Sketch of JBAH

 

JAMES BEN ALI HAGGIN

December 9, 1822 - September 13, 1914

Source: History of Kentucky,
The J.S. Clarke Publishing Company,
Louisville Kentucky, 1928

Photograph of JBAH

There are some men of whom it is difficult to speak save in the language of eulogy, and of this type was James Ben Ali Haggin, whose name is written high on the roll of Kentucky's honored dead.

He went to California with those hardy frontiersmen who braved the dangers of the unknown west, and aided in planting the seeds of civilization in the Pacific coast region. He was an able lawyer and owned a large ranch in the Golden state. He was one of the most successful mining men of the country and achieved international renown as a breeder of fine racing stock. He was one of the foremost dairymen of his time and his beautiful estate near Lexington attracted visitors from all parts of the United States.

Mr. Haggin was born December 9, 1822, in Harrodsburg, Mercer county, and represented one of Kentucky's oldest families. His grandfather, John Haggin, was one of the earliest settlers of the Blue Grass state. In the old graveyard at Harrodsburg there is a tablet which bears the following inscription: "To the Memory of Captain John Haggin, Who Was Born in 1753, Came to Kentucky in 1775, and died March 1, 1825." Old Town, afterward known as Harrodsburg, was settled in 1774.

Starting from that place, a party of hunters composed of Simon Kenton, Michael Stoner, John Haggin, John and Levi Todd, John Maxwell, Isaac Greer, Hugh Shannon, James Masterson, William McConnell, James Dunkin, and Colonel Robert Patterson, their leader, traveled to Fayette county. They camped on the present site of the city of Lexington, which was named by them in honor of the battle of Lexington, which had recently been fought. It is stated in Marshall's History of Kentucky that John Haggin lived for a time on the Kinksten branch of the Kentucky river, in a small cabin, situated eight miles from Frankfort, on the present pike that leads from Georgetown to Frankfort. He was a member of the first court of appeals of Kentucky and his associates were William T. Berry, John Trimble and Reginald Dadidge.

John Haggin married a Miss Gibbs and they became the parents of twelve children, the fifth of whom was Terah Temple Haggin. The last named was joined in wedlock to Adeline Ben Ali, daughter of Ibrahim Ben Ali, and their family numbered eight children, the second of whom was James Ben Ali Haggin of this review.

Ibrahim Ben Ali was born in 1756 near Constantinople, Turkey. His father, Ali Ben Mustapha, was a man of wealth and prominence and his estate, situated about six miles from that city, was valued at thirty thousand machbeu, equivalent to about fifty thousand dollars. He was a zealous Muslim and lost no opportunity to instill in his son a feeling of devout worship of Allah. Among the slaves on his father's estate were a number of Spaniards, who frequently spoke to Ibrahim of the God of Christians and of his Son, Christ, the Saviour of the world, sometimes venturing to risk their lives by admonishing the boy that Mohammed was not a true Prophet and that his teachings were false.

When eleven years of age Ibrahim was circumcised and at thirteen he married his first wife, Halima, then twelve, making his first pilgrimage to Mecca soon after that event. His mother was born on the island of Zante and was a Christian. She was stolen by Venetians, who sold her in Aleppo to Ali Ben Mustapha. The next year he married a second wife, Fatima, a name that has survived in the Haggin family, and later in the same year chose a third, Ayesha.

Through the influence of his father he secured an appointment as captain in the Janissaries, a royal corps in the Sultan's army, and usually designated as the bodyguard. After five centuries of existence this military organization fell into disrepute and was exterminated by royal decree. After five years' service he reached the turning point in his life, undergoing a remarkable experience. Two companions, who slept next to him in the barracks, were murdered and suspicion at once pointed to Ibrahim, who was last seen with them. He protested his innocence and through the intercession of friends secured a reprieve of five days in which to establish proof of his assertion. On the fifth day a dish of black olives was sent to him, signifying that he must die on the sixth. In the prison was an old Spanish slave who advised him to put no trust in Mohammed. Sitting down by his side, the Spaniard taught him to repeat the following words: "Turn Christian and recommend your soul to God through Jesus Christ, and He will save you unto life eternal." This he did at intervals during the long night and on the morning of the day set for his execution the jailer came to announce his pardon, saying that two soldiers had confessed to the crime, for which they would immediately pay the penalty. He never returned to the Moslem faith and became a sincere Christian, guiding his life by the teachings of the Master.

About the time of his release Turkey became involved in war with Russia and Ibrahim was forced to join the campaign. He participated in many battles and received several wounds. He was taken prisoner in the province of Wallachia, on the banks of the Danube, and conveyed to Arzeniceur, about five miles from St. Petersburg, where he spent two years, securing his liberty through the efforts of an influential lady whose sight had been restored by his treatment. His enemies accused him of having betrayed the Greek troops into the hands of the Russians and he was warned by his brother not to return to his home. He went to Denmark and at Copenhagen secured passage on a boat bound for England. He landed at Liverpool and then journeyed to Dublin, Ireland, where he met Dr. Adam Clarke, the great Biblical commentator, by whom he was baptized. Ibrahim became strongly attached to the Doctor and his family, accompanying them on their return to Liverpool, where he spent two years, and also went with them to Manchester, England. He lived for several years in that city and then sailed for America.

After his arrival he met and married a woman of the Baptist faith and established his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he engaged in the practice of medicine. He afterward moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and died in that city during an epidemic of yellow fever. James Ben Ali Haggin was graduated from Centre College at Danville, Kentucky, and began the practice of law in Shelbyville, this state, afterward opening an office in Natchez, Mississippi.

While a resident of that city he decided to join the gold seekers of California and in 1849 went to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he boarded a steamer bound for the Pacific coast. At Panama he was stricken with yellow fever and did not reach California until 1850. He engaged in the practice of law in San Francisco, forming a partnership with his brother-in-law, Lloyd Tevis, and handled much important litigation.

He bought a tract of land about eight miles from Sacramento and became the owner of the Rancho del Paso. Later he entered the mining business and in this venture met with signal success, having Marcus Daly and Senator Hearst as partners. This was one of the largest mining corporations in America and owned or controlled at various times more than one hundred mines.

Among their most valuable properties were the Homestake and Anaconda mines, and during the latter part of his life Mr. Haggin acquired the Cerro de Pasco, one of the largest copper mines in Peru. While living in California, Mr. Haggin purchased a large tract of land in Kern county in association with Lloyd Tevis and W. D. Carr and out of the ownership of this ranch came the great legal battle which he waged for years in attempting to establish the right of the farmers to use the waters of the flowing streams for irrigation purposes. In the end he was victorious and the irrigation system of the state was finally settled in favor of the agriculturists.

In 1880 he sought a new outlet for his energies and began breeding horses at the Rancho del Paso. He was the owner of Ben Ali, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, Salvatore, Miss Woodford, Firenzi, Star Ruby, Water Boy, Hamburg Bell and many other champions of the turf. In 1890 his interests had become so varied that he was compelled to seek a more central location and migrated from California to New York.

In 1897 he returned to his native state and purchased the Elmendorf Farm, owned by Daniel Swigert. On an elevation overlooking Elk Horn, Mr. Haggin built one of the finest residences in Kentucky, and included in his estate, which he enlarged from time to time, were the holdings of Carter Harrison and Colonel Russell, soldiers in the Revolutionary war. The old colonial mansions erected by the first proprietors are still standing and one, Mount Brilliant, that of Colonel Russell, is owned by Louis Lee Haggin, a grandson of the subject of this sketch. This dwelling is situated on a hill overlooking the famous Russell Cave and commands a fine view of the country in every direction. Elmendorf Farm became one of the most noted estates in America and when people from all parts of the world were drawn thither Mr. Haggin offered them true southern hospitality, treating them as honored guests rather than tourists. The horses from his stables raced on every prominent course and were known throughout the United States and England. He set a high standard and to him Kentucky is largely indebted for the fame of its racing stock.

In the field of agriculture he likewise achieved distinction, establishing the model dairy of the world, and through the utilization of the latest scientific methods revolutionized that industry in this country. The planning and execution of the various projects with which he was connected required a master mind and he left behind him the imperishable monument of splendid dreams realized. He was a remarkable man and a power in constructive development and evolution. Reticent by nature, he seldom indulged in a superfluous word, and his memory retained every impression made upon it. He was a chivalrous gentleman, always compassionate, kind-hearted, generous and considerate in his dealings with his fellowmen, and his company was not only a delight but a privilege.

He reached the venerable age of ninety-one years, passing away September 13, 1914, at his villa in Newport, Rhode Island, and his demise was the occasion of deep and widespread regret, for his friends were legion. On December 28, 1846, Mr. Haggin married Eliza Jane Sanders, a daughter of Lewis and Margaret Sanders, and his second union was with Margaret S. Voorhies, to whom he was married in 1897. By his first wife he had five children: Louis Terah, James Ben Ali, Jr., Margaret Sanders, Adeline Ben Ali and Edith Hunter.



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