Starting on practically nothing, with the determination to secure in some way
first an education and then success in his profession. Judge John S.
Stonecipher, by means of hard work and the firm resolution to let nothing hinder
his progress forward, is now one of the most successful lawyers in Marion county
and his reputation for honesty and the ability to win his cases has given him
the largest practice of any lawyer in Salem. The fine judicial qualities of his
mind, his keen sense of justice and his vast store of legal lore so won the
confidence of his fellow citizens that he was elected county judge. His success
as a lawyer has its parallel in his career as a banker and financier.
John S. Stonecipher was born m July, 1868, the son of Samuel and Mary (Ross) Stonecipher. His father was a well-known and popular farmer of Marion county, but was not a native of this county, having been born in Knox county, Tennessee, in 1814. In 1834 he and his wife came to Illinois and settled in Marion county, on land which is still the property of Judge Stonecipher. Here he spent the remainder of his life, living past the century mark. He was an ardent Democrat, and a staunch member of the Missionary Baptist church. His parents were both natives of Tennessee, where they lived and died. Mr. Stonecipher was a remarkable man, with a fine mind and great nobility of character. His loss was keenly felt throughout the whole county, and the interest and pride which the section takes in the achievements of his son is in some measure due to their regard for his father.
The county schools gave Judge Stonecipher his first taste of the fruits of learning, then he entered Ewing College, where he spent two years. The next two years he studied at Carbondale and then went to Valparaiso, where he took his degree in law in 1890. Back to his home town he went, equipped for the practice of law, but without a cent in his pockets to buy the fittings necessary for an office. How this was to be earned was the next question. It was a stiff problem, and it had a rather unusual solution. The post of deputy sheriff becoming vacant he stepped into it, and served in this capacity for two years. In this way he got considerable inside knowledge of the practical workings of the courts of justice, at the same time being able to earn a little money. At the end of the two years L. M. Kazy took him into his office, and here it was that he began to build up the practice that eclipsed that of any man in Salem. Some time after this he hung out his shingle and went into active practice for himself. His success was phenomenal, his clear and forceful manner of speaking, the ease with which he was able to see the flaws and weak spots in his opponent's arguments, the lightning speed with which he attacked these, all made him a lawyer to be depended upon. In 1906 his ability was recognized in his election to the office of county judge, in which position he served for one term.
Much of his time during his latter years has been occupied in his business as a banker. In 1911, on the 24th of July, he started the Citizens Bank, a private institution owned and controlled by himself. The experience that made him attempt such an enterprise he had obtained some years previously in the very active part which he took in the organization of the Salem State Bank, of which he was vice-president until he established the Citizens Bank, when he resigned. He yet holds the largest block of stock in the Salem State Bank and his word has great weight in the policy which they adopt. At one time he was trustee of the Sandoval Coal Company and is at present owner of a one-fourth interest in the mines.
Politically he has always been an active worker in the Democratic ranks, and has helped to win many battles for them. Both he and his wife are members and attendants of the Methodist Episcopal church in Salem, and fraternally he is a member of the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias and the Woodmen of the "World.
In 1904 Judge Stonecipher married Amy Bachmann, a daughter of Adam Bachmann, who was born in Germany. He came to the United States quite early in life, and started out to earn a living with absolutely no money. He is now the wealthiest man in Marion county, and is president of the Salem National Bank. Judge and Mrs. Stonecipher have two children, Frank G., who is in school, and a little girl, Maude L.
The career of Judge Stonecipher speaks for itself. Such success as his could not come from anything save a power within himself, the instinct to fight against all odds and to meet defeat with the steady determination to conquer next time. Although his legal practice brought him in money, yet he threw himself with as much enthusiasm into a case which meant little or nothing in a pecuniary way as into one that involved large sums. His clients were always inspired with hope, by his calm belief in the fortunate outcome of their cases, a faith that was rarely disappointed. Faith in him and in his integrity having taken so firm a hold on the minds of the people it is no wonder that the bank which he started is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful institutions of its kind in the county, or that he occupies one of the highest places in the respect of the community.
Extracted 07 Nov 2017 by Norma Hass from History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, published in 1912, volume 3, pages 1544-1545.