythias, the Court of Honor and the Modern Woodmen.
In 1892 Mr. Aiken was married to Miss Cora Johnson, daughter of Robert H. Johnson, an early settler of Franklin county, whose people, natives of Tennessee, founded the town of Macedonia. Mr. Johnson, who is closely related to Andrew Johnson, served in the Civil war, and now resides in Macedonia. Mr. and Mrs. Aiken have had ten children: Robert, James, John, Lucille, Paul, Ruby, Marion, Edith, William F. and Hiram M. Jr., all of whom are attending school with the exception of the last three. Mr. Aiken has an excellent record as a public official, enterprising agriculturist and highly esteemed private citizen, and it is all the more gratifying to him in that it has come as a result of his own individual efforts. Progressive in all things and possessed of much civic pride, he has been a leader in organizing movements to advance the welfare of Franklin county, where the family name has been known and honored for so many years.