In the memorial annals of Hancock county few names stand out with greater distinctness than that of the late John H. Binford, educator, lawyer, historian and financier, who for years occupied a position of prominence and influence in the social, cultural and commercial circles of this community. A native of this county, he spent the most of his life here and was ever devoted to the promotion of the best interests of the community to which he was so fondly attached. In 1882 Mr. Binford compiled and published a history of Hancock county, which still stands as an enduring monument to his memory-an invaluable contribution to local letters. Into that notable labor of love Mr. Binford poured the ripest fruits of his rich and varied experience and in thus preserving the results of his long and painstaking research into the musty records of the past performed a most notable service in behalf of the people of this county. Covering the period from the first settlement of Hancock county in 1818 to the year 1882, Mr. Binford's history was a complete, accurate and concise record of the chief events which had marked the progress of civilization hereabout from wilderness days and it stands today as an authoritative work along that line. It was a large undertaking successfully carried out and those books today are cherished and highly prized by all who are fortunate enough to have a copy of the same in their libraries.
John H. Binford was born on a pioneer farm in Blue River township, this county, April 13, 1844, son of Robert and Martha (Hill) Binford, the former a native of North Carolina and the latter of Indiana. Robert Binford was born in Northampton county, North Carolina, July 2, 1813, and was thirteen years old when he came with his parents to Indiana, the family settling in Blue River township, this county, and there he grew to manhood, doing well his part in the work of developing the pioneer home farm. He married Martha Hill, who lived over in the neighboring county of Rush, where she was born, daughter of John Hill, a pioneer citizen of that county, and where she lived until her marriage. After his marriage Robert Binford established his home on a farm in Blue River township, this county, and there he spent the rest of his life, his death occurring on February 2, 1884, he then being seventy-one years of age. His wife also was past seventy years of age at the time of her death.
Reared on the home farm in Blue River township, John H. Binford received his elementary education in the early district schools of that neighborhood, supplementing the same by a course of one year in Earlham College, at Richmond, which he entered in 1862, at the age of eighteen. He then began his long and useful career as a teacher, his first school being the Hopewell school, in his home township, receiving seventy-five dollars for the three-months' term. He continued teaching and attending school for a few years and then entered the National Normal School at Lebanon, Ohio, from which he presently was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Science. His health becoming impaired about that time, Mr. Binford sought relief in the South and there was engaged as principal of the graded schools of Little Rick,, Arkansas. During his service there Mr. Binford did much toward the elevation of educational standards in that state and was chiefly instrumental in the organization of the first county teachers' association in that state and in founding the Arkansas State Teachers' Association. He also was twice elected delegate to the conventions of the National Education Association, the meetings of which on those occasions were held at Trenton, New Jersey, and Ithaca, New York. Upon his return to Indiana Mr. Binford was given charge of the schools at Newport and soon thereafter was appointed superintendent of schools for Hancock county. During that incumbency of two years he was appointed, in 1874, assistant attorney-general in and for Hancock county. It was during that time that he organized and conducted Hancock county's first normal school. In 1875 he was appointed deputy county treasurer for the townships of Blue River, Brandywine, Center and the city of Greenfield and in that same year was elected principal of the Greenfield public schools, a position he held for two years, during which time he instituted many valuable reforms in the local school system and gave an impetus to the work of the schools which is felt to this day.
In the meantime Mr. Binford's natural inclinations had long been turning him in the direction of the law and he had been sedulously reading law in his home. In 1877 he quit the school room and gave himself up to the pursuit of the law as a profession. Entering the law office of New & Barrett at Greenfield he made rapid advancement under that able preceptorship and was soon admitted to the bar. Not long thereafter he was appointed head of the law department of the Montgomery County Normal College and was there engaged in teaching law for one year, at the end of which time he returned to Greenfield and opened an office for the practice of his profession and thus continued in active practice the rest of his life. In addition to his legal practice Mr. Binford also became extensively engaged in the brokerage and banking business and was very successful in that line, becoming one of the wealthiest and most influential financiers in this county. For years Mr. Binford had been interested in historical research work along local lines and had been painstakingly compiling the data on which was based his notable "History of Hancock County," published in 1882. In many other ways Mr. Binford made his presence felt in good ways hereabout and there was a general feeling of real loss in the community when he died on April 20. 1912.
John H. Binford was twice married, his first marriage taking place in Wayne county, this state, on June 26, 1873, when he married Lucy Coggeshall, who was born in that county on May 2, 1852, and who died in September, 1889. To that union six children were born, namely; Gertrude, born on April 9, 1874, now deceased; Edgar A., November 26, 1875, deceased; Robert J., March 31, 1879, a lieutenant of infantry in the United States army; Paul F., December 31, 1880, a well-known lawyer of Greenfield; Frank L., May 11, 1886, of Indianapolis, and Florence, January 4, 1889, who married David C. McCutcheon and is living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
On March 25, 1891, John H. Binford married, secondly, at Fort Wayne, Indiana, Florence Clark, who was born in that city on December 29, 1854, daughter of John H. and Marian (Shippy) Clark. To John H. and Florence (Clark) Binford two children were born, John Clark and Morton C.
Transcribed from History of Hancock County, Indiana, Its People, Industries and Institutions by George J. Richman, B. L., Federal Publishing Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1916. Pages 1131-1133.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI November 28, 2001.
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